NAIRN County boss Ronnie Sharp says quality in attack told as his team were knocked out of the Menzies Distribution North of Scotland Cup quarter-finals in a 3-1 weekend defeat by Brora Rangers.
Andrew Greig struck early in either half, with Zander Sutherland, getting the other for the visitors before Jordan Macrae’s free-kick consolation came too late to spark a genuine Nairn fight-back.
Sharp admits Brora was just too good in the areas of the pitch which mattered the most.
He stressed: "We are not clinical enough. We had a good few chances, but the difference is their experience and quality up front makes a big difference. When they get a chance they take it. We had a few chances and we never took them. Our decision-making in the last third wasn’t good enough. At times, we didn’t pass the ball early enough.
"Earlier in the season, we kept losing early goals, so it has been a problem for us. We did it again on Saturday and you can’t give good teams a start like that. We were chasing the game all the time. I thought if we could keep it tight for 20 minutes or so then we could work our way into it. It was a good finish (for the first goal), but it was frustrating that we conceded again at the start of the second half. Brora have got guys who can create and score goals."
Opposite number Ross Tokely, who has had a great reaction from his players taking over earlier in the season as they finished off point behind champions Buckie and runner-up Cove, wasn’t happy with the performance.
He said: "We were well below par and that was very frustrating. You learn a lot of things watching a game like that one. We made hard work of it. It was a frustrating day at the office after setting our standards so high. I thought it was quite a poor game. We got off to a great start then stopped playing."
The loss ends Nairn’s season and they can reflect of a 13th-placed finish above Huntly on goal difference in the Highland League after starting from scratch with major and long-time backers Narden ending their association last summer and a major overhaul seeing Sharp come in for the Les Fridge, who left the club amid a rush for the exits by many experienced players.
This meant a major rebuilding job by Sharp and in-coming chairman Donald Matheson.
The manager said: "We had no players a week before the season started, so our boys have done really well. The younger boys have got an education from what’s happened. We have two 18-year-olds and two 19-year-olds starting on Saturday, so we’ve had a lot of inexperienced boys at this level, but you need experience in the Highland League at times, but they have a year under their belts now. Hopefully next year they will learn a bit more as well."
Meanwhile, Sharp and Tokely explained that holding this knock-out competition at this latter part of the season should be reconsidered, especially with the league campaign now completed.
*** NAIRN County have come to an agreement with Paul Macleod (28) to cancel the remaining season on the defender’s contract.
Chairman Donald Matheson said: "Paul approached us a few weeks ago and asked to have his contract terminated at the end of the season for a number of non-football reasons.
"After discussions between Paul, the club’s management committee and manager Ronnie Sharp, it was agreed to grant Paul his request.
"Paul did us a huge turn last summer by agreeing to a substantial wage reduction and playing on with the club this season.
"In fact, I remember when we first approached the players last summer to ask if they would consider the prospect of wage cuts, Paul immediately said to me that he would play for free if he had to.
"We now feel that in return, it is only right that we grant Paul his request."