A late goal from Cammy Keith gave Formartine United the perfect start to the season at Nairn on Saturday.
The single goal victory stunned County, who are expected to be among United’s rivals in the battle to wrest the title from Brora Rangers. The champions opened ominously with a 6-0 home win over Huntly.
The Pitmedden side arrived at Station Park, where they were beaten last season by the team that finished three points above them in the league, without new defender Duguid through injury, and midfield ball-winners McVitie and Clark, both suspended.
Formartine made the livelier start and won the first corner but Hay’s header flew high and wide.
A minute later Nairn forced their first corner and it yielded a shot by Duncanson from the edge of the box which Shearer took with ease.
There was an end-to-end characteristic to the game at this stage, but Formartine were marginally ahead in terms of possession and territory.
Bagshaw was more industrious than effective in midfield, with a tendency to hold onto the ball until he ran into trouble, rather than playing an early release, pass and move game.
With Anderson looking a bit out of sorts there was something of a disconnect between the Formartine wider midfield areas and the front two.
The midfielder did provide Rusty Smith with a 21st minute chance which ended with Donaldson safely gathering.
The home contribution at this stage was a route one effort from 30 yards out when the ever-alert Gethins sent wide after Pollock had knocked the ball into his path from a goal kick.
The second half began with Formartine on the front foot. McKeown slipped the ball to Munro who broke forward powerfully through midfield before releasing the ball to Anderson for a long-range trundling shot that went inches wide.
Nairn breaks were sharp and with Gethins there or thereabouts, danger was never far away. The game was finely balanced.
A cutback reached Pollock near the penalty spot. The shot was venomously struck waist high and to the left of Shearer. The big keeper was down in a flash to turn it round the post for a stunning reflex save.
The game seemed to be heading for a goalless draw when United manager Steve Paterson sent on Dingwall for the tiring Smith with 10 minutes left, giving them a 4-3-3 formation.
In the 89th minute it paid off. Keith slid in on a cross from Napier at the near post to force it narrowly past the keeper.
Three points to a Formartine side that chased and harried for every one of the 90 minutes and did just enough to merit a victory at a place where few of their rivals are likely to succeed.
Nairn County: Donaldson, Webb, MacLeod, MacDonald, McKintosh, Pollock, Gethins, Trialist, A Naismith, Duncanson, Main. Substitutes: R Naismith, Urquhart, Trialist, Trialist, Cameron, Murphy, McCallum.
Formartine United: Shearer, Jeffrey, S Smith, McKeown, Hay, Smith, Napier, Munro, Keith, Anderson, Bagshaw. Substitutes: Dingwall, Madle, McKay (T), Ritchie, Calder.