Cove Rangers 2 – 1 Edinburgh City

Comfortably strolling to a 3-0 win against Annan Athletic last time out – combined with Cove Rangers losing by the same scoreline to Elgin City – set the stage for an almighty top-of-the-table clash on Saturday. The ferocious winds and rain in the North added to the gladiatorial feel that this game was expected to have.

Not that the setting affected the flow of the game, however, as both teams showed why they are currently sitting comfortably atop Scotland’s Division 2. After a well-fought game ticked down into its final five minutes, tightly in the balance and heading toward a deserved draw, City suffered a sucker punch when McAllister fumbled in a corner leaving empty-handed and brutally disappointed.

City had taken the lead early in the second half when Sinclair’s corner wasn’t cleared properly and fell kindly Scott Shepherd who lashed the ball home from close range. However, City’s lead didn’t last long and was cancelled out by a stunning volley from Cove’s Daniel Higgins.

As the match continued to be an end-to-end spectacle, the expectation was that the two teams would take home a balanced point, only for Cove to provide a bitter blow to City’s afternoon. Akin to City’s opener, Jamie Masson’s corner wasn’t cleared by the Edinburgh defence and McAllister was obliging to poke the ball over the line and cause hysterical celebrations in the away dugout.

 

A brutal loss to match the brutal weather

 

City came into the game at the Balmoral Stadium knowing a win would put them level on points with Cove Rangers. This would be no easy task, however, as not a single team had taken a point away from the Aberdeenshire side. Unfortunately for City, this outstanding statistic would tick over into another week as Cove took home all 3 points in the 88th minute.

The players struggled with the stormy conditions throughout, having only a week previously fought against the winds as the UK continues to be hit with ferocious weather conditions that saw several Scottish fixtures called off.

The first real threatening attempt came innocuously when Liam Henderson clipped a lofted ball into the Cove Rangers box and Cove’s no.3 Milne attempted to head the ball behind for a goal kick, only for it to graze the outside of the post. With the swirling winds playing a large part in proceedings, captain Craig Thomson’s flat corner had to be palmed over the bar by Cove’s keeper Mckenzie.

City were soon pinned back as Rory McAllister was played through and, after a few touches, saw his low shot hit into the side netting, defying the celebrations of the home fans, some of whom thought the ball had hit the back of the net. Just after the half hour mark, McAllister was making himself known again. Played over the top, the no.20 judged the flight of the ball well before striking a low effort which Kelby Mason in the Edinburgh goal had to make himself big for to clip behind for a corner.

Despite chances being few and far between in the first half, both teams came out raring to go and seize the win that would provide them with much-needed points at the top of the division. City fans had to gasp when Broque Watson went down just inside the box, however, Referee Peter Stuart adjudged Watson to have dived, much to the resentment of the home support. Quickly down the other end, Grant Savoury made one of his textbook marauding runs down the right flank before squaring the ball, only for it to narrowly go out for a corner off the foot of a Cove defender.

The fast-paced start to the half was a sign of things to come and it was City who made the breakthrough on 48 minutes after an error at the back from Cove’s defence. The ball was whipped in from a corner by Jordan Sinclair on the left and, as the wind played havoc with the flight of the ball, the Cove defenders struggled to clear it effectively. When the ball emerged from a bundle of players, it fell kindly to forward Scott Shepherd who lashed home from close range.

Being top of the table comes with a great degree of performances throughout the season, therefore there was no way Cove were going to roll over and let their lead at the top slip. However, their equaliser came from nothing but a perfect strike. It was only 7 minutes later when a cross was cleared out to defender Daniel Higgins. 25 yards from goal, the no.12 tapped the ball up to himself with the inside of his boot, let it bounce before rifling a volley into the top right-hand corner. In this sort of situation, there is little you can do but appreciate the strike and continue to fight for a winner.

The remainder of the half was scrappy as the winds swirled, creating an ominous atmosphere that would prove to foreshadow how City’s afternoon would end. With less than ten minutes to play, substitute Blair Henderson missed a glorious one-on-one, watching his smothered well by the onrushing McKenzie. With so much at stake chances like these have to be buried and on another day, Henderson would have easily done so. This miss proved to be costly though when, at a corner, it was City’s defence’s turn to miscommunicate. Having caused problems all day for the Edinburgh back-line, McAllister can’t have believed his luck when the ball fell so kindly to him to poke home from yards out into an empty net. Cue crazy celebrations in the Home dugout and a mixture of sunken or shaking heads among the City players wondering what more they could have done to take a point home with them.

 

We won’t give up

 

After the game, McDonaugh praised his men but was honest. ‘I thought we deserved something out of the game. Both teams tried to play football and it came down to who could capitalise on a mistake.’
Despite the tough loss, the gaffer is refusing to give up hope, ‘It’s not over until it’s arithmetically so. There’s still 12 games to go and we won’t give up. We’ll certainly still be fighting until the end.’

McDonaugh’s words will be encouraging for the lads in the dressing room. On Saturday, they learned a tough lesson in what it takes to win a title, but they will know that they left everything out on the pitch and can hold their heads high. Looking forward, City have a home tie against Brechin City next week. Playing the side bottom of the table will be the perfect opportunity for McDonaugh’s men to get over this loss and continue their pursuit of the title.