Cove remain unbeaten

Brora Rangers lose out to new Highland League Champions

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Saturday 14th April

Scottish Highland Football League

For a match between two talented and powerful sides, this encounter was pretty poor fare. As is often the case in eagerly anticipated games between evenly matches sides, the contest did not live up to expectations.

In fact, it more closely resembled what in fact in was, a typical drab end of season encounter with both teams going through the motions for long periods. The poor weather earlier this year, including the ‘Beast from the East’ resulted in a glut of postponements and now sides are playing midweek and weekends to catch up. This means tired limbs and stretched squads.

On top of this, the home side has an extended injury list with several key players out for the rest of the season with several more unavailable meaning that, for the past several matches, they have been unable to name a full 7 substitutes. On top of this, player-manager Ross Tokely was absent from the dugout serving the first of a two match ban. In Harry Redknapp’s immortal phrase, Brora were down to the bare bones.

On a pleasant sunny afternoon for football, the pitch was in fairly good condition and Brora lined up with a back four of James Ross, Mark Nicolson, player of the year Colin Williamson and Sid MacKay in front of Joe Malin. The midfield was Martin MacLean, Gavin Morrison Scott Lisle and James Pickles with Craig Campbell and Kyle MacLeod up front. The start was tentative with Brora making the early running. A long range effort from Craig ‘Cammy’ Campbell sailed over the bar and his strike partner Kyle MacLeod took a header from Cammy on his chest in the inside right position but sent his shot high and wide. In between these attempts on goal, Cove’s free-scoring danger man Mitch Megginson’s snapshot on the left was parried away by Joe Malin. In the 27th minute, Brora took off Cammy and replaced him with young Inverness Caledonian Thistle loanee Aidan Wilson and a couple of minutes after this, the visitors scored the only goal of the game. Cove left back Dean Lawrie, who had been linking well with the Aberdeen side’s attack, cut the ball back from the byeline after the Cattach’s defence passed up two chances to clear and that man Megginson didn’t need a second invitation to put the visitors ahead.

Although the goal was slightly against the run of play, it shows why Cove have won the Highland League with their ability to make and take chances. Brora tried to strike back quickly and were trying to catch the Cove defence napping by playing through balls for their fast young strikers to run onto. One such ball was collected by Aidan Wilson who tried to square to his strike partner Kyle MacLeod when well placed to shoot and the chance was gone. Five minutes after that, midfielder Gavin Morrison unleashed a 35 yard daisy cutter that flashed just past Cove keeper Stuart MacKenzie’s right hand post but the visitor’s defence wasn’t breached by the interval.

The second half was played mainly in a midfield dominated torpor, interspersed with a few goalmouth incidents. On 65 minutes, the first notable goalscoring threat of the half saw Cove substitute Harry Smith’s looping header touched over the bar by Brora keeper Joe Malin. Shortly afterwards, at the other end, Sid MacKay’s 25 yard free kick failed to dip soon enough and cleared the crossbar. Scott Lisle was next to threaten for the Cattachs when his strong right wing run ended with a powerful drive from 18 yards that flew just over. Brora were pressing on a more urgent and consistent basis now and, ten minutes from the end, a series of 3 consecutive corners were scrambled away by last ditch Cove clearances. The only other incident of note was a Brora penalty claim when Aidan Wilson went down in the box but the referee waved play on and that was that.

Cove have 3 League games left before they enter the SPFL play-offs. They will face Lowland League champions Spartans and the winner of that two leg tie will then play Cowdenbeath in the final for a pla