Highland League: Cove’s away-day joy

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COVE Rangers snatched title glory from Formartine United’s fingertips last night amid final-day drama in the Highland League.

The Aberdeen club had to win away to the leaders and favourites, and did just that, triumphing 2-0 thanks to goals from Jamie Beagrie and Ryan Stott which sparked rain-soaked celebrations at North Lodge Park. For Formartine, managed by ex-Caley Thistle and Aberdeen boss Steve Paterson, it was a gut-wrenching end to their championship dream.

Paterson, in only his second season at the club, had built a formidable side many predicted would sweep to glory. Defeat by Cove was only their second at home in an impressive season.

The victors, though – claiming their fourth title since the millennium – were more than worthy champions. They had been the pursuers through most of an injury-hit campaign, firstly to Wick Academy and then Formartine. Their rich Highland League pedigree and experience, though, told in the end.

In monsoon conditions at the Pitmedden ground, Cove managed to produce passing and controlled the game. Toasting his first title as manager, Kevin Tindal said: “In the last few weeks, we knew Formartine had a tough run-in and that we had a chance. We’ve prepared properly for this final game, resting players who were desperate to play in Tuesday’s Aberdeen-shire Shield final – and we’ve been proved right.”

Cove hardly put a foot wrong in the lashing rain.

Tindal’s side had gone into the game having only lost four times on the road all season, including a six-month unbeaten run. They were also boosted by Formartine’s first home defeat to Nairn to set up the title decider. Any away nerves were settled in the ninth minute. Young Connor Scully’s excellent footwork on the right byline set him up for a cross to the back post where Jamie Beagrie was well-placed to head past Andy Shearer. Formartine were then killed off on the hour with the crucial second goal. Home captain Mark Smith was robbed by Scully who made a mazy run from deep in his own half. Playing a one-two with Jamie Lennox, he raced through into the penalty area to be brought crashing by Stephen Jeffrey who tugged his shirt and was red-carded.

The double blow came with Ryan Stott’s saved spot-kick before the same player netted on the rebound.

Paterson, pictured left, admitted: “I’m bitterly disappointed. Not for myself because I have loads of medals but for my chairman, the president and the supporters.”