Ross County prevail after lively second-half fightback from Cove

Cove Rangers 2 Watt (63, 76 pen) Ross County 4 Shields (10), Dowie (30), Boyd (33), Barrowman (40 pen)

ROSS County survived a nervous second half as minnows Cove Rangers dropped out of the Scottish Cup with heads held high.

A ruthlessly professional and efficient first half show had the Second Division leaders cruising at 4-0 and looking capable of a rout.

But Derek Adams' side seemed to lose their way after the break, with Cove gleefully seizing on the opportunity to claw their way back with considerable grit.

In the end there was to be no shock result for home manager John Sheran, who was part of the Montrose side which rocked Hearts at Tynecastle in the 1986 League Cup.

A healthy crowd filed into Cove's compact Allan Park, with the hosts' free-scoring Highland League form – and 13 games unbeaten – filling the home support with fleeting optimism.

There was also a long-forgotten unbeaten record for Cove to cling to as they sought a home tie against St Johnstone in the last 16.

In eight years of Highland League rivalry between 1986 and 1994, County had never managed an away win against Cove.

In a different era, though, the visitors' full-time status and leadership of the Second Division clearly made them favourites last night.

An early goal was to settle any nerves in the favourites' ranks.

Phil McKibben's slack cross-field defensive pass was hungrily collected by Dene Shields, who calmly tucked it past the keeper from ten yards.

Soon after, Paul Lawson's pin-point corner found County defender Andy Dowie thumping a front post header high past ex-Hearts keeper Lee Windrum.

It only took another couple of minutes for another Lawson corner to create the third, with Scott Boyd bundling the ball into the net after Cove failed to clear.

County sealed a 4-0 half-time lead when Eric Watson's desperate lunge floored Shields in the box and Barrowman hit his 16th of the season from the spot.

County laboured slightly as the second half got underway and conceded to Jamie Watt.

They seemed to have taken their foot off the peddle as Cove battled hard to find a way back.

A fortunate break offered such a route when the ball was driven straight at Martin Scott and the linesman flagged.

After deliberation, referee Steve O'Reilly pointed to the penalty spot and Watt fired the kick high past Bullock.

Cove Rangers: Windrum, Bain, Livingstone, Watson, Fraser, Stephen, Coutts, Watt, Henderson (O'Driscoll 68), McKibben (Tindal 54) (Reid 71). Subs not used: Lawrie, Pirie.

Ross County: Bullock, Boyd, Golabek, Dowie (Strachan 46), Keddie, McCulloch, Scott (Miller 77), Lawson, Shields, Barrowman (Petrie 63), Higgins. Subs not used: Malin, Moore.

Referee: S O'Reilly. Attendance: 1200.