We kept the best for last as far as this Premier Sports League Cup campaign goes with a thrilling victory over Championship side Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Balmoral Stadium.
The 506 fans inside the stadium to see our final Group A encounter were served up a feast of fine football – and outstanding first half strikes from Leighton McIntosh and skipper Mitch Megginson.
Blair Yule capped things off by making it 3-0 five minutes from time, with Dutch striker Manny Duku notching a late consolation for the Highlanders from the penalty spot.
Our lads were outstanding, despite the fact we were again forced to go with a makeshift side – with the selection problems highlighted by manager Paul Hartley only being able to include two outfield players on the bench.
The players overcame any concerns about that by digging deep to record an impressive and thoroughly deserved victory as we move ever closer to a return to League One action.
We set a high pace right from the off and had a strong penalty claim denied after just 90 seconds, when Robbie Leitch appeared to be pushed by Wallace Duffy as he broke into the Inverness area.
Referee Chris Graham saw nothing wrong and waved play on.
Harry Milne then sent a fine cross over from wide on the left for Fraser Fyvie to direct a header wide of the far post.
Inverness had a great chance to score in the 10th minute, after Duku managed to pinch the ball off Ross Draper.
The Dutch striker side-stepped advancing keeper Kyle Gourlay, but then saw his shot cleared away from the line by Morgyn Neill.
We were soon on the attack again and a fine passing moved ended with Fyvie, who seemed to be at the heart of everything, crossing from the left and McIntosh was unlucky not to connect with his header at the edge of the six yard box.
Keeper Ridgers rescued Inverness in the 20th minute when he dived full length to push Neil’s effort, from an Iain Vigurs corner, wide of his right post.
Vigurs took that corner as well and when the ball dropped to Milne his shot inside the area was blocked to safety by an Inverness defender.
Duku was just onside when he broke clear in the 22nd minute, but the striker fired his 14-yard shot wide of Gourlay’s left post.
We replied with McIntosh meeting a cross from Milne to test Ridgers from 16-yards.
The opening goal we deserved came in the 38th minute.
Fyvie played a perfect pass through from midfield to McINTOSH and he rifled a shot into the top corner from just inside the Inverness area.
Within a minute, Yule made a fantastic run down the right then crossed to McIntosh, who saw his 12-yard header go wide.
We went two up in the 38th minute when Leitch picked out MEGGINSON with a top class through pass and the skipper steered the ball into the bottom corner from inside the Inverness area.
It was almost 3-0 three minutes later when Yule made a fantastic run down the right then picked out Megginson with his cross, but the striker could only fire his first time shot narrowly wide of the front post.
Inverness scorned a couple of decent chances just before the interval.
Shane Sutherland blasted over from a tight angle on the left when it might been wiser to square the ball to the waiting Duku.
The Dutchman then saw his close range shot brilliantly beaten away by Gourlay to ensure we went in two up.
It was more of the same in the second period, with our lads dominating play and possession for lengthy spells.
We had a second penalty claim turned down, in the 54th minute, when a Vigurs corner from the right appeared to be handled by an Inverness defender before the ball was cleared.
Ridgers denied us a third with a top class save in the 56th minute.
Fyvie played yet another top quality pass forward, this time to Connor Scully, and the midfielder’s powerful shot from just outside the area was going in until Ridgers made an acrobatic stop to deflect the ball over his crossbar.
The Inverness keeper also held a 20-yard effort from Megginson as we maintained the pressure.
Yule broke forward again to feed Megginson for another effort at goal, but his 18-yard drive went wide of the target.
Harry Milne was our hero in the 80th minute with an astonishing goal-line clearance from Duku’s 14-yard shot.
The left-back’s efforts were rewarded when we increased our lead five minutes later.
Substitute Rory McAllister rampaged down the left before knocking the ball over to Watson and when his shot was blocked YULE pounced on the rebound to claim a rare goal.
Inverness got a consolation goal in the second minute of injury-time when DUKU netted from the penalty spot, after substitute Roddy McGregor had been fouled in the box, but that was never going to take the shine off what was an outstanding performance from our lads.
COVE RANGERS: Gourlay, Neill, Milne, Scully, Yule, Megginson, McIntosh (McAllister 72), Draper, Vigurs, Leitch (Watson 46), Fyvie.
INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE: Rodgers, Duffy, Harper, Deas, Gardyne (McGregor 60),Doran, Sutherland, Broadfoot, Allardice (Walsh 60), Duku, McAlear.
Subs: Mackay, Devine, Nicolson, Fyffe, Hennem, Cairns.
Referee: Chris Graham | Attendance: 506ICT Reaction | Paul Hartley »