The team returns to League One action this weekend for just a second competitive encounter with Kelty Hearts.
The Fifers won a Viaplay Cup group game at Balmoral Stadium in July of last year, and have made a decent start to the 2023/24 campaign, having already claimed victories over Montrose and Alloa Athletic.
With former Cove keeper Kyle Gourlay in their ranks, and Michael Tidser taking his first steps in management as player-boss, Kelty also progressed through to the fourth round of the SPFL Trust Trophy last weekend with a fine 3-1 success at Dumbarton.
Given our run of three straight defeats, the visitors will travel north in a positive frame of mind, but manager Paul Hartley expects to see a very different performance from his team this time out:
“It’s about character right now, being committed. We probably need to take more of a risk in the final third and to be a bit braver. We went through the video of last week again, and first half we had some good openings, but we’re snatching a bit. We need more composure, just to be calm and do things instinctively.”
“We haven’t been outplayed by any of the teams, which is a positive, but the game is about getting results, we know that.”
Paul refuses to use the massive turnover during the summer as an excuse, but he acknowledges it will take time for it all to settle down. That said, he wants to see improvement where it counts, on the pitch on a Saturday:
“Injuries and suspensions haven’t helped, and I haven’t been able to put out my strongest team yet. Every week, there seems to be something, but I’ve got good players here, and I hope before long we will see the true Cove.”
There was some light at the end of the tunnel last weekend with the long-awaited return of Blair Yule as a second half substitute. He will feature against Kelty, and so too will fellow midfielder Fraser Fyvie, who has been out for even longer:
“He got injured in my first game back at the club against Queen’s Park in January, had to have an operation, and has had a couple of setbacks since, so his return is very welcome.”
“The more top players I have available, the better it is, and Fraser comes into that category. He’s a good player, a real professional; he reads the games, he sees passes, and if he stays fit he will make a big contribution.”
Having trained hard and worked with the squad all week, the manager is now focused on one thing: getting three points on the board, and a first home league win of 2023:
“The run of results has not been good, we know that, we understand, but one game can turn your season around. We’ve got to get back to what we’re good at, we were really strong here, teams used to fear coming to Balmoral Stadium. When everything’s going well, as it did for three years, then it’s great, everybody’s feeling good about themselves, and then you have a spell like this, which happens in football, it’s a time to be calm and stick together, and fight to get the next result.
“The most important thing is to retain your self-belief and not panic. Despite the recent run, you have to try to stay positive; if it’s all doom and gloom, you’ve got no chance of turning things around.”
With the returns of Yule and Fyvie, only Luke Strachan and Josh Kerr – who face around three months on the sidelines – will be missing from the squad. Cameron Stewart has recovered from a slight niggle and is back in contention for a starting place.
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