IT was a tale of two penalties as we edged out a stubborn Forfar Athletic side to end our Betfred League Cup campaign on a winning note.
It was also a game in which keepers Stuart McKenzie and Daniel Hoban excelled to ensure there was still all to play for right up to the dying seconds, despite the fact it was already known neither off us could qualify for the last 16 of the competition.
We at least ended the afternoon with all three points, thanks to an expertly taken Rory McAllister penalty, in the 68th minute.
The former Peterhead striker had taken on the responsibility from the spot after skipper Mitch Megginson saw his effort from 12 yards kept out in fine style by Hoban.
Forfar were then reduced to 10 men, Sam Fisher was the one who got himself sent-off, but they could count themselves unlucky not to get back on level terms during a hectic finale that included two last-gasp goal-line clearances by Ryan Strachan.
We were without suspended trio Jamie Masson, Blair Yule and Leighton McIntosh.
That meant a first start of the campaign for Fraser Fyvie, who suffered a knee injury during our pre-season friendly against Dundee at Dens Park.
Midfielder Fyvie looked none the worse for the long lay-off, making good use of the ball and certainly appearing to enjoy his 65 minutes on the pitch.
Forfar created the first real chance, in the seventh minute, when Chris Antoniazzi crossed the ball from the right to Florent Holi but McKenzie used his feet to clear the striker’s eight yard shot.
We responded with Fyvie feeding a free-kick in from the left for Ross Graham to power a header wide.
The combination play between Megginson and McAllister caused a lot of problems for the Forfar defence.
That was highlighted in the 13th minute, when McAllister laid the ball off for Megginson to hit a powerful shot into the side netting .
The pair linked up again three minutes later, with that move finishing with Forfar keeper Holt diving to hold Megginson’s 20 yard shot.
McAllister also broke clear to put the ball in the net twice in quick succession as we kept up the pressure.
Unfortunately both efforts were ruled out for offside, although the second in particular looked marginal.
Fyvie then saw his 25-yard free-kick held by Hoban as the one way traffic continued.
The lively Fyvie also swept a cross over from wide on the left. McAllister challenged for the ball and when it broke back to Connor Scully he could only steer his 16-yard shot wide of Hoban’s left post.
Despite all our efforts, it remained goalless at the interval.
McKenzie denied Forfar the lead two minutes after the restart with a brilliant save.
Hoti sent a free-kick over from the left and when the ball dropped to Fisher he had the goal at his mercy from six yards but was denied by a superb instinctive block by McKenzie.
We we had a great chance to break the deadlock in the 49th minute when Fisher gave away a penalty after needlessly handling Adam Livingstone’s cross from the left.
The Forfar defender was also booked for his misdemeanour, which would cost him later.
Megginson took the kick but Hoban kept his powerfully hit shot out with an excellent diving save, low to his right.
Megginson tried again, just after the hour, when he latched on to a pass from Scully but Hoban was well positioned to hold his low 20 yard shot.
Our second penalty was awarded in the 68th minute, when McAllister was brought down by Hoban as he attempted to round the keeper after latching on to an excellent through pass from Strachan.
The keeper was also booked before McALLISTER took charge of proceedings.
The striker was as cool as ice, sending Hoban the wrong way as he rolled the ball inside the keeper’s left post.
Forfar were a man down after 80 minutes, when Fisher received his second booking of the match, for a clumsy foul on Jordon Brown 22 yards out.
We almost scored our second from the resulting free-kick, with a move straight off the training ground.
Scully made to the play the ball but then pretended he had made an error during his run-up.
As the Forfar rearguard attempted to regroup, Scully cleverly played a low pass beyond their defensive wall to Megginson but he saw his 14-yard shot kept out by yet another excellent save from Hoban.
The keeper was the Forfar hero again in the 86th minute, after Scully had been at the heart of an impressive sweeping move forward.
It ended with a pass to McAllister and his shot from the edge of the area was going in until Hogan got his finger tips to the ball to deflect it over the crossbar.
Credit to 10-man Forfar, they did everything but score in a spirited last few minutes from them.
Strachan made sure he was back to clear Murray McIntosh’s net-bound effort away from our line in the 87th minute.
He was in the right spot again in the last minute to boot clear after Hoti’s corner from the right threatened to curl in.
McKenzie also did his bit with another decent save, from Jordan Allan’s low drive, as the tie moved into injury-time.
The game ended with Forfar’s Jack McKenzie heading over from close range when it looked easier to score.
It was a day when when we were never at our best, but at least got the job done.
COVE RANGERS: McKenzie, Scott Ross, Graham, Strachan, Livingstone, Watson (Semple 66), Fyvie (Brown 66) Scully, Seb Ross, McAllister, Megginson.
Subs: Milne, Demus.
FORFAR ATHLETIC: Hoban, Mackintosh, Mackenzie, Thomas, Fisher, Irvine, Hoti, Barr (Starrs 81), Shepherd (Allan 73), Antoniazzi, Coll.
Subs: Dalling, Robertson, Hill, Breadner, Fotheringham, Diamond.
Referee: Duncan Williams.
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