KEEPER Stuart McKenzie was the spot-kick hero on a night of high drama at Dudgeon Park.
We eventually won 6-5 on penalties, after drawing 2-2 with Highland League champions Brora Rangers in a topsy turvy Betfred League Cup tie that had a bit of everything.
We should have had it done and dusted by half-time, could have lost, but eventually came through with pride intact, thanks to our No1 McKenzie, who saved twice during the shoot-out, then calmly slotted home the winner!
It’s a real shame no fans were allowed in to see it all unfold, but those who watched Brora’s live televised stream certainly got value for their money.
As well as the penalty shoot-out, they were served up three wonder goals, with Jamie Semple’s long ranger that put us 2-0 up at one stage particularly eye catching.
Brora keeper Joe Malin also pulled off a string of brilliant saves to keep his team in it – only to then end up seeing his spot-kick saved by his opposite number!
It was as bonkers as it was breathtaking, although the heart stopping ending would have been avoided had we been more clinical in front of goal in a first half we totally dominated.
The manager made several changes to give players game time, with club captain Mitch Megginson among those left back in Aberdeen.
Our reshuffled side went at Brora from the off and we were denied what appeared to be a perfectly good seventh minute opener, after Semple had slotted home from Broque Watson’s right wing cross.
The effort was chalked off because nearside assistant Paul McAvine flagged for offside against Jordon Brown. He then shouted towards the Cove dugout that he did so because “he (Brown) had motioned to kick the ball in the six yard box.”
It was harsh.
We kept at it though, with Rory McAllister not too far off target with a shot on the turn from the edge of the Brora area.
Skipper for the night Connor Scully also had a powerful 25-yard free-kick held by Malin.
The pressure paid off with a deserved opener in the 18th minute, gifted to us thanks to Martin MacLean being woefully short with a pass back from halfway.
McALLISTER quickly latched on to the ball and was then cool as ice as he slotted it beyond the reach of Malin from the edge of the area.
Our second, in the 28th minute, was a goal SEMPLE will treasure.
Higgins played the ball forward and the midfielder gave Malin no chance with an unstoppable 30 yard shot that bulleted into the net.
Brora replied within a minute in equally spectacular fashion.
Andy McRae rolled the ball into the path of Martin MACLEAN and he made up for his earlier blunder by blasting home from 20 yards.
We had several opportunities to increase our lead before the interval.
Semple forced another great save from Malin, this time from 25 yards.
Ross Graham also fed the ball forward to McAllister but he lifted his lob over the crossbar when he only had Malin to beat.
The half ended with Malin making an astonishing trio of saves in quick succession – from McAllister, Adam Livingstone and Brown – to ensure Brora were still in the tie.
We had a penalty appeal turned away just after the restart, when Brown appeared to be impeded as he broke into the home area, out on the left.
Malin was the Brora hero yet again in the 55th minute, when he managed to finger-tip Scully’s looping header, from a Semple corner, over the crossbar.
McKenzie was finally called into action in the 66th minute, when he pushed former Cove striker Jordan McRae’s effort over his bar.
When Colin Williamson sent an impressive volley inches wide a couple of minutes later it was clear Brora were now right up for the battle.
The home side drew level in the 72nd minute, after Scully was harshly penalised for a challenge on Bjorn WAGENAAR 22-yards out from the Cove goal.
The Dutchman took the free-kick and gave McKenzie no chance with a perfectly executed curling effort over the Cove defensive wall.
Malin made sure the sides stayed level with another two outstanding saves, from Livingstone and then a last minute header from Graham.
The penalty shoot-out was a fitting finale.
Both sides were perfect from the spot with their first four efforts, Harry Milne, Semple, Leighton McIntosh and Livingston were the Cove scorers.
Then Malin, of all people, failed with Brora’s fifth, after an excellent save from McKenzie.
Malin made amends immediately by saving from Daniel Higgins to send us into sudden death.
Blair Yule then matched Mark Nicolson’s effort to leave us at 5-5.
McKenzie ended things by making another brilliant save, from Colin Williamson, then slotting the final penalty of the night past Malin to secure the extra point for us.
BRORA RANGERS: Malin, Pickles, A MacDonald, Williamson, Nicolson, Gillespie (J MacRae 46), Brindle, G MacDonald (Gamble 68), A MacRae, MacLean, Wagenaar.
Subs: N MacDonald, Stephen.
COVE RANGERS: McKenzie, Leighton (Scott Ross 72), Milne, Scully, Watson, Higgins McAllister (McIntosh 68), Livingtstone, Semple, Brown (Yule 72), Graham
Referee: Duncan Williams
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