ANNAN ATHLETIC 1–3 COVE RANGERS
Rumarn Burrell’s second hat-trick in three games secured an eighth straight win for Cove, extended our unbeaten run to eleven, and secured a deserved three points from what was a hard-fought encounter.
We played out much of the second half with ten men following the sending-off of Josh Kerr, but only rarely looked in danger of relinquishing the victory.
Paul Hartley had made two changes from the Scottish Cup win over Stirling Albion a fortnight ago. Having rolled his ankle in training, goalkeeper Nick Suman dropped to the bench with Balint Demus starting for the first time since the end of August, and skipper Mitch Megginson returned from suspension in place of Kyle Connell.
On what was a dull, cold December afternoon, Cove got off to a flier.
In our first attack, Megginson was scythed to the ground and required prolonged treatment. From the resultant free-kick some thirty yards out, Connor Scully curled in an inviting delivery, Mark Reynolds stole in at the back post and nodded the ball across, and Rumarn BURRELL tapped home from point blank range for his thirteenth goal of the season.
The lead was to last less than two minutes.
Annan broke down the right, Smith fed a clever ball into the box and Michael GARRITY rifled an unstoppable angled shot high into the roof of the net.
We came close to restoring our lead soon after, Burrell teasing two defenders inside the area before making a yard of space. His powerful curling effort flew just wide of the far post.
In what was a bright, entertaining start to the match, Annan then came close to netting their second. Dochety swung in a corner from the left and it was Tommy Muir who rose highest, his header flying just over at the back post.
In the thirteenth minute, Reynolds strode out of defence and fired a low pass to the feet of Megginson inside the box. Mitch gathered and spun, but his left-footed shot cleared the bar.
Soon after, an excellent Cove move almost paid dividends.
Burrell gathered wide right and linked with Megginson, the captain laying the ball off for Yule, who switched play to Connor Scully. The midfielder played in Jones, who passed back to McGowan, and Paul then set up Scully whose twenty yard effort was tipped just over by Fleming.
There was an even better opportunity in the twenty-first minute when Scully flicked the ball forward and Mark Reynolds was brought crashing to the ground inside the box for what was a clear penalty.
The normally deadly Mitch Megginson stepped up to take it, but his powerfully struck effort clipped the top of the bar and flew over.
Sixty seconds later it was the home side who suffered heartbreak.
Will Gillingham was booked for handball when halting an Annan attack, conceding a free-kick twenty-eight yards out. Aidan Smith caught his shot sweetly, the ball flying over Demus but crashing down off the underside of the bar before being cleared.
It continued to be an even game, both sides probing without creating clear goalscoring opportunities, although Demus did well to dive low and gather a dangerous Kilsby cross with just over half an hour played.
In our next attack, we regained the lead. Mitch Megginson controlled a pass forward and eased the ball into the area for Rumarn BURRELL to run on to and cleverly chip the onrushing Fleming. Ryan Muir hacked the ball away, but the linesman signalled it had already crossed the line, and the striker raced off to celebrate his fourteenth of the campaign.
His fifteenth might have arrived two minutes later.
Megginson gathered wide on halfway, looked up, and swept a superb crossfield pass straight into the path of Burrell, who finished confidently only to see the assistant signal offside.
The home side were then forced into making a substitution, trialist Rico Quitongo replacing the injured Tommy Muir.
Balint Demus was called into action shortly before the interval, making a fine low one-handed save from Garrity’s angled effort, then home manager Peter Murphy was red-carded after disputing the referee’s decision not to award his side a penalty following a scramble in the box.
After the blistering start to the first half, the second began more quietly with Cove seeing plenty of the ball and largely controlling possession. Mark Reynolds fired off a couple of superb long crossfield passes, but neither attack brought a breakthrough.
Josh Kerr then got in on the action, threading a pass through for Burrell. Rumarn skilfully skipped past two defenders and nudged the ball beyond the keeper, but Kilsby got back to avert the danger.
With ten minutes played, we were reduced to ten men when Kerr dived in to challenge Docherty and caught the Annan midfielder. Referee Hardie immediately brandished the red card.
Rumarn Burrell again came close to scoring minutes later. Having confidently clutched a cross, Demus played a long ball for the striker to chase. Quitongo failed to deal with it and Rumarn got a touch, but Fleming raced from his line to clear.
Down to ten men, Paul Hartley then sacrificed Mitch Megginson, Sena replacing the captain to stiffen up the midfield, but it was Cove who offered the next threat.
Having defended a corner, Burrell broke clear from deep inside his own half, running a full sixty yards. His pass towards the supporting Scully took a deflection, but Connor got to it, keeping the move alive until Annan finally scrambled the ball to safety.
Burrell was doing a superb job on his own up front, and in the seventieth minute he fastened on to another Reynolds pass, racing away from Matty Douglas before unleashing a shot from the edge of the box which Fleming eventually gathered at the second attempt.
The striker finally got his second hat-trick of the season soon after.
Having repelled an Annan attack, Cove worked the ball clear and Michael Doyle sent an excellent pass over the top. Connor Scully raced in behind, beat Fleming to it and cut the ball back for Rumarn BURRELL to take a touch then roll the ball into the net for his fifteenth of the campaign.
The home side tried to hit back, Garrity firing in an angled drive, but Demus pulled off the save, punching the ball to safety, and Balint was again called into action soon after, diving to clutch the ball by his post after it had taken an unfortunate deflection off Sena.
That was to be the last meaningful action of the game, the boys comfortably securing three more points on the road after another outstanding away performance.
ANNAN ATHLETIC (4-3-3): Fleming; R. Muir (Galloway 82), Douglas (c), T. Muir (Trialist 41), Kilsby; Luissint (Dixon 63), Gibson, Docherty; Smith; Goss, Garrity
Substitutes: Mitchell, Graham, Hunter, Watson, McMenamin
Goalscorers: Garrity (5)
Booked: Smith (75)
Sent Off: Murphy (45)
COVE RANGERS (4-4-2): Demus; Doyle, Gillingham, Reynolds, Jones; Yule, Kerr, McGowan (Darge 79), Scully; Megginson (c) (Sena 63), Burrell
Substitutes: Suman, Connell, Mykyta, Gallagher, Stewart, Williamson
Goalscorers: Burrell (3, 34, 77)
Booked: Gillingham (23), McGowan (60)
Sent Off: Kerr (55)
Referee: Ross Hardie
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