KILMARNOCK 2–0 COVE RANGERS
Our Cup run might have ended against the Premiership side, but it was a credible performance by Cove, one in which they might have taken an early lead and generally held their own against the fourth best team in the country.
Derek McInnes was full of praise for Cove in the wake of Kilmarnock’s victory, his side securing a quarter-final place with goals late in each half.
With Matty Shiels and Ola Lawal both ineligible, Paul Hartley made two changes from last week’s draw at Stirling and went for a different formation. Will Gillingham returned at the heart of a back three with Arron Darge stepping in at right wing-back. Balint Demus, now free from injury, took his place on the bench as substitute goalkeeper.
It was a positive start by Cove, Arron Darge earning a free-kick wide right after being fouled by Kennedy. Connor Scully swung in an inviting delivery which Ndaba half cleared, but Mark Reynolds was unable to return the ball into the danger area.
Killie hit back, van Veen with a clever backheel as he attempted to set up Kennedy, but Kerr was alert and made an important interception.
We had a huge opportunity in the eighth minute. After good work down the right, Blair Yule chipped a cross into the area. Mayo got to the ball first, but headed it into the path of Rumarn Burrell, and the striker’s effort looked to be going in, only for Murray to clear it off his line.
In our next attack Burrell teased Ndaba and raced past him to the bye-line, but Findlay was able to cut out the cross. A forceful challenge by Kerr set up another opening, Burrell gathering and running at the home rearguard, but he delayed, and Mayo was able to step in to clear.
It had been a strong opening twenty minutes, the team in no way overawed by their top-flight opponents, and Burrell again tried to dance his way through the Killie defence only to eventually be outnumbered.
Midway through the half, Watkins turned on the edge of the box as he tried to find a way through, but his angled shot trundled well wide of the far post.
We continued to see plenty of the ball and were carrying a threat. A Megginson lay-off allowed Yule the chance to shoot from twenty yards, but his effort was charged down, then Reynolds was dispossessed as he shaped up for a shot at the edge of the box.
Given the quality in the Kilmarnock side, they were always likely to cause problems, and we had an escape in the thirty-second minute. Polworth sent in an inswinging corner from the right and van Veen flicked it goalwards, his header bouncing off the top of the bar. The Dutchman then had a powerful shot blocked by Gillingham as Killie tried to get a grip on the game.
Arron Darge collected the first booking of the tie in the thirty-ninth minute, halting a promising home attack with a body check on van Veen.
Kennedy then skipped away from Yule and into the box, Gillingham knocking his dangerous shot over the bar, and from the resultant corner, the Premiership side nudged ahead. Polworth delivered, and as the ball dropped, Marley WATKINS reacted first to flick it into the net. It was a cruel end to what had been a fine first half by the team.
The players began on the front foot after the interval, Scully and Megginson combining before Kerr took possession in the middle of the pitch, his chip forward only just too long for Yule to connect with in the box.
Kennedy’s pace and trickery on the left was causing us problems, but it was from the other flank that they nearly got a second. Murray cut inside and delivered a good cross, van Veen’s header drifting wide of the right post.
Kennedy and Watkins then each had long range efforts, the ball flying over on both occasions.
We were not creating much at this stage, but after decent possession, the ball fell for Mitch Megginson outside the box, his pass only just failing to connect with Darge, and we came equally close seconds later. Burrell and Megginson linked-up, Yule took over and fed the ball wide to Darge, and when Arron’s cross came in, it agonisingly bounced away from Mitch as the skipper readied himself to shoot.
The manager then made his first change, McGowan replacing Yule for the final quarter, and soon after, having earlier received treatment, Mikey Doyle was forced to limp off, Kyle Connell taking over as the side reverted to a back four.
There was a big opportunity with fifteen minutes remaining. Scully played the ball to Sena, and after the midfielder had battled through two challenges, he fired in a dangerous cross. Will Gillingham could not direct his effort goalwards, but it cannoned off Kerr and flew straight into the welcoming arms of Will Dennis.
After a flurry of substitutions, Killie finally settled the tie when one of the new men, Danny ARMSTRONG, fired home from inside the area.
In stoppage time, Vassell got in behind, Suman getting a touch on his shot before racing back to claw the ball away off the line. The big keeper required treatment, having crashed into the post, the referee blowing the whistle rather than adding on any more additional time.
KILMARNOCK (3-5-2): Dennis; Mayo, Findlay, Ndaba; Murray (Balagizi 82), Watson (Donnelly 68), Polworth, McKenzie (c) (Stewart 82), Kennedy; Watkins (Armstrong 78), van Veen (Vassell 68)
Substitutes: O’Hara, Wright, Cameron, MacKay-Steven
Goalscorers: Watkins (45), Armstrong (81)
COVE RANGERS (3-5-2): Suman; Doyle (Connell 71), Gillingham, Reynolds; Darge, Yule (McGowan 67), Kerr (Stewart 78), Sena, Scully; Burrell, Megginson (c)
Substitutes: Demus, Jones
Booked: Darge (39), Gillingham (78)
Referee: Grant Irvine