COVE RANGERS 1-1 ARBROATH
A heart-breaking conclusion cost the team what might be two valuable points as Arbroath substitute Olutoyosi Olusanya headed an 89th minute equaliser to cancel out a superb Leighton McIntosh opener.
Paul Hartley had made three changes to the side beaten at Dens Park last Sunday with Ross, Dunne and Longstaff reverting to the bench. Mark Reynolds returned in central defence alongside Jason Naismith and Morgyn Neill, with Shay Logan moving to right wingback and Connor Scully taking on that role on the left. Iain Vigurs was back in to anchor the midfield, while Gime Toure was handed a first start in support of Mitch Megginson.
With the biggest crowd of the season creating a noisy atmosphere, the opening period was quiet, both sides enjoying spells of possession without creating any openings.
The first moment of danger came in the Arbroath box. Vigurs whipped in a dangerous corner from the left, and after a scramble as the visitors attempted to clear, Naismith sent a header goalwards which was easily taken by Gaston.
In the twelfth minute, Stewart controlled a long ball and drove into the Cove penalty area, but Scott Fox was quickly off his line and dived bravely at the midfielder’s feet to grab the ball.
Seconds later, Vigurs sent in a free-kick, Little headed clear, but only as far as Scully, and Connor’s twenty-yard volley flew wide of the far post.
Gime Toure showed flashes of what he can bring to the team as he slipped a few challenges on the edge of the box, but the move came to an end when Mitch Megginson was penalised for his attempt to win the ball.
Two minutes later, it was Arbroath’s turn and from a McKenna corner on the left, O’Brien’s header brought a decent save out of Fox.
The balance of the side was good with the midfield working well; Vigurs pulling all the strings and Bangala and Virtanen seeing plenty of the ball, and getting up to support the attack.
McKenna flashed a thirty-yard shot well over, while at the other end, following a Toure lay-off, Vigurs’ twenty-yard strike was straight at Gaston.
On the half hour mark, we put together a promising move down the left. Mark Reynolds chipped the ball forward, Megginson controlled and fed in Virtanen, but as Miko ran on to it, O’Brien made a strong challenge on the edge of the box to avert the danger.
Soon after, Vigurs played a superb ball over the top for Mitch to run on to, but Gaston was off his line quickly and just got there first. In the thirty-fifth minute, after a quick counter-attack, Bangala and Megginson combined to feed Toure who jinked past a couple of challenges but curled his shot just wide of the keeper’s right post.
As the half drew to a close, Bangala and Virtanen again linked up and Miko played the ball wide. Logan gathered and crossed into the box, but as Megginson attempted to control it, he tumbled to the ground under pressure. Referee Muir waved away the claims for a penalty.
Arbroath boss Dick Campbell made a triple change at the interval in a bid to take control of the game, but it was Cove who came closest to breaking the deadlock in the fifty-sixth minute. Mitch laid the ball off for Connor Scully to run on to and the wingback forced a corner. Vigurs drove it to the edge of the box, but Virtanen’s lofted effort was easily gathered under the bar by Gaston.
We had a golden opportunity shortly after when Toure broke clear from halfway. He wriggled clear of a challenge and tried to play Megginson in, but the keeper was alert to the danger and cleared at the edge of his box.
Just past the hour mark, Logan’s pass went astray in midfield, Linn picked up, raced forwards, and sent in a curling shot which clipped the top of Fox’s crossbar.
Megginson then had a shot deflected for a corner and Neill headed over from the resultant delivery.
We then put together an excellent move. Scully and Megginson carved through the away defence, Virtanen helped the ball on, but as David Bangala set himself to shoot, he inadvertently nudged the ball with his left foot, and it ran harmlessly away.
Paul Hartley reshuffled his pack with a quarter of the game left. McIntosh, Dunne and Longstaff came on for Virtanen, Bangala and Toure, and the manager switched to a 4-3-3 with Reynolds at left-back and Scully moving forward into the heart of the midfield.
Megginson was then wiped out and when Dunne’s shot got blocked, the referee pulled play back and awarded the free-kick. Vigurs’ effort went straight into the wall.
Seconds later, we snatched the lead with a goal of the highest quality.
Iain Vigurs picked the ball up inside his own half and switched play with a delightful inch-perfect cross-field pass. Luis Longstaff controlled it, ran at the visiting defence, then found Leighton McINTOSH who took a touch before driving low past Gaston from just inside the box.
Olusanya tried to level things, firing in a powerful shot from twenty-yards after a menacing run, but Scott Fox dived to his right to push the ball to safety.
With six minutes remaining, Mitch Megginson made way for Scott Ross, who slipped into a back three as we attempted to see the game out.
The players looked like doing so and maintained what had been a disciplined defensive performance, but with time running out, Arbroath found a way through. A cross from the right was met by the unmarked O’Brien, and his return header found Olutoyosi OLUSANYA in space to force the ball home just inside the post.
Deep into stoppage time, Longstaff raced down the right, beat two defenders and forced a corner. Vigurs curled the ball in, but it was cleared from inside the area, and seconds later the final whistle blew.
It was a disappointing and frustrating climax to a match which Cove looked to have tied-up, the only consolation being the maintenance of the four-point advantage over our visitors.
COVE RANGERS: (3-5-2) Fox; Naismith, Neill, Reynolds; Logan, Bangala (Dunne 69), Vigurs, Virtanen (Longstaff 69), Scully; Megginson (c) (Ross 84), Toure (McIntosh 69)
Substitutes: Gourlay, McClelland, Weston, Glass
Goalscorers: McIntosh (75)
ARBROATH: (4-3-3) Gaston; Banks, Little, O’Brien(c), Hamilton; Stewart (Balde 46), Gold (Dow 71), McKenna, Hetherington (Ben El-Mhanni 46); Hilson (Olusanya 59) Adarkwa (Linn 46)
Substitutes: Gill, Komolafe, Tait, Bitsindou,
Goalscorers: Olusanya (89)
Booked: Hamilton (9), Hetherington (13), Little (73), Dow (90)
Referee: Alan Muir
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