COVE RANGERS 2–0 HAMILTON
The team secured a massive victory thanks to a late double from super-sub Leighton McIntosh and maintained their one hundred percent record this season under the Balmoral Stadium floodlights; three wins out of three now in midweek cinch Championship fixtures.
Shay Logan missed out as a result of his calf problem, but Kyle McClelland was back from injury, and Jim McIntyre had an otherwise full strength squad to choose from. Connor Scully reverted to left-back with Fraser Fyvie returning to the starting line-up.
The two previous meetings this season had seen the sides sharing twelve goals, but on a freezing night, and with a strong wind whipping across the pitch, the early signs were this might be a less explosive affair.
Accies did threaten early on, after de Bolle played a 1-2 and cut the ball back into the path of Andy Ryan, but from six yards, the striker’s sidefooted shot cannoned off the crossbar.
Cove were struggling to get Charlie Gilmour and Blair Yule involved in the match, but from a Longstaff free-kick, Hamilton were under pressure, eventually scrambling the ball to safety.
We came agonisingly close soon after. Luis set Max Johnston free down the right and the full-back’s cross found Fyvie at the back post. His clever looping header looked destined for the net, but Fulton made a fingertip save.
Gilmour required lengthy treatment after a crunching tackle by Scott Martin, but was able to continue.
Chances were few and far between, but Accies almost got through in the sixteenth minute. Mimnaugh sped away in behind the central defence and was bearing in on goal, but Connor Scully raced across to cover and cleared the danger.
Stuart McKenzie was looking solid and reassuring in goal, and confidently punched away one dangerous cross before catching another. At the other end, Gerry McDonagh made a yard of space, but dragged his shot just wide of Fulton’s left post.
It was a frustrating spell for the boys, the ball never quite seeming to run their way, and a number of efforts were blocked by the visiting defenders.
Gilmour then went down again, and after more treatment from physio Aimee Clark, had to call it a day, being replaced by Jamie Masson. The substitute took over on the left wing with Fyvie moving infield.
Shortly before the interval, Megginson and Longstaff linked-up, the winger freeing-up the overlapping Max Johnston. His cross took a deflection off Owens and Fulton was able to gather the ball on the line.
Mark Reynolds then surged over the halfway line and fired a long-range pass into the path of Longstaff. Luis sent in an inviting cross, McDonagh got a flick on it, but Fulton made the save.
Five minutes into the second half, Hamilton nearly broke the deadlock. Andy Ryan capitalised on a slip and sent in a curling twenty-three yard effort which McKenzie managed to push away, and then with Smith fastening on to the rebound, big Stu was quick to react, and make another important save.
Longstaff and Johnston teamed up again on the Cove right, Max freeing up Mitch Megginson, but his shot was blocked for a corner. And the pair were again prominent soon after, Luis sending in a dangerous cross which Doyle hooked away over his own crossbar.
Just before the hour mark, we so nearly took the lead following a thrilling counter-attack. Luis Longstaff ran free over halfway then set Johnston racing off down the touchline. Max’s pinpoint cross found the head of Gerry McDonagh, but the striker’s angled header, which looked goal bound, bounced inches wide of the back post, with Fyvie close to diverting it in.
Hamilton were not threatening too often, but suddenly came to life midway through the half. Ryan collected and passed perfectly into the box, Smith fired in a powerful shot, but McKenzie pushed away for a corner, and from that, and following a scramble, Ryan had a close range effort which brought another superb save out of the big keeper.
We had most of the possession, and were generally in control of the game now, but still struggling to create stand out opportunities.
That was all about to change.
Jim McIntyre made a substitution in the 82nd minute, sending on Leighton McIntosh for captain Megginson, and the new man was to make the most sensational of impacts.
He had barely been on the park when Masson swung a corner in from the right, and McINTOSH found space in the box to angle the ball beyond Fulton and inside the far post.
If that came as a huge relief, less than three minutes later the Cove fans were in ecstasy. McINTOSH gathered on the left just outside the box, weaved across the line away from a couple of defenders, and then reversed a low drive beyond the keeper into the bottom corner to secure the points.
The victory gives the team a bit of breathing space at the bottom, and moves them to within touching distance of Raith Rovers and Caley Thistle, who they play in the next league match in Inverness on January 2nd.
COVE RANGERS (4-4-2): McKenzie; Johnston, Sanders, Reynolds, Scully; Longstaff, Yule, Gilmour (Masson 34), Fyvie; Megginson (c) (McIntosh 82), McDonagh
Substitutes: Gourlay, Towler, Ross, McClelland, Vigurs, Leitch, Dunne
Goalscorers: McIntosh (84, 87)
Booked: Yule (43) Fyvie (50) Megginson (61) McDonagh (75)
HAMILTON (4-2-3-1): Fulton; Doyle, Owens, O’Reilly, Shiels; Martin, Mimnaugh (One 87); Winter (Tiehi 59), de Bolle, Smith; Ryan
Substitutes: J. Smith, Easton, Zanatta, McGinn, Newbury, Forsyth, Morgan
Booked: Mimnaugh (61) Doyle (68)
Referee: Euan Anderson
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