HAMILTON 2–2 COVE RANGERS (2-4 Pens)
The team came heartbreakingly close to making history by reaching the second round of the Viaplay Cup, but a very late Hamilton equaliser denied us the win, and although we took the bonus point in the shootout, that was not enough. Indeed, even had we held on, Cove would still have missed out on a best runners-up spot.
For fifteen minutes after the interval Cove were top of Group C and guaranteed a place in the knockout stages, but Livingston finally found the breakthrough against Clyde to overtake us, and the late Accies equaliser meant they finished in second place.
With Mitch Megginson and Fraser Fyvie both failing late fitness tests, Paul Hartley made three changes with Demus, Darge and Reynolds dropping to the bench to be replaced by Nick Suman, Jacob Jones and Rumarn Burrell. The manager also switched to a flat back four.
With the team wearing the new all-blue home kit for the first time on what was a wet and gloomy afternoon in Lanarkshire, Accies kicked-off and enjoyed the bulk of the early possession, but it was Cove who threatened first.
McGowan chipped a clever ball down the left for Burrell to run on to. His low cross was overhit, but Dayshonne Golding recovered it and ran at the home defence, his delivery eventually being swept to safety by Kilday.
Golding was prominent in the opening exchanges, linking up well down the left with Jacob Jones, but Hamilton came close when counter-attacking in the eleventh minute. Tumilty found space on the overlap and teed up One, the youngster showing fancy footwork before firing just wide from nineteen yards.
The home side did however break the deadlock soon after. Barjonas drove forward from midfield and fired in a long range effort. Suman made the save, but could only push the ball back into the path of Kevin O’HARA, and the striker buried it from a few yards out.
It might have been 2-0 in the nineteenth minute. Hendrie found space down the left and sent in a delightful cross, One making contact, but diverting the ball just over the bar.
Andy Winter picked up the game’s first booking, upending Rumarn Burrell as the Cove front man surged over the halfway line and had looked set to race clear of the Accies back line.
That was a rare foray forward for us, Hamilton dominating now and looking more likely to extend their lead than we were to find a way back into the game.
They came close again five minutes before the break when O’Hara and One combined to send a dangerous cross flashing across the six yard box, the ball deflecting off Jones and spinning just wide of the back post.
Out of the blue, Golding and Connell suddenly created an opening, running at the Accies defence, and it took a despairing clearance by Kilday to avert the danger. Seconds later we were level, with a goal of the highest quality.
Scully passed to Mark GALLAGHER who took a few paces, steadied himself, then unleashed an unstoppable thirty-yard drive beyond Smith.
The goal might have acted as a nerve-settler, as the team were much improved during the early exchanges of the second half and had Hamilton pinned back for long spells. One particularly impressive move saw Golding tee up Jones who fired in a dangerous cross, Smith making the clearance with a despairing punch.
Golding then ran at Tumilty, cut inside and shot goalwards, his effort charged down by the outrushing Accies defence.
Just before the hour mark the boys got the goal their play deserved. After good possession, Paul McGowan curled a cross into the area which Rumarn BURRELL was able to get the slightest of head-flicks on to and the ball fell into the net just inside the far post.
Tyler Mykyta was immediately introduced for Connell with Burrell now leading the line, and the substitute was upended by Hendrie who earned Accies’ second booking.
Dayshonne Golding was a constant menace to the home back line and again came close in the seventy-fourth minute. Having skipped past Tumilty, the number nineteen weaved his way into the box and unleashed a ten-yard drive which keeper Smith beat away.
Arron Darge was introduced with ten minutes to go, filling in at right back as Sena moved forward to take the place of the substituted Mark Gallagher.
Kyle MacDonald collected Accies’ third yellow card for a high boot on Paul McGowan which left the midfielder requiring treatment and blood gushing from his injured nose. Paul had to leave the field to be replaced by Mark Reynolds.
Out of nowhere, in the fifth minute of stoppage time Hamilton snatched an unlikely equaliser. The ball was rolled to Reghan TUMILTY who whipped his first time shot high across Suman and in under the bar.
That set up the penalty shootout for the bonus point and it was Cove who took the spoils. Josh Kerr, Rumarn Burrell, Dayshonne Golding and Tyler Mykyta all netted, as did O’Hara and Murray for Hamilton, but Nick Suman saved Zanatta’s effort and when Joe McGlynn fired wide Hamilton’s hopes were extinguished.
HAMILTON (4-3-3): Smith; Tumilty, Kilday (c), Longridge, Hendrie (McGinn 75); Barjonas (Smith 75), MacDonald, Tait (McGlynn 60); One (Zanatta 75), O’Hara, Winter (Murray 60)
Substitutes: Lane, Owens, Newbury, Morgan
Goalscorers: O’Hara (13), Hendrie (90)
Booked: Winter (27), Hendrie (63), MacDonald (87)
COVE RANGERS (4-2-3-1): Suman; Sena, Kerr, Gillingham, Jones; Gallagher (Darge 80), Scully; Golding, McGowan (c) (Reynolds 90), Burrell; Connell (Mykyta 60)
Substitutes: Demus, Naismith, Ochmanski, Vigurs, Gaffney,
Goalscorers: Gallagher (45), Burrell (60)
Referee: Stewart Luke