The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)
Cove ready to scale pyramid
Smith raring to go as crunch tie against Spartans looms large
Two years ago, Cove Rangers were virtually out of the pyramid play-off after 45 minutes. Jonny Smith wants to avoid that happening again.
Edinburgh City raced into a 3-0 lead by half-time in Cove’s home tie and John Sheran’s side never recovered, with a 1-1 draw in the second leg not enough to drag them through.
That year they were embroiled in an intense Highland League title race with Brora Rangers and Formartine which went to the wire.
This time round they have had the benefit of resting key players ahead of the game, despite a hectic run of fixtures that has seen them play eight times in three weeks.
Smith was in the side that lost the first leg to Edinburgh and believes Cove will avoid a repeat this time.
He said: “It was down to a lack of preparation and we just weren’t ready for it. It was an intense run-in and that’s what John Sheran was worried about this time. You could see the lads were tired and had played Saturday-Wednesday before that for the title. We were the better team in the second leg but it was done in the first game.
“We’ve got a couple of injuries but what’s good about this season is the strength in depth. We’ve had the added bonus of being able to rest players and do a bit of homework on Spartans.”
Should they get past the Lowland League champions, a two-legged playoff against Cowdenbeath awaits for a place in League 2. With their Calder Park ground expected to be ready for the start of the next campaign, Smith said it would be fitting to play their first game as a league club in their new home.
Smith said: “The club is ready to go up. When I signed three-and-a-half years ago, you could see the aspirations. I’m sure a lot of people will share the feeling that we’re a league club in the Highland League.
“We’ve got a new stadium opening and it would be ideal to play our first league game there.”
Spartans chairman Craig Graham, meanwhile, hopes shelling out on Premiership-style treatment for the players will help them gain the upper hand.
Spartans have paid a
“Clubisready togoup.We’rea leagueclubinthe HighlandLeague”
four-figure fee for the squad to stay in a hotel in Aberdeen this evening ahead of Saturday’s crucial first leg against their Highland League counterparts at Harlaw Park, Inverurie.
The accommodation is commonly used by top-flight clubs ahead of matches against the Dons.
Graham said: “We’re trying to do everything that will give us the opportunity to make a good impression. It will give us a better chance of playing well on the day.
“We’ll have a relaxing morning and that will give us time to go through any last minute things.
“By winning the league we get into the Betfred Cup so financially we would benefit from that, we’ve basically reinvested what the players have earned us and it makes sense.”