The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)

Cove ready to scale pyramid

Smith rar­ing to go as crunch tie against Spar­tans looms large

- BY JAMIE DURENT

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.”

 ??  ?? EYE ON THE BALL: Jonny Smith, right, reck­ons Cove Rangers are pre­pared for league foot­ball
EYE ON THE BALL: Jonny Smith, right, reck­ons Cove Rangers are pre­pared for league foot­ball

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