Decimated Jags Battled Bravely by Easton Thain

 After the defeat at home to Turriff United the Jags were looking for a pick-me-up at Allan Park. It is never an easy task to win at Cove’s home ground and Thistles chances of a positive result had been dealt severe blows from that match with Turriff as additions to the injury list were Chris Hegarty and Chris Angus and the sending off of Darren Wood meant that three more defenders were out of the Rangers game making it five in total with Iain MacRae and Shaun Wood already out through injury. Right throughout the season starting with the nasty injury to skipper Lewis MacKinnon in the Aberdeenshire Cup at Keith the Thistle defence has been struck by injuries to key men and suspensions, mainly the former, and poor Andy Burr in goal has not had a settled defence in front of him since he made his debut at Banff. The giant keeper has performed some heroics to keep the opponents out, he did so in this latest game also, but he has been left clearly exposed on other occasions and unable to stop the flow of goals into the Jags net and he could do little again at Allan Park with no real protection.

 For the game at Cove the gaffer was forced to call up Ben Stewart and Harry Noble who are on loan to the Rovers but after taking time to adjust to the faster pace both lads played really well albeit Ben suffered a piece of bad luck close to half-time. Just when Gary Hake thought it could not get any worse at Cove it did as Jay Cheyne, currently having to play in defence, picked up a sore injury and had to leave the field in the first half meaning Kyle Gauld had to fit in in an unfamiliar position. Then Andy Low took a knock and he didn’t reappear for the second half. And yet despite all that Thistle battled hard and even though they were behind at half time, to a bit of cruel luck, they were very much in the game. That lasted until the 51st minute when Shaun Carrol, already on a yellow card, daftly kicked the ball away when Cove got a free kick and off he went. He was the lynch-pin in midfield and with no fit like-for-like player on the bench the heart was ripped out of the ‘boiler house’ of the team and Rangers took advantage to control the game from then on in.

Cove started strongly and Daniel Park swung in a dangerous corner in the 7th minute but Andy Burr grabbed the ball well. Two minutes on Connor Scully sent in a free-kick which was just cleared by Lewis MacKinnon, from the corner Jamie McAllister met the ball but headed wide Then in the 12th minute Daniel Park whipped in a cross which Connor Scully just failed to connect with. Two minutes later Jamie Watt crashed in a drive only to see Andy Burr pull off a super stop. Soon after Jay Cheyne hobbled off but the Jags dug in and in the 18th minute Lewis MacKinnon tried an audacious shot from over 30 yards but the ball dipped over. Two minutes later Blair Yule was allowed to meander through the Thistle back line before driving in a low shot but Andy Burr blocked this well with his feet. However, in the 25th minute Rangers edged ahead when Daniel Park sent a free-kick into the box, Lewis MacKinnon was caught on the wrong side and Eric Watson easily headed home. Two minutes later Jamie McAllister foozled two defenders to create space but then sent a shot wide from the outside of his foot. Thistle fought back and rocked Cove by equalising in the 29th minute when Lewis MacKinnon cracked a 25-yard free-kick under the leaping wall and it flew home off the post. Cove pushed on again and six minutes on Scott Webster set up Daniel Park but he shot over. Then, in the 37th minute, the ball was fed to Connor Scully but he shot just wide of goal. Moments later Jamie McAllister broke before finding Connor Scully but his effort was well blocked by Kyle Gauld. Rangers though retook the lead five minutes later, Daniel Park created it well by hitting the bye-line but then Cove got luck as his cross struck the boot of the retreating Ben Stewart and ended up in the bottom corner of the net. In injury time Shaun Carrol broke and cracked in a drive but luck deserted him as it struck a team-mate and flew wide

Half-time Cove Rangers 2 Buckie Thistle 1

A minute after the restart Connor Scully got free again and fired in a drive but this was blocked away by Andy Burr. Any real chance of a Jags recovery all but went in the 51st minute when Shaun Carrol stupidly kicked the ball away and with him already on a yellow the outcome was pretty obvious, off he went, and that moment of madness meant he was suspended for the next game. Cove smelled blood and should have gone 3-1 up in the 57th minute when the ball was played across the six yard line to Barrie Stephen but, incredibly, he sent it over the bar. Four minutes later the ball was rolled to Blair Yule who smacked in a drive only to see Andy Burr make a fine save. The giant keeper did even better 60 seconds later when Scott Webster sauntered through the defence and thumped in a shot but the Jags No 1 made a great stop. However, just another minute later the game was effectively over when a cross from the right found Barrie Stephen unmarked and he duly headed home. Rangers never let up, and in the 65th minute, Stewart Duff thumped in a shot but this was held by Andy Burr. Barrie Stephen then got free and sent over a low cross but Daryl Nicol contrived to miss the ball completely. With twelve minutes remaining the ball bounced over Lewis MacKinnon letting in Daryl Nicol but that man Andy Burr pulled off another grand save. With six minutes left Cove won a free kick but Barrie Stephen shot wide. In the 87th minute Michael Selfridge sent in a cross, Connor Scully got free but headed wide. Thistle actually had the last chances in the final minute but Andrzej Kleczkowski saw his shot blocked as did Drew Copeland with the follow up effort.

Full-time Cove Rangers 3 Buckie Thistle 1

You cannot fault the Jags lads for effort and all credit to the young defenders who filled the breach competently. The rest of the side worked away and might have got something but for that defining act in the 51st minute! These are tough times for Thistle but they have to dig in and at some point the injuries will clear up, there will be a full squad to choose from and the days of darkness will turn in to light – hopefully that is not too long away now!

 Cove Rangers – Wood, Webster, Lawrie, Yule, Watson, Kelly, Park (Stephen), Duff, McAllister (Selfridge), Watt (Nicol) and Scully Subs – Smith, Clark, Redford and Kinnaird (GK)

Buckie Thistle – Burr, J Cheyne (K Gauld), Noble, G Stewart, MacKinnon, B Stewart, Baxter, Carrol, Kleczkowski, Low (Copeland) and S Gauld (Hodge) Subs – Adams, L Cheyne, Munro and Fraser (GK)

Referee – T Shaw

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