COVE BOSS GRAEME ADMITS PLAYERS WILL HAVE TO DIG DEEP TO KEEP PROMOTION DREAM ALIVE IN EAST KILBRIDE
TOP TEAM: The Cove Rangers management team of, from left, Roy McBain (first team coach), John Sheran and Graeme Mathieson (co-managers), Keith Paterson (goalkeeping coach) and Gary Hake (youth coach).
GRAEME Mathieson has warned the Cove Rangers players they will be facing the toughest test of their season at East Kilbride on Saturday.
Cove travel to face the Lowland League champions in the first leg of their SPFL Pyramid Play-off semi-final at the K-Park Training Academy in fine spirits after winning the Breedon Highland League, Highland League Cup and Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup.
But co-manager Graeme admitted all those past glories will count for nothing when they go toe to toe with East Kilbride, who, like Cove, will be bidding to stay in the hunt for promotion to the SPFL for the first time in their history.
“We know we are in for two very difficult games, without doubt the toughest we have faced all season,” said Graeme.
“East Kilbride are a quality team who play at a very high tempo.
“The players are going to know they have been in a game because East Kilbride will come out looking to finish the tie in their home leg.
“We’ve got to be prepared for them coming out of the blocks quickly, look to weather the storm and hopefully nick a goal whenever we can.
“Our target us to make sure it remains a two legged tie by coming back to Balmoral Stadium with a result that still gives us a chance to progress.
“It will probably take a different approach to what our players are used to if we are to achieve that.
“Most weeks in the Highland League its about going all out for a win and getting the three points.
“But we will a have to be a bit more measured in our work if we want to get to around 5pm on Saturday with the opportunity to progress still alive.
“We are also going to be at our very best, if we aren’t it could prove to be a long and very difficult afternoon for us.”
This will be Cove’s third attempt at gaining promotion via the play-offs.
They lost to Edinburgh City at the first hurdle in 2016 then beat Edinburgh Spartans last season before going down 3-2 on aggregate to Cowdenbeath in the final.
Graeme is hoping the experiences from those previous two attempts will help get them over the line this time around.
“It’s good that a fair number of the players who were involved those times are still with us,” he said.
“Having the same coaching team should also help because I admit we probably didn’t do enough homework before we played Edinburgh City.
“If we had we might have done a lot better, which is why we worked extensively to get as much information as possible on our opponents last season and on East Kilbride this time around.
“Unfortunately, it was the size of our squad that was our downfall the last time.
“We had too many important players injured and others absent for other reasons, which meant we were a bit stretched for the clashes with Cowdenbeath.
“Efforts were made in the summer to stop that happening again.
“We looked at a lot of things, like how the players train, and the club also appointed Jenni Butler as physio and the result is we are going into this weekend’s game with a full squad to pick from.
“We are in the best shape that we could possibly be ... it’s now up to the players to make that work to our advantage out on the pitch.”
Co-manager John Sheran won’t make the game because he is still recuperating after suffering a heart attack, which means Graeme will be assisted by first team coach, former Inverness Caley Thistle and Dundee United player Roy McBain in the dugout on Saturday .
They will be backed up by goalkeeping coach Keith Paterson and former Buckie Thistle boss Gary Hake, who is now the head of Cove’s youth academy.
Graeme said: “John will still be doing his bit, I’m sure there will be a lot of phone calls made before the weekend and on the day.
“But John, Roy and myself have worked together as a team for a number of years now.
“He trusts Roy and I to go and do the job properly in the hope that we can come back with the result we all want.”
COVE Rangers will have a big support cheering them on at K-Park Training Academy on Saturday.
Two coaches plus a fleet of cars will be ferrying an estimated 150 fans down to East Kilbride for the big match, which is not all-ticket.
The Cove fans have been allocated an enclosure with its own entrance, catering and toilet facilities as well as a small section in the Main Stand for those in need of a seat.
East Kilbride officials will advise supporters on their arrival at the ground, which has a capacity of 660.
East Kilbride are also welcoming Cove supporters into a ‘ Fanzone’ which will be provided in the East Kilbride Sports Club directly opposite the stadium.
A bar facility will be open all day and snacks will be available to purchase.
For those travelling by car, parking at K-Park is restricted to Players and Officials only. There is overspill parking at the entrance to the Country Park.
Parking in Kelvin Industrial Estate across the main road is also an option.
Tickets are £8 for adults and £4 for concessions and fans are advised to arrive early ahead of the 3pm kick-off.