ON FORM: Ryan Strachan plays a a pass in Cove's 3-0 victory over Huntly at Balmoral Stadium.

PRAISED: Skipper Eric Watson didn't feature against Hunly but was applauded for the part he has played ensuring no league goals were  lost at Balmoral Stadium in 2018.


COVE Rangers boss John Sheran has praised his players for maintaining their amazing shut-out record at Balmoral Stadium in 2018 by beating Huntly 3-0 in the Breedon Highland League.
Two goals from Jordon Brown and a penalty by top scorer Mitch Megginson were enough to give Cove the victory that keeps them five points clear of second placed Fraserburgh  going into the new year.
Another clean sheet also meant Cove ended the old year without conceding a single goal in the 10 league matches played since they moved into Balmoral Stadium in the summer.
John said: "That's something the players have a right to be proud of - and the fact we have only let in seven goals in all matches so far.
"If you look back through the years the teams that have won the Highland League have tended to be the ones who have lost the least goals.
"I accept you have to score them as well, but it's generally the ones who also defend well that come out on top.
"It's not just about the goalkeepers or back fours either.
"It's usually down to the whole team showing a willingness to work, often up and down the park, to ensure opponents don't get scoring opportunities.
"It's about pressing opponents when they have possession and working hard for each other.
"That's what our lads did against Huntly and have also done in the majority of our league games so far.
"I've praised them for making sure we have yet to lose a league game at Balmoral but the challenge ahead of them now is to see if they can maintain that in the new year as well."
While highlighting the team ethic, John admitted Cove could never have racked up so many clean sheets if he hadn't been able to call upon some top quality defensive players.
"We are fortunate to have an abundance of top class defenders who have all made significant contributions," he said.
"You only need to look at the centre backs we have available for evidence of that.
"We've our skipper Eric Watson, one of the most respected and decorated defenders in Highland League football, backed up by Darryn Kelly, Ryan Strachan and Scott Ross, who was picked as man of the match in the Huntly game.
"It's understandably frustrating for some of them when they don't get picked but you can't underplay the contributions every one of them has made to ensure we have such an outstanding record up to this stage.
"We also know they will all be needed to contribute as we move towards the most challenging part of the campaign."
Cove were never at their very best against Huntly but their manager believes they more than merited their victory.
"It was just about finishing the year off on a high and getting the three points and we did that," said John.
"That was despite the fact we had to make changes late on because a few boys (including keeper Stuart McKenzie and defender Harry Milne) failed fitness tests.
"That disrupted things a wee bit so to still go out and win the match as well as we did was very pleasing.
"John McCafferty never had any major saves to make and we got the job done."
The Cove manager was extremely pleased by the contribution of teenage winger Hamish MacLeod, who came on as a substitute late in the second half - and was fouled for the penalty that was converted by top scorer Mitch.
He said: "Hamish came on and looked very lively and forced the foul that led to the penalty which made the victory comfortable in the end.
"Like a lot of players, Hamish would like to be featuring more than he has been.
"But I really appreciate the impact he makes when we do use him and I'm delighted with the progress he's making."
It's hoped that McKenzie and Milne will be fit for Cove's next league match, away to Turriff United this coming Saturday.
Boss John hasn't ruled out adding to his squad as well and confirmed he's also keen on extending their loan deal for midfielder Ryan Ferguson, who has now returned to parent club Montrose.
John said: "We will certainly be looking to strengthen in some areas.
"We are also waiting to hear what Montrose plan to do with Ryan.
"I'm keen to keep him because he's a talented player."


UNLUCKY PARKY: Daniel Park sees his chip beyond the Huntky keeper come back off the woodwork in Cove's 3-0 win in the Highland League.