MIDFIELD DYNAMO DANIEL DETERMINED TO STAY THE COURSE WITH COVE THIS TIME IN THE PROMOTION PLAY-OFFS
MIDFIELD MAESTRO: Cove Rangers ace Daniel Park.
COVE Rangers midfielder Daniel Park is hoping it will be third time lucky for him this year as far as getting the chance to help steer his club through the SPFL Pyramid Play-offs is concerned.
Breedon Highland League champions Cove travel to face Lowland League winners East Kilbride tomorrow in the first leg of their semi play-off, with the return at Balmoral Stadium a week later.
It’s the third time in four seasons that Cove have earned a crack at becoming the first Highland side to earn promotion up to League Two via the Pyramid System.
Daniel, however, missed the crunch games in Cove’s previous two attempts because of circumstances that were beyond his control.
“I can’t believe how unlucky I’ve been as far as the play-offs are concerned,” said Daniel, who has featured in 45 of the 50 games played by Cove so far this season (only fellow midfielder Connor Scully, on 46, has featured in more) to help the club complete the treble by winning the league, Highland League Cup and Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup.
Cove first made the play-offs in 2016, but were beaten 4-1 on aggregate, at the first hurdle, by their Lowland League counterparts Edinburgh City.
“I missed that one through work, I had been sent out by my bosses to work on a contract in Alabama,” said Daniel.
“It was a huge disappointment because everyone at the club was excited by the prospect of being involved in the play-offs for the first time,.
“It would have been great to play and see if I could maybe have helped Cove get through to the next stage.”
Cove earned their second crack at glory 12 months ago and Daniel was involved when they beat Edinburgh Spartans 5-2 on aggregate in the play-off semi and drew 0-0 with Cowdenbeath out at Inverurie in the first leg of the final.
But he was then ruled out of the second leg at Central Park, which Cove lost 3-2, because his wife went into labour.
Daniel said: “Her waters broke about 5am on the morning of the game at Cowdenbeath.
“There was no way I would risk not being at the birth of our child, but it still hurt to miss yet another huge match for Cove.
“I was gutted when the news came through that we had lost.
“Hopefully I will be able to play in every game this time around.”
Like Cove, East Kilbride will also be looking to take the next step towards gaining promotion into the SPFL for the first time in their history and Daniel expects the two matches against them to be the toughest so far of the campaign.
He said: “We know we are going to have to be at our very best to get through to the next stage.
“East Kilbride have some excellent players, including Davie Proctor, who was at Inverness Caley Thistle when I was there.
“Davie has played in countless big games at the top level and we can be sure he will be using his experience to help make them organised and very difficult to beat.
“Everyone knows you don’t win the Lowland League if you aren’t a very good side.
“We learned lessons from what happened against Edinburgh City and kind of blew Spartans away last year, but I doubt if that will happen this time.
“The games against East Kilbride are going to be like back to back, huge, cup finals but we are all really looking forward to that challenge.
“It’s going to be extremely tough but we are determined to reward the hard work so many people have put in to make Cove a club that would be a welcome addition to League Two.
“The facilities we have at Balmoral Stadium are outstanding, better than a lot of sides in League One have, never mind the lower division.”
Co-manager Graeme Mathieson and first team coach Roy McBain, who will be in charge at the Cove side at the K-Park Training Academy because John Sheran is unable to travel because of ill health, have a full squad to pick from.
COVE Rangers will have a big support cheering them on at K-Park Training Academy tomorrow.
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.