COVE Rangers co-manager Graeme Mathieson has praised his players for the manner they went about booking their place in the SPFL Play-off final.
A double from Mitch Megginson and cool finish from Jamie Masson were enough to beat East Kilbride 3-0 at Balmoral Stadium and secure a 5-1 aggregate victory for Cove in the semi-final.
Cove now face Berwick Rangers, who finished bottom of League Two in the final, with the first leg at Balmoral Stadium next Saturday.
Cove boss Graeme is delighted with the shift put in by all 13 players who featured to see off the challenge of Lowland League champions East Kilbride.
He said: “It really was a great team performance.
“We told the players ahead of both games it would be all about winning the individual battles.
“We knew if they did that then the quality of football that we know we are capable of would be enough to see us through.
“Every player did what was asked of them.
“They went man to man with their direct opponents and came out well on top.
“They also stuck together as a team and worked really hard, especially when we were down to 10 men.
“I really can’t praise them enough, they were absolutely superb.”
Cove’s joy about winning was tempered a little by the red card shown to striker Jimmy Scott in the first half, for a challenge on East Kilbride full-back Bernard Coll, who was also sent off before the interval.
Graeme confirmed it’s likely Cove will appeal against the decision in an effort to ensure Scott isn’t banned from the clashes against Berwick.
“I was right beside it and while Jimmy has caught him I don’t think there was any malice in the challenge,” said Graeme.
“It was very harsh on Jimmy because I don’t think it was in any way intentional.
“The game was filmed, so we will get the chance to see it again and I fully expect that we will lodge an appeal.”
While delighted to have made the play-off final for the second year in a row, Graeme knows it’s going to take an extra special effort from them if they are take Berwick Rangers’ place in League Two next term.
He said: “The Highland League is a fantastic League, it’s really competitive.
“The lads also did well to see off a very strong East Kilbride side.
“But we’ve now got to leave that behind because the next challenge in front of us is a huge one.
“Berwick are a long established Scottish League side who we respect and accept will be determined to beat us.
“If we want to stop that happening we are going adopt a Scottish League mentality.
“It’s going to be about playing at a level some of our lads have never had to before.
“Having been at this stage before will help.
“We know we have good players and they will have learned from what happened a year ago and go out determined not to be left disappointed again.
“As was the case against East Kilbride, I expect the tie to be decided over the two legs.
“We have a fantastic record at Balmoral and it would be great to build on that next week and get our noses in front.
“But if we don’t we will be content with still being in the position to progress going into the second match.
“It won’t be easy though, as I said, we are going to be up against a Berwick side who will be determined to retain their place in their league.”