STRIKE ONE: Harry Milne, far right, wheels away after opening the scoring for Cove Rangers against East Kilbride.

STRIKE TWO: Scott Ross gets above the East Kilbride defenders to bullet home the second goal for Cove Rangers.

GRAEME Mathieson has thanked the Cove Rangers players for the manner they went about securing a potentially crucial 2-1 victory away to East Kilbride in the first leg of their SPFL Pyramid Play-off semi-final.
First half headers by Harry Milne and Scott Ross ensured Cove take a slender lead into the rematch between the clubs this coming Saturday at Balmoral Stadium.
While accepting it’s still very much only half-time in a challenging contest against the Lowland League champions, Cove co-manager Graeme admitted he’s delighted they will be starting  the second meeting a goal up.
But he’s ever more grateful to the players for delivering a positive result for fellow co-boss John Sheran, who would have been in the dugout at the K-Park Training Academy but was ordered to stay at home while he continues his recovery from a heart attack.
Graeme said: “John would have been delighted watching that game.
“He always tells the players to work hard and get the basics right and that’s what they did.
“A major part of the pre-match team talk was about asking the players to go out there and get a positive result for John.
“You could see there were highly motivated and desperate to do that.
“I can’t thank the players enough for the manner they went about their business against top quality opponents .”
Both Cove goals came from corners, with defenders Milne and Ross nodding home perfectly flighted crosses from midfielder Daniel Park.
Set pieces were something the Cove squad had worked hard on in training during the lead up to the game.
Graeme is pleased it proved to be effort well spent.
“It was a case of using all the information we had on East Kilbride to our advantage,”said Graeme.
“We had them watched and felt there could be opportunities for us at set pieces, so it was very pleasing to see that pay off.
“We have a lot of big guys who can pose a real threat in those sort of situations.
“But no matter how much preparation you do it always comes down to players making sure they do the right runs on the day - and the quality of the delivery into the box.
“Harry and Scott did what had been expected of them,  they were aggressive and timed the way they attacked the ball perfectly.
“And Daniel’s crosses couldn’t have been any better.
“But there was a lot more than just being good at set pieces to winning the game.
“East Kilbride like time to take the ball down and play passes through you.
“Every player was asked to get right into their faces in an effort to stop them doing that and force them to play more long balls, which I’m always confident that our back line can handle.
“They implemented the game plan perfectly and deserve a lot of credit for that.
“It was about remaining a solid unit, about 11 players working hard for each other and keeping a good formation so that they could get a result that gives us a chance of making the next round.”
East Kilbride kept their own hopes of progressing to face Berwick Rangers, who will finish bottom of League Two and play the winners in the play-off final, when substitute Jamie Longworth pulled a goal back in the third minute of injury time.
While he would have preferred to still be two up, Graeme believes that late goal could actually help Cove in their quest to make it to the play-off final for the second season in a row.
“It will maybe help to keep our feet on the ground,” said Graeme.
“If we were going into the home leg 2-0 up there might have been a danger that some complacency could stem in.
“That certainly won’t be the case now.
“East Kilbride had other chances too, so the tie could easily have been level at this stage.
“The players know there is still a lot of hard work for us to do if we are to get to where we all desperately want to be because East Kilbride will coming out at Balmoral ready to have a right go at us and maybe get an early goal to make things all level again.”