Inverurie Locos maintained their recent good form with a thrilling win over Cove Rangers on the artificial pitch at Spain Park in Aberdeen on Sunday.
The opening fixture for both teams in 2016 was played in high winds and swirling rain making for an uncomfortable afternoon for playing and spectating.
We enter the New Year looking positiveScott Buchan Locos co-manager
Locos had ended the old year with a thumping 4-0 home win over Forres while Fraserburgh had dented Cove’s title chances by beating them 4-2 and for them this defeat, in a weekend in which Brora Rangers also lost, is far from ideal preparation. They travel to face Motherwell in the fourth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup on Saturday
Without several players unavailable for various reasons, the visitors paired Stephen Jeffrey with young Daniel Crisp in central defence while transfer listed Marc Young was at right back.
It was the Red and Blacks who grabbed the lead in 13 minutes. John Maitland stepped up almost 25 yards out and his low free kick deflected off the defensive wall leaving stand-in goalkeeper John McCafferty wrong-footed.
Cove had a fine chance through in-form Daniel Park but his long range free kick went well over the bar.
However, Mathieson could do little other than impede danger man Daryl Nicol when a ball bobbled in the box. Nicol stepped up to send the spot kick straight down the middle for the equaliser.
Stuart Walker was lucky to escape with a yellow card when he sent Maitland flying before the attention again turned to Mathieson as he was exposed by Park evading Gordon Forsyth and he had to be clever to turn the shot on to the bar. There was a scrambled clearance before Nicol could pounce on the rebound.
The game was following an end-to-end pattern and the teams were evenly matched but it was Cove who took a vital lead when possession was given away and new signing from Wick Grant Campbell sent Nicol through in the box. He turned the ball into the corner of the net.
However the lead was shortlived as a quickly executed move sent Martin Laing through, the former Clach right sided midfielder angling his shot home from close range.
2-2 at the interval but the Aberdeen side went back in front within two minutes of the restart. Ex-Cove defender Jeffrey tripped Jamie Watt in the box, he got off with just a booking but it was another penalty. Nicol again converted for his hat-trick and his 31st of the season.
Locos almost equalised immediately. Neil McLean, not one for straightforward goals, making an attempt straight from kick off. McCafferty was scrambling to react to the shot from the halfway line, the ball coming back off his upright.
With the conditions worsening, Park and McLean at either end were unlucky not to score but on the hour mark it was 3-3. Captain McLean’s well-flighted free kick from his own half found another Cove player Michael Selfridge. The No 10 placed his header perfectly past McCafferty.
Referee Fordyce was having a bit of a howler, booking Selfridge when Scott Begg had committed a foul. But with the game heading towards a draw, it was birthday boy Joe McCabe, celebrating his 19th, getting on the end of a long throw-in and half volleying into the corner for a memorable win
Cove Rangers: McCafferty, Campbell, Walker, Yule, Walker, Kelly, Park, Duff, Nicol, S Smith, Watt. Substitutes: J Smith, Scully, Burnett, Milne, Donaldson, Lawrie, McKenzie.
Inverurie Locos: Mathieson, Young, Forsyth, Begg, Jeffrey, Crisp, Laing, McLean, McCabe, Selfridge, Maitland. Substitutes: Charlesworth, Leyden, Keir, Robertson, Anderson, Bavidge, McCaffrey.
Ref C Fordyce
A delighted Locos co-manager Scott Buchan said after the game: “I don’t think the game should have gone ahead because of the high winds but in the end it was a great victory for us.
“I suppose it was exciting but it wasn’t pretty or condusive to good football. The wind made it a lottery for both teams, both certainly tried going into the wind.
“The second goal was really crucial for us and a great goal, good finish from Martin Laing.
“The players’ determination over the last month has been incredible, we sat them down and had a right good chat with them as we wanted them to perform at a higher level
“We won’t win the League and it doesn’t bother us who wins it although Formartine seem to be the big winners of the weekend. For us we enter the New Year positive looking to finsh as high as possible and do well in two cup competitions.”
This Saturday Locos make the long trek to play Wick Academy. Kick-off is 3pm.