Jamie Masson breaking double figures on the season helped Cove Rangers to their 5-1 thumping of Brechin City.
Cove’s place at the League 2 summit was sustained thanks to a clinical final period of the game, rattling four goals past a Brechin side that had threatened to upset the applecart.
Masson had given Cove the lead in the first half before Ryan McCord’s equaliser. It was Masson again that put Cove back in front, with a Mitch Megginson double and Fraser Fyvie also on the scoresheet.
Paul Hartley said: “Jamie’s got a lot of ability. We know he can score goals, coming in off that side, and he’s up to eight in the league this year. So it’s a good return for a wide player.
“I didn’t think he started the game that well – I thought he was a bit loose in some of his play. But he showed his quality. I said to him at half-time that he was better than he was showing and he comes into the second half really strong.”
Cove weathered some early pressure from the home side as Olly Hamilton and Dougie Hill went close, while Brechin goalkeeper Lewis McMinn was required to keep out two efforts from Megginson.
The visitors felt they had a penalty shout from the rebound, as Sean McIntosh felled John Robertson, but referee David Dickinson was unmoved.
Robertson had a hand in the opener though, spotting Masson unmarked at the edge of the area from a corner.
The St Johnstone loanee picked out Masson and through a crowd of bodies, he found the net for the second week running.
But Cove did not have it all their own way. In Paul McManus, Brechin had the man who scored Cove’s last goal as a Highland League side and after he manoeuvred past Ryan Strachan, he troubled Stuart McKenzie at his near post.
With nearest challengers Edinburgh City leading at Elgin, Cove had to stay in front. McMinn kept them at bay, repelling shots from Harry Milne and Connor Scully, while the post denied Megginson.
However, they held the lead until eight minutes into the second period, with McManus, who had several goes at shaking off his marker Strachan before finally succeeding, delivering the ball to McCord just inside the box and he found the bottom corner. The leaders upped the ante again though, with Robertson having a shot cleared off the line by Hill before Masson dug them out.
Megginson had charged down a Brechin clearance, with the ball breaking to Masson on the edge of the box.
Again faced up with red shirts, Masson eschewed his cross back across goal and fired inside the near post to restore Cove’s advantage.
Megginson went from provider to scorer with a superb volley from Fyvie’s cross, before the ex-Aberdeen and Hibernian midfielder got in on the act himself, with a long-range strike that McMinn failed to keep out.
Hartley added: “We were ruthless. We should have been more goals in front at half-time and didn’t start the second half well. We showed another side to us – we controlled it and took our chances.
“We stepped it up in the final period of the game. We said to them we needed a strong start to the second half and it was the opposite. But the players believe in their ability.”