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Cove Rangers’ night of play-off drama a painful watch for Mitch Megginson

Airdrie's Kyle Turner (L) and Cove's Mitch Megginson.
Airdrie's Kyle Turner (L) and Cove's Mitch Megginson.

Mitch Megginson had a ring-side seat for Cove Rangers’ night of drama, a role he would not thank you for again.

His intervention in the evening was brief; a glancing header 15 minutes in, connecting with Connor Scully’s free-kick, which put Cove on their way against Airdrieonians.

However, a niggling injury which Megginson had been nursing through the cavalcade of games in recent weeks, finally caught up to him. He was substituted nine minutes later and his evening was done.

League One’s leading scorer was left to watch in the rain-soaked stands at the Penny Cars Stadium as Cove were pegged back twice – once after going in front in stoppage-time – and finally beaten by an extra-time winner.

“It’s even worse – I hate sitting in the stand watching,” said Megginson. “You shout for every ball, for every decision. Hopefully next season I can stay fit and won’t have to do that at all.”

Cove's Mitch Megginson celebrates making it 1-0.
Cove’s Mitch Megginson celebrates making it 1-0.

Megginson’s opener was pegged back by Callum Gallagher, a man Cove will hope not to see any time soon after his recent goalscoring run against them.

The visitors controlled the ball and created the better chances but did not kill Airdrieonians off. They felt they had in the 91st minute, when Rory McAllister squeezed a shot into the bottom. Cue bedlam on the pitch, in the dugout and in the stands.

But those scenes were mirrored on the opposing side before Colin Steven blew the final whistle, with Jack McKay capitalising on defensive chaos to steer in a leveller.

Gallagher was to have the decisive say in the tie in the 109th minute, turning in Craig Thomson’s cross, to send the Diamonds through to face Morton and end Cove’s season.

For Megginson, their recent inability to hold on to a lead ultimately proved their undoing.

“It was there for us but when you lose goals like that you’re not going to win games,” he said. “It’s been happening too often; you’re not going to win games at this level if you give away goals like that. We don’t make them work for it.

“It’s not been like us. I think it was the Falkirk game down there – it seems to happen quite often and I’m not sure what it is. We need to be able to see out games at this level.

“We’re hugely disappointed because the chance was there for us.”

Too little time has passed yet for positives to be gleaned from this season. Had Cove been outplayed over the two legs and lost comprehensively, it might be a little easier to take.

They were minutes from advancing to the play-off final in their first season at this level, which deserves credit. Full-time opponents have all been beaten and young loan players, such as Ross Graham and Connor Smith, will have benefitted from their experiences heading back to their parent clubs.

“We’re a team that’s used to winning,” said Megginson. “We don’t like losing. Especially when we’ve got a chance to go up.

“It’s still too raw. We finished third but at the end of the day we’ve got nothing for it. Personally we want to be able to win something or get promoted.”

Mitch Megginson found the net 15 times for Cove this season.

Over time, the wounds will heal. Goals will be reset, bodies refreshed and the “we go again” mentality repurposed as a battle cry.

The end to the season has been arduous to the extreme for part-time clubs, faced with ridiculous fixture schedules and tiring players while still trying to achieve something tangible.

“It’s been such a short time of condensed games, which hasn’t helped injury-wise. It’s hard for everyone,” added Megginson, who signed a new deal with the club earlier this year.

“We’ll get a proper break and a proper pre-season – hopefully there’s fans back in and it’s a normal season.

“We’ll have to re-evaluate. I don’t know what our aims will be yet, we’ll discuss that at the start of the season, but we like to win things and keep progressing. That’s certainly what we’ll be doing next year.”

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