If you can’t win, don’t lose.
Cove Rangers were far from their best on Saturday against Falkirk, who dispelled any notions of them being off-colour despite 14 players returning from self-isolation before the game. But they still managed to avoid an opening day defeat.
Falkirk were the more enterprising team, with Callumn Morrison a prominent threat down the right flank with a number of teasing, testing, crosses.
One of them picked out Aidan Nesbitt, who took his time and crashed the ball home for a deserved lead.
But, as he has done often during his time at Cove, Rory McAllister stepped up and delivered a big goal. Coming off the bench, McAllister jabbed home a clever equaliser with 12 minutes to go to earn a point.
Cove boss Paul Hartley said: “I don’t think we played well to be honest with you. I’m pretty satisfied with a point. I think we didn’t pass it as well as we can. I think we were off it a bit today.
“Sometimes that first game of the season. If you can’t play well, and you can’t win make sure you don’t lose.
“Credit to them, they fought and scored a really good goal with Rory. Overall we didn’t pass it well enough, our tempo was pretty slow. We didn’t press well enough and didn’t have enough options. But we didn’t lose.”
McAllister was on the bench at the start but was called upon with 20 minutes to go, replacing Fraser Fyvie and partnering Mitch Megginson up top.
His goalscoring instincts took over and after Megginson had got a slight touch on Connor Scully’s clipped pass, McAllister was able to steer the ball past Robbie Mutch.
Hartley added: “He’s good at that. He’s had a little knock. Sometimes he’s got to realise that when you get to a certain age there are some games you can start and some you can’t start. It depends on the opposition but he’s good at scoring goals.”
The Cove manager also played down any notion of Falkirk’s Covid troubles having an impact on the game.
The Bairns had tried to get the game postponed because of the number of players they had missing up until Saturday morning, stating they were “playing this fixture under duress.”
Hartley added: “Listen, we’ve been through that. We’ve been through it all season. You can forget that. We’ve had to go with two subs and you didn’t hear us complaining. So it [their intensity] didn’t surprise me. These lads are fit – they’re full time.”
Paul Sheerin, in his first league game in charge of Falkirk, was pleased with the efforts he got from his players at the Balmoral Stadium.
He insisted he did not use their predicament as motivation to get a result against Cove and they did all they could to prepare the players for the game.
Sheerin said: “People have said before the game about the motivation of having to play, but you shouldn’t need that motivation. It’s the first game of the season so the motivation should be there.
“It’s not ideal, player’s welfare hasn’t been though about which is a disappointment but in terms of their application and honesty to want to play is a credit to them.
“We couldn’t do too much with them in terms of training – we got the legs moving and it was no more than that. We had a good pre-season under their belt so you’re confident they’re not going to lose the fitness, but it’s more the sharpness they’ve lost.”
COVE RANGERS (4-4-1-1) – Gourlay 6; Logan 6, Ross 7, Neill 6, Milne 7, Yule 6, Draper 6, Vigurs 6, Leitch 5 (Scully 59), Fyvie 6 (McAllister 70), Megginson 5. Subs not used – McKenzie, Anderson, Strachan, Higgins, Watson.
FALKIRK (4-3-3) – Mutch 6; Miller 6, Hall 6, Dixon 6, Williamson 6 (McCann 77), Ross 7 (Hetherington 85), Telfer 6, Nesbitt 7, Morrison 8, Wilson 6 (Keena 64), McGuffie 6. Subs not used – Martin, Dowds, Weekes, Lemon.
Referee – Alan Newlands 5
Attendance – 672
Man of the match – Callumn Morrison