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Jamie Durent: Stage set for Cove Rangers in Scottish Cup clash with Hibernian

Cove Rangers goalscorers Mitchel Megginson, Fraser Fyvie and Jamie Masson
Cove Rangers are riding the crest of a wave

Cove Rangers would have been forgiven for cursing their luck when the announcement of crowd restrictions was made last month.

For the second year in a row, their big Scottish Cup away day could have been dampened with a wet flannel by playing in front of empty – or virtually empty – stands.

But with the three-week period of 500 supporters expiring on Monday night, Cove will get to play in front of a packed house against Hibernian on Thursday night.

I am sure there will have been a sigh of relief within the club upon hearing that restrictions would not be extended beyond January 17.

First of all, it gives the players the chance to play at one of Scottish football’s best arenas with a raucous support in the ground.

Hibernian are in the thick of the European race and have the uplift given to them by the appointment of a new manager in Shaun Maloney.

Robbie Leitch celebrates with Cove teammates after scoring their fourth goal against East Fife. Photo by Chris Sumner

For some of the Cove players it will be their first experience of playing in front of such a support. There are plenty within the squad who have played at a higher level and to them, a five-figure crowd will be nothing new.

But to some, who have come up with the club through the Highland League or spent most of their careers playing in League One and League Two, it will be an occasion to savour.

The other key factor is the income they will get from gate receipts at Easter Road.

That was a huge miss for Cove last season when they drew Rangers in the Scottish Cup, which would have meant a significant income for the club.

While Easter Road is not as big as Ibrox in terms of capacity, that money will still be welcomed by a club looking to realise their ambitions of becoming a Championship club.

Cove Rangers played in front of empty stands last year at Ibrox in the Scottish Cup
Cove Rangers played in front of empty stands last year at Ibrox in the Scottish Cup

When it comes to the result, there is little pressure on Cove to go to the capital and win. The expectation will be for Hibernian to progress to the last 16.

But if there was any lower-league club capable of causing an upset at the minute, it is Cove.

They are unbeaten in 15 games and in a strong position to win League One. They have a squad full of experience of playing at a higher level and in Mitch Megginson and Rory McAllister, have the most lethal strikers in part-time football.

They also have a growing number of travelling supporters keen to keep the bandwagon rolling. The hardy group who made the trip down to Dumfries for the replay win over Queen of the South did not go unnoticed.

This game has all the ingredients for one of the most exciting in the club’s history. I hesitate to say the biggest game, given you could argue that was beating Berwick to get into the SPFL or maybe is still to come if they win the League One title.

But the stage is set for Cove to shine and show why they are, deservedly, getting all the plaudits just now.

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