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Cove Rangers edged out by Hibernian after extra-time despite heroic Scottish Cup display

Hibernian striker Kevin Nisbet squeezes in the only goal of the game to edge out Cove Rangers
Hibernian striker Kevin Nisbet squeezes in the only goal of the game to edge out Cove Rangers

A heroic effort from Cove Rangers was in vain after Hibernian grabbed an extra-time winner in their Scottish Cup fourth tie.

The League One leaders matched the Hibees with a superb collective display, with it taking a goal from substitute Kevin Nisbet with nine minutes of extra-time remaining to ensure they progressed.

Far from being overawed against a team two leagues above them, Cove showed their credentials as a side destined for a bigger platform in the capital.

Cove were without injured duo Shay Logan and Iain Vigurs, with Jamie Masson and Connor Scully into the starting line-up. Kyle Gourlay stepped in for Stuart McKenzie in goal and new signing Mark Reynolds was on the bench.

The visitors had been warned before the game, by their own manager, that while they had to play their own game they may face long periods without the ball.

New Cove Rangers signing Mark Reynolds was on the bench
New Cove Rangers signing Mark Reynolds was on the bench

That was the case in the opening forays but Cove were not bystanders. Megginson blocking an attempted clearance from goalkeeper Matt Macey was indication of that.

Paul Hartley initially moved from the three-at-the-back system which had served Cove so well in this 15-game unbeaten run, reverting to a back four. That plan was abandoned with less than 15 minutes played, with Harry Milne moving in at centre-half and Scully now at wing-back. The shape suited them better, getting Blair Yule more involved in the game and having Masson and Leighton McIntosh closer to Megginson.

But their concentration levels had to remain sharp. Milne misjudged a clearance from Gourlay and it allowed debutant Chris Mueller a shot at goal, which the Cove stopper was able to deal with.

Hibernian were showing glimpses of what new manager Shaun Maloney wants them to be. Chris Cadden and Josh Doig played high up the field and Ewan Henderson was picking up pockets of space.

The lack of fluidity was to be expected, given Maloney has not been in the door long. But there was still an impatience from the home crowd with each over-hit pass.

Cove Rangers defender Harry Milne moves in to block Chris Mueller
Cove Rangers defender Harry Milne moves in to block Chris Mueller

The grumbles and groans increased when the hosts failed to clear a Cove corner, with Morgyn Neill firing a snap-shot threw a crowded penalty area that Macey clung on to.

Hartley’s side breathed a sigh of relief when the assistant’s flag went up, sparing Fraser Fyvie after he had lost possession outside the Cove box and Christian Doidge had put the ball in the net.

Doidge, who had earlier floated a header wide, connected with an acrobatic effort before the break, which went straight at Gourlay as Cove reached half-time level.

The longer the game remained scoreless, the more Cove’s confidence would grow. Each set-piece would nudge up the pressure slightly, each ball struck at a Hibernian player’s body prompting optimistic shouts for handball.

Suddenly it was green-and-white shirts making sprawling blocks in the penalty area. First Megginson and then Masson saw shots repelled by Hibernian defenders, while the latter also had an opportunity on the break, dragging a shot across goal which did not trouble Macey.

Cove Rangers' Scott Ross (left) gets to grips with Josh Doig
Cove Rangers’ Scott Ross (left) gets to grips with Josh Doig

Hartley pulled the trigger on a bold switch with just over 20 minutes to go, bringing on McAllister for Masson and giving Megginson a strike-partner. You sensed that Cove felt, against an off-colour Hibees, they had a chance of snatching an upset.

But there was also the inevitable drawback which would come into play. Cove are part-time, training two nights a week alongside full-time jobs, and the fitness-levels are not going to be the same as a Premiership outfit.

Snap-shots were coming from range – not enough to trouble Gourlay – and balls coming into the box. Whenever they did, Neill seemed to thrive as the man in the right place at the right time to clear.

Hibernian probed, desperate to finish the game before the 90, but Mueller’s cut-back was picked off by Milne and the American was denied by a superb Ryan Strachan tackle as the 90 minutes expired.

Cove Rangers manager Paul Hartley
Cove Rangers manager Paul Hartley

Extra-time saw Cove continue to empty the tank, with the seemingly-limitless Milne still charging forward, as penalties became an ever-closer prospect. Jamie Murphy came inches away from dashing those dreams, as everyone in a blue shirt watched in anticipation as the ball rolled past the far post.

But the heart-breaker was to come in the 111th minute, with Josh Doig’s cut-back met by Nisbet who tucked his shot inside the near post.

Jevan Anderson came close to snatching an equaliser but it was not to be, as Hibernian escaped after being given an almighty scare.

HIBERNIAN (3-4-1-2) – Macey 6; Hallberg 6 (Doyle-Hayes 82), Hanlon 6, Stevenson 6, Cadden 5, Campbell 5, Newell 6, Doig 6, Henderson 6 (Murphy 59), Mueller 6 (Scott 91), Doidge 6 (Nisbet 59). Subs not used – Dabrowski, Wright, Gogic, Allan, Mackie.

COVE RANGERS (4-1-4-1) – Gourlay 6; Ross 7, Strachan 6 (Anderson 91), Neill 8, Milne 8, Yule 7, McIntosh 6 (Reynolds 68), Scully 7, Fyvie 7 (Leitch 82), Masson 6 (McAllister 68), Megginson 7. Subs not used – McKenzie, Adeyemo.

Referee – Euan Anderson 6.

Man of the match – Harry Milne.

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