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Jim McIntyre praises ‘excellent’ Cove Rangers as Championship new boys start with a bang

Cove's Mitch Megginson celebrates (9) with his team mates as he makes it 1-0 against Raith Rovers.
Cove's Mitch Megginson celebrates (9) with his team mates as he makes it 1-0 against Raith Rovers.

If it is true that you only get one chance to make a first impression then Cove Rangers seized their opportunity to make a statement of intent on their Championship bow.

A crowd of 1,138 was at the Balmoral Stadium as last season’s success was toasted with the unfurling of the League 1 championship flag.

A Mitch Megginson double ensured they left in jubilant mood after the Championship new boys moved to the summit on day one thanks to a 2-0 victory against a poor Raith Rovers.

A far tougher test in the second tier lies in store for Cove this season but Jim McIntyre’s side passed their first examination with flying colours.

Whether it is in the Highland League or the Championship, Megginson will more often than not find the back of the net if presented with an opportunity in front of goal.

The 30-year-old was at his clinical best on Saturday as he struck early in both halves to ensure Cove made the perfect start to the new campaign.

Mitch Megginson netted twice as Cove impressed in a 2-0 win against Raith Rovers. 

The home team’s cause was helped by a below-par Raith Rovers who failed to match the grit and desire of a Cove side that simply wanted it more.

It was a pleasing end to an eventful week for new Cove manager Jim McIntyre following the departure of transfer-listed striker Rory McAllister to Montrose.

McIntyre is desperate to bolster his squad, having only been able to name five of a possible nine substitutes on Saturday, but those who were on the pitch didn’t let him down.

The former Ross County and Dundee boss praised his players for a resolute display.

He said: “It was a great performance from the boys. I thought they were excellent.

“They showed a real intent that we wanted to attack but so did Raith.

“We managed to get in front and then we had to show some dogged defending because Raith are a good side.

“They made it difficult for us but I thought we deserved the victory.”

A pleasing afternoon for new Cove Rangers manager Jim McIntyre. 

Only eight minutes had elapsed by the time Cove opened their Championship account.

A corner kick routine straight from the training ground saw Fraser Fyvie’s centre flicked on by Scott Ross for Megginson to guide the ball home from close range.

Raith tried to muster an immediate equaliser but Mark Reynolds and Shay Logan stepped up to make vital blocks to thwart Ethan Ross and Kyle Connell.

The visitors looked vulnerable in defence – no more so than when Iain Vigurs was afforded the freedom of Balmoral Stadium to race unmarked onto a long, searching Scott Ross free kick and volleyed over from 15 yards out.

Raith remained a threat going forward and Cove had a lucky escape when Ethan Ross manufactured a yard of space in a packed penalty area and smashed a powerful hit off the crossbar.

The hosts had goalkeeper Kyle Gourlay to thank for a stunning save to deny Aidan Connolly at the end of an entertaining opening period.

Having conceded early in the first half, Raith didn’t learn their lesson as Cove doubled their advantage only five minutes after the interval.

A well-worked move and more sloppy defending culminated in Fyvie laying the ball into the path of Megginson who rifled beyond Jamie MacDonald.

Cove Rangers’ Evan Towler pulls back Raith’s Scott Brown. 

Cove were playing with confidence with a neat back-heel from Megginson helping release McIntosh on goal but the former Peterhead player was thwarted by a last-ditch interception from Ross Millen.

Former Peterhead captain Scott Brown, deployed at centre-half and wearing the armband for Raith, made an excellent block to deny Fyvie a certain goal.

Cove were almost gifted a third when a careless error from Liam Dick offered Robbie Leitch a free shot on goal but he fired wide.

Raith almost pulled a goal back with eight minutes to go when Brown’s shot took a wicked deflection and bounced back off the post but Cove held on for a valuable three points.

Cove’s Shay Logan dribbles past Raith’s Jamie Gullan.  (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

McIntyre added: “Kyle made a couple of good saves and we rode our luck as they had one off the post.

“These are the things you need to go your way but the boys deserve credit for digging in.

“We don’t have the personnel yet to make the substitutes to freshen it up and help the lads on a hot day.

“It was extra pleasing and a great day to do it with the flag being raised before kick-off.”

COVE RANGERS (4-1-4-1) – Gourlay 7; Logan 7, Towler 7, Ross 7 (Neill 69), Reynolds 7; Scully 7; McIntosh 7 (Masson 72), Leitch 7 (McDonagh 78), Vigurs 7, Fyvie 7; Megginson 8. Subs not used: McKenzie, Thomas.

RAITH ROVERS (4-4-2) – McDonald 6; Millen 5 (Zanatta 63), Brown 6, Dick 5, Nolan 5; Connolly 6, Stanton 5, Ross 6, Easton 6 (Coulson 84); Gullan 6, Connell 5 (Mitchell 75). Subs not used: Ngwenya, Thomson, Mahady, Arnott, Young, Masson.

Attendance: 1,138

Referee: Matthew MacDermid 5

Man of the match: Mitch Megginson