Cove Rangers picked up their first win of Paul Hartley’s second tenure with a scrappy 1-0 victory over Partick Thistle.
Mitch Megginson scored the only goal of the game to provide struggling Cove with a much-needed lift.
An error from Morgyn Neill allowed Danny Mullen an early run at goal, however the striker dithered and allowed Neill to recover and make the decisive block.
Scott Fox had to tip a Kyle Turner free-kick round the post, after Scott Ross scythed down Steven Lawless, while at the other end a poor touch from Leighton McIntosh prevented him capitalising on a Thistle defensive error.
But with their first sight of goal on 26 minutes Cove took the lead. Shay Logan set Cieran Dunne away down the left and his ball reached the back post, where Megginson steered it over the line with his head.
Fox turned away another Turner free-kick before the break and tipped over a rising Lewis McKinnon strike on the hour.
The Cove stopper continued to defy his former club with a superb stop from Kevin Holt and referee David Williams continued to irritate the home fans by waving off a penalty call when Shay Logan upended Turner.
Brian Graham was given a straight red for dissent and Cove had to weather late pressure but managed to hold out.
Cove hoping to find defensive formula
Paul Hartley shuffled his defence around once again. This time Kyle McClelland, Brody Paterson and Mark Reynolds dropped out, with Jason Naismith recalled and Shay Logan shifted to left-back.
Cove have the worst defensive record in the league and have never really recovered since the return of Jack Sanders and Max Johnston to their parent clubs.
Naismith’s addition gives the more flexibility, being able to play at centre-back or right-back, with him playing as the latter here.
Cove can look a little flustered when the ball is near their penalty area, which is understandable given their lack of confidence at the moment.
Ross and Neill are two of the back three from the successful campaign last year and while they would expect to win most aerial battles, they are vulnerable to the ball over the top.
They had to do their fair share of backs-to-the-wall defending here and finally getting a clean sheet under their belts will do them the world of good.
Megginson in the goals again
It has been a lean campaign by Megginson’s high standards.
Prior to the trip to Firhill he had scored just once in his last 10 games and only hit seven for the season.
Changes of system and positions will not have helped his form but it is also difficult to think of too many clear-cut chances in those games.
There is little doubt he is at his best inside the penalty area and Hartley joked upon his return that he wanted more goals from his captain.
It was not the cleanest connection he will ever make with a football but he won’t care much given his and Cove’s recent run.
Given he was also sent off for dissent against Ayr in midweek, with Hartley wanting a better example from his captain, it was the perfect riposte.
Unlocking Cieran Dunne
On his day, Dunne is an exciting player to watch.
His turn of pace and close control make him a nightmare to deal with for defenders. He can carry the ball forward into dangerous areas with ease.
But what has so often been lacking is his end product. He can get into a promising position but fail to pick out a team-mate.
Here there seemed to be greater care and poise about his delivery. He knew he had the speed to buy himself an extra second, to compose himself before crossing.
It was his ball to the back post that created the goal and he created several other opportunities for colleagues.
His lack of senior experience at 22 perhaps does hinder him at times but if he gets a run of games, while continuing to improve, he may show his true potential.
PARTICK THISTLE (4-1-4-1) – Sneddon 6; McMillan 5 (Tiffoney 46), McAvoy 5 (Muirhead 59), Holt 6, Milne 6, Hodson 5, Fitzpatrick 6, Turner 7, Bannigan, Lawless 5 (McKinnon 46), Mullen 5 (Graham 46). Subs not used – Mitchell, Brownlie, Lyon, McKenzie.
COVE RANGERS (4-2-3-1) – Fox 8; Naismith 6 (McClelland 82), Ross 6, Neill 7, Logan 6, Virtanen 7, Scully 6, Longstaff 6, Megginson 6, Dunne 7 (Weston 82), McIntosh 6 (Reynolds 82). Subs not used – Gourlay, Paterson, Vigurs, Glass.
Referee – David Williams 4.
Attendance – 2,450.
Scott Fox – Has had a difficult start to his tenure at Cove but on his return to his old stomping ground, thwarted Partick time and again.