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Cove Rangers relegated from Championship after 2-1 defeat to Greenock Morton

The Balmoral Stadium side's debut Championship season finishes in disappointment as they finish bottom with 31 points.

Cove Rangers have been relegated from the Championship. Image: SNS.
Cove Rangers have been relegated from the Championship. Image: SNS.

Cove Rangers were relegated from the Championship after one season following a 2-1 defeat to Greenock Morton.

Ahead of the high-stakes encounter, there were doubts whether the match would go ahead with fog playing havoc at Balmoral, but referee Craig Napier gave the green light after getting permission for yellow footballs to be used, rather than white.

Cove found themselves 1-0 down after just two minutes, through Jack Baird’s header from a Morton corner, before Declan Glass’ stunning strike levelled the scoring before the break.

The home side were on top for most of the second half, after Morton were reduced to 10 men, but a number of missed chances came back to haunt Cove as they went 2-1 down in the 73rd minute through a Robbie Muirhead strike.

The defeat relegates Cove who finished at the foot of the table with 31 points – the same as Hamilton Accies, who picked up a point at Arbroath on the final day and boast a superior goal difference.

Morton make fast start in the fog

Paul Hartley made two changes from last weekend’s stalemate with Dundee, as Glass and Leighton McIntosh came in for Jason Naismith and Jackson Longridge.

It was the worst possible start for Cove as the visitors went 1-0 up in the second minute when Baird rose highest in the box after Calvin Miller swung in a corner.

Morton had the ball in the back of the net again in the eighth minute after Robbie Muirhead finished from close-range after being played through by Alistair Crawford, but it was disallowed for offside, although it was near impossible to see the flag.

The foggy conditions at Balmoral Stadium. Image: SNS.

Dougie Imrie’s side had a glorious chance to double their advantage when Cameron Blues found himself in acres of space in the box, but he blasted it over.

It was becoming increasingly difficult to see what was going on at the far side of the pitch at Balmoral, with Hartley and his staff vocalising their frustration to the officials.

After Glass saw his tame shot saved by Brian Schwake, at the other end, Scott Fox pulled off a fantastic stop to push Liam Grimshaw’s strike over the bar.

There was an early substitution for Cove as Ciaran Dunne entered the fray for the injured McIntosh with only 19 minutes on the clock.

Glass had another go for Cove, this time a long-range effort from outside the box, but his strike was straight at Schwake, who collected the ball comfortably.

As the first half came to a close, Cove were growing into the game and reaped their reward right on the stroke of half-time as Glass unleashed a rocket from 35 yards out to pull the home side level.

Conditions get worse at Balmoral

At the interval, there was more confusion as it it became unclear whether the second half would get under way after a near six-minute delay in both teams coming back onto the pitch, but play continued.

Three minutes after the restart, Morton were down to 10 men as Blues was shown a second yellow card following a tackle on Scott Ross.

Cove started the second half well and created a decent chance to go 2-1 up but Dunne hit his effort into the side-netting from only a couple yards out.

Skipper Mitch Megginson almost picked out Connor Scully in the box with a brilliant pass but goalkeeper Schwake was alert and smothered the ball before the midfielder could get there.

Scully went so close to putting his side ahead after he was played through on goal, but his close-range shot was saved by Schwake.

Morton’s Robbie Muirhead battles with Cove’s Mark Reynolds. Image: SNS.

Minutes after coming on Weston was next to go close for the home side as he burst into the box, but took the ball too wide, and saw his shot saved by Schwake at the far post.

Cove were keeping the play deep in Morton’s half and Glass almost got his second of the evening, as he hit another curling effort from outside the box but Schwake kept his side in it again with another good stop.

Another chance came and went, with Hartley left with his head in his hands, after Megginson’s header went just over the bar from Scott Ross’ cross.

Those missed chances proved even more costly as Morton took the lead against the run of play in the 73rd minute, as Muirhead beat Fox from distance.

There was a reaction from Cove after going behind, but Muirhead’s strike was enough to seal Hartley’s men’s fate as they will play League One football next season.

Player ratings

COVE RANGERS (4-4-2): Fox 5, Logan 5 (Bangala 83), Ross 6, Reynolds 5, Neill 5, Longstaff 5, Vigurs 5, Scully 6, Glass 6, Megginson 6, McIntosh 5 (Dunne 19) (Weston 65)

Subs not used: Gourlay

GREENOCK MORTON (4-2-3-1): Schwake 5, Grimshaw 6, Baird 7, O’Connor 6, Miller 6, R Crawford 6, Gillespie 5 (Pignatiello 46), Quitongo 6 (King 63) , Blues 4, A Crawford 5 (McGrattan 63), Muirhead 7

Subs not used: Green, Ambrose, Garrity

Referee – Craig Napier 6

Attendance – 1,769