A resurgent Rothes came within seconds of handing Cove their first defeat of the season thanks to substitute Jack Maley’s 89th-minute strike but two minutes into stoppage time Eric Watson came up with a late equaliser.
Rothes recalled club captain, former Elgin City player Daniel Moore, who had just returned from a three-week holiday to Asia. Former Nairn County central defender Paul MacLeod came in at the back to replace Steven Fraser. Runaway league leaders Cove were unchanged from the side which beat Keith 6-2 at Inverurie on Saturday.
Much credit must go to Speysiders’ groundsman Ryan Holmes. The Mackessack Park playing surface was in surprisingly good condition, considering that just 20 miles away the game between Forres Mechanics and Buckie Thistle was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
Cove almost took the lead in the fourth minute but youngster Sam Burnett’s six-yard downward header landed a yard past the back post.
Three minutes later only a timely tackle by James Fraser on Burnett, just as the young Cove attacking midfielder was about to pull the trigger, denied the visitors. At the other end, Moore gathered a poor clearance from Cove goalkeeper Stuart McKenzie but, with the number one out of his charge, the strong breeze carried Moore’s long-range effort well wide of the target.
Moore then floated in an enticing left-wing cross but McKenzie gathered confidently despite the presence of Scott Davidson.
Midway through the first half we were still waiting for our first real shot on target, testament to the hard-working Rothes players who weren’t giving their illustrious opponents any time on the ball.
Davidson broke clear of the Cove defence but before he could get a shot away he was closed down and the chance was lost.
As the half wore on you always got the impression that if Cove were to score first they would go on to emphatically press home their advantage as they have done on numerous occasions this season already, but the Rothes rearguard were defending valiantly, keeping a watchful eye particularly on North football’s leading goalscorer, Mitch Megginson, who already has 25 strikes to his name this term.
Three minutes after the break Cove’s Megginson registered the game’s first shot on target, but Darren McConnachie got down to safely gather in the centre forward’s grounder from just inside the box.
Shortly after McConnachie was again in the right position to smother a 15-yard curling Jamie Masson drive.
On the hour mark Cove almost opened the scoring when Paul MacLeod was caught in possession but McConnachie dived to brilliantly block Megginson’s close-range effort. As the game went on Rothes were defending deeper and deeper, a dangerous ploy against a free-scoring Cove attack which had already scored 64 goals in just 13 league games.
In the 65th minute the visitors really should have taken the lead but Eric Watson’s towering back-post header flew inches wide of the upright.
In the 68th minute only a fabulous point-blank stop from McConnachie denied Connor Scully as Cove pushed forward in waves in an elusive opener.
With a minute left Jack Maley opened the scoring for Rothes with a swerving 20-yard drive which totally deceived McKenzie in the Cove goal.
Two minutes into injury-time Cove captain Watson got the slightest of head flicks to send the ball over the valiant McConnachie and into the net.