Sam Burnett marked his return from injury in style by helping Cove Rangers to victory in the Highland League Cup final against Formartine United at Harlaw Park in Inverurie.
Burnett fired Cove ahead in the 33rd minute and when United goalkeeper Kevin Main could only palm out the midfielder’s drive effort two minutes into first-half stoppage-time, Mitch Megginson slammed home the rebound to complete the scoring.
Cove sprung a surprise by putting Burnett in midfield, who only recently came back after a year out with a cruciate-ligament injury, with the experienced Alan Redford dropping to the bench.
And although he was replaced after the hour, the 22-year-old was the clear man of the match.
Burnett said: “It was a tough battle at times.
“Formartine created some chances but I thought our back four were tremendous.
“It was good to get that goal just seconds before the half-time whistle. If we had gone in only 1-0 up at the break they might have taken heart from that and kicked on in the second half, but that second goal gave us a cushion.”
Cove, who won the Aberdeenshire Cup earlier in the season, will now bid to complete a treble by sealing the Highland League title this week.
“John Sheran’s side, who are six points clear with three games to go, travel to Keith on Wednesday before facing Forres on Saturday.
Formartine recalled Stuart Anderson, who had been out with a hamstring injury for a couple of months, in central defence in place of teenager Jevan Anderson.
United almost opened the scoring in the 18th minute when Garry Wood’s low cross only just failed to reach the outstretched leg of Aaron Norris.
Megginson tested Kevin Main in the Formartine goal with a 15-yard grounder before Blair Yule blazed wide of the target.
Formartine almost broke the deadlock when a Norris corner found Jonny Crawford unmarked and his powerful header back across goal was cleared off the line by Daniel Park with Formartine’s appeals that the ball hit the striker’s hand on the goal-line waved away.
Cove took the lead in the 33rd minute when Connor Scully’s through ball landed at the feet of Burnett who clipped the ball over the advancing Main from 12 yards.
In the second minute of first-half injury time Cove doubled their advantage when Main could only parry another Burnett drive and Megginson gleefully swept home the rebound from six yards for his 45th goal of the season.
Just after the hour Formartine’s Graeme Rodger almost pulled one back but his superb volley sailed a foot over the crossbar.
Rodger felt that he should have been awarded a penalty after he had been impeded in the box but referee Beaton ignored the Formartine protests.
Formartine defender Jonny Crawford said: “The second goal in first half injury time really deflated us.
“We should have been awarded a stone-wall first-half penalty for a handball on the goal-line.
“I felt that in the first half that was as well as we’ve ever played against them, so imagine what the boys felt when we went in at half-time 2-0 down.”