An 87th-minute header from 40-year-old substitute Roy McBain was enough to defeat Banks o’ Dee and take 10-man Cove Rangers into the second round of the Scottish Cup at Spain Park on Saturday.
The Aberdeen junior side clawed back a two-goal deficit and when Cove defender Eric Watson was shown a straight red card for a bit of back-chat with 20 minutes to go a cup upset was on the cards.
The Highland League club, who really should have had the game done and dusted in the first half hour, dug deep and veteran midfielder McBain’s last-gasp winner saw them progress.
North football’s top scorer Daryl Nicol may not have found the back of the net but he did make all three Cove goals with some brilliant play.
Reflecting on his man-of-the-match performance, Nicol said: “That’s a few games I’ve not scored in now but it doesn’t matter as I am more than happy to set them up for my team-mates as well.
“Roy McBain came on when we were down to 10 men but we were still pushing on to try and win the game and he got in at the back post when I lifted the ball over to him and I’m as chuffed to have set up all three of our goals as I would have been had I scored them all myself.
“I wouldn’t really have grudged Banks o’ Dee a replay, although I felt that we really let ourselves down today. We didn’t perform anything like we are capable of and you have got to feel a little bit sorry for Banks o’ Dee after they hit back from 2-0 down, but we managed to scrape through.”
Dee forward Jamie Lennox lined up against his old club, while Cove Rangers left back Dean Lawrie dropped to the bench, with promising youngster Harry Milne taking his place in defence.
With Turriff United set to play Dee on Wednesday in the first round of the Aberdeenshire Shield, their manager Ross Jack was at the game to run the rule over his opponents.
In the eighth minute Dee goalkeeper Michael Smith did well to block a Daniel Park grounder with his boot and turn it away for a fruitless corner kick.
After a fairly even opening spell the Highland League side took the lead in the 14th minute when Nicol sprinted clear on the left and his pin-point cross picked out the inrushing Park, whose powerful header sailed into the roof of the net past the helpless Smith.
Six minutes later the visitors made it 2-0 when Jonny Smith played a neat one-two with Nicol before sliding the ball low past Smith from 12 yards.
Three minutes later the goalkeeper again came to his Dee’s rescue when he stuck out a boot to divert a Smith effort over the crossbar for a corner.
Cove forced their sixth corner on the half hour mark, a measure of the control they were exerting over the game.
It was almost 3-0 after a great turn and shot by Nicol but his grounder went a foot past the upright with Smith well beaten.
However, Dee were thrown a lifeline with the last kick of the first half, or last header to be more precise, as Cove’s Watson nodded Craig Duguid’s long, but fairly innocuous free kick into the box, low past the helpless Stuart McKenzie and into the corner of the net.
Dee manager Dougie Baxter’s half-time team-talk changed in an instant and the home side emerged re-energised for the second half.
The game turned on its head in the 55th minute when Dee levelled. Duguid brilliantly swerved a 25-yard free kick up and over the Cove defensive wall and high past McKenzie in the visitors’ goal for a dramatic equaliser, although it may have taken a slight deflection on the way.
In the 62nd minute McKenzie in the Cove goal had to get down smartly at his near post to turn a Josh Winton downward header around the upright for a corner kick as Dee went in search of another goal.
The junior side now had the belief that it could spring a cup shock and now the action was as much in the Cove half as in Dee’s.
In the 69th minute Cove were reduced to 10-men when centre half Watson was shown a straight red, apparently for remarks made to referee Peter Stuart.
Cove immediately dropped Stuart Duff into a back three alongside Darryn Kelly and Alan Redford.
The 10 men grabbed the winner with just three minutes to go when great play by Nicol on the bye-line allowed him to cross to the back post for substitute McBain to head home at the back stick to end Dee’s brave fight-back.
Dee’s former Cove forward Lennox said: “We pushed them all the way but tired a little bit in the last 10 to 15 minutes as we have quite a few boys just back from injury.
“Roy McBain caught us with that sucker-punch at the end.”
Cove Rangers reaction with manager John Sheran
Cove Rangers manager John Sheran was mightily relieved to be into the Scottish Cup second-round draw after his team threw away a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Sheran said: “We wouldn’t have begrudged Dee a replay but we only had ourselves to blame.
“We played for half an hour and then after that we didn’t play at all, although when we went down to 10 men we seemed to take a bit more control of the game and passed it a bit better.
“It was a bit of a wake-up call for us but, take nothing away from Banks o’ Dee, they played very well.
“Eric’s own goal right on the half-time whistle gave them a lift and then their equaliser from the free kick took a deflection on its way into the net. They then start to think it is their day but, thankfully, Roy popped up at the back post to take us through.”
Sheran lamented letting Dee off the hook early on.
He added: “In the first half hour we had three or four great chances and we only took two of them.
“Had we converted more of those chances the game would have been out of sight. But we relaxed, stopped playing and then the own goal let them right back in the game. We are disappointed and unhappy with the performance, but we are through and that’s all that matters.”
Banks o’ Dee reaction with manager Doug Baxter
Banks o’ Dee manager Doug Baxter was bitterly disappointed to see his side bow out of the Scottish Cup to a late Roy McBain header after Dee had clawed their way back from 2-0 down.
Baxter said: “I don’t think anyone here would have begrudged us a replay. We certainly came out in the second half fired-up as the own goal just before the break gave us a foothold back into the game and we were well up for it.
“When we got our second goal I thought we could go on and win the game, even against a Cove side with 11 men, then Eric Watson got sent off and we got caught out with a sucker-punch right at the very end, which is extremely disappointing.
“The thrust of my half-time team talk changed when we pulled a goal back with the last action of that first half. That own goal threw us a lifeline and changed the complexion of the second half.”
Baxter was full of praise for his team.
He added: “Credit to the guys, they came out and looked like they could go on and get the win, but it wasn’t to be. It is hard to take, especially with that winner coming so late.”