It was a massive match at Central Park on Saturday as Coe Rangers travelled to Cowdenbeath in the SPFL Ladbrokes League Two Play-Off Final Second-Leg.
The first real chance of note came on 5 minutes when Robbie Buchanan burst through from midfield, only to be taken down by Alan Redford inside the area. Youngster Harvey Swann stepped up and coolly slotted his left-footed penalty high into the corner to put the Blue Brazil in front early on.
Only minutes later and it was 1-1: a long throw-in from the right was launched into the area by Darryn Kelly; the ball wasn’t fully cleared by the hosts and as a follow-up shot came in from the edge of the area, it was flicked on into the path of Mitch Megginson at the back-post – and, despite the appeals of offside by Cowdenbeath, the Wee Rangers had equalised to bring the match all square once more.
Megginson would cause his former Raith team-mate David McGurn a moment of panic in the hosts goal as the visitors came close, with the ex-Aberdeen forward firing off-target from close-range. However, the prolific goal-scorer wouldn’t be thwarted for long as he linked with strike-partner Paul McManus. The experienced striker went down the right before swinging the ball in, for Megginson to slot past McGurn – low and hard into the bottom right-hand corner of the keeper’s net – for his 52nd strike of a sensational campaign for the former Alloa Athletic attacker.
John Sheran’s side ramped up the pressure for the remainder of the first-half as Harry Milne shot way over before captain Eric Watson nodded over a corner from 6-yards out.
The towering figure continued to pester the Fifers defence as he once again headed over the bar from a set-piece delivery before almost making it third time lucky, only to be denied by a smart stop by McGurn.
Jordyn Sheerin curled an effort inches wide of the target while David Cox saw his header saved by Stuart McKenzie, as Gary Bollan’s men went in at the break 2-1 down and facing the prospect of Lowland League football next campaign.
Shortly after the interval though and the game would be drawn all square again: Sheerin was brought down by Watson on the right, which allowed Swann to tease the Cove defence with a whipped ball across the face of goal; everyone left the ball as it flashed in front of McKenzie – with the 20-year old left-back grabbing only his third goal of a productive season.
Cox would be foiled by McKenzie just minutes later before Swann almost grabbed his hat-trick, but the match-ball wouldn’t be the Cowden full-back’s as he could only find the stock car track situated behind the goal.
Sheran wouldn’t have been happy with this sides opening to the final period of normal time, so, he brought Jonny Smith on to replace Jamie Masson. McManus was then sent clear down the right but he shot straight at McGurn. At the other end, Buchanan saw a shot snuffed out by the visiting defence.
Ben Reilly would come on for Cox, in the home sides first change of the afternoon. Just a minute later, Steven Kirkland was at the forefront of contention as the man in the middle allowed Cowdenbeath’s third goal to stand, which would prove crucial come full-time.
A long ball forward saw Sheerin chase it down; goalkeeper McKenzie ran out of his area but sliced his clearance – as he got back up, so did Sheerin and the pair collided: un-swayed by the cries of a foul from the away club, play was allowed to continue as Brad Smith lobbed the ball home from 25-yards to put the League Two club back in-front with 20 minutes remaining.
Dean Lawrie replaced Alan Redford at left-back but the attacking change didn’t change matters much. Cowdenbeath were holding firm despite Cove’s best efforts, with a shot lacking for the Highland League outfit.
Club captain Scott Rumsby replaced Kyle Miller late on as the Central Park side looked to shore up defensively for the stoppage time which awaited both teams. Then, Brandon Luke was forced on for Bryan Gilfillan, who picked up an injury late-on.
With 94 minutes on the clock, and frustrations running high, the situation got the better of McManus who was booked for dissent before seconds later being shown a second-yellow card by the match official for continuing his protestations.
That didn’t deter Sheran’s men as they forced a corner deep into added on time. Milne would head the final attempt of the match over the bar as emotions continued to run high.
This was exemplified just moments later when a mass brawl occurred down in-front of the home technical area. Nearly all players on the field, as well as those in both dugouts, were involved which eventually saw Bollan and Sheran sent to the stand alongside Cowden coach Ian Flaherty.
Also being shown red cards were Scott Ross, for violent conduct, as well as Cove Rangers’ captain Watson, who received a second caution and his dismissal was also confirmed. The 8-man away side didn’t have long to suffer as seconds after the game was restarted, Kirkland drew the game to a close, as Cowdenbeath retained their SPFL status for another season while Cove will need to try and re-group and go again next term in the Highland League.
Talking after the match, two-goal hero Harvey Swann commented:
FULL-TIME: Cowdenbeath 3-2 Cove Rangers (3-2 on aggregate)
1. David McGurn
2. Fraser Mullen
3. Harvey Swann
4. Jamie Pyper
5. Bryan Gilfillan (Brandon Luke 90′)
6. Kyle Miller (Scott Rumsby 89′) (Captain)
7. David Cox (Ben Reilly 69′)
8. Blair Malcolm
9. Jordyn Sheerin
10. Brad Smith
11. Robbie Buchanan
17. Blair Penman (GK)
12. Scott Rumsby
14. Jordan Hornby
15. Brandon Luke
16. Ben Reilly
18. Mark Fotheringham
19. Cameron Muirhead
1. Stuart McKenzie
2. Alan Redford (Dean Lawrie 75′)
3. Harry Milne
4. Scott Ross
5. Eric Watson (Captain)
6. Darryn Kelly
7. Ryan Stott
8. Connor Scully
9. Mitch Megginson
10. Paul McManus
11. Jamie Masson (Jonny Smith 61′)
21. Stuart McCafferty (GK)
12. Jonny Smith
14. Sam Robertson
15. Dean Lawrie
16. Ryan Strachan
17. Daniel Park
Referee: Steven Kirkland