Veteran striker Paul McManus knows boss John Sheran won’t let complacency creep into the Cove Rangers dressing room for their play-off semi-final second leg with Spartans.
The Granite City’s Highland League champions head for Ainslie Park in Edinburgh tomorrow with one foot in the play-off final, having demolished the Lowland League winners 4-0 at Harlaw Park on Saturday.
Sheran’s men look all set for a face-off with League Two Cowdenbeath, which could see them fulfill their ambition of reaching the Scottish Leagues.
McManus said: “The gaffer won’t let us do that (get complacent). He’s obviously got experience.
“Two years ago they (Cove) lost in the play-off (semi) to Edinburgh City. And that’s the reason he brought myself in, Ryan Strachan, Scott Ross, Mitch Megginson.
“He’s brought a bit of experience in to help us get through these games.
“We’re not getting carried away – obviously we’ve won 4-0 but there’s still an hour-and-a-half to go.
“It’s only half-time, but we’ll get refreshed, get the protein bars down us, make sure we’re all recovered well and take it into tomorrow.”
McManus, 34, who has played for a host of league clubs in his career, netted twice in the second-half on Saturday, either side of an Eric Watson header, as Cove racked up a total from which there could be no return for Spartans.
Both sides were clearly inhibited by the significance of the tie early on, and it looked like it would be goalless at the break before Megginson headed his 50th goal of the campaign from a Jamie Masson cross.
McManus said: “The first 10/15 minutes it was a nervy game, touches were all over the shop.
“The grass was a bit zippy, but once we got the first goal we were confident.
“We’ve done that all season. Once we’ve got the first we’ll go on and get another couple.
“After half-time, I don’t think they expected us to come out as fast as that.
“We’ve got a quick goal to settle us down and everything else clicked into place.”
McManus has been integral to Sheran’s side in recent weeks, despite watching most of the early part of the campaign from the bench.
He started the game up front, with Megginson behind him in the hole – a partnership which let the pair carve out plenty of chances and also gave Masson, among others, lots of opportunities to provide with crosses.
McManus has been struck by the win-at-all-costs mentality Cove have cultivated this term, although he doesn’t think Spartans should be written off quite yet.
He said: “The mentality’s been there all season. It’s a winning mentality.
“The last nine or 10 games the gaffer’s brought me back in because I’ve shown better form. I think that’s 14 (goals) in eight games, so I’m delighted with that.
“But it’s a team game. We’re trying to get in the final with Cowdenbeath and we know they (Spartans) are going to be up for the game tomorrow.
“It’s not over, all it takes is for them to score.”
The sides both lined up with 4-4-1-1 formations at Harlaw Park, and Sheran could be heard telling his players to “relax” early on.
The first big chance on 21 minutes ended with possibly the finest save the Inverurie ground has seen.
McManus headed from point-blank range after a good centre from Megginson and Spartans keeper Blair Carswell somehow got himself in the way and the ball over the stanchion.
Rangers utilised diagonals down the wing from the off, intent on getting crosses in.
One of these on 41 minutes made the difference for Cove, who were in control in a tetchy first half which looked to be ending goalless. Masson, switching constantly with Jonny Smith on the other wing, put a ball from the right touchline on to Megginson’s head at the front post, and the deadly striker buried it.
The opener hit Spartans hard. They’d been in the game, but had created few openings and proceeded to fall apart after the break.
Within two minutes of the restart, defender Adam Corbett was robbed in the box by Harry Milne and tripped him, with McManus smashing the resultant penalty down the middle and away from Carswell.
Five minutes later it was three. After a poor Spartans clearance from a corner, an injured Jonny Smith positioned on the edge of the box flicked his heel at the ball as it travelled past him.
The audacious flick looped to the back post and skipper Watson rose to head it in.
On 67 minutes, McManus scored the fourth, capitalising on Spartans’ failure to deal with a Daniel Park cross off the right to lash into the roof of the net.