Cove Rangers goal hero Harry Milne has opened up on the “strange” build-up to their 2-1 SPFL play-off semi-final first leg win over East Kilbride.
John Sheran, the Aberdeen side’s manager, had a heart attack last Sunday – the day after Cove had celebrated receiving the Highland League trophy at the Balmoral Stadium.
With Sheran recovering at home, co-boss Graeme Mathieson took the team to K Park on Saturday, where Cove dominated Lowland League champions Kilby, with the return leg in the Granite City this weekend.
Milne, who set the tone in East Kilbride with a towering third-minute header for the visitors, thinks – despite the shock of the Sheran news – Cove kept their focus on setting up a play-off final against Berwick Rangers.
Milne said: “It was a bit of extra motivation, but he would’ve wanted us to be focused on the game, not change our game plan.
“He wouldn’t have wanted the focus to be on him.
“Hopefully he’s back on Saturday to cheer us on.
“It’s been a strange week and it was tough to hear the news on the weekend.
“We heard he was doing a bit better, which allowed us to think about the game and not John.”
Cove did seem to start with a furious determination at K Park, with Scott Ross adding a second with his head before half-time.
Whether they came out to win it for their stricken gaffer, to make up for their failure to reach the Scottish leagues last season against Cowdenbeath or simply expected more resistance from East Kilbride wasn’t clear.
Jamie Longworth kept Kilby in the tie heading to the Balmoral with a late strike.
According to Milne, Cove knew Kilby had battered teams at K Park this season.
He said: “We thought they were going to come out the blocks and try to get the tie over early doors.
“We’ve seen what damage they’ve done to teams in their league at K Park.
“But we made sure we started quicker than them.
“They’re a great side, you only have to look at how far ahead they were in the league. They won it a month ago. We knew what it was going to be like and we’re delighted.”
The game at K Park could’ve ended four or five-nil.
So, was there frustration that a game which Cove dominated ended up so tight in scoring terms?
Milne said: “We were saying at the start, if at the end of the day we were still in the tie, then we would’ve been happy.
“We were disappointed to concede last minute, but overall we can’t feel too bad.
“We had chances to make it even more.
“I hit the bar as well as getting a goal, and (Jamie) Masson had one, Scott (Ross) should have scored again.”
Left-back Milne expects a similar game on Saturday at the Balmoral, but aims to provide a more severe test to Kilby’s right side with his running.
Cove’s pitch is wider than the one at K Park and the home side will be looking to use it to their advantage.
Milne said: “I might be a bit more adventurous down the left at home.
“I don’t think I went forward once on Saturday.
“We knew they were really good down there – one, two touch and the three in the middle are good, technical players.
“If it has to be the same this week it has to be the same, but we’ll prepare for that during the week.”