Cove Rangers and Airdrieonians get their quest for promotion to the Championship under way at the Balmoral Stadium tomorrow.
Ian Murray’s side won 2-0 at Cove last weekend to keep them in the race for second, ultimately sealing the runner-up spot with a triumph by the same scoreline over Falkirk in midweek.
Airdrieonians come into the game in good form, having won seven of their last nine, while their opponents have lost just twice in the league this year.
In the Cove camp
Manager Paul Hartley will have as close to a full-strength squad to choose from as he could have hoped for.
Harry Milne and Jamie Masson remain out long-term, but Kieran Ngwenya is expected to overcome a hamstring problem to be available.
Defender Scott Ross is hoping Cove can take the next step on their journey by advancing in the play-offs. The defender joined the Aberdeen side in 2017 and has been part of the squad which has sealed back-to-back promotions and won three league titles.
“We’re hoping to get through the two games – the two biggest games in the club’s history – but we’re hoping to get another two and make them the next biggest games,” he said.
“It’s what we’re striving for as a squad. We want to bring these big games to Cove.
“The squad is capable of achieving big things and hopefully there’s bigger games to come.”
Meanwhile, his team-mate Connor Smith – on loan from Hearts – is hoping to get one over his former Jambos colleague Dean Ritchie, who scored in the 2-0 win at the Balmoral Stadium last weekend.
The league meetings between the two sides this season have been evenly split.
Airdrieonians’ victory in the north-east last weekend came a month after they were beaten 2-0 by Cove at the same venue, with Jamie Masson coming off the bench to score both goals.
The two sides played out a 1-1 at the Penny Cars Stadium in November, with Masson again on the scoresheet only for Thomas Robert to equalise in the second half.
Cove got the better of a Scottish Cup tie between the two sides in November 2017, with Ross and Harry Milne scoring late on to seal a 3-2 win.
The first fixture between the two sides was also in the cup in November 2008, with Joe Cardle and Simon Lynch (twice) earning a 3-0 win for Airdrie. Current Cove goalkeeper Stuart McKenzie is the only player from the game still at their clubs.
What they said
Diamonds captain Callum Fordyce is predicting a close game between the two sides, with their league records seeing them separated by just two points.
He said: “Looking at the last game, Cove changed shape and the intensity of the game wasn’t great – they had already played three games that week so were maybe a bit flat.
“You know how football works, it can change in a matter of seconds – but both teams know what’s at stake so it should be a really entertaining game. Both teams want to play football and get the ball forward, so it’ll be fast-paced and exciting.
“The run that we’re on gives you the confidence you need when you step on the park. What we’ve achieved since the restart just shows how far we’ve come as a team and as a squad, so we’ve every right to be confident going into these games.”