Cove Rangers manager Paul Hartley will use tonight’s Aberdeenshire Shield first round tie against Aberdeen to run the rule over prospects from the club’s Under-20s team.
Hartley will watch from the stand with U20s boss Gary Hake in the dugout when Cove take on the Dons reserves at the Balmoral Stadium this evening.
Hartley is viewing the Shield as an opportunity to give senior players such as John McCafferty, Alan Redford and Jordon Brown – who have been short on game time – some minutes, while also casting his eye over young players who will come into the side.
The Cove gaffer said: “If you haven’t been playing of late and you haven’t had a lot of game time you try to give as much in the game as you can.
“The players will want to go and impress because you never know when they will be called upon.
“We don’t have a big squad and as the season goes on we’ll need everyone to contribute.
“The young players have done OK, but there is a difference from the Under-20s to going and playing in our first team.
“It will be a good chance for them because they’ll get a good test against Aberdeen.
“It will be a chance for me to look at them and see where they are in terms of can they step up to the first team or not.
“Gary Hake has done a good job with the young players so he’ll take the team.
“He knows the players and has been working with the guys all season so it’s only right he takes the team and I’ll watch.
“The experienced players that will be involved I know what they can do.
“It’s the younger ones we want to have a look at so I’ll have a good look from the stand where I can get a better view of things.
“I spoke to Gary last week to say it was his task to take the team and we’ll watch.”
It is expected to be a youthful Aberdeen reserve team with Paul Sheerin unlikely to have any established first-teamers involved.
Despite that Hartley expects a difficult encounter against full-time opposition.
He added: “We’ll have a young side as well so it will be two young sides, but it will be an interesting game.
“It’ll be a tough game and we know to expect that against Aberdeen.
“We’ll have one or two senior players involved who need some minutes.
“I’ve watched quite a lot of Aberdeen’s younger players this season and they’re very talented so it will be a difficult game.
“But the main thing for us is getting minutes under the belts of the lads who haven’t been playing so much.”
The winner of tonight’s tie will tackle Inverurie Locos a week tomorrow in the quarter-final. Although Cove are keen to progress Hartley admits being involved in the Aberdeenshire Shield is a bonus for the Highland League champions with their main focus being on their League Two campaign.
Hartley said: “This competition is a bonus because our priorities are in the league.
“But when you’re in the cup, you want to try to get a good result.
“We all know our focus is on the league without a shadow of doubt, but this is still a game we want to win and Aberdeen will be the same.”