Cove Rangers’ Dan Higgins reckons their performance in the 2-1 defeat to Hibernian will serve them well once the season starts.
Playing their first competitive game in seven months, Cove gave the Premiership high-flyers a real fright at the Balmoral Stadium, taking the lead through Higgins’ 17th-minute free-kick.
Second-half strikes from Jamie Gullan and Kevin Nisbet put the visitors in front but Cove continued to threaten, with a spectacular late volley from Jamie Semple tipped over by Dillon Barnes.
Higgins said: “I’ve practised a few (free-kicks) in training and managed to catch it nicely. I think a few of the boys tried to jump in, but I fancied myself.
“I thought we played really well for our first competitive 90. Hibs are fit and a good side, but the boys played really well. We played our game as well and we didn’t sit off them.
“That’s always the plan at Cove. There’s no point sitting off – that’s not our strengths. We believe in ourselves and the boys all know their jobs. We’ve got boys up front who can do damage.
“The league’s the main aim. It’s good to compete and see where we’re at – we’ll take a lot from Saturday and move on to the league.
“We’ve worked hard during pre-season getting running into the legs. The boys are naturally fit and we all came back in good shape.”
The opener came after visiting skipper David Gray brought down Jamie Masson, with Higgins sending a dipping effort over the wall into the bottom corner.
Barnes reacted at the second attempt to stop Mitch Megginson extending the lead, after Connor Scully’s quick-thinking played him in.
Christian Doidge had the two best chances for Hibs, hitting the bar from close range after he headed into the ground and blasting at Stuart McKenzie after Martin Boyle played him in.
Gullan came on at half-time and turned home Boyle’s cross four minutes into the second half and Nisbet’s superb volley from Melker Hallberg’s cross had them in front on the hour.
But Cove continued to threaten, with Megginson and the impressive Leighton McIntosh coming close.
The hosts finished strong and only a finger-tip stop from Barnes prevented Semple earning a draw Cove would have merited.
Cove manager Paul Hartley said: “I thought we were excellent, we caused Hibs a lot of problems, so I’m very pleased.
“We asked the players to make sure we gave them a game and we did that.
“This was our first game and we were against a really good team, but we played very well and I’m delighted with them.”
Higgins added: “I just want to play well every week, work hard for the team and keep improving.
“I’m in no rush to do anything – I’m enjoying my football here at Cove, I like the way the team plays and it’s a good bunch of boys.
“I’ve been given the chance to express myself and it suits the way I like to play football.
“I’m playing with good, experienced players and they’re bringing my game on.
“Once you get that confidence, you can only build on it and we’re all a close bunch.”