Cove Rangers have been the stand-out side in League 2 this season and have been crowned champions by the SPFL during the lockdown.
Their inaugural season in the Scottish leagues, earned by winning the Highland League and seeing off Berwick Rangers in a two-legged play-off, has been a tale of consistency as they continued their winning momentum once more.
Before the season had even begun there was change afoot, with John Sheran moving from the dugout to the boardroom and Paul Hartley taking charge.
Cove came through the Betfred Cup group stages with a threadbare squad but still turned in some creditable performances. They were edged out 3-2 by Championship side Caley Thistle, took Dundee to penalties and beat League 1 promotion hopefuls Raith Rovers 3-0.
Work has done quickly to add to the squad, with Declan Glass and Matty Smith arriving from Dundee United, Chris Antoniazzi from Aberdeen and John Robertson from St Johnstone, all on loan deals. Defender Dan Higgins, previously of Kilmarnock and Dundee, became a permanent signing.
That set them up for the start of the season, which began in style. They thumped title challengers Edinburgh City 5-0 at the Balmoral Stadium in the first game as an SPFL side, as Mitch Megginson and Harry Milne both scored twice and Jordon Brown added a late fifth.
After a 4-4 draw with Albion Rovers, they rattled off six consecutive league wins, which included a 3-0 home triumph over Queen’s Park and wins away against Elgin City and Brechin. Former Aberdeen, Wigan and Hibernian midfielder Fraser Fyvie also arrived, following his release from Dundee United.
Their Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Cup run was brought to an end by Welsh side Connah’s Quay Nomads in September, after they had beaten St Johnstone’s reserves and Brora Rangers. Similar disappointment was to follow in the league, with a 3-2 win for Stenhousemuir ending their unbeaten start.
They were then knocked out of the Scottish Cup by junior side Auchinleck Talbot for the second season running but were soon back on form again, dispatching Albion Rovers, Cowdenbeath, Stirling Albion and Brechin in consecutive weeks.
Their first major reality check came away to Annan Athletic in November. Already without Megginson and Fyvie through injury, they lost Dan Higgins and Milne to knocks during the game and had Glass sent off, as the Galabank side ran out 6-1 winners.
A 2-1 loss at Edinburgh put the squeeze on them at the top of League 2, a position they had not relinquished all season.
But a return to winning ways was again imminent. Six wins from their next six games reasserted their dominance in the division, with bottom side Brechin beaten 5-1 on the road and Stenny, Annan and Elgin dispatched at home.
They were to strengthen their squad again at the start of 2020, with the arrival of Rory McAllister from Peterhead the headline signing. Broque Watson swapped Annan for Cove, with Josh Mulligan and Archie Meekison to arrive from Dundee and Dundee United respectively on fresh loans. Glass and Smith returned to Tannadice, while an injury playing for the Dons reserves had cut Antoniazzi’s spell short.
Cliftonhill proved their bogey ground once again at the start of February, with a 2-2 draw against Albion Rovers in Coatbridge. A 3-0 defeat to Elgin City the following week came as a surprise, however February 15 brought a pivotal visit of Edinburgh to the Balmoral.
Scott Shepherd put the visitors in front at the start of the second half before Higgins’ equaliser. McAllister, though, popped up with the crucial winner two minutes from time.
Queen’s Park, Stenny and Brechin were vanquished again in consecutive weeks, with their final league game coming with a thumping 7-1 win over Stirling Albion at Forthbank.
As football was brought to a halt last month, Cove held a 13-point advantage over Edinburgh at the top of the table, having played 28 of their 36 games.
Skipper Megginson finished as their top scorer with 24 league goals in 25 games, with Masson also contributing an impressive 15 strikes of his own.
Hartley won the League 2 manager of the month award for August and January, with Glass and Megginson making it a Cove double in those months.
They will now prepare for League 1, where they will be reunited with fellow north-east side Peterhead, who they faced in the Betfred Cup at the start of the season.