Cove Rangers boss Paul Hartley concedes he is left with players “walking wounded” after last night’s defeat to Montrose handed his side the toughest of the split schedules.
The 1-0 loss, which came courtesy of a Fraser Fyvie own goal, means Cove finish in third heading into the split, which means they will play four times in a week before having the last match-day free.
That run-in starts on Saturday away to Falkirk, whom they beat last weekend, before taking in Partick Thistle, Montrose and Airdrieonians.
Hartley will need to assess Scott Ross and Mitch Megginson, who both came off injured last night, while defender Ryan Strachan will also be suspended after picking up a straight red card.
They are already without Harry Milne and Jamie Masson for the rest of the season and Hartley admits his players will need to put their bodies on the line for the run-in.
He said: “It’s not an easy run-in we’ve got and with finishing third, we’re Saturday-Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday next week. It’s a tough schedule – we’ve got some walking wounded and we’re going to have a suspension with (Ryan) Strachan, which is not ideal.
“We’ve got to patch people up and go again.
“I’ll not be critical of the players. We’ve been on a great run and controlled the game in the second half. We got done by a set-play, that’s the disappointing thing.
“You’ve just got to put your body on the line. If you’d said at the start of the season with four games to go we’d be two points off the top, would we have took it? Of course we would.”
Cove were in control during large parts of a frantic game at Links Park, with a 15th-minute own goal from Fyvie, where he flicked on a corner from Liam Callaghan into his own net, the only thing separating the two sides.
The impressive Connor Smith had two chances in the first half, one saved by Allan Fleming and the other sliced wide from close range, and headed a great opportunity wide from Blair Yule’s cross in the second period.
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Substitute Leighton McIntosh flashed a shot wide before Strachan was sent off with stoppage-time approaching, for dragging down Montrose’s Russell McLean.
Hartley will now have to ready his players for Saturday’s trip down to Falkirk and knows if they are to achieve the promotion this season, they are going to have to do it the hard way.
He added: “If you want to do anything – if you want to get promoted or try to stay up – it’s going to be hard. We’ll go again on Saturday.
“We’ve done great so far and we just need to keep it going. It’s a tough game against Falkirk, but we’ll be ready for it.
“There’s not really an advantage to playing Falkirk again so soon. Sometimes personnel changes. There’s no pressure on the players; we’ll do the best we can.
“We’ll just see how the next four games go and see how many points we can get.”