Fitness will be a huge factor in Cove Rangers’ end-of-season fortunes, according to manager Paul Hartley.
Cove have worked all season with fitness coach Tam Ritchie – a long-term ally of Hartley – in a bid to up their levels for their first season in League 2.
Teams are now into the second half of their seasons, with Cove holding a five-point advantage at the top of the division over Edinburgh City. They take on Annan Athletic at the Balmoral Stadium on Saturday in a bid to extend their unbeaten home record.
Hartley said: “Fitness does play a key part – you have to do the work (on the training ground) at full-time and part-time level.
“We don’t see the players often enough and when we do, we need to make sure they’re on the money, working with and without the ball.
“The players have responded so well – you don’t hear them moaning about it.”
Cove will lock horns with Annan for the first time since the 6-1 defeat at the end of November, which was just their second defeat since they came into the league last summer.
However, they have been able to establish a five-point lead over Edinburgh City, with their nearest challengers dropping points against Queen’s Park a fortnight ago.
Hartley added: “It was a sore one for us (the Annan result). There were different circumstances – we weren’t at full-strength, had players missing and others coming off injured.
“We have put that to the back of our minds and we need to make sure we perform as we can on Saturday.
“Our home form has been key for us this year and we need to maintain it.”