Cove Rangers lived up to the hype, hammering nine-man Edinburgh City 5-0 on their SPFL debut.
The League Two opener at the Balmoral Stadium was billed as an early top-of-the-table clash, but there was only ever one team in it, as Mitch Megginson – who scored Cove’s first Scottish league goal before netting another – Harry Milne (2) and Jordon Brown fired promoted Highland champions Cove to a convincing victory.
Boss Paul Hartley opted for Daniel Higgins instead of Ryan Strachan at centre-half. Another summer signing Jamie Redman also came in for Dan Park.
Among those missing for the visitors was former Don Josh Walker.
The great and the good – Joe Harper, Jim Leighton, John Hewitt and more – turned out among the 995 people at the Balmoral for Cove’s big day.
However, one person who was missing was chairman Keith Moorhouse – a flight delay seeing him unable to return from overseas in time for the game.
On seven minutes, a loose Connor Scully pass saw Edinburgh’s Danny Handling streak towards the Cove goal, however, Harry Milne made a timely challenge to cut out the danger.
Moments later, Jamie Masson lashed a volley by the left post. Mitch Megginson then broke loose of Liam Henderson, but could only flick the ball into the hands of the onrushing Callum Antell.
From this point onwards, Hartley’s men dominated proceedings.
On 17 minutes, good work from Chris Antoniazzi on the right allowed Connor Scully – back from an ankle injury – to strike from range, but the effort flew over.
Two minutes later, Masson jinked from out on the left into the centre. He backheeled the ball to Antoniazzi, who took a touch and struck venomously just past the post from 20 yards out.
Cove’s historic first SPFL goal came on 31 minutes. Jamie Masson’s free-kick from the left was caught well on the volley by Scott Ross at the back post, but Antell tipped the cross-goal effort along the byeline.
However, Milne was lurking out left to fire back across the six-yard box and Megginson – who else – deftly steered the ball into the far corner.
It should have been two soon after, when Milne robbed Handling and played a ground missile of a pass through to Megginson, but Antell stood up well and sent the striker’s attempt wide.
However, Megginson had another with little more than five minutes of the first half left. Antoniazzi showing good feet in the box to escape the Edinburgh defenders before crossing left-footed for the prolific attacker to finish much in the same way as his first.
Before the break it was three. Mark Laird couldn’t handle Dundee United loanee Declan Glass in midfield, not for the first time, conceding a free-kick on the left.
Masson delivered dangerously at the back post once more, and Redman headed back across goal, where Milne was waiting to nod in.
In a quite spectacular end to the half, Megginson could’ve scored again by the time referee Mike Roncone blew for half-time, but his left-footed shot from 12 yards flew wide.
Megginson almost had his hat-trick again soon after the break, but his low right-footed shot from just inside the area rolled narrowly past the far post.
The next period saw Cove on top, still, but the flow of the game was broken up by persistent fouls on Megginson, culminating in a booking for Laird.
Worse was to come for Edinburgh. Glass turned ex-Partick centre-back Conrad Balatoni on 62 minutes and was then wiped out on the edge of the area by Liam Henderson – the visiting player received a red card, before Masson put the 19-yard set-piece just over.
Megginson fluffed his hat-trick lines again soon after, taking a heavy touch when sent clean through by Glass.
Cove’s fourth came on 68 minutes. Glass – so good again – looked to have been shoved to the ground by Laird. The referee wasn’t interested in awarding a penalty, but it didn’t matter, as the ball fell to Milne to lash home into the bottom corner from 12 yards.
All Edinburgh could do was try to limit the damage and they continued to foul persistently.
Megginson could’ve had another on 75 minutes, seeing a low shot saved from an edge-of-the-box free-kick.
Soon the striker was the victim of more harsh treatment from the visitors, specifically keeper Antell, who came out of his area and poleaxed him.
For his actions, the goalie was also sent off. Megginson then departed to a standing ovation.
Substitute Jordon Brown wrapped things up on 87 minutes, heading home after Edinburgh replacement keeper Ryan Adamson had parried fellow sub Dan Park’s cross straight to him.
As if the day wasn’t good enough, there was also a promising cameo from St Johnstone loanee John Robertson in attack on debut, as all the Granite City sides squad showed they are more than up to the rigours of the SPFL.
Cove now travel to St Johnstone on Tuesday in the Irn-Bru Cup, before their first League Two away game at Albion Rovers on Saturday.
Cove Rangers: McKenzie, Yule, Milne, Ross, Higgins, Scully, Antoniazzi, Glass, Megginson, Redman, Masson.
Subs: Robertson (for Glass 69), Park (for Antoniazzi 76), Brown (for Megginson 79).
Subs not used: Kelly, Park, Redford, Strachan, McCafferty.
Edinburgh City: Antell, McIntyre, Balatoni, Laird, B. Henderson, Handling, Sinclair, Crane, Kane, L. Henderson, Harris.
Subs: Shepherd (for Sinclair 45), Court (for B. Henderson 66), Adamson (for Harris 79).
Subs not used: Shaw, Smith, Dunn, Watson.
Referee: Mike Roncone.