Evening Express

Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup: Cove captain Watson boosted by comforts of home ahead of Formartine clash

Eric Watson in action against Buckie Thistle. Picture by Kenny Elrick

Cove Rangers captain Eric Watson hopes fans keep flocking to their new Balmoral Stadium – starting with tonight’s clash with Formartine United in the Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup.

The Highland League champions welcome the North Lodge Park outfit in the second round of the world’s second oldest association football trophy.

Cove moved into their new place in the summer after playing home games on the road for the past few years.

Watson said: “I’ve seen a few guys coming back who I used to see at (old ground) Allan Park.

“There are a few new faces as well, kids coming along.

“Hopefully we’re playing decent football and they’re getting to enjoy the game so they’ll come back.

“We’re starting to push to get the hospitality filled as well.

“Hearts, Raith Rovers, Fraserburgh and Buckie – the crowds have been really good.

“I know it’s been difficult for people having to travel all over for home games (the past few seasons).”

The 35-year-old centre-back missed games at the start of the campaign because of a family holiday during pre-season, but now feels he’s getting back to his best.

Tonight could be his third start in a row after appearances in the Irn-Bru Cup loss on penalties to Montrose and Saturday’s 4-0 league win away to Huntly.

Watson, who thinks Cove are even stronger than last term, said: “The boys came in and played well. I’ve got the last two games and will hopefully get a run out tonight as well.

“The fitness is coming back, it’s just the match sharpness you need.

“We’re playing a lot more football through the back and by the midfield. We’re not as direct.

“It more enjoyable to play.

“It started last season with the players who were brought it. But the way we’re playing just now is great for everyone.”

John Sheran’s team suffered a gut-wrenching loss in the League Two play-off final to Cowdenbeath, and once more their aim is to win the Highland title and reach the Scottish Leagues. Formartine will look to be one of their main challengers.

Paul Lawson’s Pitmedden men also beat them in last year’s Shire Cup final at Balmoor.

So tonight’s tie is teeming with significance.

Watson said: “Both teams will be looking forward to it for the same reason – just to see where we are at the start of the season, how fit we are.

“We might start a bit better and they might be a bit unsure of the surface.

“It’s a great surface. They’ve got a lot of football players, good technical players, in their team as well, so it’ll probably suit them as much as it does us.

“I don’t think it’ll be too much of an advantage.

“Playing at home we want to go out there and get a win.”

Lawson said his team want to defend the trophy they won last term.

He said: “We’ll be looking to go on and win it again, that’s the target.

“Cove stand in our way and we know it’s going to be a very hard game. They’re looking even stronger than they were last year. It’s a game we’re looking forward to and one we think we can win.”

Cove will be missing defender Scott Ross, but new attacker Jordan MacRae is eligible for selection.

Scott Henry and Wayne Mackintosh will both be out for Formartine.

Elsewhere in the second round tonight, Deveronvale welcome Huntly and Keith host Turriff United.