COVE Rangers boss John Sheran was pleased his side got the win after their Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup battle with Formartine United at the Balmoral Stadium.
The Highland League champions needed extra-time to get past one of the division’s other big-hitters, following a 0-0 draw over 90 minutes.
With just five minutes of the additional half hour left before penalties, skipper Eric Watson found himself in a rare position in behind the defence and was able to steer a winning header past Kevin Main in the Pitmedden outfit’s goal.
A semi-final next month now awaits the Granite City team – they’ll meet Deveronvale at Princess Royal Park after the Vale beat Huntly 1-0.
Sheran said: “You know what it’s like in these competitions.
“You get through one of these midweek games and it means there’s another game to play.
“But that’s us through to the semi-final now and from our point of view it’s always nice to get to a semi and hopefully we can get through against the Vale.
“We had some close games with them last year, so we’ll expect it to be tough when it comes round, but we’ve a few games to worry about before then.”
The match at the Balmoral Stadium, the first this term between two teams with their eyes on the league title and the Scottish league via the play-offs, suggested there might have been nerves in both camps.
It was a heated affair throughout and, despite the ferocity of the play in the midfield, play kept breaking down in the final third at both ends.
Sheran was glad to see his team rewarded for their efforts, in a game which also saw them reach five games without conceding a goal.
The boss said: “When you get through a long, drawn-out battle like that it’s nice to get the win.
“I thought we edged it, because we showed a greater intent to try and win the game.
“We’re just pleased to have got through.”
Of the goal, which saw substitute midfielder Jordon Brown play a delightful chipped ball – the moment of quality which had been missing – through to Watson, Sheran added: “You’re just throwing it into the area and Eric has shown over the years he has the knack to get on the end of things.
“It was a good finish. But they had a lot of chances and (keeper Stuart) McKenzie gets a lot of credit for some good saves too.”
The hard-fought nature of the game has left Sheran with work to do before Saturday’s home game against Turriff United in the league.
Striker Paul McManus and midfielders Daniel Park and Jamie Masson were taken off during the match, with the gaffer admitting his team hadn’t been left unscathed by the tie.
He said: “We picked the strongest team we could in terms of who was fit and available. We’ve tried to do that whenever we’ve been playing.
“We picked up a number of knocks and it looks like Saturday will have to be a bit of a rejig again, but we’re just pleased to be through.”
In the game itself, there was nothing to get the fans excited until Cove talisman Mitch Megginson flung his right boot at a bouncing ball on the left angle at the edge of the box on the half hour. It caught Main by surprise, but the shot hit the side netting.
On 38 minutes, Formartine had the chance of the half. Ryan Stott played the ball inside to Archie Macphee off the left wing. His ball to Andrew Greig was blocked by McKenzie, who got off his line quickly to close the angle.
In the second half, both team’s frustrations came out, with referee Chris Fordyce eventually booking 10 players and dismissing Formartine’s Jonathan Crawford for a succession of niggly fouls and talking back.
Extra time began in a similar fashion to the 90 minutes. Plenty of energy in the midfield but not much deftness of touch around the box.
In the second period, Cove sub Jordan MacRae’s volley from a corner was too near Main and, on the counter, Macphee scooped the ball over the bar at the near post.
Cove got their winner with only a few minutes left to play, McKenzie slinging a long free-kick to Brown to work his magic.
Crawford’s red was soon after. Nevertheless, Graeme Rodger could have sent the tie to penalties had he not hit the final Formartine opportunity over the bar after Watson missed a defensive header.
Meanwhile, in the other Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup second round match, Turriff United beat Keith 2-1.
They will play the winner of Aberdeen Reserves v Banks o’ Dee, which is to be played at Spain Park on Wednesday evening.