Dundee’s first visit to Cove Rangers’ Balmoral Stadium ended in a hard fought goalless draw in the Betfred Cup against the League Two newcomers. The Dark Blues took the bonus point, winning the penalty shoot out 3-2. A draw over the 90 minutes was a fair result, with both teams hitting the woodwork, though Dundee passed up the better chances.
The Dark Blues made three changes from the side that beat Raith Rovers on Saturday. Jordon Forster came in for his debut. Fin Robertson and Craig Curran started after coming off the bench. Declan McDaid and Josh Todd were on the bench, while Josh Meekings was left out as a precaution so he wouldn’t have to play on a plastic pitch twice in four days. Former Dundee manager Paul Hartley made two changes for Cove. Martin Scott and ex-Dee Daniel Higgins came in for Sam Burnett and Mitch Megginson.
Dundee had to work hard to create openings against a hard working and well organised Cove team, who were happy to sit deep in the opening stages.
The only real attempts on goal in the first 20 minutes were a low drive from Cammy Kerr that flew well wide and a Jamie Ness shot straight at the keeper.
Cove were playing neat football when they came forward and started to pose a serious threat to the Dee defence. Midway through the first half Rangers went close three times in quick succession. Martin Scott cut inside neatly from the right and Jack Hamilton beat his fierce shot away and then reacted quickly to keep out Daniel Park’s effort. Only a minute later Scott turned smartly on the penalty area but was foiled again by Hamilton.
Dundee responded by picking up the pace for their best spell of the first half. Paul McGowan came agonisingly close when he found space to head Cammy Kerr’s cross back across the keeper and against the post. The rebound fell to Craig Curran, who was off balance and scooped the ball wide.
A lovely McGowan pass sent Shaun Byrne into the box but when he cut inside his shot was blocked. After being pinned back Cove almost nicked a goal out of nothing when Craig Curran’s misplaced pass gave Daniel Park the chance to send a looping shot from 20 yards over Hamilton and off the top of the crossbar.
Dundee started the second half brightly when Paul McGowan crossed for Andrew Nelson to head powerfully just over the bar. However, it was Cove who went on to have their best period of the game, with some patient approach play. Jamie Masson’s snapshot from 18 yards took a deflection and flashed a yard wide. Apart from that Cove had difficulty turning promising moves into real problems for Jack Hamilton.
10 minutes after the interval James McPake sent on Josh Todd and Declan McDaid for Fin Robertson and Craig Curran, reverting to the formation that played the first half on Saturday.
20 minutes from full time Jamie Ness limped off and was replaced by 16 year old Josh Mulligan. The youngster should have opened the scoring when he headed wide from close range after Dundee worked a short corner.
Nathan Meres, a former Dundee youth player, came on as a substitute for Cove but unluckily lasted only 10 minutes before being forced out of the game by an injury.
Dundee kept pushing hard for the winner but couldn’t find the right cross or final pass to open Cove up. The only time they did so Stuart McKenzie saved bravely at Nelson’s feet after McGowan played him in.
Cove fully deserved the applause from their fans at the final whistle after an impressive performance against a team two divisions above them.
The penalty shoot out started tidily with Martin Scott and Jordan McGhee doing the job confidently. The shoot out then became rather shambolic with four successive failures. Jamie Masson blasted over the crossbar for Rangers and Jordon Forster sent his shot off the bar and out of the ground. Harry Milne’s effort went too high and when Andrew Nelson got his penalty on target McKenzie saved.
Daniel Park and Declan McDaid stopped the rot by scoring competently. When Daniel Higgins became the third Cove player to hammer a penalty over the crossbar it was left to Paul McGowan to win the shoot out for Dundee, which he duly did.
After Saturday’s impressive defeat of Raith this was a disappointing performance from the Dark Blues. They dominated for long spells, but weren’t sharp enough in the final third to prise Cove’s defence apart. The home side dug in and defended well, and always looked capable of causing the Dee problems when they attacked.
Both teams, however, lacked a cutting edge on the night and Dundee’s need for more depth in attack was clear. The Dark Blues might take the bonus point, but Cove will take more satisfaction from their performance and certainly more praise.
Cove Rangers 4-4-2
Kelly, Ross, Higgins, Milne
Park, Yule, Scully, Masson
Brown (Meres 72, Burnett 83), Scott
Unused subs: MacLeod, Wood, Milne.
Booked: Ross (persistent fouling), Milne (foul on McDaid), Scully (foul on Ness), Kelly (foul on Nelson).
Dundee FC 4-3-1-2
Kerr, Forster, McGhee, Marshall
Ness (Mulligan 70), Robertson (Todd 55), Byrne (c)
Nelson, Curran (McDaid 55)
Unused subs: Ferrie (gk), Fisher, Cameron, Cunningham.
Referee: John McKendrick. Assistants: David Roome, Ivan Stankovic.
Report: James Christie.