After an opening day draw with Forres Mechanics on the road, Inverurie Locos did not need a welcome mat for Cove Rangers for their first home league game of the season. The Aberdeen side found Harlaw Park to be a home from home last season on their way to Championship success.
But this was to be a real hard luck story for the Inverurie side who took the lead in the game, hit the bar twice but still contrived to give away a late goal to lose the game.
Martin Bavidge retuned for Locos in the starting line up alongside captain Neil McLean, the latter free of suspension, Connor Rennie dropped to the bench and with work ruling out Kieran Adams, Mark Souter was alongside Ross Anderson in central defence.
The morning news that Cove were to be without several key figures was boosted further by the news Dean Donaldson had left the club and was to be a spectator as a returning Inverurie Locos forward for his second spell at the club.
The match marked CALA Homes officially beginning their Main Sponsorship, children enjoying face painting before the match and a balloon release was made just ahead of kick off.
There was little of note in the opening ten minutes but that changed when recent Cove signing Mitch Megginson, son of legendary striker Mike Megginson, tested Scott Mathieson. Stuart McKenzie was then put to work as Alan Redford’s back header was slightly short but he still beat Michael Selfridge to it.
Stephen Jeffrey picked up his second caution in three outings after 23 minutes ahead of Kevin Buchan shooting well over.
Jordan Leyden had started the game impressively and forced Sam Burnett to head clear under pressure from Martin Laing, but amazingly ref Scott Leslie gave a goal kick not a corner.
Martin Bavidge was really unlucky not to put his side in front as his shot cannoned off the underside of the bar and away, with Leyden again the provider.
Andy Hunter in an unusual midfield role then shot wide but the stage was set for LEYDEN and he didn't disappoint. The winger collected from Selfridge, darted away from former Loco Murray McCulloch and netted with a wonderful chip over the tall McKenzie.
Concentrating on keeping the lead for the minute or two to the break was now the challenge and it wasn’t a success. Anderson was booked for a foul that didn’t need to be committed, then a needless foul was given away in the aftermath. Connor Scully’s delightful inswinging cross from the right was flicked on and nodded home by BLAIR YULE.
Martin Laing was the first to threaten after the resumption, but Burnett came in with the sliding challenge.
Cove were awarded a penalty in 55 minutes, Gordon Forsyth forced to upend Megginson as he bore down on goal. MEGGINSON sent the ball firmly to Mathieson’s right corner to put the visitors ahead.
Locos were not for feeling sorry for themselves and a few minutes later they were level. Leyden was again prominent, supplying the free kick for HUNTER to beat McKenzie with a deft header.
It was anyone’s game to win now and Alan Redford cleared off the line for Cove, while at the other end Anderson almost sliced a cross from Yule into his own net.
Scully then unleashed a super shot to bring out a great flying Mathieson save. A series of chances for both sides led to nothing and a draw looked on the cards.
But with three minutes left Mark Souter attempted to dribble clear from his own penalty box when the boot up the park was order of the day. Johnny Smith’s shot was saved but stand-in centre half STUART WALKER was left with the easy task of tapping home the rebound.
There was still time for Andy Hunter to connect with the crossbar and Bavidge steered a Colin Charlesworth ball just over the upright.
Locos: Mathieson, Jeffrey (Mitchell 80), Forsyth, Hunter, Anderson, Souter, Leyden, McLean, Selfridge, Bavidge, Laing (Charlesworth 72). Subs unused - Rennie, Wilson, Morrison, Gordon, Cook.
Cove Rangers: McKenzie, Redford, Milne, Yule, Walker, McCulloch (Smith 64), Scully, Burnett, Megginson (McBain 92), Smith, Buchan (Duff 64). Subs unused - Dunbar, McCafferty.
Locos now look to get their first full points of the league campaign away at Rothes on Saturday, ahead of the big local derby against Turriff Utd the following week.