Aberdeenshire AFA

Official website of the Aberdeenshire Amateur Football Association

Cove Thistle 2 – 1 Woodside

1st Touch Football Premier Division at Catto Park on Saturday 2nd March

Report by Andy McLaren

Cove Thistle manager Mike Bradford admits he has noticed an “unbelievable” difference in his side as he looks to lead the club to their second Premier Division title in five years.

Bradford fired the Aberdeen outfit to the league title in 2009 as a player before guiding Thistle to the top of the Division One (East) table in 2011.

And Thistle’s boss, who is only in his third season as manager, believes his current crop of players are good enough to win more than one trophy this season.

He said: “The ultimate aim is to win the Premier Division but we are not going to stop there.

“As far as I am concerned, we have enough strength in depth to win more than just the league title.

“We have added to our squad with four new additions and it is vital to beat teams such as Woodside.

“Without a doubt, this is the strongest team we have had in the six years I have been at Cove.

“We have had a fantastic season so far and it is an amazing achievement to have only lost one game since August.

“We are ready to cope with the fixture pile-up towards the end of the season so I am confident we can win the Premier Division at the end of the season.

“The aim is to win every single game but the Premier Division will always be the biggest prize, so it would be special to win it.”

Veteran Cove Thistle goalkeeper Derek McKenzie was the star man as they clinched a vital 2-1 win over Woodside to remain at the top of the Premier Division.

The victory moves Thistle three points clear of Sportsmans Club at the top of the table, taking their league goal tally to 62 goals for the season.

Former Highland League goalie Derek was previously a player and goalkeeping coach with Deveronvale, Sunnybank, Banchory St Ternan and Parkvale.

But the 44-year-old, who gained his goalkeeping licence in 2004, has also played for amateur clubs including Rattrays XI and believes some of the top teams in the league are as good as clubs in junior football’s Superleague and First Division.

He said: “The leading amateur sides would be in the top three of the junior First Division every year in my opinion.

“I also think they would be able to match some of the Superleague sides.

“Due to a lack of money within football, Highland League clubs have taken more junior players and junior clubs have taken more amateur players over the years.

“There are guys at Cove Thistle who could easily play at a higher level but they are happy here, playing with a good bunch of people.

“There are some great set-ups in amateur football and it helps immensely if you have dedicated people to help with funding through sweepers and sponsorship.

“It’s getting to the stage where I am struggling to be fit to play in every game but I’m still playing and enjoying every minute of it.

“Last season, we got to most of the cup finals but struggled in the league so it’s great we are now doing well in both this season.

“I’m hoping to be a goalkeeping coach after my playing days are over so I will always be involved with football.”

In a repeat of last season’s North of Scotland cup final, Woodside started the brighter of the two teams and almost opened the scoring when Brian Neil’s audacious half-volley skimmed the top of the crossbar.

But Cove’s Martyn Duthie should have scored on 25 minutes when he could only blast the ball over the bar from 10 yards.

Woodside went ahead 10 minutes later when James Simpson reacted quickly to pounce on a spill by Cove goalkeeper Derek McKenzie.

Half-time: 0 – 1

Woodside, who won the Premier Division last season, rued another missed opportunity when Bryan Forbes could only thrash the ball straight at McKenzie from 10 yards.

McKenzie was proving to be a key player for Thistle when he quickly reacted to tip Forbes’ fierce header onto the crossbar on 55 minutes.

A moment of controversy soon followed when referee Ian Wright only showed a yellow card to Forbes after an alleged stamp on Cove’s James Fettes.

The reigning Premier Division champions continued to dominate when Brian Thomson’s curling shot cannoned against the crossbar on 65 minutes.

McKenzie’s best save of the match came on 70 minutes when he showed great reflexes to tip Neil’s acrobatic shot over the bar.

Thistle were awarded a penalty against the run of play on 75 minutes when the ball struck the hand of Christopher Buchan and Craig Wilson calmly converted the spot kick to make it 1-1.

Thistle thought they had scored a second goal shortly after but James Noblin did well to tip Gavin Walker’s looping shot over the bar.

The Premier Division leaders clinched all three points in bizarre circumstances when Noblin punched Connor Craig’s corner kick into his own net on 85 minutes.

Full Time: 2 – 1