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Johnshaven Athletic 2 – 3 Cove Thistle

Soccer World North of Scotland Cup Final at North Lodge Park, Pitmedden on Sunday 19th May

Report by Andy McLaren

Cove Thistle captain Craig Little today admitted this year’s North of Scotland Cup success makes up for last season’s cup agony.

Craig scored two goals as the Aberdeen outfit lifted the trophy for a second successive year with a 3-2 win over Division One (East) side Johnshaven Athletic.

The former Cove Rangers midfielder missed the end of last season after picking up a serious injury, which ruled him out of the Jags’ trophy celebrations.

But Craig, who is in his ninth year with Thistle, admits he was determined not to let the cup dream die for another year.

He said: “We had a really successful year last season and to not be a part of it was very hard for me to take.

“Obviously, I was delighted with the trophy success last year but it’s really not the same when you’re not playing.

“We had an unbelievable season last year so we knew it would be hard to keep the hunger and passion in the team for this campaign.

“The manager has brought in a few fresh faces which has motivated everybody to continue the success this term.

“I have won the North of Scotland Cup before but after last season’s injury, this year’s final win is up with one of my best ever achievements.”

The win means Thistle, who were formed over sixty years ago, have become only the fifth team in history to retain the cup, having scored an impressive 37 goals on route to the final.

And Craig, who was awarded the man of the match award, is hoping his recent goalscoring form can help guide his side to their second Premier Division title.

“We have dropped a few points in the league recently which will now make it hard for us to overtake Sportsmans,” he said.

“Sportsmans have went on an amazing run recently so in my opinion, it’s theirs to lose now.

“We definitely have the quality to win the league and if we could do it then it would be nothing short of remarkable.

“Hopefully we can carry this trophy win onto our last three games of the season and if we can win, then the pressure is on Sportsmans.”

Cove Thistle manager Mike 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 Craig has been a sensation since overcoming his injury hell.

He said: “We have lost very little games this season, so the mentality is to win every match we play in.

“For the nine seasons Craig has been with us, he has always had problems with a variety of injuries.

“Craig is a fantastic player and has played a much higher level which proves the quality the guy has.

“We were devastated when we heard Craig was going to miss the first six months of this season.

“To have him back for the North of Scotland Cup final and for the rest of the campaign has been amazing for the club.

“Even if we don’t win the league, we can take away the fact we have remained unbeaten until this point in the league.

“If we lose the league, then Sportsmans deserve it as the campaign is about all 26 games and not just the first 20.

“Both ourselves and Sportsmans have tricky games remaining which will make for a very nervy and exciting end to the Amateur Football season.”

In the match itself, it was Johnshaven who started the brighter of the two teams when Lee Paton almost found the net with a diving header on 10 minutes.

But it was Thistle who broke the deadlock on 20 minutes when Craig Little calmly side-footed the ball past Jamie Reid to make it 1-0.

Athletic, who currently sit fourth in Division One (East), equalised 5 minutes later when Ross Blease blasted the ball past Derek McKenzie from the penalty spot.

Cove veteran McKenzie prevented Johnshaven from making it 2-1 moments later when he sensationally tipped Steven Smith’s low drive onto the post.

Half-time: 1 – 1

The Division One side continued to pressure Cove when Paul Gill was almost forced to nod the ball into his own net after Shaun Blease’s awkward cross wasn’t properly cleared.

Similar to the first-half, Johnshaven’s chances of causing an upset seemed slim when Cove’s Greg McKenzie was on hand to tap the ball into the empty net to make it 2-1 on 52 minutes.

But the goal galvanised Johnshaven and they equalised 5 minutes later when Ross Blease reacted the quickest to turn the ball into the net after McKenzie failed to hold Paton’s shot.

The final 20 minutes featured plenty of frantic defending but it was Thistle who were crowned North of Scotland champions when Little beat Reid to the ball to apply a simple finish on 75 minutes.

Full Time: 2 – 3