COVE RANGERS maintained their perfect start to life in League One after squeezing past Partick Thistle on Saturday afternoon courtesy of Rory McAllister’s last-gasp winner.

The home side struggled to create chances throughout the game and it was the visitors who looked the more likely to come away with the three points, but the Jags didn’t make the most of their chances when they arrived before McAllister’s late intervention sealed a second defeat in three league outings for the Maryhill side.

Thistle lined up in a 4-2-3-1, with Ian McCall making one change from the team that defeated Airdrie last weekend, with Mouhamed ‘Sena’ Niang coming in for Connor Murray. Blair Spittal, last week’s matchwinner, started the game on the left wing with Shea Gordon on the opposite flank, while Stuart Bannigan, Ross Docherty and Sena formed a midfield three.

It was a blustery afternoon at Balmoral and the elements wreaked havoc on the ball, particularly when either side elected to go long. The gale swirled and howled as the game got under way with neither side able to get their foot on the ball and control proceedings.

Brian Graham was tasked with leading the line and was his usual energetic self in attack, but perhaps suffered from a lack of service at times. He burst clear of the Cove defence once or twice during the game’s opening exchanges only to find himself isolated, with little in the way from support from midfield.

It was a fairly attritional start to the match in the north east but the visitors started to grow into the game and committed more men in attack as they looked to seize the initiative. An early chance fell to Spittal when the midfielder got on the end of Graham’s knock down on the edge of the area, but his low effort straight at Stuart McKenzie lacked direction and caused few problems.

Chances for the hosts remained elusive as they struggled to break down the stubborn Jags resistance that met them. The majority of Cove’s play came down either flank as they looked to capitalise on the wind blowing towards the Thistle goal but the away side’s two full-backs – James Penrice and Ricky Foster – stood firm to deny their opponents.

Kieran Wright, deputising for the injured Jamie Sneddon for the second week in a row, didn’t have all that much to do during the opening 45 minutes and his distribution from goal kicks was severely hampered by the blustering gust that met them. That aside, the on-loan Rangers goalkeeper looked fairly solid, and further underlined his credentials to challenge Sneddon for the No.1 jersey this season.

With the game approaching the half-hour mark, Wright was called into action for the first time. Mitch Megginson combined well with Leighton McIntosh and sent his team-mate scarpering into the box, but the angle was too tight and Wright smothered the ball with minimal fuss.

Thistle upped the intensity going into the break, bombarding the Cove box with cross after cross but the home side did enough to repel them each time before the referee called time on the first half.

The Jags came out for the second period and kept up the pressure as they searched for the opening goal that would put them in the driving seat. Penrice should have done a little better shortly after the restart when he was given a sight of goal after breaking into the box but his shot lacked direction.

Spittal was next to have a go after Thistle won a free-kick on the edge of the Cove box and was only denied his second goal in as many games after a superb stop from McKenzue kept him at bay. The on-loan County midfielder leathered a driven shot from 20 yards but the Cove keeper was equal to it, producing an acrobatic save to tip the ball over for a corner.

Clear-cut chances remained at a premium for both sides, though, and while Thistle probably had the upper hand, they failed to capitalise on the abundance of set-pieces that fell their way.

There was no questioning the effort from the visitors, who continued to commit men forward in attack with 90 minutes approaching but in truth, there was a concerning lack of guile in the final third. Deliveries from out wide were caught by the wind and sailed harmlessly over the bar time and time again, while the Cove defence remained compact in the middle and blocked any central route to goal.

Graham looked like he might have grabbed a last-gasp winner in stoppage time after receiving the ball in the box, skipping away from the Cove defenders as he fashioned space to get his shot away. It looked goal bound but Harry Milne was at hand to head it off the line and keep the scores level.

You could have been forgiven for assuming that would be the end of it but with 93 minutes on the clock, Rory McAllister struck a decisive blow to snatch the three points for his side. The veteran forward was played in down the left and clipped the ball beyond Wright to hand Cove a late, late lead.

It was perhaps the only clear-cut chance last season’s League Two champions created over the course of the 90 minutes but in the end, it was the only one that mattered.