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Jul 10, 2021 at 3pm UK
Cove RangersCove Rangers
StirlingStirling Albion
Fyvie (69', 82')
Scully (73')
FT(HT: 0-1)
Omar (28'), Flanagan (55', 90+4')
Omar (67')

Preview: Cove Rangers vs. Stirling Albion - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Cove Rangers vs. Stirling Albion - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Saturday's Scottish League Cup clash between Cove Rangers and Stirling Albion, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Stirling Albion kick off their new season with a challenging Scottish League Cup Group A clash against Cove Rangers on Saturday.

The teams meet at Balmoral Stadium with both seeking a rapid start to a section also featuring Hearts and Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Match preview

As many as 500 fans will be present for this weekend's opening match of Stirling's League Cup campaign, as the Binos travel to ambitious League One opponents.

In a tough group - with only the winners guaranteed progress to the knockout stages - Kevin Rutkiewicz's men must also visit Inverness next Saturday, before hosting Hearts and then Peterhead.

Due to both the logistical challenges of travelling to meet opposition from diverse regions and the higher standard of opposition, Rutkiewicz and company will be outsiders from the outset.

In fact, they may well use this Saturday's tie and those forthcoming more as a means of warming up for the forthcoming league campaign, starting against Stenhousemuir at the end of the month.

Stirling's only previous visit to Cove Bay's Balmoral Stadium was a 1-0 defeat in November 2019, but they were thumped 7-1 by Cove at Forthbank in the last match before lockdown in March 2020. They will hope, therefore, that signings such as former Greenock Morton winger Rabin Omar - their seventh buy of a busy summer in the transfer market - can help them fair better on this occasion.

Meanwhile, before last season, back-to-back promotions for Cove - as the club gained promotion to Scotland's third tier for the first time - reflects their upwardly mobile management in recent years.

Paul Hartley's side are even bookmakers favourites to win the 2021-22 League 1 title, but have been seen preparations upset by being forced to cancel three recent friendly fixtures due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the club.

They were due to play local rivals Aberdeen in a behind-closed-doors game before meeting Forfar and Highland League side Broch, but each match has been wiped out by the need to isolate.

Nonetheless, the Toonsers have brought in several men with experience at a higher level - some making the transition to part-time football, having spent their careers in the full-time game - and should expect to hit the ground running this weekend.

Cove Rangers Scottish League Cup form:
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • W

Stirling Albion Scottish League Cup form:
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • L

Team News

Cove have recently signed former Premiership players Ross Draper and Iain Vigurs from Ross County - a major statement of intent from the club - so could field both in their lineup on Saturday.

The pair bring valuable experience with them and will join fellow new boy Kyle Gourlay, a goalkeeper who featured several times for Hamilton in the top flight last term.

However, there are a number of players who have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak in the camp, so their lineup may only be decided shortly before kickoff.

Meanwhile, Stirling saw striker Dale Carrick hit the crossbar and have a shot cleared off the line in their most recent pre-season friendly, and the 27-year-old Hearts academy product should start up front, having joined Albion earlier this summer.

French winger Dylan Bikey also struck the bar and managed to get himself on the scoresheet last time out, so is in line to join Carrick as part of the visitors' attack.

Cove Rangers possible starting lineup:
Gourlay; Leighton, Milne, Ross, Strachan; Vigurs, Scully, Masson, Draper; Megginson, Meres

Stirling Albion possible starting lineup:
Currie, McGeachie, McNiff, McGregor, McLean; Grant, Omar, Leitch, Flanagan; Bikey, Carrick

We say: Cove Rangers 1-0 Stirling Albion

Cove have outlined their ambitions to make an impact during the 2021-22 season, so even difficulties caused by integrating a host of new faces should not stop them overcoming lower league opposition this weekend.

Serious outsiders in Group A, Stirling can make a game of it though, as their hosts' preparations have been severely disrupted in recent days.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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