“Immature,” according to former East Kilbride boss Billy Ogilvie. “Loves himself,” said Cove Rangers boss John Sheran following Saturday’s SPFL Pyramid play-off semi-final first leg. Edinburgh City top scorer Ross Allum won’t care a jot after the Meadowbank side departed Inverurie with a 3-0 win.
His first half brace bookended a Gordon Donaldson strike in a devastating first 45 minutes at Harlaw Park for the Lowland League champions, who look nailed on for a promotion play-off showdown with East Stirlingshire barring an almighty collapse in this weekend’s return leg against the Highland League champions.
Allum’s decisive contribution came amidst hostility from the opposition support, which suits him just fine. “It’s something I get along the way and takes the heat off the other boys,” he said. “It spurs you on when you’ve got guys giving you a bit of stick. It gives me that extra boost so I’m quite happy with it.”
The early stages gave little indication as to how this one would eventually pan out. City struggled to settle, with a bumpy pitch and perhaps some tension given the prize on offer contributing to a slow start. Despite that, Cove only managed to muster a couple of corners.
Allum was adamant he should have had a penalty kick on 20 minutes, claiming he was toppled over when challenging for a bouncing ball. Referee Gavin Ross wasn’t interested, however, with the home bench forcibly suggesting the City striker needed little encouragement to go down.
He responded perfectly just three minutes later. Dougie Gair whipped in a free kick to the near post that picked out Allum’s clever run across the front of the defence and he headed firmly past Stuart McKenzie before making a beeline to the Cove dugout to celebrate.
City doubled their lead three minutes before the break. Neat interplay between John MacDonald and John Dunn released Aaron Dunsmore down the right. The Hibs loanee burned past Eric Watson before trying to pick out Allum. He missed his intended target, but found the arriving Donaldson, who drilled past McKenzie at the back post.
Allum appeared to be on a one-man mission to wind-up everyone affiliated with the Highland League champions, and succeeded by netting his second and City’s third two minutes later. Showing nimble feet in the area, he prodded past McKenzie and wheeled away behind the goal, his celebration this time earning him a yellow. “I tried to celebrate with our fans!” he protested. “The ref told me after the first one to watch it so I thought ‘I’ll go to our fans’ but I still got booked – you can’t win. I was away with it to be fair!”
Cove naturally came out fired up for the second 45, but still it was the Citizens looking the more composed, Rangers failing to worry Gregor Amos. They huffed and puffed, but never looked like denting their technically superior opponents’ lead.
City manager Gary Jardine hailed Allum’s resilience. “He comes in for a lot of criticism, but I wouldn’t fancy his job,” he said. “I ask him to do a really difficult one and play up there on his own and he gets banged about by centre halves. When he gets knocked over he gets slated for diving but he just keeps coming back for more. What a season he’s had. It fires him up – the more knocks, criticism and shouts from the terracing he gets, the more deadly he becomes.
“I never thought it’d be three goals after one game. Cove are equally capable of getting three at Meadowbank so we’ll need to prepare well for what is a massive 90 minutes for both clubs.”
Cove Rangers: McKenzie, Redford, Milne, Yule, Watson, Kelly, Campbell, Duff (Donaldson 58), Nicol, Smith, Scully.
Edinburgh City: Amos, Dunsmore, Donaldson, McConnell (Gibson 75), Paterson, McKee (Caddow 85), Mbu, Gair, Allum (Vanson 89), Dunn, MacDonald.