Cove Rangers chairman Keith Moorhouse feels the club are ready for another challenging campaign in League One.
The new season will see the additions of Queen’s Park and Alloa Athletic to the league, with both clubs likely to be targeting the top spots.
Cove finished an impressive third in this campaign, missing out on promotion via the play-offs with a two-legged defeat to Airdrieonians.
The Aberdeen outfit have traditionally responded well to setbacks and, while they can take heart from an impressive debut season in League One, Moorhouse feels they are ready to face the next challenge.
Moorhouse said: “We can’t lose sight of the fact we’ve progressed. From our point of view, we’re probably ahead of where we expected to be and that’s a reflection of everybody at the club, particularly the players and the staff.
“They have raised the standards and allowed us to compete at the top end of this league. League One is not an easy league.
“Next season is going to be even more competitive, I feel, with the addition of Alloa and Queen’s Park. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready for that challenge.”
Alloa finished bottom of the Championship last season and were beaten by Cove in the Scottish Cup in January.
Queen’s Park shed their amateur status prior to the start of last season and were runaway League One title winners this year. They have, however, changed managers recently, with Laurie Ellis stepping up from his role as assistant to replace Ray McKinnon.
Moorhouse said: “It’s always an exciting challenge. We want to test ourselves against the best – we always have done and that’s the attitude the boys have got.
“There’s a strong winning mindset throughout the club; we’ve built that up through the Highland League, which has kept us in a good place.
“The challenge ahead is just another challenge. The kind of characters we’ve got will help us do that.”
The Cove chairman is able to reflect on the heartbreaking way their season ended a fortnight ago.
Having gone ahead in stoppage-time through Rory McAllister, Cove thought they had sealed their place in the final against Morton. However, an equaliser deeper into added time forced the game into an additional 30 minutes, where the Diamonds grabbed the decisive winner.
Asked how he feels about it now, Moorhouse said: “Sore – it’s probably a reflective word. Disappointed the way it ended would be my view on it, but not disappointed with the season overall.
“We made the play-offs, which was beyond our target. But the way the play-offs ended was heartbreaking for everybody.
“We need to use these experiences to make ourselves stronger and prior history tells you that’s what we’ve always done.”
The work has already begun on improving the squad for next season, with Connor Scully, Blair Yule, Fraser Fyvie and Stuart McKenzie all signing new two-year deals.
“They’ve been important boys for the club for a while now, given how long they’ve been with the club. They’ve all played huge parts in the club’s success and it’s great to keep these guys.
“We always believed, I think even back in the Highland League, they had more than enough about them to play in the Scottish leagues and I think that’s proved itself. They’ve taken themselves up another level.
“The approach to the whole football side with Paul and his team coming in, that has helped without a doubt.
“We wanted to maintain the core we have, because it’s important to have a consistency and a foundation in the team, which is there for moving forward.
“It’s about being organised, being prepared. Having a plan.”