Cove Rangers have shown in recent years they are capable of rising to any challenge put in front of them.
Back-to-back promotions has accelerated their progress through the SPFL and they stand four games away from making it an unexpected hat-trick.
This afternoon sees them welcome Airdrieonians to the Balmoral Stadium, in the first leg of the play-off semi-finals. They finished the regular season in third and maintained that position in the split, to earn themselves another crack at getting into the Championship.
Part-time clubs have had plenty of hurdles thrown in front of them this year, from paying significant sums for testing to being shut down for 10 weeks from January. But to Cove, they are just the next obstacle to be tackled.
Manager Paul Hartley said: “Showing how we can compete at this level with teams that are experienced and full-time (has been the most pleasing). We’ve given everybody a game. We’ve not buckled under any pressure and been fairly consistent – the players deserve credit for that.
“We weren’t sure how we were going to be when we came back. We felt we could be consistent and get the right results and we have.
“This is the next biggest game in the club’s history; we’ve progressed so quickly over the last three years. Everybody should look forward to it.
“If you’ve got that mentality that you’re used to winning silverware that can help, but it’s down to the day.”
Since his arrival at Cove in 2019, Hartley and his coaching staff have played their part in driving up standards.
They were very much a machine geared towards winning in the Highland League, but the last two years have presented a step up in quality.
Hartley added “I’ve enjoyed the last two years. I’ve enjoyed my Saturdays after the game, because we’ve been used to winning. We’ve not had too many lows.
“Sometimes that’s just round the corner, but I’ve enjoyed working with the players, looking forward to the games, training. I just wish I had more nights training with them, but that’s not possible.
“I think Cove have certainly added something over the last couple of years to the SPFL. We’ve shown we’re a good outfit. We’re ambitious.
“We’ve improved the standards of the club. We’ve worked hard behind-the-scenes and we’ll keep working hard to make the players better. There’s still a lot more to come and I think we’re ahead of schedule for where we want to be.
“I think everybody, including the chairman, must enjoy it, seeing where there club is. It’s taken a long time to get to the SPFL and we want to stay there, progress and get better.”
Cove take on Airdrieonians this afternoon, seven days on from a 2-0 defeat which kept the Diamonds in the hunt for second. They secured that with a midweek win over Falkirk.
The winner will then face either Morton or Montrose, for a place in the second tier.
Hartley added: “The players know they have 180 minutes, potentially more, in front of them. The first game is the important one and you always make sure you stay in the tie for the second game.
“We’re at home and the players know what’s expected of them. It’s not going change too drastic. Play with a cool head – it can’t always be blood and thunder.
“We’ll just focus on the game in front of us. After that, then we can look at what we need to do.”