Ice-cool Elgin City hat-trick hero Kane Hester sees no reason why the Moray men cannot mix it in League One next season after shooting into the play-offs.
The deadly 25-year-old striker took his tally to 19 for the season with a sparkling second half treble in a thrilling 3-2 win over League Two champions Queen’s Park on Tuesday night at Borough Briggs.
That has set up a double-header semi-final against runners-up Edinburgh City, which starts at home on Saturday before a trip to Ainslie Park on Tuesday.
With a smile on his face at full-time, he said: “My goal is to help take this club up via the play-offs.
“Beating Queen’s Park, who are going up to League One, goes to show that we can perform at that level.
“Last season, we also beat Airdrie, so I am sure we could compete in that division, no problem.
“I am really disappointed that there are no fans here. The place would have been bouncing on Tuesday.
“It was bouncing last season when we went close and the season was called off. I hope they enjoyed watching that at home.”
Players ‘have shown’ what they are ‘capable of’ after slump
City were rocked by a hat-trick of losses in their play-off pursuit in April, especially a 5-2 home defeat to Albion Rovers.
Hester admits fingers were pointed at the players on that back of that result, but he is thrilled they have responded in the perfect fashion.
He explained: “We are better than we showed in the Albion Rovers game.
“A few people thought that we had chucked it, but we have shown over the last five games exactly what we’re capable of.
“The Albion game was a blip. Other than that, we have been outstanding against most other teams.”
Hester admitted all the players were nervous before his starring show shot his side into the League One promotion play-offs.
Watching the way he finishes even half chances, you’d never guess it, but the former Arbroath youth player had to banish pre-match fears before going on to sink the Spiders.
He said: “I’m excited that we have made the next step. I was really nervous before the game, same as most of the boys, coming up against the champions who have been flying this season.
“We were so up for it and I can’t wait for these play-offs. The boys were concentrated on what we had to do, we have seen it through and I am delighted to have got through.
“I’ll take a hat-trick against anyone, but to get it against the champions is a bit more special, especially to get the team into the play-offs.
“There are so many teams in the same points and goals it was always going to be close. I was confident though that we would make it. We had that edge over most of the teams around us and we showed that on Tuesday.”
When asked about his ability to take opportunities of all kinds, he said: “I just love to score goals and I will sniff out any chances I get. With the third one, I just hit it as hard as I could.
“I’m on 19 for the season, which is the same as last year, so I will try and get to 20.”
Looking ahead to the crunch 180 minutes against Edinburgh City, a side they’ve yet to take a point from this term, Hester stressed: “We’ve never got a result against Edinburgh, but that won’t faze us. I am confident going into these games that we can finally achieve that.”
Elgin lost 2-0 at Edinburgh last weekend, with the second-placed side slipping to a 2-1 defeat at Stranraer, who edged into the final play-off berth.