Buckie Thistle manager Graeme Stewart believes Cove Rangers will do what his Jags side failed to do two seasons ago and beat East Kilbride this Saturday to reach the pyramid play-off finals.
After winning the 2016-17 Highland League title, Buckie drew 2-2 at home against the Lowland League champions but lost the second leg 2-1 at K Park.
Stewart said: “The tie is evenly poised with Cove having won 2-1 down there last weekend but even though Kilby scored a 93rd-minute goal to throw them a late lifeline.
“I still think Cove will have too much in the locker for them at Balmoral Stadium. Cove are the best Highland League side I’ve seen in my time.
“The playing squad is amazingly strong. They have got the infrastructure right and they have a tremendous stadium and facilities.
“Everything is geared up for Cove Rangers to be an SPFL club and I think they will be. I believe they will beat East Kilbride this Saturday then go on to get the better of League 2’s bottom club Berwick Rangers, again over two legs.”
If Cove Rangers win promotion to the SPFL, former Caley Thistle midfielder Stewart believes a new team should be added to the Highland League.
He said: “If Cove go up that would leave us with only 17 teams in the Highland League and that would mean every club would have two weekends off during the season.
“I don’t like the idea of a couple of free weeks. If you have got a bit of run going it’s very easy to lose momentum a week off.
“Just as Cove Rangers are right for a move up into the SPFL, in my book Banks o’ Dee could be a ready-made replacement for them as they also have excellent facilities.
“Like Cove, the infrastructure is all in place at Spain Park and with their management of Tommy Forbes and Jamie Watt. They have a top class side who have been scoring goals for fun all season.
“Banks o’ Dee would be a great addition to the Highland League but when I know they have said in the past that they want to stay in the juniors.
“Hopefully that opinion could change if the opportunity arose for them to come in. Banks o’ Dee’s Spain Park is so close to Cove’s new stadium for me it seems like a great fit.
“But the biggest thing for me is that the Highland League wouldn’t lose any quality as ‘Dee have everything it takes to be a top-six Highland League side.”