Brora Rangers midfielder Dale Gillespie says the Cattachs will not dwell on their Scottish Cup exit as they push for an even greater prize through the pyramid play-offs.
Steven Mackay’s men were eliminated from the competition after going down 3-1 to Stranraer after extra-time on Saturday.
It brings their memorable cup run to an end, having defeated last year’s finalists Hearts in the previous round.
With Brora having last week been declared Highland League champions after only three games, the Scottish FA have confirmed they will face Lowland League winners Kelty Hearts in an attempt to win promotion.
The two sides will face each other in a two-legged tie on Saturday, April 24 and Saturday, May 1, with the winners hoping to face the bottom League Two club for a place in the SPFL.
Having been denied the chance of promotion last season, Gillespie says his side can look forward to their long-awaited opportunity.
Gillespie said: “We just got told about the play-offs at the end of the week, so that’s a massive thing for us.
“They are probably bigger games than this one (the Scottish Cup defeat) was to be honest.
“This game especially was a bonus – especially after the Hearts game. We never expected to be playing on Saturday.
“We should have done better than we did, but the Kelty games are the ultimate goal.
“We have got to prepare properly and look forward to the two games against Kelty.
“I think we have earned the right. Obviously some people are not happy about the league being called after three games, I can understand that.
“If you look over the last two seasons, when you spread it out it is the same result – us and Kelty have been top of our leagues.
“I don’t think anyone can complain too much.”
Brora’s Scottish Cup ties against Hearts and Stranraer are the only competitive matches the Sutherland outfit have played since January 11, however, Gillespie is confident his side will be ready to face their Fife opponents.
The 31-year-old added: “It definitely helps playing these games, but days like Saturday prove we have still got a bit to go.
“We have got a bit of experience as well as the younger boys, but I think the older boys should maybe have helped the younger boys more.
“We have got a lot to learn for the Kelty games.
“We have just had our Covid testing done, so we will be able to train this week – probably Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday as normal.
“It will take a couple of days to recover, especially for myself and a couple of the other boys. It took a lot out of us, but we will be ready in three weeks time.”
Brora led for much of the tie against the Blues following Gillespie’s first-half penalty, however, James Hilton’s goal straight from a corner forced the game into extra-time just two minutes from the end.
Gillespie rued the late setback, but remained upbeat after the match, with the former Caley Thistle midfielder adding: “It was a tale of two halves with the wind. In the first half we were probably the better team, but we then clung on a bit until the end and they scored direct from the corner kick.
“We didn’t play well in the second half, and it was the same in extra-time. I can’t complain to be honest.
“In the 90 minutes we were OK, but as we went into extra-time tiredness definitely became a factor.
“That would be the case at any time in the season though, so I’ve got no complaints about the result.
“The timing of the goal is never good, but we didn’t react very well to it, and they scored early in extra-time. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot.
“We will never forget the Hearts game. For the likes of myself who are getting on in their career, the likelihood is we might not get another chance to play a team like that.”