Brora Rangers will represent the Highland League in this season’s pyramid play-offs.
The Cattachs will face Lowland League champions Kelty Hearts over two legs with the winner meeting League Two strugglers Brechin City in a two-legged final for the right to play in the SPFL next season.
It’s the sixth time the Highland League champions have competed in the play-offs.
Here we take a look back at the previous five occasions when north sides battled for promotion.
When the pyramid play-offs were first introduced, the Cattachs were the first side from the north to compete.
Davie Kirkwood’s side had gone through the Highland League season unbeaten – winning 30 and drawing four in their 34 league fixtures – as they won the title by 14 points.
Brora’s first opponents were Edinburgh City, with the first leg at Meadowbank ending 1-1.
The visitors started strongly and could have taken a first half lead when City defender Chris McKee hit his own crossbar with an attempted clearance.
But shortly before the hour it was Edinburgh who led when Ortega Deniran was played through and lobbed goalkeeper Joe Malin.
Malin then made a vital stop from Mark McConnell to keep the score at 1-0 and, with 11 minutes left, Martin Maclean equalised with a powerful drive from 12 yards after Edinburgh failed to deal with a Gavin Morrison free-kick.
In the return leg at Dudgeon Park. it was Edinburgh who moved ahead again after only three minutes when Craig McKeown’s mistake allowed Ross Allum in to score.
Keeper Malin made stops from Douglas Gair and Allum and they proved to be important as Brora equalised shortly after the hour mark.
Joseph Mbu and goalie Andrew Stobie failed to deal with McKeown’s ball forward and the mix-up allowed Scott Graham to bundle the ball into the net.
Edinburgh then had McKee sent off by referee Mike Roncone with the defender receiving a second yellow card for a bodycheck on Graham in injury time.
Despite having a man advantage, the Cattachs couldn’t make it pay in extra-time with the tie decided on penalties.
Maclean and Steven Mackay netted with Brora’s first two spot-kicks while Shaun Harrison missed with Edinburgh’s first.
The Cattachs’ third from McKeown was saved, but Mbu hitting the crossbar with Edinburgh’s fourth penalty allowed Stuart Kettlewell the chance to secure a 4-2 shoot-out win and he made no mistake.
In the play-off final, Brora were at home to League Two’s bottom club Montrose in the first leg.
The Highland League side took the lead towards the end of a cagey first half with Gable Endies defender Marvin Andrews heading into his own net under pressure from Mackay.
Malin was required in the second period to keep the lead intact, making two fine saves to thwart Paul Watson, while in the dying embers Zander Sutherland shot wide from 12 yards as Brora looked for a second.
In the return leg at Links Park, Montrose levelled the tie on 38 minutes with Scott Johnston netting after Malin had parried a Ross Campbell effort.
But, two minutes into the second half, Brora responded with Dale Gillespie’s free-kick headed home by Colin Maclean.
However, on 49 minutes the Cattachs were up against it when Mackay – who had been harshly booked for simulation in the first half – received a second yellow from referee John McKendrick for a foul on Graham Webster.
Brora held on until the 79th minute with Andrews making it 2-2 on aggregate with a powerful header and, two minutes later, Garry Wood’s strike from 25 yards secured victory for Montrose.
Afterwards, Brora boss Kirkwood said: “The lads have done me proud for the last two-and-a-half seasons and it took a fantastic goal from Garry Wood to stop us reaching the SPFL.
“Steven’s sending-off changed the game. We had just scored to go 2-1 up on aggregate and we had a real foothold.
“It was silly challenge to make, but I don’t think that it was a yellow card. He just ran across the player, there was no intent.”
In 2016 Cove Rangers saw off the challenge of Formartine United and Brora to win the Highland League title and earn their first crack the play-offs.
Again at this stage it was Edinburgh City who were the opposition with the first leg played at Cove’s temporary home of Harlaw Park, Inverurie.
Unfortunately for the Aberdeen side, it was the men from the capital that took control of the tie.
Ross Allum headed home the opener from Douglas Gair’s free-kick midway through the first half.
Three minutes shy of half-time, Gordon Donaldson doubled the lead finishing from an Aaron Dunsmore cross and, two minutes later, it was 3-0 with Allum beating Eric Watson and squeezing a shot beyond goalkeeper Stuart McKenzie.
There was no second half comeback from Cove and in the second leg at Meadowbank they fell further behind when Darryn Kelly’s short backpass allowed Gair to net.
Cove kept plugging away and Connor Scully thought he’d pulled one back only for his header to be disallowed for a foul on City keeper Gregor Amos.
Four minutes from time, Cove netted a consolation with Sam Burnett’s cross headed home by Jamie Watt.
Afterwards, manager John Sheran said: “We just can’t afford to give any team a three-goal start, particularly one which plays five at the back, sits in and tries to hit on the break.
“We made ourselves second favourites to progress after that first leg.”
Buckie Thistle were the next Highland League side to have a crack at the play-offs after pipping Cove to the title on goal difference.
East Kilbride threatened first in the first leg at Victoria Park, with Sean Winter hitting the crossbar.
But the Jags took the lead after nine minutes when Sam Urquhart’s cross found Chris Angus in the box and he supplied a confident finish.
The lead was doubled shortly after the half hour mark with Angus tripped in the box by Fabio Capuano and Urquhart beat goalkeeper Matt McGinley from 12 yards.
But the visitors hit back before the break with Joao Vitoria beating goalkeeper Daniel Bell to a through ball and setting up Paul Woods for a tap-in.
With six minutes left, East Kilbride equalised with sub Russell McLean heading home from a long throw-in.
In the return leg at K-Park, the Lowland League side took an early lead when Sean Winter fired home after good work from Victoria.
Midway through the first half, Vitoria made it 4-2 on aggregate with a fine strike beyond keeper Bell.
Buckie were handed a route back into the contest when home defender David Proctor scored a spectacular own goal when there appeared to be little danger.
Just before half-time, the Jags were reduced to 10 men with Drew Copeland picking up a second booking for pulling back Winter.
Despite the numerical deficit, Buckie tried to restore parity in the second half but were unable to do so and, with nine minutes left, Angus received a second yellow card for diving.
Manager Graeme Stewart said: “It was a disappointing day for us, but I’m very proud.
“I can’t say we were the best team across the two legs, but having two players sent off, the spirit we showed was fantastic and we were the better team with 10 men.”
Cove Rangers had their second shot at the play-offs in 2018. This time it was Spartans of the Lowland League that they faced first.
The Aberdeen side dominated throughout the first leg at Harlaw Park and made the breakthrough after 42 minutes with Jamie Masson’s cross nodded home by Mitch Megginson.
Three minutes into the second period they doubled the lead with Harry Milne fouled by Adam Corbett in the box and Paul McManus converted the resultant penalty.
Soon after it was 3-0 with Jonny Smith crossing for captain Eric Watson to net and the fourth arrived midway through the second half with Daniel Park’s cross teeing up McManus to finish.
With such a commanding lead, Cove were never likely to come unstuck in the second leg at Ainslie Park.
After both sides had chances, McManus fired Cove in front with a half-volley from 20 yards.
Spartans did come back to win the second leg courtesy of Jamie Dishington’s header and Blair Atkinson’s tap-in after Stuart McKenzie parried a Jamie Stevens’ shot.
In the play-off final, Cove faced Cowdenbeath and the Highland League champions dominated the first leg, but were unable to make the breakthrough.
McManus was off target with two decent first half opportunities and Blue Brazil goalkeeper David McGurn did well to hold a Masson free-kick.
Masson was again denied by the custodian in the second half and Connor Scully hit a post with a free-kick from 25 yards, but Cove were unable to find a way through.
In the return at Central Park, the League Two strugglers made an early breakthrough with Alan Redford fouling Robbie Buchanan in the box before Harvey Swann converted from 12 yards.
But Cove replied almost instantly with Watson’s header setting up Megginson to finish.
Megginson was on target again midway through the first half, volleying home after an impressive run and cross from strike partner McManus.
Five minutes into the second period and Cowdenbeath equalised, with Swann’s free-kick from the edge of the area evading everyone and finding the net.
On 71 minutes, the SPFL side took the lead in controversial fashion. Cove goalkeeper McKenzie had been cleaned out by Jordyn Sheerin after clearing upfield.
With the stopper on the turf, it allowed Brad Smith to find the empty net from 40 yards with referee Steven Kirkland incredibly not deciding to award a free-kick.
Cove tried to find a way back into the tie, but they were unable to and the contest ended on an ugly note. First McManus was sent off after receiving two bookings for dissent.
Then, in injury time, a brawl involving players and coaching staff broke out with Cove’s Watson and Scott Ross sent off along with manager John Sheran and Cowdenbeath boss Gary Bollan.
In an emotional post-match interview, Sheran said: “The third goal – Stuart (McKenzie) was assaulted.
“He was rugby tackled trying to get back to goal by their player who was off the ball. How the referee doesn’t see it I don’t know.”
Cove Rangers were back for a third crack at the pyramid play-offs and faced a different Lowland League foe in East Kilbride.
Cove were without boss John Sheran for the tie against East Kilbride as he recovered from a heart attack, which meant co-manager Graeme Mathieson and coach Roy McBain were in charge.
It took only three minutes for the visitors to break the deadlock in the first leg at K-Park with Daniel Park’s corner headed home by Harry Milne.
On 35 minutes, the Aberdeen side increased their advantage with another Park corner finding Scott Ross and he made no mistake with his header.
Milne hit the top of the crossbar from another Park delivery as Cove looked for a third.
But, in stoppage time, they conceded with Jamie Longworth finishing from 15 yards to give East Kilbride some hope for the second leg at the Balmoral Stadium.
In the return, Cove brushed the Lowland League outfit aside. Mitch Megginson got the ball rolling, finishing from Connor Scully’s cross.
But then, on 35 minutes, the home side had striker Martin Scott sent off for a stamp on Bernard Coll. Even though they were down to 10 men, Megginson got his second goal before the break after intercepting a pass and beating goalkeeper Willie Muir.
In first half injury time, Coll was then sent off for Kilby, receiving a second yellow card from referee Mike Roncone for a push on Megginson.
With 15 minutes remaining, Jamie Masson added a third for Cove after good set up work by Blair Yule.
In the play-off final, Cove faced Berwick Rangers, with the first leg at the Balmoral Stadium.
After a bright start the Highland League champions made the breakthrough midway through the first period with Sam Burnett bundling the ball home from a corner.
Megginson’s diving header from a Darryn Kelly cross made it 2-0 on 38 minutes.
In the second half, Megginson hit the bar and so did Scott Ross, but the third goal arrived 11 minutes from time when Jordan MacRae’s header was saved by goalkeeper Ryan Goodfellow, but Jordon Brown was on hand to convert the rebound.
On 83 minutes, Jamie Masson cut in from the left flank and curled home a shot to make it 4-0.
In the second leg at Shielfield Park, Cove started as they had left off in the first with Park hitting a post from a Milne cross early on.
In the ninth minute, they made the breakthrough with Masson’s shot deflected beyond Goodfellow.
As the first half neared conclusion, Berwick had captain Ross Brown sent off for bringing down Megginson and denying a goalscoring opportunity.
Early in the second period, Masson’s low cross was converted by Jordon Brown to make it 6-0 on aggregate and Paul McManus added a third on the day and a seventh in the tie with quarter of an hour left.
Sheran had watched the first leg victory from the stand and he did likewise at Shielfield Park before taking his place on the touchline in the closing stages.
After the triumph, he said: “I’m really lucky to get a second chance and to see this happen is an emotional thing for everybody connected with the club.
“To have my family here and the players’ families and the coaches’ families here is just a great thing for everyone.
“They (the players) have made history as the first Highland League team to play their
way into the Scottish leagues.”
Co-manager Mathieson said: “I was delighted John was at the game.
“Cove is one big team and John is a massive part of that, so it was great to have him at the game.
“I think the defeats we’ve had encourage you and make you want it more.
“Every time we’ve got better and better and we’ve improved and it’s a great group we’ve got and it’s fantastic to get promoted.”