Brora Rangers manager Steven Mackay says the heavy pyramid play-off defeat to Kelty Hearts has shown the Cattachs are not yet ready for the step up to the SPFL.
The Highland League champions fell to a crushing 6-1 aggregate defeat to Kelty over two legs, with the Fifers emphatically setting up a final against Brechin City for a place in League Two next season.
Although Mackay went into the play-offs full of hope, he says the bruising manner of the defeat has left him accepting of the fact the Sutherland outfit still have a long way to go in fulfilling their ambition.
Mackay said: “We talk as a club about playing at a higher level, but with performances like that we are nowhere near it.
“I have learned a lot over the last week, in a bad way, but it’s a good reality check for me.
“I have come out in the press on numerous occasions and talked about the squad, how strong we are, how we can play at a higher level and be a Scottish league side.
“In the last two performances, and even the Stranraer game, I personally feel we were well short.
“I think we have to take these situations and learn from them.
“Sometimes it’s the pain of setbacks like that which help you going forward, so we will do that.
“We will take a bit of time, we will look at the squad. We know the areas we want to strengthen in, but I just didn’t realise how far off we were.
“Sometimes you can get freak results when you don’t perform well. But we have had three games now, with Stranraer and two games against Kelty, where we have not really performed well and laid a glove on the opposition. That is not acceptable.”
Mackay was particularly scathing in his assessment of Brora’s second half performance at New Central Park, adding: “It was the manner of it. There was no real fight or determination to get back into the game, there was almost an acceptance which we asked them not to do.
“If you are going to lose a football match, go down fighting but we didn’t. We just downed tools.
“I said to the players, it was actually an embarrassing second half performance. It’s not acceptable.”
Greg Morrison’s opener had threatened to revive the tie after Kelty had established a two-goal lead in the first leg, however Mackay says his side never recovered the Fifers’ instant reply from Nathan Austin – who went on to notch a hat-trick.
He added: “I think the players executed the plan exactly as we asked for the first 25 minutes. I thought we got on the ball, looked dangerous in behind and got the goal.
“It was game on, but we then just switched off like we did in the first game.
“It was a long ball which we should deal with a lot better. We were aware of Nathan Austin’s pace and problems he causes in behind, but we didn’t deal with it.
“That just settled them right down. The plan was to get a goal and just try and go in at half-time 1-0 up, and then try to get another one in the second half.
“That equaliser killed us a little bit and settled them into the game.”