Russell McLean reckons Kelty Hearts are not far off League 2 standard as the Lowland League leaders head to Peterhead in the Scottish Cup today.
Blue Toon striker McLean played in the Lowland League with East Kilbride and after coming close to promotion out of the division himself, knows how challenging it can be at the top end of the table.
Kelty were promoted from the East of Scotland League at the end of last season and have appointed Barry Ferguson as manager this week, handing the former Rangers captain his first job since leaving Clyde in February 2017. Their previous boss Tam Courts resigned last week.
McLean came up against Kelty in a pre-season friendly while he was a youth player at Hearts and will not be taking the Fife club lightly at Balmoor this afternoon.
He said: “From what I’ve heard and read, they’re similar to East Kilbride in that they’re an ambitious club putting in a bit of money to attract big name players and managers.
“Being top of the Lowland League is not easy, as there are so many cup games and midweek games to factor in. I wouldn’t say there’s much difference between the top of the Lowland League and League 2. When we were at East Kilbride and played Cowdenbeath, we should have got promoted. The top and bottom of the Lowland League is quite vast, but the others would do well in League 2.”
Jim McInally’s side have started the season in impressive form, capturing 22 points from their opening nine games and keeping pace with League 2 leaders Edinburgh City.
They have won their last four games after a defeat to City and McLean, who netted his first league goal of the campaign against Elgin City, does not want standards to slip.
McLean added: “Regardless of the competition, we want to keep winning games and we’re not going to take them lightly. We played Coalville Park in the cup last year and they were a junior side. We’re not a team that’s going to take anything for granted and we beat them 9-0. Sometimes you think you can be alright if you go into it half-hearted.
“Everyone in the team hasn’t reached their heights that they could reach yet. There’s still more to come.”