Brechin boss Michael Paton believes the home crowd at Glebe Park can inspire his club to safety on Sunday.
Paton watched on as City crashed to a 2-1 pyramid play-off final first leg loss at Kelty with Kallum Higginbotham and Cammy Russell on target for the hosts and Jonathan Page netting a crucial away goal for the Angus side.
And with Brechin set to welcome up to 500 fans for Sunday’s return match, Paton believes that can give his men an edge.
“We’re at home with the advantage of home fans next and I’m really excited for the players to experience that,” said Paton.
“The fans are desperate to make a connection with the players. It would be great if we get 500 in.
“We all crave that support and it will be like having a 12th man.
“Some of our players haven’t experienced playing in front of crowds – young boys on loan who hadn’t played a competitive game until this season.
“I’m excited for Sunday because the support and belief around this club is unbelievable.”
It was a game that Kelty have waited over 12 months for and one that Brechin never wanted to happen.
The controversial cancellation of last season’s pyramid play-off – ensured that Fifers Kelty would have to wait for the chance to face City for the chance to claim their place in the SPFL.
But as fate would have it Brechin finished bottom of League 2 for a second successive season and Kelty were crowned Lowland League champions before seeing off Brora Rangers to finally get their date with destiny.
And the tiny Fife town, home to just over 6,000 residents, was bursting with excitement in the build-up to this one.
A first for me tonight as I cover @KeltyHeartsFC v @BrechinCityFC in the pyramid play-off final 1st leg. I’ve reported from 41/42 SPFL stadia. Will New Central Park soon become an SPFL ground or will the Angus club survive? Follow @thecouriersport for the action. pic.twitter.com/V8RsShakWq
— Ewan Smith (@ewansmithpr) May 18, 2021
The adjacent streets to New Central Park were adorned with street art, bunting and posters hailing their ‘Maroon Machine’ heroes.
And inside the turnstiles were finally clicking to signal the arrival of 250 fans, desperate to cheer on Barry Ferguson’s men to victory.
For Brechin, the build-up was more about the fear of what life will be like in the Highland League if they lose this one over two legs.
Manager Michael Paton has bravely met this challenge head on as the youngest manager in the SPFL, aged just 32.
He insisted his players were just as up for this one as the Kelty side which boasted a wealth of experience from keeper Darren Jamieson to sharp-shooting striker Nathan Austin.
Make no mistake this game was massive for both sides.
And it was Kelty who had the first chance on seven minutes as Patrick Boyle’s cross was met by Kallum Higginbotham with his header comfortably held by City keeper David Hutton.
The hosts were dominating possession and Ross Philp’s drive went inches wide of David Hutton’s goal to post a warning to the visitors.
And City fell behind on 16 minutes as Hutton could only parry an Austin strike into Higginbotham’s path with the former Dunfermline star stroking into an empty net.
But their lead lasted just seven minutes Yusuf Hussain’s low drive into the box was diverted home by Page from close range.
The game was ebbing and flowing from end-to-end and Kelty captain Michael Tidser flashed a 20-yard drive wide on 35 minutes.
And Ferguson’s side restored their advantage on 44 minutes as Russell ran onto a Dylan Easton through ball to drill low beyond Hutton from 15 yards.
Hutton then produced a stunning save to deny Higginbotham’s spectacular 20-yard volley.
At the other end Darren Jamieson was the hero for the hosts as he raced off his line to block from Kieran Inglis.
Inglis was then denied again by Jamieson as his 15 yard strike was turned round by the former Arbroath keeper.
Hutton made a great low save to deny Philp then watched on in relief as an Austin header landed on the roof of the net to leave the tie on a knife-edge.
“It’s testament to how far we’ve come as a club that my players are disappointed with a win,” said Kelty boss Ferguson.
“We’ll go to Brechin to win the game. The pressure is on them to stay in the SPFL and it’s on us as we have a chance to create history.”