CHALLENGING for a second successive title and continuing Premier Division progression are the Kelty Hearts and Crossgates Primrose season's goals – if things go to plan on and off the pitch.

With last term having been cut short due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the fixture lists for both the Lowland League and East of Scotland League were revealed last week.

Barry Ferguson's Kelty, who have added eight new players to their pool and announced the appointment of former Morton and Falkirk midfielder Michael Tidser as captain, are due to participate in the Betfred Cup before their beginning their Lowland League title defence against Edinburgh University, at New Central Park, on October 10.

Drawn in Group C, they are due to host St Johnstone on October 6, travel to Dundee United seven days later before playing Peterhead and Brechin City, of League One and League Two respectively, in November.

Presently, clubs in the Premiership – including Saints and United – are conducting regular Covid-19 tests ahead of matches and, whilst clubs outwith the top flight aren't, the SPFL have stated that to "minimise the risk of transmission to Premiership players, any team drawn against a Premiership club in the Betfred Cup this season will be required to swab test their players in the 168-hour period prior to that Betfred Cup fixture, with results provided to the league by midday two days prior to the tie."

If a club is unable or unwilling to field a team, or fails to provide sufficient negative test results, they would forfeit the match and boss Ferguson, speaking to the Daily Record, suggested that there was "a very real chance we will have to withdraw from the competition as we can’t spend money that the club doesn’t have".

When approached by Times Sport, the club did not wish to comment until further information was available in regard to any new restrictions but, speaking to Times Sport earlier in lockdown, striker Nathan Austin said Kelty, who drew 1-1 with League 1side Airdrieonians in a friendly, were up for the challenge of defending their title.

"I don't think we could've been much more determined than what we were this year," he said.

"If we were anything like we were this year, then I think we've got a really good chance, but I'm seeing some of the teams in the Lowland League, who they're signing and their ambition as well. It's going to be a really exciting league."

It will an exciting start to the season with Kelty entertaining Premier side Saints on Tuesday October 6 then opening their Lowland League campaign four days later at home to Edinburgh University before heading to Tannadice the following Tuesday.

TIMES PREDICTION: Barry Ferguson's observations that clubs have been investing in their squads will mean that there will be some tough battles when play starts. However, Hearts have the balance and experience in key areas to ensure that they will again take the title.

Meanwhile Primrose, who have added the likes of former Hill of Beath Hawthorn forward Lewis Payne, returning striker Mark McKenzie from Bo'ness United, and ex-Kelty midfielder Ciaren Chalmers to their squad, are targeting another season of consolidation in the East of Scotland Premier Division.

Last term, they finished mid-table in their first year at that level, and defeated Rosyth 8-2 in a friendly which shows their firepower.

Secretary Kevan McArthur said: "We came up against Rosyth who were quite buoyant because they had a good season last year and went up to the East of Scotland, and we played very well against them. It gave us all a boost.

"Alan's brought in a lot of younger players this year and it particularly showed towards the end of the game; our fitness was a lot higher, these boys were full of running and young Lewis Payne, who we signed from Hill of Beath last year, got a hat-trick on the day which will give his confidence a boost.

"We're looking forward to it; hopefully it all goes well and we can sustain this Premier Division run and we stay there.

"Fundamentally, that's our plan going forward; we want to stay and be part of the Premier League."

Primrose have a tough start on Saturday October 10 away to Linlithgow Rose.

TIMES PREDICTION: Primrose will pull of some important wins this season and will finishing in the top six of the East of Scotland League Premier Division and might well get to the final of a cup competition.