Hearts youngster Kelby Mason feels his loan spell at Bonnyrigg Rose is the perfect opportunity to prove he is capable of making the grade with the Tynecastle club.
The 18-year-old goalkeeper kept a clean sheet on his home debut as the Super League champions beat Kilsyth 3-0 in their Scottish Junior Cup fourth-round replay to set up an away trip to Petershill in the last 16.
Mason, who signed a one-year extension until 2018 with the Gorgie club prior to joining Robbie Horn’s side, looked composed and made several crucial saves in his second 90 minutes in the Juniors.
He admits his first couple of games have been an “eye-opener” compared to life in the SPFL Development League.
“It’s a lot different from playing back at Hearts with the 20s, it’s a lot more physical,” said Mason.
“It’s bit of an eye-opener to be honest, but it’s good and I’m enjoying it. I’m just here to learn.
“I was always wanting to come out on loan, I had asked about it and when the opportunity came I was happy to come here.
“Jon [Daly, Hearts under-20s head coach] told me it would be good to come here and develop my game. It’s what I need at my age, I need to develop and I need to add that physical side to my game. Hopefully I’ll go back to Hearts next season and be a stronger player.”
Mason spent the majority of the first half as a spectator as Rose ran riot. Kilsyth could have had no complaints if they had been three or four behind at the break with the home front three causing no end of problems for the visiting defence.
Paul McBride squandered a great chance on two minutes as Rose were given a let off after a defensive slip up, the striker rushing his effort as he fired over.
Wayne McIntosh made no mistake when presented with his first sight of goal on 15 minutes, however. Rose’s top goalscorer caught Scott Gray’s corner sweetly on the volley and he found the net via the underside of the crossbar.
They immediately went in search of second and Keiran McGachie must have thought he had it, only to see his shot across goal come off the inside of the post and he blazed the rebound over.
The big striker was involved in everything Rose offered in attack and he looked certain to bulge the net just minutes later, only for his shot come off the woodwork again and McIntosh couldn’t direct the ball goalwards.
They were inches away again as Dean Hoskins cracked a header off the bar from an Adam Nelson free-kick, with home boss Horn left wondering what they had to do to find the net.
He would’ve been a relieved man five minutes into the second half, though, as McIntosh sealed his double. Andrew Kidd’s ball in from the right was laid on a plate for his team-mate and he glanced a header across Andy Carlin’s goal and into the bottom corner.
Nelson wrapped up the win four minutes from time when he knocked the impressive Ruaridh Donaldson’s dinked cross over the line from a yard out.
Horn revealed his team was fired up to prove a point after their quality was questioned following last weekend’s 2-2 draw in North Lanarkshire.
He said: “I thought we should’ve been out of sight in the first half, we missed chances but we were playing well. In the second half we continued and it could’ve been more.
“It’s the best we’ve played for a long time. We pressed all over the park and we had a hunger about us again. I think it comes on the back of people writing us off – Bonnyrigg aren’t that good a side apparently. If we can play like that we won’t be far away.
“People were writing us off during the week, saying we weren’t the same team. I think we showed we are still a really good side.
“Last week was maybe turning point. We know we’ve not been at the same levels, but there’s been so much going on and ask any other team to try and deal with the distractions we’ve had for the last six or seven weeks. The boys have come through it and hopefully we can now kick on.”
Bonnyrigg Rose: Mason, Horne, Donaldson, Young, Hoskins, Stewart, Gray (McLaren), Kidd, McGachie, Nelson, McIntosh.
Kilsyth Rangers: Caitlin, Waters, K McBride, Doyle, Hamilton (O’Neill), Tyrell, McGee, Kelly (Livingstone), McCroary (Davidson), P McBride, Prentice.