Stonehaven Juniors underlined that their challenge for the Superleague title is the real deal with a 5-0 crushing of Lewis United at Glenury Park on Saturday.
Stonehaven were on top from the start, but only led 1-0 at the break thanks to a goal from Ivan Sinclair.
Just a minute into the second half, Chris Steel made it 2-0 to give the Hive some breathing space and they never looked back.
Lewis Shand made it 3-0, then the visitors were reduced to ten men when a player was red carded for violent conduct.
Goals from Keith Horne and Scott Pyper took the Hive tally to five before the end.
The comprehensive win left Stonehaven hard on the heels of league leaders Hermes, just two points behind them, with a record which reads seven wins and a draw from nine league games.
Hive manager Dougie Baxter, now in charge following the retiral of Derek Allan, said: “Our fitness told in the end. We have been working hard in training and it paid off.
“It sets us up for a top-of-the-table clash at home to Hermes this Saturday (1.30pm). I hope a few locals will turn out to watch what promises to be an exciting game.
“We want to get this club back to the level of success it enjoyed in the early 90s and we have made a good start.
“Hermes are top for a reason so it will be tough. They have beaten us twice in cup competition already this season, including 4-2 in the Scottish Cup just a couple of weeks ago when they scored twice in the last six minutes.
“We will give them the respect they deserve, but we have nothing to fear.”
The manager wants his team to finish as far up the league as possible, but he is not making any extravangant promises that the championship trophy is on its way to Stonehaven.
“If we finish in the top three that would be progress and with the possible addition of a couple of players, we could look to push on next season.
“We had Callum Murray, signed from Banks o’ Dee, making his debut on Saturday and he looked good.
“Our starting line-up had six guys who were not with the club last season, so that shows the changes we have gone through.
“Derek and I took over in December with the aim of avoiding relegation. We have brought a lot of good players in and we are seeing the benefit.
“Derek has now retired after a total of 25 years as manager, but he is still with the club and his infulence off the field is vital.”
Dougie, who played in the Highland League for 16 years, helped out at the club three years ago and returned with Derek Allan at the end of 2010, when the club’s then co-managers departed.
He sees defending champions Culter and Hermes as Stonehaven’s main rivals to league success. Culter have only played four league games so far, winning three and losing one.
“I’m happy with the squad I have at the moment, if everyone is fit and available. Eighteen people get a strip on a Saturday, so everyone feels part of things and team spirit is high.”