St. Duthus made a dominant showing of it at Dalmore Park on Saturday as they defeated North Caledonian League rivals Alness United by 5 goals to 1 in their final friendly of the pre-season.
Having missed out during the entire 2020-21 campaign, Will Ross made a welcome return to the St. Duthus eleven, alongside Ross Tokely who last played in November. New signing Gary Millard also came into the starting eleven for his first outing with the club, Adrian Voigt and Ryan Renwick also made their first starts.
Kyle Mackenzie took a little longer to open the scoring this week with a goal in the second minute to make it 1-0 for Saints. A dangerous ball across the face of goal from Gary Millard met Mackenzie at the far post and he cleverly tucked it away from a tight angle.
A couple of minutes later, Ben Bruce found himself in on goal for his first chance after getting on the end of a quick Ross Tokely throw-in, but Lewis Bannerman reacted quickly to block the shot and turn it out for a corner. From the resultant corner, Will Ross headed just wide.
A neat piece of play moments later sent Adrian Voigt through on goal but his attempt to dink the ball over Bannerman was foiled. Bannerman's throw out was intercepted immediately after and from 25 yards Ben Bruce sent a stinging strike into the hands of the keeper.
On 11 minutes, more good link up play between Tokely and Bruce allowed the latter to force a save, and again just moments later with a chance Bruce headed wide.
At the other end, a counter attack allowed a dangerous ball to come across the face of Saints' goal, but Jude Fraser reacting first for Alness could only fire over the bar.
A flurry of corners for Alness were handled well in the follow up, but Ryan Renwick was eventually beaten in the 18th minute. A Fraser cross into the box was met by Taylor Sutherland, and although Renwick saved Sutherland's attempt, he could do nothing about Jake Bell's strike from close range, which was fired into the roof of the net to make it 1-1.
On 26 minutes, Saints nearly retook the lead when a long ball into the feet of Ben Bruce allowed the striker to skip past two defenders before firing over the bar.
They restored the lead with half an hour gone. Another clever run down the left hand side led to a superb solo goal for Ben Bruce, opening his account for the season. Breezing past his marker, he cooly slotted the ball past Bannerman and into the far corner.
St. Duthus extended their advantage on 35 minutes. A good ball into Adrian Voigt allowed the forward to lay the ball off to Kyle Mackenzie on the left hand side, and capitalising on his cross, Ben Bruce coasted into the box to nick the ball past Bannerman for Saints' third and his second.
Nine minutes into the second half, Saints made it 4-1 thanks to persistent work from Finn As-Chainey. Breaking down the byline, the midfielder did well to find Bruce in the box who fired first time into the bottom corner to net his hat-trick.
It was 5-1 on 62 minutes and this time it was midfield man Ross Tokely on the scoresheet, hitting the back of the net with a sublime shot from just outside the box.
Just a minute later, Saints were on the attack again when a neat piece of play allowed Tokely to play Keir Carson into the box to fire a shot towards goal which was blocked and turned away for a corner. In the mood for another moments later, Tokely was fouled when advancing towards the edge of the eighteen yard box and from the resultant free kick he found the target with an effort Bannerman held.
Substitute Sean Scott was causing Alness problems down the left side and a dangerous cross of his into the box only narrowly missed the head of Adrian Voigt. With minutes left, Saints pounced on an Alness mistake, allowing Voigt to play Finn As-Chainey in on goal, but the midfielder's low effort rolled across goal and just past the post.
Ryan Renwick, John Allan, Connor Smith, Adam Allan, John Skinner, Gary Millard, Lewis Smith, Will Ross, Ross Tokely, Finn As-Chainey, Keir Carson, Ben Bruce, Adrian Voigt, Kyle Mackenzie, Daniel Hutchison, Sean Scott