The first Saints friendly of the new pre-season kicked off this past Sunday with the visit of Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Over 200 spectators came along to watch as St. Duthus welcomed SPFL opposition to Tain for the first time since Dundee United's visit in 2017.
There were no surprises in the Saints' 20-man squad, with new boys Finlay Macleod and Adam Allan both take places in the starting eleven. The returning Jon Campbell also took up a place in midfield, while Stephen Campbell was given the nod ahead of Ali Matheson in goal.
Caley coach Scott Kellacher took charge of the SPFL side, which was made up in its majority by young fringe players, while first teamers Kevin McHattie, Danny MacKay and Roddy MacGregor were also involved. Experienced campaigners Barry Wilson, Ryan Esson and first team manager John Robertson added to the numbers by taking places on the bench.
As has become custom for the opening day of a new season in Tain, piper Daniel Murray played both teams onto the park before a minutes silence was impeccably observed in memory of Garry Perks, who sadly passed away in late July.
Taken aback by a sudden downpour, St Duthus took an unexpected lead after five minutes. Good work from Ben Bruce down the right hand side placed Liam Rostock in great space to nick the ball past goalkeeper Daniel Hoban and in an attempt to intercept, defender Taylor Thain cleared the ball off his own man Kevin McHattie and Saints found themselves 1-0 up.
The lead lasted just five minutes though, as Inverness hit back with a goal from Danny MacKay, the striker finding the far corner with a good finish.
Saints continued undeterred and Caley stopper Daniel Hoban had to react well to prevent a Liam Rostock header from finding the bottom corner on 20 minutes.
The visitors eventually took the lead on 35 minutes after MacKay bolted down the right to fire across goal, and waiting at the far post was Roddy MacGregor who nodded home from close range. The pressure continued and Thistle doubled their advantage within two minutes from a set piece. A MacKay free kick took a deflection on the way into the box and after Campbell had done well to parry the shot, it fell immediately to Taylor Thain who knocked it home from 3 yards.
MacKay continued to threaten and it was no surprise when he notched his second before the break with a cool finish inside the six yard box getting on the end of a Matheus Machado square ball.
St Duthus 1 Inverness Caledonian Thistle 4
A quiet start to the second half saw both sides battle in the unrelenting rain - and Stephen Campbell was called into action first, having to produce a superb low save to prevent a Lewis Hyde shot from finding the bottom corner.
But it was St. Duthus who would score next when striker Ben Bruce reduced the deficit to 4-2 with what was probably the goal of the game. Cutting inside after receiving the ball from the right wing, he beat two defenders before finding the top corner from 25 yards, leaving Hoban with no chance.
Almost immediately from the restart, Caley restored their three goal advantage with a cool finish from MacKay for his hat-trick, slotting underneath substitute keeper Ali Matheson from an angle. Moments later, it was MacKay again for his fourth and Caley's second with another low driven shot to beat.
Saints did manage to pull another goal back on 75 minutes. When a long free kick was spilled by Ryan Esson, Finn As-Chainey quickly pounced on the loose ball and square for Jake Lockett, who made no mistake at the far post.
The final goal of the afternoon was reserved for Caley substitute Kane Davies who slotted past Matheson with a first time effort.
St Duthus 3 Inverness Caledonian Thistle 7
Stephen Campbell, Ali Matheson, Adam Allan, Paul Beaton, John Skinner, Charlie Macdonald, Ross Tokely, Jon Campbell, Robbie Murray, Liam Rostock, Ben Bruce, Finlay Macleod, Alan Geegan, Scott Miller, Finn As-Chainey, Iain Macrae, Andreas Broomfield, Cammy Mackintosh, Aiden Stainke, Jake Lockett, Sam Beeston
Daniel Hoban, Ryan Esson, Taylor Thain, Cameron Harper, Kevin McHattie, Millar Gamble, Lewis Hyde, Roddy MacGregor, Matthew Black, Shane Harkness, Matheus Machado, Danny MacKay, Grant Hogg, Kane Davies, Barry Wilson, John Robertson
Referee: Eddie Nichol
Assistants: Colin MacDonald and Barry Stuart
Match Gallery (GJW Sports): https://www.flickr.com/gp/gjw75/Rh47aC
Match Highlights (produced by Highland Sports Media)