St. Duthus got their pre-season off to a winning start on Saturday with a good display at Riverside Park, beating Nairn County's North Caledonian League side by 2 goals to 1. Goals in each half, from Kyle Mackenzie and Jake Lockett, were enough for Saints to edge the result as sixteen members of the squad got minutes in the legs in preparation for the new campaign.
A chance straight from kick off presented Kyle Mackenzie with the easiest of opening goals after just 8 seconds. The ball, having been played back to Nairn goalkeeper Dylan Maclean, took an unfortunate touch off his knee and fell straight into the path of Mackenzie, who slotted it underneath him to make it 1-0.
Jake Lockett and Ben Bruce were giving the Nairn backline cause to worry in the opening stages and the former won a free kick on ten minutes after doing well to cut inside before being brought down. From the set piece, Bruce curled his effort over the wall and just inches past the post.
Two minutes later, Bruce found Mackenzie with a precise pass down the middle of the park but this time Maclean was up to the task, getting down low to turn the ball away for a corner to prevent Mackenzie's goal bound effort.Mackenzie turned provider on the quarter hour mark with a dangerous cross into the box, but Bruce, connecting with a header, sent the ball over the crossbar.
New man in midfield Paul Gair showed signs of his set piece threat with a superb ball in to the box from 35 yards with 20 minutes gone. The ball reached Keir Carson inside the 6 yard box, and the winger was unlucky not to score, sending the ball across goal and just wide of the post.There were further chances for Lockett and Bruce as the half progressed with Saints enjoying a good pre-season workout, the latter going on a mazy run before bringing Maclean into action again, and Lockett also forcing a save with a left foot strike.
Debutants Connor Smith and Lewis Smith looked comfortable in a back line that dealt with any threat County posed during an energetic first half, and it took until the 45th minute for Nairn's best chance of a goal. A defensive slip allowed Robbie Mackenzie in on goal - but an expert sliding block from John Skinner foiled his attempt on goal. 1-0 up half time, Saints were worthy of their lead - and new goalkeeper Ryan Renwick will have been happy to keep a clean sheet despite having little to do before being replaced at by Aneek Khan at the break.
The second half started with several more changes in personnel and formation, and in the early stages Nairn were showing more of a threat. It looked like an equaliser was on the cards just a minute after the restart when Nairn sub Shaun Young was played in on goal, but the forward's shot flew across goal and wide, narrowly evading the onrushing Scott Mutch.
Five minutes later, Khan did well to get down to collect the ball to thwart a second chance for the advancing Young.
Nairn did get themselves level on 55 minutes though, with a touch of good fortune. A long free kick into the box from substitute Nathan Grant was met by Saints defender Lewis Smith who turned the ball into his own net, under pressure from Nairn's Ciaran Young.
Parity was short lived as Saints retook the lead within 60 seconds of the respot. From a throw in, Keir Carson was on hand to flick the ball to Ben Bruce who played Jake Lockett in on goal, and bearing down on the keeper, he made it 2-1 with a first time shot into the far corner.
Wilson was in for a torrid 15 minutes as Saints kicked into gear with a flurry of chances. Hitting on the counter, a neat ball over the top from Finn As-Chainey played Ben Bruce in on goal and after holding off a defender, he shot just inches over the bar. Four minutes later, Saints forced Wilson into action again. Substitute Hutchison and Lockett combined to play Bruce in on goal again, but Wilson blocked the striker's low shot. The ball only came out as far as As-Chainey though who carried it forward and fired low into the arms of Wilson.
Saints were proving quick on the counter and with 65 minutes played, Lockett and Bruce combined to play new signing Adrian Voigt in on goal, but his shot from the edge of the eighteen yard box was turned just wide by Wilson.
A minute later, Lockett showed that he was determined to get on the scoresheet again with a strong run into the box, but his eventual shot flew wide of the target.
A scrappy final fifteen minutes followed as both teams were beginning to toil in the hot weather. With ten minutes to go, Saints were denied what seemed to be an obvious penalty when Ben Bruce was wrestled to the ground but the referee waved play on.
Finishing 2-1 to St. Duthus, the match served as an excellent warm up for the season ahead, with plenty of positives to reflect on.