Elgin City competed well but were beaten 2-0 by Motherwell in their Viaplay Cup Group G opener at Borough Briggs.
The Premiership side claimed the points courtesy of Lennon Miller’s stunning first half finish and Jonathan Obika’s effort with quarter of an hour left.
Although they had nothing to show for their efforts, the Black and Whites could be content with how they performed on their first competitive outing of the campaign in front of a good crowd of 2026.
Elgin boss Ross Draper named himself in the starting XI along with his three new signings.
The two Aberdeen loanees – Blair McKenzie and Liam Harvey – lined up in defence and attack, respectively, with Ryan MacLeman, who’s on loan from Ross County, in midfield.
For Motherwell, former Ross County winger Blair Spittal started, with another ex-Staggie, Harry Paton, on the bench for the club managed by former County player and gaffer Stuart Kettlewell.
The game started following a minute’s applause in memory of Paula Tatters – wife of former Elgin chairman Graham – who died recently.
In the opening exchanges Steelmen striker Obika twice went close. His first effort was a low, angled drive that goalkeeper Thomas McHale saved with his foot.
His second attempt moments later was a header straight at McHale from Spittal’s floated cross.
But Elgin also posed a threat, just after the quarter-hour mark, Russell Dingwall released Harvey down the left.
His ball across broke for Dylan Lawrence, who in turn teed-up Dingwall, but the midfielder’s strike from the right side of box drifted narrowly wide.
City stuck to their task well in the opening quarter, but their resistance was broken by a stunning finish on 24 minutes.
The ball broke to Miller 25 yards out and, after taking a touch to control the ball, the midfielder rifled a superb right-footed shot into the bottom left corner, leaving McHale with no chance.
The only other effort of note in the first period was a swerving volley from the edge of the box by Miller, which McHale held.
Elgin’s application in the opening 45 minutes couldn’t be faulted, but their use of the ball was below-par.
They struggled to string together any play in the Motherwell half and when they played long balls they were unable to release any of their forwards in behind the visiting backline.
Hosts grow in confidence
After the interval, Elgin changed formation and matched up Motherwell with a 3-5-2, which meant Lawrence moved from wide right into a central area to support Harvey in attack.
The change of shape certainly helped the Moray outfit gain more of a foothold, although they were thankful for the flag of assistant referee John Stewart, which stopped them falling further behind. Callum Slattery danced his way into the box on the right and his cross-cum-shot was tapped in by Obika, but the flag was up.
Just after the hour, City had a flurry. First Dingwall slipped Harvey in on the right side, with his shot tipped away at the near post by goalkeeper Liam Kelly. From the resultant corner, Draper connected with Dingwall’s delivery, but Spittal was perfectly placed to clear the header off the line.
Those chances seemed to wake Motherwell up and remind them that the game was by no means over.
In the 72nd minute, the Premiership side did go close to doubling their advantage with Obika flashing a header wide from Spittal’s free-kick.
But, with 15 minutes to go, Obika did wrap up victory for the Steelmen.
Spittal’s inswinging corner from the left was knocked down by Bevis Mugabi and Obika forced the ball into the net from close range.
In the closing stages, Motherwell threatened to add further to their lead with McHale making a good save to repel Shane Blaney’s free-kick.
Elgin are in action again on Tuesday night when they face fellow League Two side East Fife at New Bayview.