Billy Dodds got off to a winning start as Caley Thistle head coach as his team scored a 5-0 victory against Clach at Grant Street.
An early Manny Duku penalty and goals from Aaron Doran, Tom Walsh, Ethan Cairns and Shane Sutherland earned the win for the Championship side, the first under Dodds.
However, it was only 1-0 at half-time and the Highland League Merkinchers can take heart from their efforts before the flood of second half goals.
They were certainly given a tough work-out by Jordan MacDonald’s well-drilled Lilywhites, who face Broxburn Athletic on Saturday amid a busy schedule of warm-ups.
A limited number of fans were allowed into this match, which was a boost for both sets of players, who have become so used to playing in front of near silence bar the managers’ shouts.
Striker Duku, who was most recently with Raith Rovers, was a starter along with Reece McAlear, who has joined for a season on loan from Norwich City.
McAlear was named as a trialist, but Dodds was also running the rule over another new face, a central defender.
There was a debut for Ross County’s record appearance holder and goalscorer Michael Gardyne, who joined last week.
It took Duku less than four minutes to open his Inverness account when he netted from the spot after Ally Gillies brought down McAlear in the box.
The Championship side were moving the ball with pace and purpose but Clach worked hard to limit their sights of goal after that early setback.
Former Strathspey and Forres striker Liam Taylor, a recent recruit for the Highland League side, almost drew the hosts level. His flashing shot spun inches past the right post of Mark Ridgers.
Gardyne almost found the net when, with a searing shot, he went for goal in the box, but his effort spun back from the post after Duku picked him out.
There was concern for Caley Thistle on the half hour mark when Duku needed treatment for an ankle knock, but he was fine to continue.
Dutchman Duku was involved three more times before the break, with a fine stop from goalkeeper David Aitchison, a wild swipe over the top and a diving header just wide keeping it at 1-0 at the end of the first 45 minutes.
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) June 23, 2021
Cammy Mackay, who replaced Ridgers at half-time, was called into early second half action, pulling off a save from a searing Gillies free-kick.
Substitute Aaron Doran notched ICT’s second goal on 51 minutes with a stinging shot from the right edge of the box.
Walsh got in on the act to make it three with a low strike to take the game out of reach.
It was 4-0 on 78 minutes when Ethan Cairns was on hand to tap home a Sutherland pass before Sutherland got one of his own with a low shot off the post to a round off the scoring.
While Clach tackle East of Scotland League opponents Broxburn Athletic on Saturday, Inverness CT head east to face Forres Mechanics.
Everything is geared towards the competitive starts, which for Clach is in the Highland League on July 24 away to Inverurie Locos.
Caley Thistle start in the Premier Sports Cup, formerly the Betfred Cup, against Peterhead on July 13.