Caley Thistle stepped up their preparations for the new Championship campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Highland League hosts Brora Rangers.
Former ICT striker George Oakley, who played for the club from 2017-19, was a starting trialist for Billy Dodds’ team at a sodden Dudgeon Park, playing the first 45 minutes.
— Paul Chalk (@PaulChalk4) July 2, 2022
He left the Highlands for Hamilton and has also played for Kilmarnock, Pirin Blagoevgrad in Bulgaria and, most recently, English National League side Woking.
A goal from Aaron Doran early in the second half made all the difference as the Cattachs gave the visitors a stern test.
Jordan MacRae saw his second half spot-kick saved by goalkeeper Mark Ridgers as a draw looked on the cards.
The Inverness side, who were pipped to promotion to the Premiership in the play-off final by St Johnstone, began their warm-ups with a 10-0 demolition of Clach at Grant Street on Wednesday night.
Winger Nathan Shaw and striker Steven Boyd both netted in that outing and the summer recruits started against last term’s fourth-placed HL finishers.
For Brora, former ICT keeper Ruardhri Nicol, 18, came off the bench in the second half after his recent move between the clubs. He was on loan last season and will hope to press number one Joe Malin this season.
One key figure still within the ranks at Brora is 33-year-old defender Ally MacDonald, who signed a one-year extension after considering hanging up his boots. He began the day on the bench.
It was a passionate affair for a friendly as all players showed their will to win.
Brora began well, with former Ross County and Elgin City winger Tony Dingwall a bit of a menace.
Shaw, who played on the left against Clach, began this one on the right, though he had the freedom to move about to join the attack of Oakley and Austin Samuels.
Visiting captain Sean Welsh drew a save from goalkeeper Malin before Roddy MacGregor hit the base of the post after beating the offside trap for a sight at goal.
Gregor MacDonald tested Caley Jags’ first half keeper Cammy Mackay with a low grounder, which was worth a pop such were the horrible conditions.
The best chances of the first half came when Ali Sutherland then Jordan MacRae each smashed a shot off the post in quick succession as half-time fast approached.
One of the interval subs for Inverness put them ahead on 55 minutes as Doran darted on to a sublime deep pass from Samuels and he guided the ball beyond Malin from inside the box.
Then sub Nicol kept his old side out when he smartly saved from Samuels as the striker got his shot on target.
Doran looked lively and he was not far off the mark when he swerved a 20-yarder over the crossbar.
Brora were offered a golden chance to level with five minutes to go when an ICT trialist brought Millar Gamble to ground.
However, Ridgers dived correctly to push away MacRae’s penalty effort then also saved Andy Macrae’s effort from the rebound.
Home keeper Nicol pulled off another smart stop late on from Doran to earn applause from the Brora supporters.
It required a superb save from Ridgers at the end to ensure Inverness won as he superbly pushed a Mark Nicolson drive over the crossbar.
For all their efforts, Craig Campbell’s well-drilled team could not find a way through, but will take heart from their performance.
GOAL! We’re ahead through Aaron Doran! pic.twitter.com/RVwGgLz5sI
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) July 2, 2022
ICT take on St Johnstone in a closed-door game against St Johnstone on Tuesday at Grant Street Park, Inverness, before Brora welcome Premiership Ross County to Dudgeon Park on Wednesday.
The Cattachs are focused on their Highland League season which kicks off on July 23 with a trip to Keith.
Caley Thistle’s competitive season begins next Saturday with a Premier Sports Cup tie away to League 2 champions Kelty Hearts.