Caley Thistle’s competitive season got off to a winning start as they defeated League Two Bonnyrigg Rose 2-1 at the Caledonian Stadium.
Aaron Doran strikes at the start and end of the first half were the difference as the players slogged it out in the rain, but it was a decent show nonetheless.
A late goal from sub Kieran McGachie gave the travelling supporters something to shout about.
This was the first-ever meeting between these sides, based largely on the fact The Rose only clinched promotion to League Two last season.
The Midlothian club have risen from the East of Scotland League to the Lowland League and into the SPFL via the pyramid play-offs.
Their manager Robbie Horn is highly-regarded as a run to the fourth round of the Scottish Cup in 2020 further raised their profile.
Championship Inverness, who were Scottish Cup runners-up to Celtic only last month, are keen to emerge from the Viaplay Cup group stages for the second year running, but go further than the second round where Motherwell beat them 4-0 last season.
In the build-up to the game, lightning strikes and thunder had people looking skywards, with heavy downpours throughout the day challenging for the players and fans as the weather swept into the stands.
Inverness got off the mark after just four minutes when a slip-up by Neil Martynuik fell nicely to Doran and he unleashed a terrific shot beyond goalkeeper Patrick Martin.
Bonnyrigg regrouped and worked hard to restrict their opponents, who were eager to swiftly add a second.
On the half hour, a quick attack saw Nathan Shaw link up with Doran and the scorer lined up Austin Samuels, who drilled over the top from an acute angle.
Five minutes before the break, it was 2-0 Caley Thistle as Adam Brooks fed Doran, who rifled a terrific long-ranger home from the edge of the box.
The first chance of the second half was for the visitors as Conor Doan swept a 25-yard free-kick in, but it had too much height to test Cammy MacKay. Moments later, Bonnyrigg’s new arrival Smart Osadolor went clean through, but the keeper blocked with his feet.
The introduction of captain Sean Welsh, Danny Devine, Billy Mckay and Jake Davidson on the hour mark freshened the Inverness side up.
When Doran was in for a potential hat-trick, thanks to Davidson’s pass, his drive was tipped over the bar by Martin.
Bonnyrigg’s efforts were rewarded in stoppage-time when McGachie pounced to head home from Conor Doan’s free-kick into the box.
It’s now on to tie two at League Two Dumbarton for ICT this Tuesday. The Sons began with a 2-0 defeat against Championship newcomers Airdrieonians, losing to a couple of late goals.
Doran strikes make difference against well-drilled visitors
The early goal was the ideal platform from which to build upon and it was a no-fuss afternoon for the Highlanders after the same player doubled the scoreline just before half-time.
McGachie’s last-gasp could have been problematic for ICT, but it came too late to prevent a home win.
Lewis Nicolson looking capable in left-back berth
Local lad Lewis Nicolson is being talked about highly behind the scenes at the Caledonian Stadium and he was handed the left-back slot from the start, with Cammy Harper watching from the bench.
In tricky conditions, the 19-year-old looked composed and keen to impress, ever-alert when the Rose attacked and determined to get forward, much like Harper does to good effect. A 25-yard pop at goal in the second half was an example of his confidence right now, despite it flying over the top.
Billy Mckay can match record on Tuesday
Striker Billy Mckay only had half an hour to try and match Dennis Wyness’ 101-goal club record tally, but there was nothing for him this time.
He lined up Samuels for a shot, with his team-mate better placed for an effort.
However, he might well be in from the start at Dumbarton and will be confident of scoring after two pre-season goals.
Comparing the team which faced treble-winning Celtic in the Scottish Cup final, there were only three of the same starters for Inverness – Wallace Duffy, David Carson and Nathan Shaw.
That was largely down to the big-hitters starting the afternoon on the bench.
The Rose included their new signings, defender Dean Watson, midfielder Jason Jarvis and strikers Dean Watson and Smart Osadolar.
Scott Lambie booked Bonnyrigg’s Watson in the first half for simulation after he was challenged by Zak Delaney, who had slid in seconds earlier to deny the new forward a shot at goal.
There was a scuffle between some of the players before they went inside at half-time, but it seemed to come to nothing after the officials stepped in to help calm it down.
CALEY THISTLE (4-4-2): Cammy MacKay 6, Duffy 6 (Devine 61), Delaney 7, Carson 6, Gilmour 6 (Welsh 61), Doran 7, Samuels 6 (Harper 73), MacGregor 6 (Davidson 61) , Nicolson 6, Shaw 6, Brooks 6 (Billy Mckay 61).
Subs not used: Ridgers (GK), Strachan, Bray, Thompson.
BONNYRIGG ROSE (3-5-2): Martin 6, Martynuik 6, Jarvis 6 (Forbes 8), Stewart 6, Gray 6 (Connolly 60), McGale 6, Grigor 6, Peggie 6, Doan 6, Watson 6 (McGachie 73), Osadolor 6 (Faye 73).
Subs not used: Andrews (GK).
Aaron Doran: What a way for the Irishman to start the competitive action, with a superb brace. It wasn’t just about his goals, he was involved in anything good ICT achieved at the top end of the park. The 32-year-old earned a new deal this summer and he will be determined to have a big season.