Malky Mackay was thrilled to get his Ross County managerial career off to a flying start with a five-star 5-0 pre-season win at Elgin City.
Both teams are nowhere near where they want to be for early July. Yet, both will be hugely heartened by these 90 minutes for different reasons.
League Two Elgin have players still recovering from Covid, while County are at the very early stages of Mackay’s summer rebuild since taking over in late May.
Mackay era under way at County
Mackay was delighted to see two of his recruits, Ross Callachan and Dominic Samuel, get on the scoresheet for his Premiership team.
Callachan, who switched from Hamilton this summer, looks a class act and pitched in with a double, while Jordan White and young Matty Wright netted in this sparkling show.
The Ross County boss arrived at Victoria Park amid strong opposition from sections of the support for reasons well-documented.
What matters now though is County have appointed a vastly experienced coach, who has most recently worked for the Scottish FA, UEFA and FIFA and let’s not forget he did lead Cardiff in English football’s top-flight and to a League Cup final.
Ten first-team players were released by County in the week Mackay arrived, including captain Iain Vigurs and record goalscorer and appearance-holder Michael Gardyne.
It’s a massive job to start from scratch, but Mackay has brought in Callachan, Samuel and, on Friday, left-back Jake Vokins from Southampton on a season-long loan. Vokins didn’t feature in this match.
The bench included youngsters Ross Munro, Adam MacKinnon, Matty Wright, Ryan McLeman and Ben Williamson and they all got game time at Borough Briggs.
Plenty to please new Staggies manager
Reflecting on what he saw from his players, Mackay said: “We are only in a couple of weeks and there are some new players there and some kids. I am delighted with the application from all of them.
“We got five of the youngsters on the pitch and three forwards scored goals, including new signings. We got 90 minutes out of a few players, too, which was great and had no injuries either.
“It was always going to be a reasonable test here. I know Elgin and what they are like, so I am delighted we were able to play them and we got this game.
“As the game went on, they started to do what we spoke about at half-time and that was the three of four things they felt they could have done better in the first half.
“They applied that in the second half and that’s why we went on to score more goals.”
Swift start for Staggies
It took less than three minutes for County to take the lead when Callachan’s cross evaded everyone and, although there was a hint White got a touch, it seemed that the midfielder’s drive went in without it.
Elgin stood firm and created two chances as they got into it, with Josh Peters twice unlucky from long-range attempts.
County didn’t net their second until early in the second half when Callachan headed home after Alex Iacovitti hit the woodwork.
Keeper Daniel Hoban, a recent signing for Elgin from Forfar who only came on at the start of the second half, was picking the ball out of the net again soon after when White nodded in from a Blair Spittal cross.
The match, in terms of the scoreline, was running away from Elgin, but the last two goals didn’t arrive until the last six minutes.
Ex-Gillingham striker Samuel, who came off the bench, got off the mark with a low level, yet deadly accurate header.
Then academy graduate Wright displayed composure beyond his 18 years to round Hoban and slot the ball home.
Plenty for Mackay to be happy with on match day one, but there was also plenty within the run-out for Elgin boss Gavin Price to be upbeat about, especially when he has still to get his Covid-hit players back on board.
Cup action starts for both this weekend
Elgin, who kick off their Premier Sports Cup group against Arbroath on Saturday, will get more game time on Tuesday against Strathspey Thistle.
County, whose cup group starts away to Forfar on Saturday, are not having another run-out this week.
Elgin City: McHale, Mailer, Spark, McHardy, Little, Russell Dingwall, Tony Dingwall, Cameron, Hester, Peters, O’Keefe.
Substitutes: Hoban (GK), Lawrence, Allen, Sopel, Cormack, MacEwan, Akobeto, Hay, Tinnock.
Ross County: Laidlaw, Randall, Paton, Spittal, Callachan, Shaw, Watson, Iacovitti, Tillson, Donaldson, White.
Substitutes: Munro (GK), MacKinnon, Samuel, Wright, McLeman, Williamson.