Ross County edged to a 1-0 win at Brora Rangers to get their competitive season finally started in the Premier Sports Cup.
Alex Iacovitti earned the Dingwall team the victory early in the second half after a tight first period with limited chances.
After two call-offs due to Covid, the Premiership Staggies were already out of the competition, as were Brora, who lost all three ties without scoring against Montrose, Dundee and Forfar Athletic.
The only run-out for Malky Mackay since becoming the County boss was a 5-0 bounce game win at Elgin at the start of July before the virus impacted on his squad, leading to a 10-day isolation period then knock-on effects ruling them out of action against Dundee on Sunday.
It hasn’t been an ideal summer for Steven Mackay’s Highland League winners either as all of their pre-season games were wiped out by Covid, but their League Cup ties, although against tough opponents, should serve as worthwhile preparation ahead of the league starting this weekend.
The hosts made a number of changes from the team which lost 1-0 to Forfar, with Andy Macrae, Ali Sutherland and Tom Kelly handed starts.
The Cattachs have a tight squad at the moment, so much so boss Mackay pulled on the boots and was on the bench alongside former Caley Jags defender Josh Meekings, Dale Gillespie and keeper Jamie Stephen.
This was the first competitive contest between Brora and County since they locked horns in the Highland League some 27 years ago.
There was a debut for on-loan Southampton full-back Jake Vokins and ex-Gillingham forward Dominic Samuel, who scored at Elgin after coming on as a sub.
On-loan Manchester City midfielder Alexander Robertson began the evening on the bench.
Both sides were knocking the ball about well in the early stages, looking for inroads.
The challenges were competitive, but no clear openings arrived until 23 minutes when Connor Randall’s effort was saved by Joe Malin.
A smart move down the left by Vokins led to Blair Spittal finding space and his cross was plucked out of the air by Malin to avert any danger for Brora.
As the first half drew on, Vokins and Spittal were continuing to forge a decent relationship, without making the killer move or shot.
Just before the break, Vokins whipped in a dangerous County corner and Iocovitti’s header flew inches past the post as their latest warning.
Andrew Macrae was given a glimpse at goal moments later after a slip-up at the back, but his effort was blocked and they finished the half on the front foot by earning a corner, although that failed to produce the goods.
County edged in front six minutes after the restart when, from another telling Vokins corner, Iacovitti connected and guided the ball past Malin via the back post and into the net.
Brora were still active and Tom Kelly was unfortunate to see his weaving run blocked by yellow shirts as he broke into the box.
Andrew Macrae also went close as Brora sought a leveller, but there was no further scoring and County departed with the points.
The win doesn’t move County up from fourth, but does give them the chance to move one spot higher this weekend if they beat Montrose in their final group game.
In the other tie in this section tonight, Dundee moved into top spot after a 2-0 win at Montrose.
Brora start the defence of their league title away to Deveronvale this Saturday, in some way glad to see the back of this competition this term due to its challenges, although their sharpness will have been boosted in the past few weeks.