Alness United manager Robert Mitchell has been encouraged by the progress of his new-look side in the North Caledonian League.
Mitchell has been in charge at Dalmore Park since February, when Robert MacCormack departed to join Highland League side Strathspey Thistle.
The likes of Iain Ross, Jude Fraser and Taylor Sutherland followed MacCormack to Seafield Park, while United lost a number of other players to fellow North Caledonian League sides during the summer.
That necessitated an influx of new arrivals during the summer, with 14 new players drafted in.
Although United made a slow start to the campaign, a rampant 5-1 victory over St Duthus got them back on track last month, before they claimed a spirited 3-3 draw with champions Loch Ness.
After suffering a 4-1 defeat to leaders Fort William last weekend, Alness face another difficult test away to Invergordon on Saturday.
Amid a challenging run of fixtures, Mitchell is seeing promising signs from his side.
Mitchell said: “In terms of where we are now as a squad, we are closer to where we have been wanting to be the whole season.
“Every club was in the same boat at the start of this year for some reason. Pre-season was slow in terms of getting players available, and that was a problem for every club.
“In our case, we have had a fair rebuild.
“We lost a few at the back end of last season when the manager left, and this season guys have gone to various clubs in the North Caledonian League.
“We have taken in 14 new players, which is pretty much a full team. I’m delighted with the squad we have got now, it just took a while to get a consistent selection.
“We are getting there now, but it just seems to happen bang in the middle of a tough run of games.”
Mitchell urges Alness to be more clinical
Although Fort ran out convincing winners last weekend, Alness had taken an early lead through Luke Mackay.
Mitchell, who has two key players back in contention this weekend, feels there is plenty for his side to build on when they make the short trip to the Recreation Grounds.
He added: “Fort William were very good for their win, but three of the goals were mistakes on our part.
— Alness United FC (@AlnessUnitedFC) November 4, 2023
“It takes a good team to get mistakes out of you, they are a quick team and they press well.
“That forced the errors on us, but that’s disappointing.
“Up the other end, we weren’t clinical. The week before we had three chances and scored three goals.
“We have good numbers to pick from, with Euan Henderson back from suspension and Joel Burnett back having scored four goals in the previous two games.”
Top two in action at Claggan Park
Leaders Fort William host Halkirk United in a top of the table encounter, with only a point separating the sides.
Champions Loch Ness are also aiming to keep up the pressure on the teams at the summit when they face Inverness Athletic in a local derby.
NEXT NORTH CALEDONIAN LEAGUE FIXTURES (WEEK 14) – 11.11.23
Bonar Bridge v Golspie Sutherland
Clach 'A' v Orkney
Fort William v Halkirk United
Invergordon v Alness Utd
Inverness Ath v Loch Ness
Thurso v St.Duthus
— North Caledonian FA (@NorthCaleyFA) November 4, 2023
Managerless Golspie Sutherland, who sacked Mark McKernie following last weekend’s 5-0 loss to Halkirk, are looking to bounce back at home to Bonar Bridge.
Clachnacuddin reserves host Orkney, while bottom side Thurso are at home to St Duthus.