After a six month wait, Caledonian Braves finally returned to the pitch with a pre-season friendly against Gartcairn FC. The Airdrie based side answered the call, after the originally scheduled match against Stirling Albion was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions dictating that teams play within their own council area.
A relatively new club on the scene, Gartcairn's 'junior' side was established in 2015, as an offshoot from the very successful youth setup at Gartcairn Football Academy. They will compete in the second tier of the newly formed West of Scotland Football League this season, having moved across from the West Region Juniors.
Whilst an unknown quantity in many ways, there was one familiar face in their ranks, with former Dundee and Partick Thistle midfielder Gary Harkins making his debut.
Any illusions that this would be a gentle reintroduction for Braves were dispelled within the opening minutes. Gartcairn were well drilled, eager to press in numbers and not afraid to get the ball down and play.
The first half was an even affair with Braves enjoying more of the ball but Gartcairn edging the chances. Neither side had many clear cut sights of goal, but Braves' trialist between the sticks had to be alert on a couple of occasions to keep the score level.
After the break, the home side stepped it up a gear and it wasn't long before the reward came. Ben Daily picked out a perfectly weighted cross into the box and Jack Smith marked his debut by heading home.
By this point David Winters had been introduced to the action and the newly appointed player-coach didn't take long to make his mark. Daily was again at the source, intercepting an attempted ball down the line and picking out Smith. A first time lay-off into the path of Winters left the striker with a lot to do, but a deft second touch saw him jink inside his marker before opening his body and placing a right-footed shot across the goalkeeper and into the bottom right.
If Daily couldn't quite claim the assist for goal number two, he completed a hat-trick of key contributions with the best of the lot, to set up Winters for the third goal of the game. A superb run down the left, which began with a nutmeg, finished by him lifting his head and picking out Winters to sidefoot the ball into the empty net.
The scoring was completed a couple of minutes before the final whistle, as one of Braves' trialists picked the ball up midway inside the Gartcairn half and placed the ball expertly into the bottom right-hand corner.
A very positive start to the pre-season schedule, with a clean sheet and four second half goals to show. Next up is a stern test as Braves host League Two outfit Albion Rovers on Saturday.