Caledonian Braves visited Beechwood Park to take on Sauchie Juniors in the first away friendly of pre-season. The rain was torrential but both sides were able to serve up a decent contest, which Braves edged thanks to a first-half Ross McNeil diving header.
Following four home friendlies, it was a first match away from Alliance Park and crucially an outing on grass, ahead of the league opener against Bonnyrigg Rose. The opposition was another first, with Sauchie plying their trade in the East of Scotland Premier Division. To date, the matches have been against West of Scotland and SPFL sides. Sauchie finished 13th of 16 teams in last year's league campaign. Braves have a Soccer Shop Challenge Cup tie against either Jeanfield, who will play in Sauchie's divison, or Lochgelly Albert from the tier below.
Once again, there was a few changes, as Ricky Waddell freshened up the team following Thursday night's exciting victory over East Fife. Johann Chardon, Alan Reid, Jamie Watson, Blair Docherty and Jack McDowall all stepped up into the starting lineups after starting on the bench or being rested last time out.
The match started at a high tempo and it was only a few minutes old when the hosts created the first opening. Sauchie's Brown took advantage of a defensive slip but Chardon was equal to his effort, producing an excellent block.
Braves first chance came in the form of a David Sinclair free-kick. After opening his account against East Fife from long range, it was no surprise when he elected to shoot again. However it was comfortably saved by Clark in the home goal. Minutes later a lovely diagonal ball from Docherty found Watson, who fired just wide.
From one Docherty to another, Sauchie's Jack Docherty was next to go close. Good build up play from Smith picked him out, but the shot curled wide of Chardon's post.
Just after the half hour mark Braves had the ball in the net, however it was disallowed. Jack McDowall thought he had continued his goalscoring streak, only to be denied by the offside flag.
However, it wasn't long before the opening goal did arrive. The ball was worked to the right hand side, where Slattery created space to cross. His inviting delivery was glanced into the far corner by a full stretch diving header from Ross McNeil. Last season's top scorer will be delighted to get off the mark.
There were several changes at the interval as Waddell shuffled the pack. David Winters, Ben Daily, Gavin Lachlan and Braves' trialist all entered the fray, looking to impress. With the half 15 minutes old they were joined by goalkeeper Alex Marshall and Scott Forrester.
Braves were looking the more likely to score the game's second goal, with a number of chances carved out as the half progressed. Docherty, Lachlan and Daily were all involved in fashioning an opening for Watson, who volleyed narrowly over. Docherty then cut the ball back for Winters, whose goal-bound shop was deflected narrowly wide.
Ben Daily was next to threaten the Sauchie goal, with an effort from the edge of the box stinging the palms of the home goalkeeper.
The home side persevered in their pursuit of an equaliser, but the Braves defence were equal to everything that was thrown at them. A speculative shot from Donaldson in the closing stages was the closest they came, but Marshall was equal to it.
The final whistle blew and it signalled a fourth victory in six pre-season matches for Braves. A very welcome clean sheet and good all round performance, as the competitive action draws ever closer.