THERE’S no checklist for an opening pre-season friendly, but Sauchie’s clash with Kilsyth Rangers must have come pretty close to ticking all the boxes.

The depleted Reds showed flashes of brilliance in the first game of the Martin Mooney era without ever really finding their rhythm.

As a result, the Wee Gers scores the tie’s only goal and send Sauchie back to the Wee County in defeat.

The new man at the helm in Beechwood Park won’t have any cause to panic, however, and he will have seen enough signs of encouragement to suggest his side will click into gear once they get some more matches under their belt.

He’ll only wish Darren Cummings and Stevie Dolan brought their shooting boots as the pair were both guilty of glaring misses in the second half.

Fluency was in short supply during the frantic opening stages of the match and it took until the half hour mark for either goalkeeper to have any use for their gloves.

It all came from a lovely interchange in the middle between Anthony McTaggart and Jamie Munro – who excelled down the left – but Dolan’s scuffed shot from the latter’s cross failed to test the Kilsyth number one.

The midfield trio of Donaldson, Mark Sharp, and McTaggart was one of the few combinations in the Sauchie side to really click in the game and they were at the heart of the visitor’s best passages of play.

Donaldson was in the thick of things moments later when he wriggled his way into the box, cutting the ball back for the darting run of Munro, but the left back’s effort to the near post was well saved by the goalkeeper’s foot and McTaggart’s follow up blocked.

But, Kilsyth were stubbornly refusing to go down without a fight and the Wee Gers grew into the game in the half’s closing stages. After Munro was caught out of position and Sharp failed to clear, Gregg McGuiness was forced to push a dangerous looking effort away and Lee Dawson had to be quick to mop up the danger.

By now, Sauchie were struggling to hold onto the ball and their frustrations grew as Kilsyth began to exert increasing influence on the match; they were unlucky not to score with the final chance of the half when a ball across the face was poked just wide.

If the first 45 minutes had been an exercise in patience, the second was more of a sparring session as each side took their turn to land a flurry of blows.

Connor Langton needlessly dallied after picking up Dolan’s lovely pass and allowed the Kilsyth keeper to block just seconds into the half. At the other end, substitute Seb Turner misjudged a cross and was lucky to see it hit the bar before the post came to Sauchie’s rescue when they failed to defend a corner.

The Reds, who were missing new boys Lewis Small, Kyle Turnbull and David McCaughie, hit back and Dolan really should have opened the scoring.

Donaldson picked the ball up midway inside the Kilsyth half, drove through the heart of the defence, and laid it on a plate for the makeshift striker who could only scoop the ball into the keeper’s arms.

While the Dolan shot would have been surprisingly simple, there was nothing easy about the save the stopper pulled off to deny Stewart Houston from notching a rare goal. Darren Cummings’ corner found the head of the defender but somehow the keeper clawed the ball onto the post.

As the teams rung the changes, the game was always likely to lose its shape and fluidity and eventually Sauchie were made to pay for their rustiness.

After a spell of pressure, Mooney’s men were caught short at the back and, despite the best attempts of David Cross, the ball was forced home.

There was still time for Cummings to do his best to outmatch Dolan’s miss when he screwed an effort – again put on a plate by Donaldson – wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.