BRIAN RICE feels Alloa gave their strongest pre-season performance yet as they hosted St Johnstone in the Viaplay Cup.

The Wasps lost to the Premiership side by four goals, but the gaffer praised the team for showing signs of moving in the right direction.

Cameron Ballantyne put the Saints a goal up inside the first minute before Ryan McGowan doubled their lead shortly after.

Two more goals in the second half from Steven May and Ben McCrystal sealed it for the visitors.

Rice hailed his team for showing strong signs of progression, with midfield pairing Steven Hetherington and Kurtis Roberts a particular standout.

The Wasps manager told Advertiser Sport: “We took a lot out of the match considering the scoreline.

“We lost a goal in the first minute which is never great, especially against a Premiership team.

“I thought some of the players performed really well – this was probably the best we’ve played all pre-season.

“Our two midfield players were excellent throughout.

“Stevie Hetherington played exactly how I want him to play – he was getting on the ball and was getting us playing.

“Kurtis Roberts made some good runs forward, with or without the ball, which was something I thought we were lacking last year in running with the ball from midfield.

“We had good control at times of the game and we played well at points, we just didn’t have the final product and we got punished for it.

“They scored two really good goals and two goals from errors from us but we took a lot more out of the game than the scoreline reflects.”

Rice has led a massive rebuild of the squad since the summer transfer window opened, initially signing eight players straight away.

Centre back Josh Debayo then joined the Wasps, making his debut in the opening League Cup match against Stirling Albion.

The influx of nine players will take some time to settle and adapt to a new way of playing before the League One campaign begins next month, with Rice certain that his team is moving in the right direction ahead of the league beginning.

"The scoreline didn’t reflect the way the game went,” Rice added. “St Johnstone scored two very good goals, quality goals.

“We had some good chances without finishing them off.

“I look at the team and we’ve got a new goalkeeper in, some new faces defensively and in the midfield.

“Hetherington and Roberts played very well but it’s a new partnership forming there. Players are still trying to adjust and some players still need some game time.

“I’m very disappointed with the result but the display was better than the result and I took heart from that and so will the players.

“It was a progression in the way we played – we need to defend better, we spoke about that but it’s a new squad together but we’re getting there.”

Another positive to be taken from Saturday was Stefan Scougall making his 100th appearance for the club.

The midfielder replaced Kevin Cawley for the last ten minutes of the game to mark a centenary of performances for the club.

“Scougall is a good player for us,” Rice said. “He is a vital player for us, people will have seen that last season.

“Unfortunately for him, towards the end of the season, he picked up a few knocks and then was unwell going into the playoffs.

“He is a massive part of what we are trying to do at the club and Saturday was a chance to give him a rest as he’s had a lot of game time and rotate the squad a bit.

“It’ll be the same over the next couple of games until we get ready for the first league game down in Dumfries.”