Cove Rangers boss Paul Hartley “couldn’t fault” his players after they narrowly lost out to Championship side Inverness Caley Thistle in the Betfred Cup.
The Aberdeen side lost 3-2 to John Robertson’s Highlanders.
Talisman Mitch Megginson was back in the side and netted twice after Jordan White’s opener to put Cove 2-1 up.
Both Megginson strikes were the result of good work from 19-year-old Dundee United loanee Declan Glass on his debut.
However, James Keatings and then Nikolay Todorov scored to put the home side back in the driving seat, before a late tackle saw Cove skipper Megginson dismissed for a second yellow.
Martin Scott also had a late goal chalked off for Cove, with the officials calling handball.
Promoted Highland champions Cove have already taken a point off Championship side Dundee in Betfred Cup Group D at the Balmoral.
Hartley said: “It was a very good display from our boys. We were outstanding.”
The gaffer did not think onlookers would have been able to work out which team was full-time and which part-time.
He added: “You wouldn’t have known the difference to be honest, with the way we passed the ball and created chances.
“It was an excellent display against a really good team who will be challenging for the Championship.”
The performance at the Caledonian Stadium was better still, given Hartley was missing the likes of Scott Ross, Darryn Kelly and Ryan Strachan at the back.
Alan Redford came back in after 10 days out, while central midfielder Blair Yule was at right-back. Harry Milne shifted into the middle of defence alongside Daniel Higgins.
On young Glass’ display, Hartley said: “It was an outstanding debut, setting up two goals. He was brilliant, he took the ball, his attitude, his determination and desire to play football. Fantastic.”
Megginson will be suspended for Saturday’s home tie against Raith. However, there was good news regarding Connor Scully, stretchered off against Caley with a suspected broken ankle.
Scully has suffered bruising to his ligaments and it’s hoped he will be back for Cove’s second game in League Two, away to Albion Rovers on August 10.