McHugh (39), Thomson (59), Armour (70)
Strikers Bob McHugh, Robert Thomson, and Ben Armour all scored their first goals for the club this afternoon as Jim Duffy’s men warmed up for the 2017/18 campaign with a 3-0 friendly win at Stenhousemuir.
The Ton travelled to Ochilview for their first public appearance of the summer following closer-doors victories over Partick Thistle and Airdrie.
Manager Duffy has been exploring a switch to a 4-3-3 formation in those outings, and he set his side up in the same system against the Warriors.
New recruit Gary Harkins has been deployed as a deep-lying playmaker and he continued there, with fellow summer signings McHugh and Thomson part of a three-pronged attack alongside Scott Tiffoney.
Elsewhere, there was a first senior start for development squad right-back Darren Hynes as Michael Doyle continued at centre-half with Lee Kilday and Thomas O’Ware still working their way back from injury.
The backline, which also featured Ricki Lamie and Lewis Strapp, would enjoy a relatively stress-free afternoon, with Thomas Halleran’s early drive, which Derek Gaston plunged to his right to block, a rare attempt on target.
Strapp, though, would last less than half an hour, making way for Mark Russell after sustaining a head injury that left him shaken and suffering a suspected concussion.
At the opposite end, new recruit McHugh was a real menace over the piece, and only a goalline clearance from David Marsh prevented him from opening the scoring with a snapshot from a tight angle in 10 minutes.
Set-piece specialist Ross Forbes, who served as stand-in skipper on the day, scored a stunning free-kick in a recent bounce game against Partick Thistle.
He was presented with a similar chance against Stenny today after he himself was sent tumbling, and although the midfielder hit the target, keeper Chris Smith shuffled across his line to claim at the post.
However, the Stenny shot-stopper was left clawing at thin air when, on 39 minutes, McHugh accepted a Russell pass and unleashed a searing strike from 22 yards that arrowed into the top-left corner.
The hosts lined up with a familiar face in striker Colin McMenamin, and the former Cappielow hitman had two opportunities to send his side in level at the break in the closing stages of the half.
However, he was denied by a Gaston save and then a brave and vital Lamie block from the resultant corner, with his pleas for a penalty for handball ignored by referee Stephen Finnie.
Like fellow debutant McHugh, towering targetman Thomson was proving a handful for the home defence, and he doubled the Ton’s advantage just before the hour.
Team-mate McHugh was the creator. Seizing on a loose ball to the left of the home box, he stood up a cross that the 6ft 2in hitman attacked and directed into the bottom-left corner with a shrewd downwards header.
The hosts made six switches at the interval while Duffy would spread his changes over the course of the second 45, making a half dozen changes of his own.
Among those was Under-20s striker Armour, who made his top-team debut as a substitute in the penultimate league fixture of last season, and he made his presence felt within seven minutes of coming off the bench.
The 19-year-old demonstrated keen poaching instincts to react quickest and slam home from close range after Doyle’s sumptuous swept shot taken on the turn rebounded off the woodwork.
Fellow subs Michael Tidser and Gary Oliver went closest to adding to the advantage as the visitors turned the screw in the closing stages.
Only fine saves from sub keeper Lewis McMinn, who flipped a fierce Tidser strike over and pushed an Oliver header onto the face of the bar at the death, prevented any further scoring on what was a positive afternoon.
With a fortnight to go before the Ton return to competitive action, there were plenty of encouraging signs for the campaign to come, chief among them McHugh and Thomson getting off the mark on their debuts.
2. Hynes 6. Doyle 5. Lamie 16. Strapp
3. Murdoch 14. Harkins 8. Forbes (c)
15. Tiffoney 11. McHugh 10. Thomson
Subs used: 17. Russell (for Strapp, 29), 4. Langan (for Murdoch, 63), 9. Armour (for 15. Tiffoney, 63), 12. Tidser (for Forbes, 72), 7. Oliver (for McHugh, 72), 20. McGowan (for Gaston, 77), and 18. Anderson (for Hynes, 80).
Stenhousemuir: Smith (McMinn, 46); Meechan (Ferry, 46), Donaldson, Dunlop, Marsh, Dunlop, Blockley (Scott, 46), Gilmour (Sinclair, 46), McMenamin (Longworth, 46), Halleran (McGuigan, 46), Ferns
Subs not used: Gracie, Duncan.
Referee: Stephen Finnie
Images: Ross Cameron