THE best start to the new year for Forres boss Charlie Rowley was seeing Lee Fraser back on the training pitch and banging in some goals.
The striker took part in his first full training session on Hogmanay, a year after suffering a horrific knee injury which has kept him sidelined since.
Fraser is still a long way from being able to pull on his boots competitively, but just seeing the youngster running about and smiling again was a tonic for Rowley.
"That was a massive bonus. He came off the training pitch beaming; it was like he had two Christmases," said Rowley.
"He took part in the warm-up and all the drills. He still looked awkward and uncomfortable, and nothing close to being fit."
"It would take a big run of wins for us to be involved in the league race this season, so I would rather have him 100% fit for the start of next season," added Rowley.
Although in the top six, the reigning champions are the rank outsiders of the bunch, given their sluggish start to the season.
Former Clach and Brora player Duncan Jones was a trialist last weekend and came on for the injured Ryan Green, who suffered what looks like a serious knee injury after taking a nasty knock.
Rowley was speaking to Jones this week ahead of Saturday's home match with Clach about signing a contract, while Willie Barron, part of last season’s title-winning squad, could also be on the verge of a return to the fold after his work commitments eased at weekends.
Rowley has been surprised and not surprised in equal measure at Clach’s lofty league position this season.
"I am slightly surprised they have continued to be up there among the so-called top sides, but they are a young, athletic and fit side, with real hunger going forward. They beat us 3-1 through there, but we should have been 2-0 up before they scored."
For a full roundup of the latest Highland League news see 'The Northern Scot' print version.