It was a case of one step back to hopefully make two giant strides forward for Dan Seaborne last night.
The centre half was back to where it all started for him, Exeter City.
Having left St James Park in January 2010 for League One Saints, he surely would have barely have believed he would return to east Devon two-and-a-half years later just weeks days away from potentially playing his first game in the Premier League .
But then he probably wouldn’t have wanted to believe he would be back for a pre-season friendly as part of a Saints XI, basically a youth team with just a couple of senior pros.
But this is the course things have taken for Seaborne and last night’s step back in time for him was all part of the rehabilitation to make major advances.
After missing so much of last season with a serious head injury sustained in a well publicised off-the-field incident, Seaborne, right, was always going to have to feel his way back.
Encouragingly, the things that the subconscious can rob you of after serious injuries didn’t seem to be a problem – he remains brave and commanding and willing to put his head in.
His touch and distribution are still finding their way, but they are things that can naturally return with time, training and matches.
It was another positive move in the right direction as Seaborne edges nearer to a fully fledged return.
The game itself was nothing to write home about in terms of entertainment but Saints did a professional job.
Add to that a few decent stops from the imposing figure of new keeper Paulo Gazzaniga, and a few of the youngsters doing well against experienced opposition, and it was a satisfying evening’s work for Martin Hunter and his side.
The closest Saints came in the first half was a far post half volley from Sam Hoskins that went into the side netting, while Gazzaniga saved well from a Danny Coles header back across goal and Ben Reeves got a Liam Sercombe drive off the line.
Exeter started the second period well and forced Gazzaniga into a couple of quick saves, first from former Saint Arron Davies and then Craig Woodman before Jamie Cureton, still looking classy despite his advancing years, did beat the keeper but not the post.
However, Saints got their win with a burst of class that brought two goals in four minutes.
Dickson provided both with left wing crosses, the first picking out the head of Lloyd Isgrove, who planted his effort into the far corner despite having only just been introduced to the action.
The second Dickson cross was parried by Isgrove and Barnard showed his predatory instincts to get to the loose ball first and fire home via a deflection from six yards out.
Guillem Bauza bagged a consolation for Exeter with four minutes remaining via a low drive into the bottom corner.