THERE was no doubting the highlight for the 6,000-plus Saints fans who turned up at St Mary's for last night's inter-squad friendly.

It was the first public appearance of Marian Pahars playing in a Saints shirt since last November.

Pahars partnered James Beattie up front for the Reds, whose XI had more of a feel of the first team about it than the Yellows.

After Reds midfielder Rory Delap had seen a shot turned onto the post by trialist keeper Javier Sanchez Broto, the Yellows took the lead in the eighth minute when Anders Svensson's superb strike from 20 yards flew into the top corner.

It was 1-1 on 27 minutes when Beattie produced a superb finish with the outside of his boot over Broto.

The Reds took the lead three minutes later when Fabrice Fernandes showed great touch to volley home Beattie's left wing cross first time.

Just two minutes before half-time Brett Ormerod finished past Paul Jones for the Yellows to make it 2-2.

But the Reds sealed their victory with eight minutes of the game remaining when Matt Oakley drilled a peach of a shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards for his second pre-season goal.

Strachan saw the game as a great workout and raved: "I thoroughly enjoyed that, I really did.

"Normally we'd be away on a bus for two or three hours but we played here on a fantastic surface with two good teams. And the standard has given us a problem because they may be the best goals of the season.

"We're all pleased - the coaches, myself, and the youth team coach because some of his players played and they looked fresh and fit and showed good intelligence.

"For them to be playing in front of a crowd like this was a bonus. It couldn't have worked out better, it really couldn't. And hopefully a lot of kids came tonight and it might be the first time they've seen Saints play.

"And with the standard of football on display, we might have captured them for life - and that's good as well."

Reds: Paul Jones (Alan Blayney 45), Graeme Le Saux, Michael Svensson, Fitz Hall (Mike Williamson 60), Chris Baird (Michael Green 71), Yoann Folly (Simon Gillett 60), Matt Oakley, Rory Delap, (Jamie Gleeson 71), Fabrice Fernandes, Marian Pahars, James Beattie.

Yellows: Javier Sanchez Broto, Paul Telfer (Martin Cranie 84), Claus Lundekvam (Matthew Mills 83), Danny Higginbotham, Jason Dodd, Arron Davies (Stuart Anderson 71), David Prutton, Anders Svensson, Leandre Griffit (Andrew Surman 60), Jo Tessem, Brett Ormerod (Richard Jones 81).

SAINTS Reserves will send a strong team to Westleigh Park tonight when they play Havant (7.45pm) in a friendly. Most of the first team squad are expected to be there - either signing autographs or playing - with the likes of Paul Telfer, Fitz Hall, Francis Benali, Danny Higginbotham, David Prutton and Chris Baird all expected to feature at some stage.