I’ve always enjoyed going across to Winterton pre-season. It’s a nice little ground, the food’s great and the bar’s good. The last two years have been a bit of a let down with the team last time being a youthful squad and the year before the entire pre-season was a damp squib. This was a much better affair with Winterton giving the Tigers a good game, as they usually do, two new signings on display, the rain holding off and the game being more entertaining than last night.
Pre-match the talk was of the absent Jimmy Bullard. I won’t go into rumours that he’s been suspended for 2 weeks by the club for turning up for training in a taxi having come straight from a London club because it’s obviously not true. And his lawyer might read this. If it were true though, it would be a ludicrous act from a man who was recently handed a lifeline by Adam Pearson and the Allams. There’s no defending the guy.
City lined up: Gulacsi; Atkinson, Dawson, Chester, Bradley; Koren, Brady, Evans, Harper; Simpson, McLean.
It was much as expected with Will Atkinson filling the only obvious hole at right back. City dominated the game throughout which you’d expect them to do but if you’ve been to Winterton before, you’ll know it doesn’t always pan out that way. Robert Koren looked the liveliest player early on and came off the right wing to pull most of the strings and have the first effort on goal. On the other side, Robbie Brady hugged the touchline, didn’t look particularly interested in getting back to help out and came alive with the ball at his feet. I think this guy is going to be a real crowd pleaser at the KC. He’s got great feet, a trick or two, he’s direct, he’s quick and he’s composed in the box. His right foot is purely for standing on but in all other aspects, he looks a proper winger.
My pick for man of the match though would be Corry Evans. He’s the first proper box to box midfielder we’ve had in a long time. He’s mobile, he’s got bags of energy, he passes well, he’s got lovely touch and he’s full of fight. He opened the scoring with a superb right footed strike from 25 yards that fizzed into the top corner. A really high quality goal. It was made to look even better by some of Jay Simpson’s efforts, three of them troubling only the City players’ cars parked well off behind the left hand side of the goal. Perhaps there was some sort of bet going on; who could dent James Harper’s bonnet perhaps? Simpson eventually hit one near the target, it rolling only 5 or 6 yards wide and Koren hit a terrific shot just over the bar. Gulacsi was largely untroubled but did take a comfortable catch from a massive throw from their left back, got down to tip a low shot past the post and smothered well when their front man was released one on one.
Their ‘keeper, who’s name I’d like to know, made a good save from a Bradley free-kick, reaching back to his right after a deflection spun the ball in the opposite direction. City then went two in front as Brady, having swapped over to the right wing, turned the left back inside out and slid the ball across for Simpson to hammer home from 6 inches. That was the way the half ended.
The second half was entertaining, despite another raft of substitutions but apart from Evans, City didn’t hit the heights of the first half. Evans created the best chance of the half for McLean after a lung bursting counter attack but McLean scuffed a shot wide with his left foot when he had time to compose himself and move closer in on goal. After Basso’s comedy mis-kick last night, Gulacsi got in on the act tonight, misjudging a bouncing ball outside the box and controlling it with his upper arm. The ref awarded a free-kick but Gulacsi faced no punishment. In a real game, it would have been a guaranteed red card. Sonny Bradley also benefited from the ref’s leniency, hauling down one of their after he’d been nutmegged by the corner flag. Brady forced another superb save from the ‘keeper with a well struck free-kick. It was his final involvement as he made way for Ghilas. Ghilas performed his usual “run around a lot, achieve nothing” act, dribbled a weak shot at the keeper and hit the worst cross field pass we’ve seen since Dean Marney buggered off.
More substitutions followed. Emerton for Koren, Townsend for Dawson, Bennett for Bradley, Holohan for Evans and McCaffrey for McLean. That left us with a defence of Bennett at right back, Townsend and Chester at centre back and Will Atkinson at left back. Unsurprisingly, they got one back with a nice finish from the centre forward after City’s makeshift backline got themselves in a muddle. That was Gulacsi’s last involvement and he made way for Conor Devlin. The trialist didn’t have much to do but caught the ball confidently and distributed quickly and neatly. Gulacsi showed the same traits, really good hands and good, quick distribution. Very quick off his line too. Just needs to work out where the 18 yard box finishes.
Franic McCaffrey struck a post with a neat volley but that was about it for goal mouth incident. All in all, a nice run out and nice to see some familiar faces and a few new ones. The young lads all settled into the game well. James Harper was solid in front of the back four. The original defence all played well with Atkinson and Dawson attacking at will and Koren and Brady showing good awareness to create space for them to move into. The only disappointing thing was the performances of McLean and Simpson who both looked the same as last year. In Simpson’s case it was the player of September and October, not the much improved version we saw after Christmas.