The Tigers headed across the Humber Bridge for the first time this week to Winterton whose West Street ground has become a regular fixture in City’s pre-season preparations. It’s a nice ground to visit offering a view of the Humber Bridge from the best angle (the one that faces home), Burgers cooked on a proper grill and the chance to see the superstars in Black and Amber up close. Ahem.
Steve Bruce’s promise that most players would get around 60 minutes under their belt suggested a change in the line-up from Ferriby and we arrived to find 10 players warming up with Stephen Clemence while most of the team from the night before wandered around gently on the far side suggesting this was the line-up. Eldin Jakupovic faced the pre-match shooting practice in another role reversal from Monday.
The big excitement in the warm-up was spotting two “continental” looking players whom we guessed were probably the two Greek trialists. Conor Townsend confirmed it but had no idea what their names were.
City lined up in a traditional 4-4-2: Oxley; East, Townsend, Bruce, Bradley; Koutsianikoulis, Devitt, Olofinjana, Lambropoulos; Simpson, Cullen
The Tigers midfield was a winner on the Scrabble board at least. It was a different City side in the performance as well as the personnel. They settled quicker than on Monday, seemed to enjoy playing on the slick pitch and were generally untroubled. It has to be said that Winterton were very poor. They usually give the Tigers a better game than Ferriby despite being lower on the non-league ladder but tonight they looked like a team at their level. City bossed the game completely with Winterton barely managing a shot. If not for the Winterton ‘keeper and the centre half wearing number 6 throwing himself at shots, the score-line would easily have run into double figures.
City settled quickly. Jay Simpson looked lively again after impressing in his short stint at Ferriby and Cullen and Devitt tested the ‘keeper early before Simpson ran through two defenders and rounded the goalie but was slow to shoot and the number six took the ball off his toe. The tiny Greek winger Koutsianikoulis looked edgy early on but his fellow trialist in midfield settled well and passed the ball neatly. The first half was all about Jay Simpson though. He ran the right channel and cut the ball back for Devitt who shot weakly before opening the scoring himself with a low left footed finish after a neat turn [0-1]. He then beautifully flicked Devitt’s pass into Lambropoulos’ path and he burst into the box but suffered a nosebleed and shot wide.
Simpson added a second goal when latching onto a pass from Koutsianikoulis, who was growing into the game, and rounding the goalkeeper before sliding into the empty net [0-2]. Simpson then held up Townsend’s ball out of defence, slid in Koutsianikoulis and he turned the defender inside out and crossed nicely from the left for Cullen whose header clipped the bar. Simpson then completed an impressive half’s work by picking up the ball 30 yards out, stepping forward unchallenged and lashing a terrific shot into the bottom left hand corner [0-3]. Most of the Tigers made it to half time without breaking a sweat but Lambropoulos looked like he was feeling it a little.
The second half was disjointed with numerous substitutions ruining any flow as is often the case. Regardless City continued to dominate and but for poor finishing and decent keeping, could have made it uncomfortable for the home side. Olofinjana sprayed a lovely ball wide to free Koutsianikoulis who had a clear run on goal but looked hesitant and poked a shot at the ‘keeper. Lambropoulos then picked up Cullen’s header and carried the ball across before sliding in Devitt who’s effort shot just wide of the far post. Devitt did help himself to City’s fourth firing in right-footed after Danny East’s low cross evaded everyone in the penalty area [0-4].
The fourth goal came in between a raft of substitutions which left The Tigers lined up with:
Oxley; McShane, Townsend, Bradley, Cooper; East, Stewart, Koren, Chester; Fryatt, McLean
The brave ‘keeper and centre half worked tirelessly against the fresh legs to keep the score respectable but got a little lucky as McLean, East (twice), Bradley, Fryatt and Stewart all missed chances. It was left to Fryatt to round off the scoring by pouncing on a loose ball after the ‘keeper spilled McLean’s powerful header [0-5].
It wasn’t much of a test for City but will have felt like a worthwhile exercise as everyone looked a little looser and played with a touch more freedom while lots of fringe players got plenty of game time. Jay Simpson was the obvious stand out performer and deserves his plaudits tonight but we all need to remember the quality (or lack of) of the opposition before getting carried away. Poor old Mark Oxley has waited a long time for a game in (vividly bright) City shirt and then barely touched the ball. I think he made one very comfortable save and took a couple of back passes.
Sonny Bradley impressed again. Almost everyone who has come through City’s academy in the past 10 years has been tiny, often in both height and width. They’ve obviously added Miracle Gro (other plant foods are available) to his Weetabix for the past few years. Bradley, East and Townsend all need to get out on loan for the coming season. They are all good footballers who will benefit from the game time. I feel like I’ve said this a lot in recent years but I really think Cullen needs to join them. He’s not a bad player but he just doesn’t look like making it here. If he goes out somewhere and starts scoring goals again, he might have a chance.
Olofinjana is as deeply frustrating as ever. He can carry the ball with poise one second and give it away cheaply the next. He just isn’t a holding midfielder though and never will be. He’s pointless in the role he played tonight. We’ve learnt nothing about Alex Bruce on this evidence.
That just leaves the two Greeks. Vasilis Koutsianikoulis is a tiny little winger who played on the rght but is left footed. Once he got into the game he showed he’s got some pace and runs nicely off the ball attacking space. He’s very lightweight and not quite as quick as has been rumoured. He crossed the ball well and took a few decent corners. Overall he didn’t impress me as much as Jerome Thomas did at Winterton a few years ago. Andreas Lambropoulos was a tidy midfield player. Technically he was good and despite blowing a little, he found enough about him to keep affecting the game in the second half. He wasn’t as good as Tom Cairney or Corry Evans so I can’t see him earning a permanent deal. I think he could play in England though, he looked tough enough and mobile enough. Perhaps we’ll see more of them on Friday to judge against marginally better opposition.
Nick Proschwitz was in attendance as promised. He’s certainly a big lad! The deal should be done tomorrow. He’s another I hope we get to see on Friday.