GUISELEY 0 CITY 3
The stage may have been familiar but there was a very new approach to herald the first marker of City’s campaign.
Guiseley’s Nethermoor has become the traditional venue to raise the curtain for pre-season and once again a packed house sweated under typically humid temperatures.
But that’s where the similarity ended as Phil Parkinson unveiled the next chapter of his City reign.
It wasn’t just the gaggle of new faces, tattoos and haircuts that stood out from the norm.
The most obvious difference from what we have grown accustomed to was the formation.
The change of playing style has been a popular talking point since the first signings started to check in. Here was the proof.
City’s wingless wonders – but then they currently don’t have any – adopted a 4-3-1-2 approach, with trialist Angelo Balanta and then Mark Yeates at the tip of a midfield diamond to support the attack.
I’m not sure what Steven Pressley would have had to say but there was no hint of anything from the “dark ages” as City tried to keep the ball down and play in the uncomfortable heat.
The fans seemed to enjoy what they watched but Mark Bower’s Guiseley may not have appreciated the amount of chasing they were forced into.
City themselves seemed to like the work-out and rookie striker Lewis Clarkson seized the opportunity to show what he is about.
Little has been seen of him since his low-key signing from Scarborough in November. Other than a late 15 minutes at Notts County on New Year’s Day, he has remained a distant name on the squad list.
But while he might look behind the rest fitness-wise at times, there is a poacher touch about his finishing. Give him a sniff of goal and the lad jumps on it.
He looked genuinely gutted to go off at half-time after his two-goal tally. But he had done enough to catch the eye and his manager was certainly well pleased.
Maybe, given City’s budget constraints, Clarkson could be someone to keep up the sleeve for a late go from the bench.
More performances like Saturday and he will be hard on the heels of Oliver McBurnie, who missed the game with a sore back.
Like Aaron Mclean, another currently sidelined, McBurnie has made the Ireland trip. Parkinson was delighted to board the plane yesterday with a full party after previous visits to Guiseley had accounted for Andy Gray and Ricky Ravenhill.
There were some concerns in the City camp about the newly-laid pitch which, although it looked pristine before kick-off, cut up in parts and left sizeable divots.
It made for a “sticky” surface with the ball not moving as freely as they’d like, most notably when it wedged under Clarkson’s feet early on after he had raced clear on goal.
The young striker was unable to get a shot off on that occasion as Guiseley keeper Steve Drench smothered. But he quickly had his revenge with the opening goal from City’s next attack.
Jason Kennedy, who looked much more effective in opposition territory than his own, had the first of two assists for the youngster when he volleyed across goal for the striker to convert with an instinctive lunge.
Angelo Balanta, one of the five trialists on display, fired into the five-a-side court from James Hanson’s knockdown before City doubled their lead from Matty Dolan’s free-kick.
The set-piece flicked off the end of the wall on its way to the corner of the net as Drench was left rooted to the spot.
The pitch again did for Clarkson when he failed to make the most of Balanta’s defence-opening pass with a tame side-foot straight at the keeper.
But a third City goal arrived by the break when Kennedy and Clarkson again combined to great effect.
Parkinson changed the entire team at the break to give the fans their first sight of the four new boys.
All of them showed up well, in particular the busy Knott in midfield who always seemed to be there demanding the ball wherever it was on the field.
One supporter in the main stand compared him in looks to a young Dean Windass and there was certainly a Deano touch about the audacious chip that had Drench scrambling to finger away from the top corner.
There were no further goals after the break – surprisingly considering City created more chances in that time.
Mark Yeates and Billy Clarke, who demonstrated some intelligent movement, were both denied by goalline clearances.
Trialist Callum Ball should have buried a free header but hit the bar and Raffaele De Vita, still hoping to twist City’s arm with a new deal, shot wide from six yards out.
Jon McLaughlin, whose future must surely get sorted over the next few days, was not overstretched when he replaced first-half trialist Ben Alnwick. His only real test came from a shot on the turn from Ryan Williams which was safely gathered.
All in all, a well-negotiated opener and maybe an encouraging hint or two about what might follow.
CITY (first half): Alnwick, Darby, Bryan, Davies, Meredith, Kennedy, Dolan, Wright, Balanta, Hanson, Clarkson.
City (second half): McLaughlin, Arnold, McArdle, Heaton, Sheehan, Liddle, De Vita, Knott, Yeates, Clarke, Ball.