City front-runners ease past Shelbourne

City front-runners ease past Shelbourne

Shelbourne v City - James Hanson

Shelbourne v City - Billy Knott

Shelbourne v City - Mark Yeates

Shelbourne v City - Billy Knott

Shelbourne v City - James Hanson

Shelbourne v City - Matty Dolan

First published in Sport
Last updated

Shelbourne 0, City 4

FEW eyebrows will be raised if the City side that trots out at Valley Parade to face Coventry on opening day is an exact copy of the one that rounded off the Irish tour on Saturday.

Aaron Mclean is the obvious exception – and the sooner their main goal hope, not to mention highest wage earner, is back in business the better.

But with the striker still reduced to a spectating role by a nagging calf problem, Phil Parkinson can field a pretty useful first XI.

Shelbourne found that out to their cost during the first hour of this stroll in Tolka Park.

Not that it was the proper Shells team in opposition. With a league game yesterday against Shamrock Rovers B, they kept their powder dry and fielded a side made up of young lads, trialists and suspended first-teamers.

But you can only beat what's put in front of you and City did that fairly emphatically, to the delight of the raucous travelling support. Once the first goal went in, there could have been seven or eight.

Billy Clarke can play across most of the front positions but insists his favoured role is the 'number ten' that became so fashionable during the World Cup.

Operating off the target man, he likes to pick up the scraps and link the play with those coming up in support.

In the 4-3-1-2 set-up that seems to be emerging as City's favoured approach, he would ideally be 'in the hole' behind Mclean and James Hanson.

With no Mclean, Clarke has played further forward this week but still with the tendency to drop behind and look for little pockets of space. It worked a treat on Saturday with two goals to his name.

Mark Yeates again got the nod at the tip of the midfield diamond and was able to influence the play far more effectively than he had done against UCD in midweek.

More performances like this one and he will give Phil Parkinson a genuine selection headache.

The manager's biggest dilemma remains the size of his squad, or rather lack of it. He used 22 players – swapping the entire team round just after the hour point – but that included three trialists, three youth-teamers and an out-of-contract duo, whose futures still need to be sorted.

The need for further bodies in the building is obvious and Parkinson will be hoping the loan hunt can turn up some results fairly quickly, rather than leaving City hanging until the real action gets underway.

So injuries will hit hard and while Mclean's lack of any pre-season game time remains an annoyance for all concerned, at least there have been no major setbacks to date.

The Irish trip once again fulfilled its purpose, building up strength and stamina in the legs from the frequent sessions at their luxury base and easing the fresher faces into the group.

The new recruits continue to catch the eye, albeit in moderate surroundings, and it was the Irish contingent who came to the fore on their last afternoon on home soil.

City's wait for a penalty has become a running joke – they were awarded just one last season, which Nahki Wells dispatched on his way to a televised hat-trick against Coventry in November.

The question for fans since has been who will be put on the spot next time; that's if they ever earn another.

They got their answer after 20 minutes when Alan Sheehan's cross was handled by Shells skipper Willo McDonagh. The left back himself tucked the kick away and has surely got the job that he had previously relished with Notts County.

After an opener from the man from Athlone, City's second came via Dublin and Cork.

Yeates and Clarke had already twice combined to carve through the Shells defence, one low cross just eluding the striker's lunge, the next chance getting stuck under the midfielder's feet.

But it proved to be third time lucky when Yeates cut the ball back into the path of Clarke to drive into the roof of the net.

From that point, the game was played almost entirely in Shelbourne territory. Other than Ronan O'Flynn's early effort past the near post, Jon McLaughlin had absolutely nothing to do as his wait goes on to find out if he will have any involvement in the coming season.

City were having a ball, playing in neat triangles through Yeates, Clarke, Billy Knott and Matty Dolan. Garry Liddle was happy to sit behind and keep the shape while the rest pulled and stretched at the overworked Shells defence.

Even Andrew Davies got in on the act with a foraging run that ended in comical fashion as he stumbled in a heap – to much good-natured derision from the City fans.

But his second attacking foray proved more profitable, surging forward again early in the second half before teeing up Clarke for a fizzing 20-yarder to make it three.

The switch of team soon followed and killed some of the momentum. But Raffaele De Vita, like McLaughlin currently in no man's land over next term, nudged the manager's thinking with a shoot-on-sight approach that earned him number four.

City: McLaughlin (Barker 63), Darby (Arnold 63), McArdle (Taylor 63), Davies (King 63), Sheehan (Heaton 63), Liddle (Kennedy 63), Dolan (De Vita 63), Knott (Wright 63), Yeates (Meredith 63), Clarke (Balanta 63), Hanson (Trialist 63).

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