Farsley Celtic 3 City 1
It is hardly in the same league as the other transfer sagas of the summer.
The Michael Boulding story has not caused a flicker on the national radar, obsessed with the daily deliberations of Cristiano Ronaldo, Frank Lampard, Robbie Keane and Gareth Barry.
But for City fans, the Boulding debate seems to have dominated the off season.
The tale took another twist when the former Mansfield hitman started training with the club this week. Boulding was even pencilled in to play 45 minutes against Farsley – until he hurt his ankle after colliding with Luke O’Brien right at the end of Tuesday’s session at Apperley Bridge.
So instead of showing supporters a glimpse of what they could be looking forward to next term, Boulding was sat at home in Sheffield with his leg up to ease the swelling.
City may loosely claim to have their man for now but Huddersfield are also thought to be keen – with the added carrot of League One football.
Stuart McCall, who has dismissed a link with Leicester’s Louis Dodds, said: “Now we’ve got Michael in, we’ll see if we can take it further. We haven’t had time for a proper chat but hopefully I’ll sit down with him over the next couple of days.”
Boulding was not the only notable absentee from City’s pre-season opener. Joe Colbeck, Paul Hecking-bottom and new boys Graeme Lee and Chris Brandon were resting slight knocks.
None of them are anything to worry about and Lee and Hecking-bottom should be okay to face Park Avenue on Saturday but at this early stage McCall is not taking any chances.
At least there was one Boulding on display in a City shirt, Michael’s younger brother Rory – the supposed makeweight in any deal for the much-wanted hitman.
There was another younger sibling in the side, Kyle Nix’s little bro Kory in right midfield, while Lee’s absence gave first-year pro Adrian Bellamy an opportunity at centre half.
McCall’s mix-and-match selection did feature the engine room that looks the first choice for the season ahead, with Lee Bullock alongside Paul McLaren.
Bullock produced several sharp touches in the early stages considering his long lay-off. Willy Topp, another coming off an injury, also caught the eye and twice just shot past the post.
But it was Farsley, playing their third friendly against league opposition in eight days, who scored first midway through the half.
Former Cardiff and Middlesbrough striker Andy Campbell’s cross totally bemused O’Brien and James Knowles gave trialist keeper Nick Colgan little chance from close range.
They doubled the lead seven minutes later when Stephen Downes picked out winger Rory Prendergast in acres of space on the left. His pull back was rocketed in via the crossbar by Campbell.
Peter Thorne glanced a header wide before Farsley embarrassingly made it 3-0 four minutes before half-time. Again the City defence made it too easy as Campbell teed up Dominic Krief for a drive which Paul Arnison could only help in.
Pre-season results may not matter but it was not the half-time scoreline McCall would have envisaged. Not surprisingly, there were a smattering of boos among the crowd.
McCall made seven changes for the restart, which included Milton Turner, a 21-year-old right back on trial after leaving Garforth Town.
Barry Conlon’s arrival on the pitch lifted the fans as the rain hammered down and he immediately launched into a spectacular volley that flashed over.
Topp was switched to the right with Conlon partnering Boulding up front. Kyle Nix and Luke Sharry took over in central midfield.
Conlon got the biggest cheer of the night when he pulled one back for City on the hour with a coolly-chipped penalty after Mark Jackson handled.
Sharry was keen to get on the ball and produced one storming run and shot which Curtis Aspden struggled to hold as Conlon moved in.
With resources limited – Sean Taylforth and Leon Osborne are also injured – McCall’s final treble substitution caused a stir of amusement. On came David Wetherall and Wayne Jacobs for an unexpected 15 minutes of fame along with new physio Adam Cook, who played left wing for non-league Rossendale last season.
City - First half: Colgan, Arnison, O’Brien, McLaren, Bellamy, Bower, Topp, Bullock, Kory Nix, Thorne, Daley.
Second half: Colgan (McLaughlin 85), Turner, O’Brien (Jacobs 73), Sharry, Ainge, Clarke, Topp (Wetherall 73), Kyle Nix, Conlon, Rory Boulding, Daley (Cook 73).