HANSON and Wells, Mills and Blake before that – it’s been a while.

But maybe the long wait for the next deadly double act to spearhead City’s frontline could be over.

Those fans who opted to come back for more after the Liverpool jamboree will hope they have witnessed the unveiling of another genuine strike partnership.

The pre-season optimism stepped up another notch with Saturday’s encouraging display against Wigan from the Championship.

And the root cause of that will be the attacking menace demonstrated in the first hour before Gary Bowyer switched the team around.

The front four all carried a threat to the Latics backline; Sean Scannell, all tricks and flicks on one wing, Jordan Gibson, with a precocious eye for goal on the other.

And leading the charge was the vast experience of James Vaughan and Clayton Donaldson, a duo boasting more than 850 league appearances and 250 goals.

Bowyer went with a 4-4-2 to play the pair together for the first time. They showed the strength, positioning and nous that comes with years of honing their craft.

For the small crowd squashed into the bottom tier of the main stand, it was a mouth-watering appetiser for the approaching main event.

They fittingly both had a hand in City’s goal. Donaldson was bundled over by Danny Fox as he chased Kelvin Mellor’s through ball into the Wigan box and Vaughan stepped up to the spot to despatch the penalty with conviction.

“First of many” he tweeted in response to a fan’s clip of the goal. That is a sentiment that will be shared by every member of the Valley Parade congregation.

Vaughan, entrusted with the captain’s armband that he will surely wear into League Two battle, resisted the temptation to kick the corner flag in trademark celebration.

But he once more demonstrated a fierce will-to-win and hunger to get off the mark that has been evident since the pre-season opener at Guiseley.

Alongside him, Donaldson put himself about and made sure centre halves Chey Dunkley and Fox knew they’d been in a game.

Both frontmen were also well served from the flanks.

Scannell’s growing form continues to heighten the anticipation of what hopefully will be when it comes to the real matters.

One nutmeg on poor Dunkley produced one of the biggest cheers of the game and American international left back Antonee Robinson had a testing time on his Wigan return from Everton trying to keep a leash on him.

Then there was Gibson, another of that group in the dressing room with a point to prove.

Like Shay McCartan, he was elsewhere when Bowyer arrived at City in March. But back from his loan at Stevenage, he has been quick to make his impression on the manager.

Having played centrally previously in pre-season, he was back on the wing and in the mood to enjoy every minute.

Gibson has never lacked the courage of his conviction in possession and will always try his luck if a shot is on. One fierce long-ranger had David Marshall scrambling to keep out and he was always looking to push forward with the ball.

The one downside for City was the way they were opened up for Anthony Pilkington’s poked equaliser soon after the restart.

But there were far more positive signs on an afternoon that predictably lost its momentum with the mass substitutions from both benches.

Up to that point, it had been an entertaining and open contest but there was still time to witness another calm and composed half hour from Tyler French at the back – and first-year scholar Connor Morris having another “pinch me” afternoon by coming on to support Eoin Doyle.

Every pre-season report should carry a compulsory warning not to read too much into it. Results in July mean nothing.

But performances against a strong opposition carry more weight and there was plenty of encouragement on offer for the next time at Valley Parade.

If this was close to the starting line-up that will take on Cambridge on August 3, things continue to look up – especially up top.

CITY: O’Donnell (Hornby 62), Mellor (Henley 62), A O’Connor (French 62), Richards-Everton (Solvet 62), Longridge (Riley 62), Scannell (Patrick 62), Akpan (Devine 62), Palmer (Nortey 62), Gibson (Wood 62), Donaldson (Morris 62), Vaughan (Doyle 62).

WIGAN: Marshall, Byrne, Dunkley, Fox (Kipre 73), Robinson (Macleod 62), Morsy (Weir 74), Evans (Gelhardt 62), Jacobs (Roberts 75), Pilkington (Lopes 68), Naismith, Garner (Windass 62).