AVENUE 0 CITY 0 (City win 3-2 on penalties)

IN A TEMPERATURE more akin to Honolulu than Horsfall, the competition to be in Gary Bowyer’s starting plans continues to hot up.

After a stronger selection were beaten 2-1 by Bolton in a hastily-arranged private game in the morning, the penultimate pre-season outing saw Richard O’Donnell, Anthony O’Connor, Jermaine Anderson and Jackson Longridge pressing their claims.

Winger Zeli Ismail also got his first half-hour in a City shirt after a stiff back had previously kept him out. But he had a debut to forget – with two missed penalties!

With the Cambridge curtain-raiser fast approaching, opportunities need to be seized at this stage.

Tuesday night has become trialist night in recent weeks but there were just two unfamiliar faces on display this time, left back Ethan Sefton and midfielder Caelin Rooney.

One popular figure among the crowd was Greg Abbott, who was greeted warmly by staff and fans.

Connor Wood had City’s first chance after being played in by Luca Colville. But Charlie Andrew beat his cross-shot away and then saved Anderson’s follow-up.

Colville, playing with protection on an injured left wrist, has still not signed the contract that has sat on the table since May – a cause of some bemusement at City.

But he continued to look busy and flashed a diving header over after Omari Patrick had been foiled by Andrew. Having wrestled possession from defender Jon Moran, the striker should have scored but his finish lacked conviction and the keeper made a comfortable block.

Wood nodded over from Joe Riley’s cross before Colville had another pop from distance. But it had been a pretty non-descript half, not too surprising considering the steamy, energy-sapping heat.

Avenue had offered little threat but nearly went ahead after 49 minutes as half-time sub Elliot Holmes clipped the bar from outside the box.

Garry Thompson had obviously had a word because there was more about the home side – and O’Donnell did well to tip over a shot he saw late from Avenue assistant-boss Shaun Gardner.

Thompson brought himself on just after the hour, playing down the middle rather than on the wing where he was sung about at Valley Parade.

He arrived just in time for the game’s second water break as ref Michael Brownsett sensibly allowed both teams to take drinks on board.

City should have gone in front almost straight from the resumption. Youngster Connor Shanks was knocked over in the Avenue box while chasing Patrick’s flick.

Ismail stepped up to take the spot-kick – but drilled it against the outside of the post.

Longridge, who looked solid once again, had reverted to his usual left back spot after starting at centre half and twice got into menacing positions late on.

Avenue sub keeper Jack Bennett thwarted his angled shot and then a jab along the six-yard box after a neat link-up with scholar Connor Morris went unrewarded.

But with nothing to separate the sides over 90 minutes, the annual clash for the Tom Banks memorial trophy had to be settled with a penalty shoot-out.

It seemed neither side wanted to win it as only one of the first five spot-kicks were made, Ismail firing wide again and O’Donnell pulling off two saves.

But ultimately it was down to the youngsters as Elliot Goldthorp and Morris converted for City – before defender Reece Staunton smashed the decisive penalty into the top corner.

AVENUE: Andrew, Croft, Trialist, Lund, Moran, Trialist, Hurst, Hedley, Trialist, Gardner, Clark. Subs: Rathbone, Bennett, Holmes, Trialist, Wright, Thompson.

CITY: O’Donnell, Riley, O’Connor (Cousin-Dawson 77), Longridge, Sefton (Staunton 77), Colville (Ismail 61), Devine, Anderson (Goldthorp 46), Rooney (Shanks 61), Patrick (Morris 77), Wood.

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