The Imps eased to a 4-0 win this evening against Scunthorpe United in a game that will doubtless please Michael Appleton.
City put out an interesting side with TJ Eyoma in the centre of defence, Alex Bradley and Sean Roughan at full-back and Tayo Edun in the centre of midfield. Joe Walsh made his debut at the back, McGrandles and James Jones both started again and up top, Elbouzedi and Grant started on the flanks, with Anthony Scully playing through the centre in a 4-3-3.
It was interesting to see Roughan at full-back when he’s billed as a centre back, and for me a delight to see Tayo Edun in the middle of the park where he looked busy in his outings last season. The lineup certainly outlined how flexible some elements of our squad are, and within a minute of starting the game, City led. I’d love to tell you about the goal, I really would, but the live feed was very poor and I missed it.
When I did get a feed, I saw a slick-looking City passing their way around the park with ease. As it was a pre-season friendly, there seemed little in the way of pressing from the opposition, but as a training exercise, it certainly had benefits. You could see the patterns of play that they’ve worked on during the pre-season period, especially with balls between full-backs, centre backs and the central midfield. Unlike the Salford game, I thought the forward play looked more coherent as well. Anthony Scully gives you the impression that he is always going to do something, and both Grant and Elbouzedi offered a constant threat. Ethan Ross had some involvement and looked very comfortable, but Scunthorpe barely threatened in what was a low-key outing for them. Half time came with us still 1-0 ahead and looking very comfortable.
The second half was punctuated by changes and disruption, just as it was against Salford last week, but that didn’t stop Zack Elbouzedi producing a moment of absolute quality to make it 2-0. Due to my feed stuttering, I’m not sure who played the ball through, I think it was Alex Bradley, but Elbouzedi kept his calm and lifted a lovely chip over the Scunny keeper from an acute angle. It wasn’t unlike Walker’s goal against Ipswich in December, one to savour at any level of competitiveness.
The second half was fractured, but City still looked to offer a threat and we bagged a third from a set-piece courtesy of TJ Eyoma. Again, my feed had dropped out and I didn’t see it, but I’m assured it was a smart finish. Scunthorpe had a couple of decent moments, Mo Eisa’s brother Abo Eisa looked lively and Ethan Ross made a couple of smart saves, but there was little to seriously worry us. The fourth and final goal came courtesy of Tom Hopper, his second of pre-season. A sumptuous ball from sub Jordan Adebayo-Smith saw Hopper stride clear of the defence and finish with confidence from just inside the 18-yard area.
My player highlights were almost certainly Tayo Edun in midfield, he was assured and confident as well as really busy all the time. Sean Roughan looked superb too, he grew into the game and looked to be every inch a senior professional. Remember, he is just 17 and was playing out of position. If he keeps on like that, he’s going to be a huge asset to the club. I thought Alex Bradley looked industrious too, another one who has a lot to prove but who I feel could be an important squad player. TY Ejoma also had a decent game at centre half, building on his outing as a right-back against Salford.
Overall, the team looked more coherent, players such as Conor McGrandles who didn’t impress me against Salford looked good too. I said there’s little to glean from pre-season and you shouldn’t get too down about a defeat, likewise, a win should be taken in context too. It was a more competitive game, a few sliding tackles went in, but it is still only two teams going at 70%. However, winning 4-0 is always positive and it was nice to see goals coming from different areas. We are still short of perhaps two outfield players, but the squad is looking decent right now.
What I would also say is I wonder if the hunt for a ’10’ has been put to one side, with us now investigating a 4-3-3. In that role, the emphasis for tucking in will lay with the wide attackers and we’ll have more solidity in midfield, packing Edun, McGrandles, Jones and Bridcutt in to ensure when we play out there are options deep as well as down the flanks. Either that, or this was just another experiment that I’m reading too much into!