Bastille Day over here, the morning after the “start” of the 2011-2012 season back home. Steve Bruce famously dislikes pre-season. Pete Sixsmith rather enjoys it and was happy to spend an evening down the road in York watching the Lads, or certain of them, play with just enough urgency to get us off to a winning start …
There are few more pleasant places to start a pre-season than Bootham Crescent, York. The city is a delight with the evening sun illuminating the Minster, the Wetherby Whaler on the bypass is a Mecca for fish and chip fans, the other Minster continues to dispense excellent beer and the ground is a fine example of what a lower league club needs.
The game was an enjoyable amble for both sides. We turned out a strong side, with only Oumare Tounkara a name and face that few recognised.
He’s a big French lad, signed by Bruce from Sedan in 2009 and has benefited from his season long loan at Oldham Athletic. He scored seven goals in 44 games for the Latics and a diet of steak puddings, Lees Bitter and Lancashire Cheese, plus the toughening up process of playing on England’s coldest ground, has bulked him up so that he looks like a French version of Emile Ivanhoe Heskey.
He scored the second goal with a neat side foot and led the line well enough, creating space and laying the ball off well. Had it not been for a fine save by a Blackpool publican, Steven Norris, he would also have hit my matchday companion, Mr Horan, in the face with a wayward shot in the second half.
The first goal came from the increasingly prolific Wee Shuggie McBardsley as he latched on to an excellent pass from Kieran Richardson to beat City’s keeper and all round entertainer Michael Ingham with a strong cross shot. Richardson played in the hole, just behind Tounkara, and looked as comfortable on the ball as he ever does.
Of the rest, Mignolet made a couple of impressive saves, but could have conceded a first half penalty when he brought down Jason Walker. The referee gave him the benefit of the doubt, but here was no room for any when Titus Bramble gave a master class in the art of the mistimed tackle to allow Jamie Reid to convert a spot kick.
Bramble and Michael Turner, returning from serious injuries, made up a hesitant central defence. Both looked rusty and will benefit from the games in Germany; they need to if they are to retain their places.
Craig Gardner was competitive and was always looking to shoot, while Lee Cattermole does not appear to know what a friendly is; he snapped into the tackle and generally roughed up the City midfield. There was a worrying moment early on when he came out of a tackle rubbing his groin and looking to the bench, but he shook it off and turned in a very good 70 minutes.
There was the usual plethora of second half substitutions as the young guns from last year’s reserve team came on. Jordan Cook looked lively up front, while the likes of Adam Reed, Liam Noble, Craig Lynch and Blair Adams were able to have any watching scouts penciling them in for loan spells next season.
So, a good day made even better by Mr Horan and I being able to take advantage of The Wetherby Whalers Senior Menu. Haddock, chips and mushy peas, tea, bread and butter and a choice of ice cream or rice pudding all for £7.95. Who said that getting old was bad news?