City u18s went down 4-1 to a strong Celtic side in the second of their two pre-season workouts north of the border.
Although the result was disappointing for the team and boss Jason Wilcox, the focus remains on getting minutes into young legs, and this was a valuable wake-up call ahead of the next round of friendly fixtures.
This was the second match for the u18s in less than 24 hours, so a complete reshuffle was needed with players still striving to reach match sharpness ahead of the competitive season kicking off in August.
City had prepared for this clash with one of Scotland’s most storied clubs with a special exhibition match against Duns FC in the Scottish borders. The boy Blues had been invited to open the club’s new ground, New Hawthorne Park, and they showed their character and desire to find a late winner to triumph over the club’s senior team 2-1.
On this occasion, a team made up almost exclusively of first year scholars struggled to match the physical stature of the Celtic side, who were largely a group of second years.
It was not a great first half from a City point of view, and Wilcox’s men found themselves 3-0 down at the break, but things improved at the start of the second period and the Blues got themselves back into the game courtesy of a superbly-worked strike.
However, an unfortunate own goal shortly afterwards restored the hosts’ three goal advantage and made it difficult for the City youngsters to recover.
While the full time result was frustrating, the main aim at this stage of pre-season remains fitness and testing young players in a variety of positions and formations – especially given that 11 of last term’s u18s regulars have now made the step up the EDS.
There were several positives to take away from the game, not least the desire in the early part of the second half to answer Celtic’s three goal lead, and Rodney Kongolo stood out as one of the best in a City shirt.
However, Wilcox will be seeking a response from his players when they take the field against Rhyl on Saturday.