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Johnno return a big plus

Michael Johnson 0809

Michael Johnson 0809

Michael Johnson's first outing since last September was the main plus-point for Mark Hughes after the Blues boss watched his mix and match side devoid of new signing lose to the Orlando Pirates.

The midfielder came through the first forty-five minutes of the game in Polokwane unscathed, a welcome return for the England under 21 ace following a 2008/09 season ruined for him by a niggling abdominal injury.

City lost the first game of their three in the Vodacom Challenge 2-0, the goals coming from a questionable first-half penalty and a long-range cross-cum-shot from near the touchline that dipped over recent acquisition Stuart Taylor. Fitness issues were the main concern of the boss, who afterwards told mcfc.co.uk:

"I thought it was a good exercise for us, a lot of players had good periods, but a big positive was Michael Johnson getting through 45 minutes. We are absolutely delighted with that. I was really pleased with what he was able to produce in that time. If we can get him back at anywhere near the level that we know he is capable of then it's like an extra player for us this year.”

Lengthy time spent travelling and late returns to training because of international commitments were the main reasons Hughes fielded a youthful team against the Pirates.

"It was obvious that we have a group of players who are at different levels of conditioning,” he went on. This game was possibly a little bit early for some of them.

"You always like to win games, so the result itself is a disappointment. There was a little bit of a soft penalty and possibly the lad was trying to cross it for the second, but these things happen! From our point of view the game was all about getting the players up to a level that will help us in the games ahead."

The squad now travels to Durban for Tuesday's encounter with the Kaizer Chiefs, and the extra couple of days could be a bonus for those who did not feature on Saturday, including Gareth Barry, who has yet to appear in a City shirt.

"We had 15 or 16 fully fit players today", added the manager. "We had Shaun and Gareth on the bench but I was never going to play them if I could help it because they have had very little training. We had all the fit bodies that we had out there and a lot have come through well."

Emmanuel Adebayor is expected to arrive in South Africa in time to watch his new teammates in action and Nedum Onuoha will also join up with the party in the next couple of days.

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