City u18s signed off from their pre-season trip to the Croatian coast with a comfortable 3-1 victory over FC Cukaricki.
Goals from Zackarias Faour, Tom Holland and Isaac Buckley ensured the tour finished on a high with consecutive wins in the two friendly exhibition matches.
The rapid deterioration of the pitch into something resembling a bog following yesterday’s storms did not faze City’s youngsters, who showcased their attacking qualities against physical opponents.
City kicked off their pre-season programme in convincing fashion last Saturday – Charlie Oliver, Manu Garcia and Zackarias Faour were all on the scoresheet as City ran riot and fired six past NK Novigrad.
But while Jason Wilcox had declared himself especially pleased with the attacking play in the last 30 minutes of that game, he emphasised the main point at this stage of the preparations is fitness, and to that end he made nine changes from the team that started last time out.
Charlie Albinson took his place between the sticks, while there were starts for Garcia and Faour after their eye-catching debuts from the bench against the Croats. Tom Holland, Sam Tattum and Nathaniel Oseni returned after their explouts with the u21s at the weekend, and Aaron Nemane got the nod on the right wing.
While temperatures didn’t quite reach the heights of the first match, it was still considerably warmer than the chilly conditions these players can look forward to back in Manchester.
The young blues dominated possession from the early stages, and an early run beyond the defence from Faour set the tone, and within 20 minutes City were ahead. Rodney Kongolo’s strong run into the box caused panic in the back line, and the Dutchman was brought down by a combination of two Cukaricki defenders.
The referee was quick to point to the spot, and Faour stepped up and tucked the ball home for his second in two games.
The Swede might have had another not long after, when a superb through ball from Tattum found him running beyond the defence, but he dragged his shot wide.
City’s patient build up was frustrating the opposition, and the second arrived shortly before the half hour mark. Tosin Adarabioyo picked out a perfect pass to the left wing, and the goalkeeper’s attempt to cut out the cross fell straight to Holland, who kept his composure under pressure from the defender to fire the Blues into a two goal lead.
The Serbian outfit’s attempts to stifle the influence of Manu Garcia were increasingly less successful, and the silky Spaniard nearly added a third just before the break, when he seized on a poor clearance and shot on instinct only to see the ball fly just past the post.
It was a similar story at the start of the second half, as City continually showcased their attacking quality. Faour was unlucky to see his shot skim the top of the crossbar, while a young trialist forced two brilliant saves from the Serbian keeper.
City stopper Haug, on at half time, was called into action with a low save to his right to preserve the two goal cushion, but it was his opposite number who had the busier morning.
Cukaricki grew in stature as the minutes ticked by, but substitute Isaac Buckley repeatedly caused problems for the defence. First, the young striker drove the ball into the box to force a corner, and then the keeper produced a great save to deny him a well-deserved goal.
The Manchester-born youngster did add his name to the scoresheet from the penalty spot with 20 minutes remaining. After being felled in the box himself, Isaac picked himself up and calmly sent the keeper the wrong way for City’s third.
Yvan Wassi was unlucky not to hit the target with his low shot after a cute lay off and instead City suffered a late blow when the opposition netted with five minutes left to reduce the deficit and rob Wilcox’s men of the clean sheet they so desired.
Although there is still a long way to go before the competitive season kicks off in mid-August, nine goals and only one conceded make for an extremely positive start for this young squad and they leave Croatia in buoyant mood ahead of next week’s trip to Scotland.
CITY: Albinson (Haug 45), Tattum, Humphreys (Assiana 70), Adarabioyo (Wassi 58), Oseni, Holland (Trialist 70), Kongolo (Wood 73), Garcia (Brooks 73), Trialist (Bullock 73), Nemane (Corfe), Faour (Buckley 58).