Anthony Ralston has featured on the right in many of these friendlies. Last season we had a loan player from Everton playing in that position. The best part of the deal was we could send him back. Ralston is better, but like so many of those featured, no better than back-up. I include Bain, Welsh and Taylor in that category. Although to be fair, Taylor was pretty good here. I don’t know enough about Urhoghide other than he’s a big lad (which I like) for a centre half and keen to show what he can do, which I also like. Ironically, he started his first game at right back and had to move to that position again.
We all know that we lost a goal a game from defensive fragilities last season. We also know that Ange’s teams are going to play from the back, little triangles as we work our way forward. I’d like to say like Italy or Spain. But we’ll wait and see. Scottish teams, and Rangers, in particular, quickly figured that they could push all their players into our half, and wait to pounce when we made a mistake. It’s high-risk in which we dominate possession (which is a given in the Scottish game). Ryman, for example, hitting the post after 34 minutes in a half which Celtic dominated, without having many shots on goal. And then later, with two minutes to go from a corner. Ajeti having a late shot in the first-half one of the few highlights.
The downside was a flurry of injuries. Barkas before the game started. Mikey Johnston (again) midway through the half and Keromoke Dembele towards the end of the first half. Urhoghide, who was covering for Ralston, also limped off, but after 90 minutes. Best player of the park, Callum McGregor, who lasted the fully ninety minutes.
Luke Shaw on for Soro at the beginning of the second half. (Soro may also have a calf strain). The ex-Sheffield player looks a real prospect. As does Urhoghide. But we don’t need prospects. A week away from the first qualifier in the Champions League and a stack of injuries. Let me put it this way, when we took Ajeti off, Mooney, a young winger replaced him. This was probably as close to the first-team selection for the first competitive game. Second-stringers are going to play on Saturday.
Some good football. But no punch in the final third and weak at the back. Ironically, the goalie with a pass-back nearly gave away a penalty with two minutes remaining. (I thought Connor—who doesn’t like the ball at his feet and who I don’t rate—mistimed it and it was a penalty). One of those games: should, could, but didn’t—shades of last season. Let’s hope not. Plenty of injuries to ponder. Onto Saturday’s match.