Phil West says...
As a spectacle, the game at Tranmere was hardly a classic, and it won’t be a game that lives long in the memory, but as a window of opportunity for some of our younger players, I thought it was a more than useful exercise. Lee Johnson clearly used the game as an opportunity to provide them with a chance to impress, and some of them did, without a doubt.
In goal, I thought that Anthony Patterson had a very solid game. He looked nicely composed and did all of the basics in an efficient manner. The debate about whether he can usurp Lee Burge as our first-choice goalkeeper this season will rumble on, but he certainly did his cause no harm at Prenton Park.
In terms of our outfield players, I thought that Dan Neil and Jack Diamond were the standouts. Neil, similar to Elliot Embleton, offers us some real dynamism in the middle, and his default mindset seems to be to look for the positive pass rather than playing it safe all the time. This is an area of the squad in which I think we are reasonably well-stocked, but Neil certainly enhanced his claim for a first-team birth with his performance.
Diamond, meanwhile, continues to impress and sometimes frustrate, and last night showcased the good and bad sides of his game. On the ball, he is a real threat with his pace and close control, but his decision-making still can often be questionable and he was sometimes guilty of trying too hard and trying to be too clever, when other options were available.
That’s something that he can, and no doubt will improve, but given the need for a player with his attributes, I get the feeling Lee Johnson will be willing to back him as he continues to develop.
Phil Butler says...
Apart from the obvious answers of Antony Patterson, who I think should be given the chance to start the season as number one, Dan Neil and Jack Diamond, one player who I would like to see in the squad for the first few weeks of the season is young right-back Kenton Richardson.
The 22-year-old played 43 senior games for Hartlepool before signing for Sunderland and although he hasn’t pulled up any trees in pre-season he did look fairly solid against Tranmere whilst also offering a threat on the overlap.
Richardson, much like Hawkes further up the pitch, is a player who has essentially served his loan spell before signing for the club and until Lee Johnson signs some natural right-backs I’d like to see a young player with potential to improve be given a chance before playing someone out of position.
Chris Wynn says...
For me there are two distinct groups that become evident during games like our friendly at Tranmere Rovers. A group of players that you would confidently predict will play a part this season, and not be too concerned at the prospect, and another group where the jury is still out and it’s clear more minutes on the pitch in senior football is required.
Anthony Patterson looks assured in goal and could give Lee Johnson a headache in the build up to the visit of Wigan Athletic, and Dan Neil will be in and around the first team squad with an expectation that he grows as the season progresses.
Could also mention Jack Diamond, although in my mind he’s ahead of the rest, and I’m sure he will have a target to become more consistent than he was in his debut season.
The rest of the young players showed glimpses of huge talent, interspersed with lapses of concentration and/or lacking a bit of quality in certain situations, which to be fair is expected of young players.
I saw some moments from Sam Wilding in the middle of the park, especially in the first half, that show signs that he has a chance, which is also a bracket that Kenton Richardson and Ellis Taylor come under.
It’s difficult for us though, it was a friendly which is never a good thing to judge on, but there were some good signs, and one way or another, a number of these players desperately need games in senior football.