It was pretty much a second-string XI that went down to Bradford in midweek, and this afternoon could give us a big hint about how we’ll line up in next week’s season opener at home to Coventry. As we can see from the table below, there are a lot of ‘first-choice’ players who look in need of minutes.
We played with a back three on Wednesday, but I would expect us to revert to four at the back and a team that resembles something approaching our first XI.
Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson
Jacob Carney had a run-out in goal on Wednesday night, and did okay – however he didn’t look ready for Championship football. We need some serious competition for Patterson, and I think Patterson will come back in to the team today.
Defence: Trai Hume, Dan Ballard, Bailey Wright, Dennis Cirkin
Given he’s our only ‘real’ right back, it shouldn’t be any surprise that Alex Neil has given the Irishman a decent opportunity this pre-season, and I think Hume will get the chance to nail down a starting position for the season opener today.
Ballard and Wright look set to be first choice centre backs, while the defence should be completed by Dennis Cirkin. Both full-back positions are in need of strengthening, but in the short term at least we have some natural fullbacks, which we didn’t have a year ago!
Midfield: Corry Evans, Dan Neil
Corry Evans is likely to come back in after sitting out Wednesday’s game, and I think he’ll be partnered with Dan Neil.
The manager’s given Dan Neil a lot of game time in pre-season, and at present, I think he seems to be in pole position to start alongside Evans next weekend.
Attackers: Patrick Roberts, Alex Pritchard, Leon Dajaku
Roberts and Pritchard should come back into the team today behind Ross Stewart – Roberts needs a full game this afternoon, and we need Pritchard to be firing on all cylinders for the season’s start.
On the left-hand side I expect Leon Dajaku to start the game.
Jack Clarke played 90 on Wednesday, as did Elliot Embleton, so the German forward could get another chance to impress.
Striker: Ross Stewart
It’s a difficult one with Stewart at the moment. He’s had some injury problems this pre-season and didn’t have much of a rest in the summer, but we need him match fit as otherwise, who’s going to score the goals?
Hopefully, that point will be rectified soon, with rumours of Nathan Broadhead’s arrival circulating, but until then, we need to be incredibly careful with Stewart.