United kicked off their pre-season campaign with the short trip to Milton Keynes on Saturday.
Mark Bonner picked two distinct line-ups for the match swapping at half-time, both teams featuring a combination of pros and youth teamers. Dissapointingly for a pre-season game there were no mystery triallists starting for United, although MK bought on a couple in the second half.
United started brightly in the first half, Hoolahan and Knibbs in particular linking up well, and culminating in a quickly taken free kick from the ex-Norwich maestro, which Knibbs took a deft touch before turning into the net. Mitov made a number of saves to keep the U’s in the lead at the break. The second half saw United go 2-1 down, a poor clearance from an out-of-position Digby at centre back causing the first, which Burton should have done better with (although nine times out of ten would have been blasted over the bar), a slightly more youthful line-up creating a number of opportunities but being caught out at the back. Tom Knowles and Lewis Simper both had chances to level for the U’s before Andy Dallas pegged an equaliser off the rebound ten minutes from time. Dallas had a chance to win the game in the dying minutes, but the result was never really the object here, as the U’s practice on getting their match fitness back after the premature end to the season.
It’s going to be hard to gauge Bonner’s preferred starting XI from this one game as both sides combined youth and experience, but we’d hazard a guess that the first-half line-up is going to be closer to the side that kicks off the season than the team he played in the second half. The reliance on previously fragile players to play 40+ games next season and the lack of cover or in certain positions is glaringly obvious so we hope another dip into the transfer market is planned, although any more incoming players are likely to be loanees from higher up the Leagues. Still, not a bad start to pre-season, a couple of confidence-boosting goals for the strikers, and doesn’t that new shirt look nice?
United First Half: Mitov, Bennett, Darling, Taylor, Davies, Hoolahan, Worman, Hannant, Neal, Mullin, Knibbs
United Second Half: Burton, Dunk, Dickens, Battersby, Knoyle, Knowles, O’Neil, Digby, Simper, Ironside, Dallas