Pre-season is upon us! Before the action begins, there is still time for me to complete a couple of signings. First in is central midfielder Conor Hourihane. I’ve brought him in to partner Quinn in midfield. Hourihane had been at Ipswich and had a trial at Shrewsbury before I signed him.
The midfield is further strengthened by bringing left winger Scott McBride to Park Hall Stadium.
McBride joins us from Raith. He is another signing that has generated interest, with TNS favourite Ken McKenna being amongst those looking forward to seeing him in action.
Both go into the team for our opening pre-season fixture against Scottish Premiership outfit Kilmarnock. We are 10/1 underdogs, but start well. David Mooney has an effort tipped around the post in the 4th minute and three minutes later fires wide after being played in. We continue to defy the bookies as the next good effort comes our way as well, Paudie Quinn firing wide this time. A minute later and Kilmarnock have their first chance, but Jan Sebek stands strong and pushes away a 1 on 1. Kilmarnock have another 1 on 1 chance in the 32nd minute as Joseph Oastler is down awaiting medical attention, but Sebek saves again and thankfully it’s nothing serious for Oastler, who is starting at right back following the strengthening in other areas. Kilmarnock go close again a minute later as Sebek parries and we scramble it out for a corner, which is headed wide when it comes in. Sebek makes his third 1 on 1 save in the 35th minute as Kilmarnock launch a long ball from the back that catches our defensive line out.
The second half starts at a slower pace, although bursts into life in the 54th minute as David Nixon tackles McKay from behind, conceding a penalty and earning a straight red card in the process; not the first time in my Football Manager careers that a centre back has managed this in his first game for me. Thomson steps up for Kilmarnock and hits a low effort into the bottom left corner – Sebek goes the correct way, but is unable to reach it. Little more happens (beyond substitutions) until the 75th minute, when a 20 yarder from Dayton hits the back of the net, with Andrew McNeil able to get a hand to it but only push it further into the corner. Despite being a man down and two goals down, we still continue to look to score; Bagsan Graham has a great effort in the 76th minute that finds the side netting; it looks as though the keeper had it covered, but a reminder to them that a 2 goal lead can be dangerous. In the 84th minute, Danny Holmes picks up a yellow card for pulling back a Kilmarnock player and the last chance of the game goes our way as some good work between Ibrahim Farah and Graham sees the latter have a 1 on 1 effort pushed away by the Kilmarnock keeper.
A 2-0 defeat, but quite a pleasing start as Kilmarnock were expected to put a few past us and win comfortably. I thought we looked quite good, especially as there were a number of new faces pulling on the TNS shirt for the first time. However, our finishing let us down and will need to improve, but thankfully there are still pre-season games for us to iron the finishing issues out. Our next pre-season game in two days time will see us welcome Hamilton to Park Hall Stadium and will be a chance for triallists to persuade me I should sign them.