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Starting place challenge for York City's Michael Coulson
SUMMER signing Michael Coulson has been challenged to earn himself a York City starting place for the new season’s curtain raiser at Doncaster Rovers a week tomorrow.
Matty Blair ’s groin problem is likely to free up one place on the flanks in Gary Mills’ three-pronged strikeforce for the Capital One Cup first round trip to the Keepmoat Stadium and Coulson looks in pole position to capitalise after a promising display during Tuesday’s 2-2 behind-closed-doors draw at Leicester City.
The Minstermen finished last season with Blair, Jason Walker and Ashley Chambers as their first-choice attacking trio but Coulson is now competing with the likes of fellow new recruit Oli Johnson and Jamie Reed for a first XI slot should Blair be missing next weekend.
Ex-Grimsby winger Coulson is expected to be given the nod alongside Walker and Chambers for tomorrow’s penultimate pre-season friendly at home to Middlesbrough and Mills said: “Matty Blair has pulled a muscle at the top of his thigh and it’s tough to put a timescale on these type of things.
“Jeff (Miller) has told me two weeks so I hope that’s the case but some people require longer to recover. Due to a freak injury, we will have to wait and see whether he makes the start of the season.
“But, with him pulling up in the warm-up at Leicester, it meant Michael Coulson started instead and I thought he was excellent. He scored a great goal and I was pleased with his performance.
“It was probably the best I’ve seen him since he signed for us.
Added Mills: “We have good options in those positions because Ash Chambers scored and played well at Leicester and could have had a couple more.”
Right-back Lanre Oyebanjo has also picked up a thigh injury that will keep him out of tomorrow’s match.
The game is being held as David McGurk ’s benefit match and, despite being restricted to just 20 minutes so far of the Minstermen’s pre-season programme on his return from a knee injury, the lifelong Boro fan will play some part tomorrow.
Mills added: “I’m pleased with how Dave’s come back to training. He wasn’t expecting to be involved at Leicester but I decided to give him 20 minutes because he’s been looking sharp.
“It was ahead of his rehabilitation programme but he did well and we want to get him back to what our fans know he’s capable of. Tomorrow’s all about people coming to support him and I want him to enjoy the game, but we can’t be sentimental and give him longer than he should have.
“He was a bit stiff after Tuesday’s match because we’ve been training hard too. He will get some game time but we need to bring him along the right way because he’s got to look at getting back involved in the squad.”
The City chief admitted the side that kicks off tomorrow’s game should closely resemble the team he has in his mind to meet Doncaster with just one more friendly left to play against Sunderland at Bootham Crescent on Tuesday.
But Mills also added it was not too late for anybody in the squad to press their claims.
He said: “It’s getting closer for me as manager, along with Darron (Gee) and Des (Lyttle), to deciding on what our starting 11 will be.
“If players are given the shirt over the next couple of games, they have a great chance of starting if they show they want it but, those not in the starting 11, must do their best to force their way in too.”
Former Burnley striker Dominic Knowles, meanwhile, remains on trial and is poised to feature against Championship outfit Boro.
Mills added: “He did well at Leicester in the second half. I need to decide whether it will benefit us as a squad if we sign him and we will do that over the next few days because he needs his future sorting as well.”
City will face Middlesbrough after returning from their six-day trip to Rutland, which kicked off with the 1-1 draw at Grantham.
Mills heralded the training camp as a success both on and off the pitch, while revealing that Chris Smith , Jason Walker and Paddy McLaughlin were the winning side in a golf competition but were later beaten into last place by a strong performance by the management team in the general knowledge quiz night.
“We learnt a lot from both of the games for different reasons,” the City boss pointed out.