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York City boss lays down forward challenge as Knowles exits
JASON Walker and Jamie Reed must prove to York City manager Gary Mills that there is no need for him to sign another striker for the new season.
With Mills releasing trialist Dominic Knowles, the Minstermen enter tonight’s final pre-season friendly at home to Sunderland with just Walker, Reed and the transfer-listed Liam Henderson as recognised centre forwards.
The City chief has been pleased with Reed’s form during the club’s warm-up matches over the last month and, although he feels Walker could have done better, will be in no rush to recruit a new attacker if the pair perform to their full capabilities against this evening’s Premier League visitors, kick-off 7.30pm.
Mills said: “I have released Dominic Knowles. I thought long and hard about it because he did well in little spells but have decided against offering him a contract.
“We might look to bring somebody else in now but it’s down to the players who are here really to tell me if I need to. Jason can play better than he has done in pre- season and he’s had a few months where he’s not been at his best.
“He knows that and everybody does because he’s a good player. I am sure that will come back but when Jamie Reed has come on, he’s looked sharp and done well for us.”
Ahead of the Sunderland game, Mills stressed that he has not yet settled on his side for Saturday’s Capital One Cup trip to Doncaster, providing a big incentive for everybody involved tonight.
He added: “In my mind, there’s people I want to play on Saturday but I certainly feel there’s places up for grabs – I really do. Everybody wants that shirt and their job is not to make my decision easy when it comes to the starting XI.
“We have in our minds who we are looking at but then certain things happen. Somebody might not perform for a couple of games or somebody might not look as sharp in training and somebody else who plays in that position does.
“That puts a doubt in your mind as to who you will play and that’s fantastic for me because it’s what football’s all about.”
Following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Middlesbrough, Mills is also calling on greater concentration levels against Martin O’Neill’s Black Cats, saying: “There were a couple of things wrong on Saturday – the winning goal for them most of all.
“We did not stop the cross going in quickly enough or pick up on the edge of the box afterwards and we have to be better than that. These little things can actually be massive because it cost us the game against Middlesbrough.
“The higher you go up in football – and we’ve just been promoted – you are punished for lapses in concentration. That will certainly apply against Sunderland because they are a Premier League side.
“You have to be switched on, disciplined and a yard faster than your opposition. Hopefully, we will have learned that lesson from Saturday.”
Lanre Oyebanjo and Matty Blair remain sidelined with thigh injuries and, along with Scott Kerr and the returning David McGurk , will miss the start of the new campaign but Mills is confident the squad can contend with their absences.
He said: “You want to have everybody available but most people will be in the same boat. If you’ve got everybody fit for the start of the season then you’ve been very lucky.
“You always have to be prepared for injuries and suspensions and make sure you have cover until they come back and are fit and ready to go. It will be good to get them back but, although they are not fit to play, they are still a massive part of things because we are a big family here, working for each other and helping each other out.”
Sunderland are expected to send an under-21 development squad to Bootham Crescent with the Premier League club also having a further friendly at Derby County tomorrow.
Three players with first-team experience for the Black Cats – Ryan Noble, Craig Lynch and Louis Laing – are likely to feature, however, along with England under-19s keeper Jordan Pickford.
Blair Adams, Billy Knott and Adam Reed, who have all been loaned to Football League clubs in the past, are also poised to figure with reserve team manager Kevin Ball set to take charge for the night.