Johnson has lots to ponder
Reporter: by MATTHEW CHAMBERS
Date online: 16 July 2014
ATHLETIC manager Lee Johnson was left with plenty to digest after watching his side come from behind to beat Newcastle United.
New signing Timothee Dieng’s header from David Mellor’s corner and a low finish from trialist William Gros helped see off the Premier League side at SportsDirect.com Park.
Siem de Jong — a recent £6million signing from Ajax — had given Alan Pardew’s strong side a half-time lead with a rocket of a shot which flew into the top corner.
But the general brightness of Athletic’s efforts in stoking a comeback, particularly after wholesale changes were made shortly after the hour mark, pleased Johnson.
“There is so much food for thought,” the manager said.
“The team that played in the last 35 minutes had quite a few people who came to the fore and showed they can compete at that sort of level.”
Gros impressed with his goal, which was helped on its way by a mistake from Toon goalkeeper Jak Alnwick.
Fellow attacking trialists Jonathan Forte and Mo Shariff probed to good effect and at the back, Miguel Llera did his chances of landing a contract no harm with a couple of neat tackles in the second half.
Johnson revealed afterwards that in addition to the five trialists on show, ex-Rotherham midfield man David Noble (32) is currently training at the club, but was unable to play last night due to having treatment on a slight knock.
Ex-Kidderminster striker Amari Morgan-Smith, another of the band looking to impress and land a deal, sustained a swollen knee in training and missed out.
And contracted forward Danny Philliskirk has a slight niggle which meant he wasn’t risked.
Of those who did turn out on the night, in front of a healthy crowd of 2,919, the manager had few complaints other than a slow start.
“I was really pleased with the fitness levels,” Johnson said. “In the first 20 minutes, we couldn’t get to grips with them.
“(Siem) de Jong kept getting into the gap and was causing us problems.
“After that we got into it more and had a few chances.
“We had corners and chances to get shots off. Obviously, it was a fantastic goal from them and sometimes you have to hold your hands up.
“On the rebound he (De Jong) had one touch and stuck it into the top corner, so fair play to him for that.
“When the substitutes came on they looked energetic, bright and played the ball at the right time.
“And we scored two fantastic goals.
“And it was good that our concentration levels stayed so high against their quality.
“Generally, I was delighted as we showed the group is fit and mobile and pacey for our level.
“It is early days, though. We were unbeaten in the last pre-season and then lost seven out of 10.
“But this was a good game as if our weaknesses were going to be exposed, it would have happened here.”
After suffering what he called a ‘glitch’ on one prospective deal earlier this week, Johnson said he doesn’t think he will make any further permanent signings before the visit of Melbourne City to SportsDirect.com Park on Saturday.
However, he is looking at the loan market.
“We have a few loan options and we have agreed in principle with a couple,” he added. “But until they sign on the dotted line you can never be sure.”
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