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Classt llera offers food for thought

Reporter: Matthew Chambers
Date online: 21 July 2014

Athletic 1, Melbourne City 1


MIGUEL Llera’s equaliser provided something of a headache for Athletic manager Lee Johnson.

It gained his men a draw against the technically adept visiting A-League side, with the trialist’s looping second-half finish finally making count the plentiful chances created by the home team.

But Llera provides something of a problem for Athletic’s manager.

Clearly, the 34-year-old has the class and ability to be effective at Sky Bet League One level.

Does he, though, represent good value – especially given that Athletic’s defensive line-up appears pretty solid, with a strength in depth not apparent elsewhere?

This is a question which will no doubt vex Johnson over the coming days.

As, too, will the one concerning whether or not Jonson Clarke-Harris is capable of starting the season as a lone striker.

Twice the 20-year-old failed to convert from excellent positions in the first half, convincing far less than substitute William Gros who later came on in his place.

First there was an air-shot with his favoured left foot when found by inconsistent trialist Jonathan Forte; then, Clarke-Harris lofted an attempt wastefully over the top after skilful play in the build-up from the excellent Mike Jones.

Clarke-Harris — linked with Championship clubs last season — can hardly be blamed for possibly the first half’s worst missed chance, though.

James Dayton, lively and in a good mood to skip past his marker, went alone instead of slipping the ball into the middle towards the unmarked Clarke-Harris after 31 minutes.

He was tackled as he cut into the area and the opportunity vanished.

It was far from classic stuff from Athletic, but for all of Melbourne’s superior possession the visitors failed to create any clear-cut scoring opportunities.

John van ’t Schip’s side, though, came out firing at the start of the second half to take the lead through one of five interval substitutes.

David Williams — a more experienced performer along a squad mixing first-teamers and young prospects — finished neatly in slotting the ball under Paul Rachubka’s body with his left foot after being slipped in by Mate Dugandzic.

As they had done against Newcastle, Athletic improved gradually as the game progressed.

Dayton provided some danger, going past his man regularly without providing too may telling final passes, while Forte was quick but also inaccurate in prime positions.

Gros and Jordan Bove provided some impetus as substitutes — the former in particular holding the ball up well and spreading the play — and when Jones surprised the A-League side with a quickly-taken free-kick from the right flank, Llera’s lobbed volley levelled to provide some cheer for the paltry crowd.

In the end, up against a Melbourne side who showcased plenty of ability, Athletic can’t be too upset at this result.

The real tests are yet to come. Whether former Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday man Llera is still involved come the trip to Colchester on Saturday, August 9, remains to be seen, but on current evidence Athletic fans will hope so.

 

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