Lincoln City 1 Norwich City 3: Kenny McLean lights up Canaries’ friendly cruise at the Imps
PUBLISHED: 22:05 10 July 2018 | UPDATED: 09:09 11 July 2018
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Sincil Bank on a gorgeous summer’s evening is a world away from the white heat of Bramall Lane or a derby day skirmish.
But in such relaxed surroundings Daniel Farke needs to mould old with new, to find a cutting edge and translate hard yards on the training ground into a cohesive mix.
At this embryonic stage, experimentation is the order of the day. Ben Godfrey was deployed on the right of a defensive three after an impressive season’s work in a defensive midfield role at Shrewsbury Town.
There might be no points at stake, but Godfrey needs to catch the eye if he is not already earmarked for another tour of duty lower down the football pecking order.
That versatility is not just an added extra, it will be desirable in a squad which continues to be thinned out in line with the footballing and financial philosophy at Carrow Road.
There was one early moment of alarm inside the opening seconds when the hardly inconspicuous frame of Matt Rhead sneaked between Godfrey and Christoph Zimmermann but headed straight at Michael McGovern.
The two Norwich defenders exchanged words but it was a warning duly heeded as City gradually got to grips with the high energy, high tempo set by Danny Cowley’s men.
Supporters who attend these friendlies search for clues to decipher Farke’s thinking for the Championship grind ahead.
The sight of Jordan Rhodes on the bench just hours after his season long loan move from Sheffield Wednesday was sealed may have added to the feelgood factor.
So too the sight of Kenny McLean for the first time in green and yellow following a return to his parent club after international duty for Scotland and a stellar final few months at Aberdeen.
McLean exudes poise and possesses a sweet left foot that could do damage if given time and space in the right areas.
His sweetly struck free kick to open the scoring four minutes from the interval was a thing of beauty, arcing over the wall and past the motionless Josh Vickers.
Farke slotted Alex Tettey behind the Scot and Moritz Leitner, with Felix Passlack and Marco Steipermann adding drive and dynamism in wider areas.
Passlack was thwarted by an excellent parry from Vickers after McLean had picked out the Borussia Dortmund loanee.
On the evidence of this first hit City’s midfield mix felt a comfortable concoction.
But inevitably, even at this stage of the summer, the focus rests heavily on whether Norwich’s trading can furnish this squad with the residual attacking threat so lacking last season. Given the removal of James Maddison and Josh Murphy there is added urgency to the quest.
Rhodes has been identified as one part of the jigsaw. Teemu Pukki another, while Emi Buendia and McLean, as he deliciously underlined here, bring reputations for goals and assists.
Pukki linked intelligently with Leitner just before the half hour mark but the German midfielder lifted a left-footed shot over.
Timm Klose was left unmarked but planted a Leitner corner wide from seven yards in the 35th minute.
It was more of the imprecision too often seen last season. McLean injected a dollop of quality from a set piece that evoked memories of the man he had replaced in the number 23 jersey.
City fans must hope he can reproduce the same sort of headline figures when the real action gets underway.
Farke reverted to fresh experimentation at the break. Only Zimmermann and Leitner survived the cull, with Rhodes introduced along with Ben Marshall.
Leitner was pivotal to the second goal, surging forward and with the lean-looking Rhodes darting into the channel rolling in a pass for Onel Hernandez to coolly slot past the advancing Vickers.
Then a lovely twist to follow when another half-time arrival, Louis Thompson, marked his return from a hellish injury spell with a composed chip from a tight angle.
Sadly, Sean Raggett had less cause to remember his Lincoln return when his intended back pass curled around Remi Matthews for an embarrassing own goal to offer some reward for the hosts’ spirited display.
• Lincoln City (starting XI): Vickers, Eardley, Toffolo, Waterfall, A Trailist, Bostwick, Chapman, Anderson, Pett, Rhead, Green.
• Goal: Raggett og (85)
• Norwich City: McGovern (Matthews 45), Godfrey (Wildschut 45), Zimmermann, Klose (Raggett 45), Passlack (Marshall 45), Tettey (Thompson 45), Leitner, McLean (Trybull 45), Steipermann (Arrons 45), Pukki (Hernandez 45), Srbeny (Rhodes 45). Subs (all used).
• Goals: McLean (41), Hernandez (54), Thompson (58)
• Referee: Josh Smith
• Attendance: 2,645 (249 away fans)