Reds went down 2-0 to Championship club Norwich City in their second pre-season game which was played at the Canaries’ training ground.
It was a difficult preparation for Head Coach Harry Kewell with injuries taking their toll already this season. All five summer recruits - Dominic Poleon (Achilles), Brian Galach (shoulder), Ashley Nathaniel George (knee), George Francomb (groin) and Ollie Palmer (illness) - were absent along with Jimmy Smith (knee) so Kewell took the opportunity to run the rule over eight trialists including Matt Young and Jamie Turley, who had both figured at Fulham in Saturday’s 4-2 loss.
The game was played in four 30-minute segments on an immaculate pitch at Norwich’s Colney training ground and it was a familiar 4-1-3-2 formation for Reds in the first half with Dannie Bulman shielding the back four and Panutche Camara supporting another trialist, Reece Grego-Cox, who scored at Fulham on Saturday, up front. In midfield, former Stevenage midfielder Chris Whelpdale played on the right of midfield as a trialist.
Norwich fielded a strong XI for the first hour, their attack led by former Scotland striker Jordan Rhodes who joined this week from Sheffield Wednesday on loan but it was Kenny McLean, a summer recruit from Aberdeen, who had the first chance when his curling effort came off the bar in the fifth minute.
Reds settled into the game and Mark Randall just failed to get a decisive connection when Joe McNerney headed a free kick across the face of goal. In the 23rd minute Glenn Morris was tested for the first time but pushed away McLean’s low shot as the first quarter finished goalless.
McLean was twice denied by Morris again in the second quarter. The keeper brilliantly clawed his close-range shot onto the bar and over, having already made a more routine save from the same player, but Reds had their moments too. Josh Doherty produced a teasing left-wing cross that Cox met only to be denied by Norwich keeper Remi Matthews. Grego-Cox’s effort looped over from the edge of the box and in the 57th minute Camara should have scored after Whelpdale cushioned the ball into his path five yards out but he failed to hit the target.
So it was 0-0 after an hour of ‘first team’ action and both sides made a raft of changes. Two Norwich players stayed on while Camara remained for Reds.
It was no surprise that the home side began to dominate and they went ahead in the 72nd minute when Dennis Srbeny lashed the ball into the roof of the net from a left-wing cross by Onel Hernandez. Seven minutes later Srbeny cleverly dummied Hernadez’s cross and Marco Stiepermann gave Mersin no chance again with his finish to make it 2-0, the Reds’ keeper having denied Hernandez with a superb reaction save moments earlier.
Camara was denied by the home keeper as Reds enjoyed a good spell towards the end of the third quarter before Whelpdale returned to the fray in place of Camara for the final 30 minutes of action with Young and Turley also getting some game time.
Mersin made another couple of saves in the final quarter when he blocked Stiepermann’s shot with his legs and another effort by Hernandez.
A good workout for Reds, who face Ipswich Town in their next pre-season game next Tuesday (17th) at East Grinstead Town FC.
Picture: Josh Doherty challenges Jordan Rhodes in Thursday's friendly against Norwich City. Photo by James Boardman