When Celtic faced off against Hibernian on Monday, I think it would be fair to say it was more of a second-string side, bar Oliver Ntcham.
During this 3-1 victory, we also got to see some fringe players such as Patryk Klimala and Ismailia Soro, who some have been wondering how good they are and if they can have an impact.
What I was interested to see from this game though, was how a number of the youngsters from the academy faired against a Hibs side which had several first-team players who were involved in the game. Here are my thoughts on how I felt these players done:
Conor Hazard– At this current moment, Hazard is technically 2nd in command when it comes to the goalkeeping position, even though he has barely featured for the club. In reality, this may have been the first or second time some fans have actually seen him play.
I was a bit sceptical of the Northern Irishman at first but after seeing this performance, he looks a fairly okay keeper. Some may argue he could have done better for the Hibernian goal, but on a slick surface, it was a good volleyed finish which found the back of the net.
After the goal, he looked comfortable with some good saves and showed signs of being demanding in the air. Maybe could do with another loan move but I don’t see that happening this season.
Anthony Ralston– Ralston is a player who does come with some first-team experience, having played at the highest level for the club in the Champions League against PSG.
The fullback was solid enough in the game and I wouldn’t say he done much wrong really but there also wasn’t anything that stood out for him. For the goal, he was left a bit short, having to pick up two men which included the Hibs winger and fullback, the latter of which ended grabbing the goal
It does look like the 21-year olds time at the club is coming to an end though, with it being rumoured that Ralston is free to leave, in the current window.
Stephen Welsh– After recently signing a new three-year contract and making his debut last season, Welsh is one who could be seen as close to pushing the first team by the coaching staff.
Welsh didn’t really standout in yesterday’s game, which could be seen as a good thing for a defender as he was solid and wasn’t caused much trouble by talented Hibs striker Jamie Gullan. His distribution is also something that has impressed in the past, as he is very calm and composed on the ball.
The defender is probably one who may benefit from more first-team football, out on loan but there could be opportunities for him to feature in this season, as he did last against Hamilton Accies.
Kerr McInroy– The midfielder, turned fullback was the only player to have featured in both the Hibs game and the Ross County game after Greg Taylor was forced off with an injury.
To be fair to McInroy, he looked untroubled for someone who was playing in a completely different position than they were used to. It may have been a bit strange for him switching to left-back but he certainly has done his reputation no harm, showing he can be reliable wherever you put him.
I would have probably liked to have seen him in his more natural position as well, but that is a place on the park we are absolutely filled with players at the minute.
Scott Robertson– Robertson is also a player who has made his debut for the club in competitive competition, last season. He was given the chance to play against Cluj in the last Europa League group stage tie.
Over pre-season, the midfielder has looked good in the middle of the park, showing both his grit and his ability to play football when he gets the chance.
In my opinion, this game was probably his worst showing of pre-season, missing a 1on1 early on, just before Hibs opened the scoring. Although he did end up playing 45 minutes, again in an unnatural position at left-back. He is another who has done no damage to his high reputation with some good showings over this pre-season.
Euan Henderson– In the minutes that Euan Henderson has been given so far, he has been played out on the left-hand side. This is probably not his best position on the park, with the youngster being more of a playmaker in the middle of the park, but it was good to see him back out playing for the hoops.
He showed some sightings of good ball control and being able to take on his man. As we have seen previously, Henderson has a great passing ability and some of his corners in this game were put into some superb areas.
It was a bit frustrating not being able to see much of him last season after an unsuccessful loan spell out at Ross County, so I’m hoping he can get another loan move to a premiership club to see how he does.
Karamoko Dembele– Everyone will know who Karamoko Dembele is after he best onto the scene, making his debut at just 16-years of age against Hearts on the final day of the 2018/19 season.
The hype has always been massive for Dembele and it was good to see him finally play 90 minutes for the first team, albeit in a friendly. In the first half, he was able to level the game, with a brilliant finish, giving the goalkeeper the eyes and sending him the wrong way before tucking the ball into the bottom corner.
Later on in the game, he was given more of a different role, playing more as a number 10. We saw some good pressing from Dembele to win the ball back and feed Leigh Griffiths in before Patryk Klimala was able to give the Celts the lead.
In this game, we also saw a different side to Dembele which was good to see for someone of such a young age. Any time he was kicked down, which he is probably used too, he would get back up and was not afraid to give it back. Thereis some real promise around this boy and its clear to see why.
Luca Connell– Unfortunately for Luca Connell, he hasn’t been able to feature in any of the games up until now. He has been on the bench for everyone but didn’t get any minutes. He was given 45 in this game though, and certainly, put down a marker and impressed.
He was very tidy on the ball and was able to keep the play ticking over from a deeper-lying role in the midfield. He also showed some good defensive work, sliding in at the last minute to block a shot on the edge of the box.
Many will be shocked that Connell did not see more time on the pitch after yesterday’s showing, and some were even calling for him to feature in some league games during the season. With Scott Brown not getting any younger, it is good to see we have talent coming up to possibly replace him one day.
Overall, this pre-season was an impressive showing for the academy prospects and one we should all take a lot of notice on. It is clear to see we have some brilliant talents in the ranks, which I look forward to seeing more of in the future.