Bristol City go down to St Johnstone in opening pre-season friendly
ST JOHNSTONE 2, BRISTOL CITY 1
Bristol City boss Derek McInnes was certainly given food for thought on his return to Perth.
Returning to St Johnstone for the first time since he left to take over at Ashton Gate last October, the Scot saw his team beaten in their opening pre-season friendly at McDiarmid Park.
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He handed debuts to Jody Morris, Greg Cunningham and Paul Anderson, but the new-boys were upstaged by two-goal Rowan Vine.
The former Colchester and Queens Park Rangers striker proved a thorn in City flesh, scoring twice in the first half to give the Scottish Premier League side a 2-0 lead.
Jon Stead pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time for the Championship side, who improved following the introduction of substitutes Neil Kilkenny and Stephen Pearson after the break.
City should have equalised 10 minutes from time, only for Brett Pitman to head over the bar when unmarked at the far post.
But City's players – McInnes used 18 in all - will benefit from the work-out and will bid to register their first win of pre-season when they take on Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Monday.
St Johnstone had already played five games this summer, including two Europa League fixtures, and were far in advance of the Robins in terms of match fitness, a fact that was clearly evident when the Scottish Premier League side went ahead after just one minute and forty seconds.
City's back four were caught square as Sean Higgins played a return pass to on-trial forward Vine, who shot low beyond Dean Gerken and into the bottom corner from 10 yards out.
Stunned into a response, the Robins came within a whisker of equalising a few minutes later, Yannick Bolasie angling in a cross from the right and Brett Pitman arriving a split-second too late to apply a finishing touch at the near post.
City continued to be sluggish and Cole Skuse carelessly gave away possession from a free kick, inviting Kevin Moon to take a shot that required Gerken to make a smart two-handed reaction save.
New signings Morris and Cunningham started and were involved in some of City's brighter moments. Returning to McDiarmid Park for the first time since his transfer to City, Morris displayed an impressive range of passing from the middle of the park, while former Manchester City defender Cunningham demonstrated his pace on a couple of occasions, darting down the left flank to whip in low crosses that came to nothing.
City's lack of sharpness was again exposed eight minutes before half time. Centre-back Lewin Nyatanga failed to deal with a long ball forward and was dispossessed by the impressive Vine, who drilled his shot beneath Gerken from just inside the 18 yard box to double St Johnstone's lead.
City finally responded just before half-time, stand-out performer Bolasie whipping over a centre from the right and Stead rising unopposed to head in at the far post.
Saints almost restored their two-goal advantage immediately after the re-start, trialist Keammar Daley jinking his way past Cunningham and Woolford and unleashing an angled shot that struck the outside of the far post and went behind.
City boss McInnes introduced Neil Kilkenny and Stephen Pearson in a bid to galvanise his team and Stead went close with a drive that struck a blue-shirted defender and looped over the bar for a corner.
Pitman then found Bolasie at the far post, only for the winger's cross-***-shot to be blocked by Saints keeper Jonny Tuffley.
City were finishing the stronger of the two sides and Pitman was denied an equaliser by Tuffey, who dived low to his left to hold the striker's snap-shot from 15 yards out.
Right-back Richard Foster produced two excellent crosses during the final 10 minutes, only for Pitman to send his header into the ground and over the cross bar, while Tuffey made a fine save to keep out another effort from substitute Ryan Taylor.
St Johnstone (4-4-2): Tuffey; Mackay, Scobbie, Miller, Anderson; Moffat, Adams, Moon, Higgins; Vine (May 65), Daley.
City (4-4-2): Gerken; Foster, Carey (Wilson 75), Nyatanga, Cunningham; Bolasie (Anderson 75), Skuse (Reid 80), Morris (Kilkenny 60), Woolford (Pearson 64); Stead (Taylor 75), Pitman (Amadi-Holloway 88).