The next time Sheffield United are in action, three points rather than simply pride and first-team places will be at stake.
It is a prize Ryan Flynn feels is well within reach after their preparations for Friday’s League One curtain-raiser against Notts County ended on another satisfactory note.
“The real stuff is about to get going and we can’t wait,” Flynn, speaking after Ryan Bowman’s late equaliser ensured York City’s efforts did not go entirely without reward, said. “Nothing ever beats playing at your own stadium, in front of your own fans when there’s a lot riding on the actual result.
“That’s what all this has been about. It’s what everything has been building up to and we’re ready for things to get under way.
“Personally, I think we look in good shape. We can’t take anything for granted and it’s a long, hard season.
“But we’ve played some good stuff in our warm-up games and that goes right the way through from the older lads to the youngers ones as well.
“That should only bode well for the future. But we know we’ve got to keep working really hard.”
David Weir, whose uncle, Graeme Crawford, wrote his name into the history books at City by making more than 200 appearances for the North Yorkshire club, saw Callum McFadzean score the goal which helped preserve his team’s unbeaten record this summer.
Nevertheless, although the winger again impressed, Conor Coady and Lyle Taylor were arguably the biggest beneficiaries of Saturday’s contest.
Coady, signed on loan from Liverpool, seems destined to become an influential figure in United’s squad next term and used his second start since arriving from Anfield to showcase the technique and awareness which has forced him on to the cusp of Brendan Rodgers’ plans.
The pass which set in motion the chain of events leading to McFadzean’s opener was a joy to behold.
Taylor, despite failing to hit the target, also furthered his claims for a starting berth by giving City’s defence a torrid time before being replaced after the interval.
A fiercesome competitor with the character to match, the 23-year-old centre-forward went close on several occasions and helped create the strike which seemed destined to secure victory until substitute Bowman pounced.
“The aspect that really stands out for me is the competition that’s here now just to get in the team,” Flynn continued. “That’s one area where we are a lot stronger than last time out.
“Back then, if we got one or two fitness problems, it really cost us whereas I don’t think that’s going to be the case as much now.
“There’s a lot of good talent and, just as importantly, a lot of flexibility too.
“Lads can cover different positions, which means the disruption, when you do inevitably pick up those little knocks here and there, should be more limited.”
Despite acknowledging the importance of engendering the right mentality in a squad which lost its way towards the end of last season, Weir has been at pains to insist that fine-tuning systems and tactics has been his top priority throughout pre-season.
Having held Atromitos FC, of the Greek Superleague, to a draw less than 24 hours earlier, youngsters Jahmal Smith, Otis Khan and Connor Dimaio were all granted opportunities to catch the former Scotland defender’s eye as he prepares to embark on his career in management.
Situated less than five miles away from the home of the Ebor Festival, Bootham Crescent was also a fitting venue for footballing thoroughbreds such as Flynn and Tony McMahon to stretch their legs following injury.
The sight of McMahon departing with an ankle injury - “We think he’s rolled it. Hopefully it’s not too serious.” - was Weir’s only real cause for concern.
“There’s a really scientific feel about the club now,” Flynn continued. “I’ve probably learned more about sports science in the past few weeks than throughout my entire career, but that’s a good thing.
“That, perhaps, is the biggest difference under the manager and his staff, although obviously there have been a few tactical tweaks as well.
“We’re all feeling really settled and looking forward to getting going. Everything has gone well so far and we want to make sure that continues when the season gets under way.
“There’s a bit of a different style here now relating to the way we’re going about things. Everyone has bought into that new approach, which can only be a positive.”
United, again displaying the patience and respect for possession which underpin Weir’s philosophy, required less than 10 minutes to take the lead when McFadzean, profiting from Coady’s vision, drilled a powerful shot beyond Michael Ingham after being relased by Taylor.
Having added an assist to his list of achievements since completing a £250,000 transfer from Falkirk less than a fortnight ago, Taylor forged another opening as Joe Ironside prepared to enter the fray.
But not before going close to doubling United’s advantage after flinging himself at McGinty’s centre.
The duo combined again midway through the opening period but this time an offside flag rather than the law of physics came to City’s rescue.
Daniel Parslow spurned a rare chance for City while McFadzean was thwarted by Ingham during the closing stages of the first half.
Hodder drilled wide after Bowman struck with 12 minutes remaining when United struggled to clear their lines.
“The younger lads who came in acquitted themselves really well, I thought,” Flynn said. “That’s going to be excellent experience for them going forward.
“They’ve shown what they are all about and none of them looked out of place. We worked on a few different things out there and obviously when there are changes it disrupts the rhythm a little bit.
“But that was a really worthwhile exercise for us, one that we got a lot out of.
“From now on, though, it’s all about trying to get the right result.”
York: Ingham, Davies (Fyfield 65), Smith, Parslow, Coulson (McReady 76), Clay (Atkinson 67), Jarvis (Dickinson 76), Cresswell (Bowman 65), Platt (Murray 76), Allan (McGurk 46), Puri (Chambers 46). Not used: Kettings, Banks.
United: Howard, McMahon (Kennedy 60), Higginbotham, Hill, Flynn (Khan 60), Smith (Hodder 76), Taylor (Ironside 60), McFadzean (Dimaio 68), Whitehouse, Coady (Reed 68), McGinty (Barry 76). Not used: Willis.
Referee: Scott Duncan (Northumberland).
Goals: McFadzean (10), Bowman (79).
Attendance: 2,230 (1,188 away).