Another pre-season friendly, another set of new players! Unavailability meant Gaffer John Morris had to shuffle his pack again, bringing in Egan, Callaghan, Wootten, Spencer, Reece, Carter and Marshall for the Unavailable Fabb, Moruzzi, Wilkinson, Zweck, Amankwaah and the promoted Mbelo. On the upside of this, we are getting to see alot of players in the Reserves, and it is encouraging that players are coming in and stepping up to the demands of playing at the top end of the club. However, the downside of this is the lack of a settled side, on which successful teams are built. We need to ensure our availability improves as the season begins.
Anyway, to the game! The Gaffer made it plain before the game that there is ‘No such thing as a friendly against the Hill’. He demanded that we pressed from the off, and made sure the Hill did not have time to settle. With this ringing in our ears, we took to the field. We started brightly and were able to find joy inbehind the Hill fullbacks, and could have taken the lead when Jose forced an athletic save from the Hill keeper. At the back we were looking solid, Chris Simpson marshalling his defence masterfully, with McLoughlin and Simpson clearing up anything that the midfield of Glynn and Egan were unable to stop at the source. As the half approached, the Hill were limited to just the one chance that was blocked by a combination of McLoughlin and Carter.
At halftime, we spoke about keeping up the intensity – we were matching a top SAL team, but it would count for nothing if we capitulated with 15 minutes to go. Although we were disjointed at times, we played some excellent football. Callaghan was causing the Hill fullbacks no end of grief and Egan and Glynn impressed in their first game in the centre of the park together. We were using the long throws of McLoughlin and Nugent well, causing all sorts of problems in the Hill area, culminating in us hitting the post with a minute to go.
So a 0-0 draw, but so many positives to take. It will be really important to keep up that level of intensity throughout the season, and I saw several players struggling with their fitness as the game went on – this is the standard we require now – gone are the days of division 3 when we can relax for the last 20 minutes – we will need to keep working right up until the 90th minute this season. However, some standout performances – Egan and Glynn were excellent in the middle of the park, but the Man of the Match goes to young Pete Nugent, who grew in confidence and stature as the game went on. Top stuff.
C Simpson, Wootten, Nugent, I Simpson, McLoughlin, Glynn, Egan, Carter, Marshall, Jose, Spencer, Reece, Callaghan.