Saturday, 22 July 2017

Brentford 2 Southampton 2

Pre Season Friendly, Saturday 22nd July 2017

My latest pre season outing took me to Griffin Park for Brentford Vs Southampton on a rather soggy afternoon in West London.
My last and only visit to Griffin Park was way back in 2001 when a then fresh faced 20 year old Pete saw his beloved Norwich City side lose 1-0 in stoppage time, so would history repeat itself and see the Bees record a morale boosting win over Premier League opponents.
The hosts were taking part in their fourth pre season outing although this was the first home one, and having recorded wins against Aldershot Town and Oxford United and a draw against Lasanne-Sport they were heading into this one unbeaten.
However Southampton would surely prove Brentford’s sternest test so far, although this was only the Premier League sides second pre season outing after getting it underway last weekend with a 0-0 against Swiss side St Gallen.
The hosts had scored ten goals in their previous three pre season outings and in the opening ten minutes showed their attacking threat and saw two decent openings concern the visitors defence. The Bees had conceded five in those games and were almost breached in this contest when a Saints header was well tipped over by Daniel Bentley.
Bentley had to be alert to tip over another decent effort from the visitors however the Bees were still looking for that breakthrough too and were more than matching their Premier League visitors.
And then came a decent period for the hosts and this almost resulted in the home side taking the lead after a great run resulted in an effort going inches wide of the far post, whilst up the other end Saints wanted a penalty but the referee thought otherwise.
But with six minutes of the half remaining the deadlock was broken and it came from a terrific Brentford attack which ended with a ball across goal being bundled home by Lasse Vibe and it was just rewards for their decent spell beforehand.
Saints almost levelled just before half time when they flashed a ball across the hosts six yard box but it was the Championship side who went into the break a goal ahead.
Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino, who was taking charge of only his second game after joining in the summer, had obviously given his side a pep talk in the changing room as they came out a different side and so nearly levelled when after bursting through the Brentford defence could only loft wide
However seven minutes into the second period the Saints did level when a defensive slip allowed Charlie Austin in on goal and he made no mistake by slotting beyond Bentley and gave the rather large Saints following behind the goal something to cheer.
It was to get better for them on the hour mark to as the visitors went ahead when they burst down the left and saw a cross into the box rifled into the roof of the net by Austin as the Saints were beginning to show their Premier League class.
Both sides made several changes thereafter as they looked to try out as many squad players as possible but initially the visitors continued to control the contest, much like they had done throughout the second half.
As the game entered it’s final fifteen minutes though the Bees began to buzz again and startes to see more of the ball and did force a decent save from Fraser Forster as they looked for an equaliser.
And with eight minutes remaining they found that leveller when Josh Clarke swung a ball into the box and keeper Forster came to claim it but allowed the ball to sail through his hands and into the net. Forster claimed he had been fouled but the referee saw no infringement so the game was all square.

Suddenly it was the hosts who looked more likely to find a winner and they pushed hard for one however they could not find it and the game ended all square.
It had certainly been a very good competitive contest played in good spirit and no doubt both sides would take alot of positives from it going forward.
And one final word. All of today’s gate money went to the victims and families of the Grenfell Tower disaster and with several thousand turning up for this one that’s good money raised for those people affected so that is a good way to end. Marvellous

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Hullbridge Sports 0 Grays Athletic 3

Pre Season Friendly, Tuesday 18th July 2017

My latest pre season match saw me over at Lower Road to see Hullbridge Sports take on Grays Athletic.
Sports had suffered to heavy home defeats in their previous two friendlies against Bowers & Pitseaand AFC Hornchurch and Grays Athletic would be another stern test of the hosts resolve.
Grays themselves are building up for a crack at the Bostick North title this season after making some rather decent signings and also managing to hold onto Kieran Bishop up front was also a massive bonus for the club who want to bounce straight back up into the Bostick Premier.
And the opening exchanges suggested a another tough evening for the home side as Grays created three terrific chances in the opening quarter hour but saw the visitors fail to capitalise on these openings.
Grays continued to dominate and apply pressure to the Hullbridge back line but solid defending kept the visitors at bay, and after a opening for the hosts the game began to become more even as the half entered it’s latter stages.
The half ended goal less though, a half that saw the visitors create the better chances but saw the hosts become more and more competitive as the half had gone on.
The opening fifteen minutes of the second period began with both sides looking to get forward but the visitors always looked the likelier to break the deadlock and on the hour mark won a penalty after a foul, which looked a rather soft decision, and Ade Cole stepped up to chip the ball beyond the keeper and give the Blues the lead.
The hosts reacted well to going behind although the visitors still looked fairly comfortable although the hosts were screaming for a penalty after what looked like a foul inside the box, however this fell on deaf ears as the hosts tried to find a leveller.
But with seven minutes remaining the Blues sealed the win when I Kiernan Hughes-Mason beat a defender and slotted home and then five minutes after Hughes-Mason added another when drilling home into the bottom corner superbly and capping a decent performance for his side.
So another defeat for the hosts who have yet to score a goal, they came close near the end, seeing an effort cleared off the line, but they would be happy with this effort and was a big improvement from their previous outing.
For Grays it was also a useful work-out and a decent solid display from Jamie Stuarts side who will no doubt be title contenders in the coming season.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Southend Manor 2 Heybridge Swifts 6

Pre Season Friendly, Tuesday 11th July 2017

I was over at my local club Southend Manor for my latest outing as they hosted Heybridge Swifts in a Pre Season friendly at Southchurch Park
The hosts have ambition this season and are looking to try and gain promotion to the Bostick North from the ESL and after last seasons decent season are looking to kick on this time around.
Swifts on the other hand are looking to have a much better season this time round after only surviving relegation from the Bostick North on the final day but they have signed some decent players for this term so they will hope this can help them going forward.
The teams were greater by appalling conditions on the Thames estuary with heavy rain lashing down and the first quarter of an hour saw Swifts create the best two chances, a header just wide then a shot deflected over.
But in the 17th minute the visitors did take the lead as a header from Ryan Henshaw was saved but Henshaw was there to convert the rebound and give his side the lead.
The visitors were now starting to gain control of the contest and looked fairly comfortable but in the 26th minute the hosts levelled ftom nowhere as Mickey Hopkins ran onto a long ball forward and applied a deft touch beyond the onrushing keeper and Manor were on terms.
However they weren’t on terms for very long as on the half hour mark Harrison Chatting produced a good run and finish, and Swifts were back ahead once again.
The visitors were now showing their class and three minutes before half timeadded a third when Luke Callander waltzed in and slotted home. Swifts had created a number of chances in this game and took another a minute before the break when Henshaw let fly from thirty yards out and it was four for the visitors.
Changed were made at the break but it didn’t effect the contest to.much as Swifts continued their assault on Manors goal, seeing one chance strike the post after a dazzling run and another effort saved by the hosts keeper.
But then ten minutes into the half Manor scored from nowhere again when a ball forward was converted and it was a second for the hosts as they reduced the deficit.
The next period of play saw Swifts create several more chances to score, whereas Manor saw Hopkins miss two great chances at the other end, as the game entered it’s final quarter.
Swifts created another great chance but failed to convert at back post, but with seven minutes left they did finally manage to find the net again with a tap in after a nod down from a cross and then barley two minutes later netted again when Marley Andrews drilled an effort across the keeper and in.
Hopkins saw a point blank header well saved by the Swifts keeper late on, but although the hosts showed glimpses, Swifts were fairly dominant overall and took the win.
Manor boss Stuart Marshall told me afterwards that these games against Thurrock and Heybridge were all about fitness and bot about the results, and that in his eyes the Pre season starts this weekend. He also said he is happy with where his squad is right now. Let’s see how far he can take them in the coming weeks and months.
As for Heybridge boss Jody Brown will be happy with how his team played I’d say, they certainly played some nice football on a difficult surface, and they should have a better season than the last on this showing.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Brentwood Town 0 Chelmsford City 3

Pre Season Friendly, Saturday 8th July 2017

Pre Season number three saw me at The Brentwood Arena on a sweltering Saturday afternoon as Brentwood Town hosted local side Chelmsford City.
This was the hosts first run out in pre season whilst the visiting Clarets had begun their build up to the new season in midweek by thumping Saffron Walden Town 7-0.
Brentwood Town of course ply their trade the what is now known as the Bostick League North (formally Ryman League North) whilst the visitors are two steps above in the Vanarama South.
And it was the visitors who carved out the best chance in the opening fifteen minutes which saw a brilliant double save keep them out and then several minutes later saw a header thump against the hosts bar and then a close range volley deflect inches over.
The hosts then came oh so close to edging ahead when Andy Freeman saw his looping header hit the post, before shortly after in the 25th minute the visitors took the lead when Chris Dickson slots home after breaking the offside trap.
City had another opportunity on the half hour mark when a lobbed effort almost went over the keeper but he just managed to get to it and prevent the visitors from doubling their lead.
The hosts did have their moments in the opening half but the visitors had been fairly dominant and deserved their lead at the break.
Half time saw Brentwood make several changes whilst Chelmsford changed their entire line up for the second period and initially the changes helped the hosts more as they saw a lobbed effort come back off the bar.
The visitors gradually started the see more of the ball again and saw a glancing header tipped wide as they began to up the pressure on the hosts goal although their final ball had been poor in this half.
City though continued to threaten and look the more likelier to score and sure enough with nine minutes left City grabbed their second as Kudos Oyenuga turned and fired home into the bottom corner.
The visitors fitness was coming through now as the hosts began to tire and a minute intostoppage time the Clarets added a third when Oyenuga drilled home a brilliant second for himself to seal a decent performance.

Brentwood certainly worked hard and gave it a good go today, and did strike the woodwork twice, but they were mostly outplayed by a much stronger Chelmsford City side who will surely be challenging for promotion again this season. All in all a good competitive workout for both sides.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Hackney Wick 6 AFC Southgate 3

Pre Season Friendly, Wednesday 5th July 2017

My latest pre season fare came on the 3G of Mabley GreenHomerton, Hackney, East London as Hackney Wick hosted AFC Southgate.
Now Wick were entering their third season as a club but this season has seen them take over Essex Senior League outfit London Bari so this will be Wickers first season in Senior Football after two years in the Middlesex County League. They should be groundsharing with Clapton at the Old Spotted Dog too.
AFC Southgate themselves are entering their first season with a senior mens football team and they will be playing in the Spartan South Midlands Division Two for this campaign and will be groundsharing at Hadley FC in North London.
So two sides entering the unknown this season making pre season all the more important. Wickers had a decent first outing, defeating Olympian Premier side Canning Town 5-1 on Saturday, whilst AFC Southgate’s first outing didn’t go so well, ending in a 9-1 drubbing at the hands of an ArsenalCommunity XI.
Both managers decided that the game duration should be three thirty minute periods, as is sometimes the way in pre season matches, in order to try out new players and tactics etc etc.
After a twenty five minute delay to the original kick off time of 7pm the first period got underway and after both teams had missed an early chance the hosts got their noses in front after eight minutes when after the away keeper had gone on walkabout, it left the hosts a simple cross and tap into the empty net.
It looked like Wick would take control thereafter however it was the visitors who began to find their feet and as the first period came to a close they were more than in this contest it has to be he said.
And sure enough five minutes into the second period of half an hour the visitors levelled when a mistake allowed AFC in and they duly slotted home and in my eyes had themselves a deserved equaliser.
But the term ‘you at your most vulnerable when you have just scored’ rang true for the visitors as barely a minute later the hosts regained the lead after a drilled effort went under the keepers grasp and into the net.
To AFC Southgate’s credit they came steaming back again though and four minutes later levelled the contest again as their striker was played in and he showed good composure to slot beyond the home keeper for 2-2.
But yet again they fell behind almost immediately when a free kick was rifled into the top corner brilliantly and then five minutes before the end of a crazy second period Wick increased that lead as a ball played through saw the Wickers forward get to the ball just before the keeper to loft beyond him and into the net.
So five goals in a mad fifteen minute spell and it looked like the hosts were now beginning to take control of the contest in the last few minutes of the period and of course had that two goal cushion.
However in keeping with the contest AFC Southgate kept plugging away and with twenty minutes left grabbed a decent goal back when a cross was volleyed into the roof of the net although the hosts should then of added a fifth on two occasions but failed to do so.
The visitors then missed a chance for 4-4 before the home side did manage a fifth with fifteen minutes remaining with a great team move ending with a cross from the left being converted first time beyond the keepers dive.
Wickers did manage to score a late sixth to round off another pre season victory, although they were made to work very hard by the plucky visitors who will no doubt get better and better with the more games they play. It was no doubt a good workout for both sides though with plenty of good attacking football on show.