Loughborough Dynamo 0-2 Grantham Town
In their penultimate pre-season fixture, Loughborough Dynamo were beaten 2-0 by higher league opposition Grantham Town FC.
However, the final score line did not reflect a performance which will give fans, players and coaching staff a real sense of optimism for the season ahead.
Against strong opposition, who played at a high tempo throughout, Dynamo looked organised in defence while providing an exciting attacking threat from a pacey front three.
It initially looked like it was going to be a difficult night for the home side, as Grantham took the lead in just the second minute of the game.
A corner from the right-hand side was flicked on unopposed in the middle of the area, before more poor marking saw centre half Sam Purcicoe smash the ball home despite the best efforts of Dynamo goalkeeper Charlie Taylor.
Grantham then began to dominate, with Dynamo reduced to a series of rash challenges in an attempt to break up the pattern of play.
In the tenth minute the home-side received their first booking, as centre back Ash Hodgkinson caught Michael Hollingsworth with a challenge which forced the Grantham midfielder off the pitch with a deep cut to his heel.
After the visitors squandered two more good chances, Dynamo began to grow into the game, with the pace of forwards Karl Demidh, Sam Thorpe and Luke Smithson, looking dangerous.
In the 18th minute, the indefatigable Smithson cut in from the left, before teeing up Luke Thorogood, whose goal bound shot was kept out by Grantham keeper Kieron Preston at full stretch. From the resulting corner, Ash Hodgkinson headed over the bar at the back post.
Dynamo’s best chance of the half fell to Demidh four minutes later, when he cut out a wayward back pass and found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Preston reacted quickly though to close down the space and smoother the chance.
As the half wore on, Dynamo relied on some excellent last ditch defending to stay in the game, and when Grantham did find space, substitute Kegan Everington was denied by the bar after shooting from distance in the 31st minute.
Grantham continued to dominate possession without creating a clear-cut chance, and following a swift counter attack from Dynamo in the 42nd minute, Preston was lucky to stay on the pitch after bringing down Smithson.
Louis Keenan’s resulting free kick to the near post was met on the volley by Demidh, but he was unable to direct his effort on target.
There was real purpose about the way in which Dynamo came out in the second half, and a good passing move just two minutes in saw Smithson and Demidh link up well again to set up Thorogood, who shot wide.
A series of substitutions disrupted the home side’s rhythm, and with the game opening up Grantham made their possession count, courtesy of some poor defending in the 71st minute.
From a long ball down the middle of the pitch, the otherwise excellent Jack Andrews kept Grantham substitutes George Couzens and Curtis Burrows onside, and the pair combined to pass around Taylor, before Couzens rolled the ball into the net.
The second goal knocked the confidence out of a tiring Dynamo team, who aside from an 87th minute strike from Paolo Piliero failed to create a meaningful opening as the game petered out.
After the game, Dynamo manager Peter Ward, revealed he was happy with his side’s performance against strong opposition.
He said: “I was really pleased. Having conceded in the first couple of minutes, you begin to think it could be a difficult night, but we competed well against a strong Premier League side who have been in excellent form during pre-season.
“I was pleased that they brought a good-side and their work rate was impressive, but our players put up a good show. I thought the two central midfielders, Paolo Piliero and Luke Thorogood played well, and Charlie was impressive in goal.
“I am now getting towards a decent squad of 17 or 18 players. There is a good atmosphere in the squad, and plenty of competition for places.”
The next game for Dynamo will see League Two side Mansfield Town visit Nanpantan Sports Ground, for the last game of preseason. Kick-off is at 3pm on Saturday 5 August.