Potters end pre-season with another win
Despite two late goals from Cliffe Woods, Potters secured a 3-2 victory in their final warm-up game before the start of the new season.
Henry Willard's side sealed their second pre-season win on the bounce with a 3-2 victory at Potters Mede over Rochester & District First Division side, Cliffe Woods.
A strong squad with five available substitutes allowed plenty of opportunities for experimentation and rotation as the game unfolded, but the strong starting XI did their damage inside the opening 20 minutes as the visitors were left chasing the game early on.
No less than 5 minutes had been played when Max Jones peeled off the shoulder of the centre-half to latch on to a delightfully pin-point Tim Stephenson through-ball, and Jones made no mistake as he kept his cool one-on-one to slot the ball past the advancing goalkeeper to give Potters an early lead.
Shortly after the 10 minute mark, the lead was doubled thanks to a calm finish from new signing Rob Leaver. The former Seal striker was played through on goal after bringing down a terrific diagonal pass, and under-pressure, Leaver shimmied past the outrushing 'keeper with a feint, before slotting into the back of an empty net to make it 2-0 with 11 minutes on the clock.
Potters were dominating the opening stages, winning the midfield battle with the impressive trio of Stephenson, Clapp and Sutton working in unison to both intercept passes and pick up every loose ball across the middle of the park before an opponent, allowing Potters to drive forward and feed through to the final third with the pairing of Leaver & Jones looking both intelligent, and lively in their play.
The visitors were having a tough time getting hold of the ball for an extended period of time, and on 18 minutes the scoreline was increased courtesy of a trademark thunderbolt strike from Tim Stephenson.
The central midfielder had been running the Potters engine in the midfield since the first whistle, and a superb long-range effort from 25yrds caught the visiting goalkeeper out as he was unable to prevent the ball rippling the back of the net as the scoreline was increased to 3-0.
The first half was one-way traffic. The Potters back-line featuring debutant, Leon Smith, were calm and composed, sweeping up anything that came their way, whilst the midfield battle continue to be dictated by Henry Willard's side.
On the flanks, Ollie Burman and Matt Mills both looked assured and confident going forward, and Max Bridges in the Potters goal was merely a spectator for the majority of the opening 45 minutes.
With the scoreline at 3-0 at the interval, half-time changes were rung to give everyone fair minutes, and all five substitutes were now on the pitch for the start of the second-half, with Harry Paternoster and Mark Weller both being introduced just before the break.
The second period was somewhat disjointed in spells as Potters struggled to find the same dominant consistency they had found so natural in the first period, although trialist Matt Johns missed a glorious opportunity to make it 4-0 just minutes after the restart as he side-footed wide of the post after Louis Crabbe's square ball across the face of goal.
The ball just wasn't quite sticking in the final third as much as in the first-half, and midway through the second period the Potters Manager rested the legs of all three central midfielders who had started the game, and adjust formation accordingly, to ensure everyone still got a good amount of minutes under their belt.
The big re-shuffle naturally loosened Potters' grip on the game somewhat and allowed Cliffe more of a look-in as the minutes ran down, and the visitors snatched a goal back on 80mins from the penalty spot after Joey Jarmyn was adjudged to have fouled in the box as Woods' striker cut inside from the side of the penalty area.
The penalty was dispatched confidently to reduce the deficit to 3-1, and then five minutes later, a misjudged back header from substitute Jarmyn saw the ball head out for a corner, from which Cliffe found a second goal with a close-range volley at the back post from the resulting corner kick.
The game came to an end after two minutes of stoppage time at the 90 minute mark, with Cliffe unable to threaten again in search of an equalizer, and Potters 'shutting up shop' efficiently to see out the game and ensure victory.