Slade on easy street
Four goals, Check. Clean sheet, Check. Ready for season.....?
Third practice game of the pre-season programme see's Slade return to the site of the 7-0 demolition at the hands of Rotherfield, and although today's opposition were also clad in the green of Rotherfield, there was a clear difference in level. Today's opposition, Wivelsfield Green Pilgrims, were a mixed bag of their first team which reside in the division one and their second team in division 8. Slade were also sporting a mixed bag of first and second team players, but still fielding a strong starting line up who were looking to build on the 4-1 victory against Ashurst Wood the previous week.
Slade were pleased to once again have Kieran Sills between the sticks who was well supported by a solid and experienced back four. Ben Williams continued his good form at right back, with Jack Larkham continuing as captain at left back. Tom Bendall was joined by Matt Collins at centre back for his first appearance of pre-season. Slade continued in a 4-4-2 with the ever reliable Darren Tai and Matt Hornsby making up the midfield partnership. Oliver McEnery was again trialled in a more attacking position at left midfield, and Liam Reyland showing his diversity playing on the right. The front pair, both making their pre-season debut was the enigmatic John Boddy and Isaac Cook, finally returning from university. Rob Ingham and Robbie Piper made up the bench with Genardo Campbell and Nick Samuels soon to arrive after kick off.
The game from kick off was very much a one sided affair with Slade looking very comfortable in possession, and out of it, were quick to close off the opposition. Wivelsfield were not having much chance to break into the Slade third, and when they did it was lacking any conviction and was shut out swiftly. Despite Slade's dominance in possession and territory, making the breakthrough was proving to be difficult. Playing on a 3G surface meant that despite the pace in the attacking positions, the ball was too easily running through and out of play. Some wayward finishing was further frustrating Slade with shots from Boddy going high and wide. It wasn't until Campbell entered the fray, duly replacing Hornsby in the line up, that Slade made a break through. It was actually from a rare Wivelsfield corner that Slade were able to execute counter attack. Campbell picked up the ball near the half way line, and after a bit of luck bundling his way past a defender, closed in on goal, and very calmly slot past the keeper at the near post. Perhaps a little bit of composure the team was crying out for.
Shortly after the score was doubled as Larkham, on one of his more advanced forages forward, found the run of Campbell on the left hand side, as Campbell once again honed in on goal, to calmly slot past the goalkeeper a second time to make the score line 2-0. The Wivelsfield defence was making it easy work for the attack with a lack of defensive organisation and discipline. Cook not wanting to be outdone by the so far excellent Campbell, got on in the act by adding a goal of his own, once again taking advantage of some dubious defending, and exploiting a poorly laid offside trap and this time the shot under the goalkeeper. Much of the second half remained in the same pattern, with plenty of control in the middle of the park, with Tai quick to mop up any hopes of attacking intent from the visitors.
At half time, Ingham, Hornsby, Samuels and Piper entered the fray with Slade re-shuffling the pack whilst sill maintaining a 4-4-2. As ever when the pack is re-shuffled it does take a little bit of time to re-find the same form as the first half, but Slade almost added to the score line as Piper, looking for his first goal for the club, cannoned the bar off the cross-bar with a half volley from just inside the box. As the game wore on, the game became a little bit more open, with shape of both teams becoming a little bit vague. There were still spells of some quality, but as the level of the opposition was perhaps not as threatening as first hoped, an element of personal glory started to creep into the Slade game. As a result the flow of the game became a little bit more chaotic, and only a Boddy goal mid-way through the half added to the scoreline, eventually drawing to a close 4-0.
Although today's game won't go down as the biggest test in history, it was still nice to see the likes of Collins and Boddy pull on the amber jersey for the first time this season, some well received goals for Campbell and Cook will go a long way to raising their confidence before the season starts, and the first clean sheet of the season. There will be much bigger tests ahead, but a confidence building victory will never be sneered at.
It is not clear at this point as to whether we will have another friendly before the season starts but keep your eyes peeled to the website, Facebook and Twitter. If not, we have had 3 different kinds of tests this pre-season, and had a number of promising new players tried out, so we can go into the new season full of fervour.
Training is still taking place at Victoria Rec, Tuesday's at 18:45, so it would be nice to see as many people there as possible.