With it being half term and no cup games arranged the league organised us a friendly against Stratford Vics who we had beaten 7-1 earlier in the season. The gaffer, Mick and his son, Thomas H, were unavailable for the game and unfortunately Josh G was taken ill on the morning of the game so we had a squad of 12.
The pitch having been cut was in perfect condition and we started in a 3-3-2 system with the captain Daniel W in goal, Ben S, Thomas M and Thomas Dy at the back. Thomas Da, Ben G and Nathan across midfield with Flynn and Henry playing as the front two. Ryan, Josh S and Daniel H starting on the bench.
We started brightly in the opening minutes with Nathan having joy down the left and delivering a couple of excellent crosses that just evaded our strikers. We then had a few problems as we wanted to play a high pressing game but Stretford had no intention to play out from the back and just launched the ball forward at every opportunity and then broke from midfield to win second balls and ultimately play territory in our half of the pitch. We changed it slightly with Henry moving into central midfield and Ben G playing just off Flynn who played right up front.
Everything was congested in the middle as Vics continued to play direct and we struggled to get a hold of the ball to be able to play our football. With nothing really happening it took an excellent piece of work on 11mins from Thomas Dy who anticipated a rare pass from them through midfield to intercept and stride past a couple of players to unleash a wonderful left foot strike that beat their keeper and nestled in the bottom corner from 20yds to put us 1-0 up.
We changed to a 2-4-2 system on 15mins with Ryan, Josh S and Daniel H replacing Ben S, Flynn and Ben G respectively. This gave us the opportunity to keep Nathan and Thomas Da out wide and Henry played off Ryan who sat in the middle to keep our shape to play. Thomas M and Thomas Dy had been excellent together with Ben S in a three and continued to be so in a two with Daniel W doing superbly as our sweeper keeper. Vics struggled against this system as we kept the ball really well and moved it quickly when in possession to allow the two wide boys to deliver several excellent crosses which Josh S, Daniel H and Henry had opportunities to extend the lead. Vics were struggling to close us down as they began to tire as we continued to move the ball wide and with some better decision making and a more ruthless finish we would have extended our lead before we did. The second goal came when Ryan struck a right foot free kick from 25yds that the keeper could only parry away and Daniel H reacted first to tap in. The boys were now completely on top and had several chances to go further in front due to some excellent football in getting the ball wide and stretching their back line. We went 3-0 up when after a wonderful move the ball fell to Daniel H who slotted home with ease to complete the scoring before half time.
We told the boys that Vics only had the bare nine players and would obviously tire so we must continue with the two and three touch football, use the width that exists in this system and to ensure that the person on the ball has options by players making good movement. Also to make better decisions in the final third and be ruthless in front of goal. We kept the same system but made changes with Ben S, Ben G and Josh S replacing Thomas M, Thomas Da and Daniel H respectively.
The second half was very much as the first had ended with the boys playing some excellent football with Nathan and Henry giving us width and Ryan and Ben G dominating the middle of the park. The movement of the front two Flynn and Josh S and their work rate was superb. Ben S, Thomas Dy and Daniel H showed excellent concentration and dealt superbly with the odd break that the Vics mustered. We could and should have added to our goal tally with chances for Flynn, Josh S, Ben G, Nathan and Henry before we did get our fourth when Flynn made a great run and was put through from midfield in the left channel and he showed great skill to cut back on his right to arrow a strike past the keeper giving him no chance. We continued to dominate and got into some excellent positions only to let ourselves down with the final pass or cross.
We maintained a 2-4-2 system but made some further changes with Thomas M, Thomas Da and Daniel H replacing Thomas Dy, Henry and Josh S respectively. As Vics began to tire some of their challenges were a little late and we encouraged the boys to play as much two touch football as possible. This they did and continued to carve out opportunities which either their keeper made an excellent save or we wasted the chance. Unfortunately we had an unsavoury incident when after a wonderful move by the boys Daniel H was going through to hopefully complete his hat trick only to be completely taken out via a horrible and dangerous challenge by their defender. Thankfully Daniel H was fit enough to carry on and all the boys told him to go and smash the free kick in from 25yds. This he did with a wonderful right foot strike that arrowed into the bottom corner. The boys really celebrated his hat trick strike with him. We made a couple more changes and went back to a 3-3-2 with Thomas Dy and Henry replacing Ben G and Nathan. We could have added further goals with excellent chances for Flynn, Thomas Da and Daniel H but it wasn't to be and we ended up 5-0 winners. All the boys shook hands after the game and their coach apologised over the challenge on Daniel H.
We told the boys how proud we were of their performance in the main and more importantly how they didn't retaliate to anything that went on during the game, in particular, the second half. One thing that they must be aware of is that boys will try to put you off your game by saying things or doing things. Please take this as a compliment to your ability and you must ignore it as if you respond then they have achieved their objective because you are now more interested in having some 'discussion' rather than playing football.....so don't rise to it !!!
Everybody got plenty of game time today in either a 3-3-2 or 2-4-2 system. Some of the football we played was excellent. We lost shape to play early in the game as we didn't get to grips with their long ball tactic. Once we grasped that midway through the first half and got the ball down and used the wide areas in a 2-4-2 it was one way traffic. We just need to be more consistent with our quality in wide areas and be more ruthless when we have goal scoring opportunities. The four boys at the back were outstanding and fully deserved their clean sheet plus Thomas Dy grabbed his first goal of the season !! The five midfielders who rotated did really well, particularly when we went to a 2-4-2. We do however, need more goals from this area going forward, we had the chances, just need to be more clinical. The front three/four showed excellent movement throughout the game and had to deal with some rough treatment. Would have been great to get Josh S on the scoresheet to reward his excellent work rate.
The boys voted for Man of the Match and it was a fully deserved landslide victory for our hat-trick hero Daniel Haworth !!!
We have another home friendly next Saturday 18th February kick off 9.30am against Sale Utd Storm who we've played twice in our Cup games drawing 2-2 at home in the first game and winning 3-0 away a couple of weeks ago.