A resounding opening day victory got our season up & running in what was an attacking masterclass. New summer signing Treasure Asuquo was handed a debut alongside Ben Devlin in midfield which allowed captain Paddy Clegg to play in a more advanced role behind the front 3. Jude Carroll was also passed fit to slot back in at left back which was a huge plus. It also proved to be a landmark day for Gift Sibanda who was just one goal behind all time leading goal scorer Ross Keegan coming into this game. Sibanda who was looked rejuvenated and determined to hit the ground running draw level with Keegan when he opened our account for the season after 11 minutes. A great ball into the box from Charlie Hacking from the right flank fell to Gift who dispatched low into the corner with his right foot. Two minutes later Sibanda returned the compliment when his terrific cross was headed home by Hacking. A second header from Hacking this time from a Samson Aboiro cross made it 3-0 in the 15th minute. It was a devastating start from us and Athletico couldn't cope with the quality of our delivery into the box. We were however dealt a huge blow when last season's top goal scorer and player of the season Alex McDonald was forced off in the 18th minute with a groin strain. It's looking increasingly likely that we could be without our number 15 for up to 4-6 weeks.
Zico Williams replaced McDonald and very much had a point to prove and did he do so. His corner on 20 minutes was failed to be cleared and Hacking reacted quicker than anyone in a blue shirt to stab the ball home to complete what will no doubt be the first of many more hat-tricks to come this season. Hacking's cute pass then found Sibanda who's first touch was immense and his finish equally impressive which sealed his place in the record books with his 62nd goal which put him top of the all time goal scoring chart. Zico Williams added two more before the break to send us in 7-0 up which was one of the best attacking displays we've seen in a very long time.
Unfortunately we suffered another injury blow when centre back Sam O'Neill had to be replaced by James Boner at the break. Boner who has had a good pre-season slotted in alongside Dan Edge and Ethan Danku who like Boner has had an excellent pre-season and looks very sharp was given his first taste of action too. It took just 40 seconds for our number 19 to make an instant impression. He picked the ball up just inside our half and went on a mazy run and curled a superb right foot effort that hit the far post. We struck goal number 8 just 3 minutes into the second interval when Charlie Hackings low driven cross found Zico Williams who's timed his run to perfection to smash home at the far post to complete his hat-trick. Danku then won a penalty which he took only to see his effort from 12 yards saved by The Atletico keeper. Everybody froze except for Danku however who followed in to knock in the rebound. On the hour mark Harry Galvin replaced Joe Wilson which was great to see given it's been well over 2 season's since he featured in a competitive game. Galvin is a valuable member of the squad and this was his just reward for sticking with the club and showing some impressive displays throughout pre-season.
A great team move was finished by Hacking who got his fourth of the day with a tremendous right foot volley. Paddy pulled the ball out of the sky with a great first touch and zipped a well driven ball into Danku down the left flank who put in yet another brilliant cross which was pinpoint for our number 9 to convert. Danku then struck an early contender for goal of the season with a stunning long range effort into the top right hand corner. The last word of the day went to Sibanda who scored the first and 12th goal in what was a ruthless display. Jude Carroll's cross was again headed home impressively to put Sibanda now way out in front with his 63rd goal which for a wide forward is a great achievement.