Opening day of the new season is always eagerly anticipated as teams look to see if the hard work they have done in pre-season has paid off and their new signings have improved the team. With manager Paul Ryder in Turkey sitting with his phone waiting for updates, Dave Leek took charge of his first competitive game.
Smithswood were without a few players before this game with Troy Baker suspended, Anthony Short, Darryl Taylor and Nathan Leek all injured and Scott Clarke missing too. This meant a reshuffle in defence with Ashley Weeks stepping in as other covering players were short on fitness. Aaron Anderson dropped in to replace him in midfield and Tyron Smith moved wide to cover that position. It wasn’t ideal but the players are all capable of playing those positions.
Knowle were the visitors and known by one or two of our players and sponsors and they have a new side which is young and well organised and work hard for each other.
Smithswood lined up as follows;
Knight, Rooke, Weeks, Donaghey
Thomas (Capt.), Crawford, Anderson
Charlton, Hulme, Smith
Subs: Cottrill, Duffy, Sayer, Wright, Powers
It was a very even exchange early on as both teams struggled to get hold of the game and clear cut chances were few and far between. Knowle broke the off-side trap a quarter of an hour in but Martin Crawford showed great determination to track back and block the shot. Sam Hulme then went close with a looping header inside the box but watched as it went just wide of the keepers’ far post.
As the game was so even it always looked like a mistake would lead to the first goal and Knowle capitalised on some indecision at the back between the keeper and defender. They were trying to shepherd the ball back to the keeper but the Knowle striker was quick and managed to get to the ball first to put his side into the lead.
At half time, Assistant Manager Dave Leek asked for a lot more form his team as everything was flat all over the pitch. There was too much moaning at each other and the team spirit and togetherness from the pre-season wasn’t on show.
Smithswood Firs reacted well after the break and penned Knowle in their own half for about 25 minutes. They had corner after corner as they pushed on for the equaliser. Sam Hulme, Henry Donaghey all came close while Ash Weeks headed just wide of the goal as the pressure mounted on Knowle whose defence stood strong.
With half an hour left the home side went down to ten men as Tyron Smith was sent off for raising his hands. Smith is not that sort of player and reacted wrongly and he is absolutely gutted that he lost his cool, something that hasn’t happened before. The Lions still pushed on with ten men but they couldn’t find the goal their play deserved.
Knowle then made it 2-0 as a headed back pass was just too short and last season’s top scorer Tom Craine pounced on it and coolly finished past the keeper.
There were two more late goals for Knowle as Craine secured his hat-trick, the first was a dink over the keeper as he appeared to be off-side but the linesman said he was on and the second was from the penalty spot. The foul by the keeper looked to be outside the area and a possible yellow card for handling outside but the referee and linesman decided it was inside and pointed to the spot.
The final score was Smithswood Firs 0 Knowle 4 and as both dug outs commented it was never a 4-0 game with Smithswood Firs responsible for gifting Knowle most of their goals. Knowle have a very good young side and what stuck out was how organised their manager has them. They stuck together when they were up against Smithswood’s constant pressure in the second half and their performance was excellent.
The fixture list gives Smithswood Firs the chance to rectify the poor performance with the visit of Paget Rangers Tuesday night to The Glades. Last season’s Semi-Final in the Les James Cup was a great game which saw The Lions move onto the final so they will be hoping for a similar performance. They should have a few players back and there will be changes for the game. All the team know they were below par and should be up for it ready to get their first three points of the season.