It was a hot evening at The Mackadown, as Smithwood Firs took on Shard End Crown in their latest pre-season friendly.
Paul Ryder was without Anderson, Challinor. Else, McKenna, Shenton, Thomas and Wall while Sheldrake was playing for Shard End in this match. Smithswood had two new players available for tonight’s game with striker Dean Campbell and defender Lewis Cottrill kitting up for the first time.
Manager Ryder reverted to his favoured 4-4-2 with a number of key changes. Captain Craig Evans moved into the heart of the defence alongside Adam Rooke while Anthony Short started up front alongside Adam Hemming.
Smithswood’s starting line up was;
Glenn, Evans, Rooke, Godwood
Mayers, Leek, Taylor, Harris
Subs: Stratford, Billingsley, Morton, Shiels, Thompson
Due to the heat, possession was going to be key in the game as the last thing anyone needed was to be chasing the ball around the pitch. Smithswood started well with Nathan Leek and Stuart Taylor running things in midfield. They were linking well together and creating attacks wide with Lee Harris and Renaldo Mayers as well as the two up front.
It took 11 minutes for the breakthrough to come but it was a great team move. It actually came from a great defensive header from Craig Evans. Anthony Short reacted quickly and flicked the header on behind the defence. Adam Hemming used his lightning pace to get on the end of it. He steadied himself and powered the ball into the net to put Smithswood Firs 1-0 up.
Five minutes later Hemming could have had his second. A moment of quality from Nathan Leek gave him the chance. Leek put a pinpoint pass over the defence and Hemming was away one on one but the keeper made a great save to deny him.
Smithswood went close again straight after as Ed Godwoods long-range shot was dropped by the keeper but it went out for a corner. Craig Evans went close from the resulting corner as he headed over the bar.
Smithswood were winning the midfield battle and moving the ball around with real quality. Andrew Glenn started an attack from defence, which included some great one two passing involving Stuart Taylor, Renaldo Mayers and Adam Hemming. Glenn was free but the defence cleared his cross. That was a warning for Shard End. A minute later Smithswood made them pay. Nathan Leek spread another quality ball over the defence setting Renaldo Mayers free. Mayers calmly picked out Anthony Short in the middle who slotted home with ease to give Smithswood a two-goal lead.
Shard End reacted well to going two down and were positive in their attacking play. Jake Grogan had to come off his line quickly on a few occasions to collect the ball and was forced to make a save down low as well.
The last ten minutes of the half were really even with both defences restricting the attackers. Andrew Glenn played the ball wide to Nathan Leek who cut inside and fired just over but that was the closest attempt.
Half-Time Smithswood Firs 2 Shard End Crown 0
Manager Paul Ryder asked for the same again in the second half. They had controlled the ball well in midfield and just needed to keep it up, especially in the heat. He made three changes bringing on David Stratford for Jake Grogan, Carl Shiels for Renaldo Mayers and Matt Morton for Andrew Glenn.
Shard End came out positively and went close straight away shooting just wide.
It took Smithswood 4 minutes to get their third of the match. It came from another Shard End attack down the right. Matt Morton managed to win the ball back and rather than just hammer it down the pitch, picked out Stuart Taylor. Taylor controlled the ball perfectly and slid a ball in behind the defence. Adam Hemming was onto it in a flash and broke free on the right. Hemming squared it to Short but he was just ahead of the ball. Short skillfully managed to control the ball behind him, spin and lay it off to the oncoming Lee Harris who buried the ball past the keeper rounding off a fantastic team goal turning defence in to attack.
After the third goal the game was pretty even as both teams restricted each other to long-range efforts. Carl Shiels and Nathan Leek combined well in midfield and Leek cut inside but scuffed his shot and the keeper gathered down low. Shard End then shot wide of Stratfords goal.
On the hour mark new boy Lewis Cottrill replaced Adam Rooke, Daniel Billingsley replaced Ed Godwood and Carl Thompson came on for the impressive Nathan Leek. Dean Campbell also made his debut replacing the dangerous Adam Hemming.
The substitutions as well as the heat taking its toll during the last thirty minutes disrupted the game. Shard End did breakthrough the Smithswood defence but fired just wide. Carl Thompson then found himself clear of the offside trap but the keeper collected his cross as he tried to pick out Anthony Short.
Smithswood had a clear-cut chance in the last ten minutes as Carl Shiels played a fantastic ball over the top to put Anthony Short through. He steadied himself but the keeper managed to put his shot out for a corner. Short took the corner himself and connected with Dean Campbell but he headed just wide.
Adam Hemming came back on for Anthony Short while Ed Godwood replaced Stuart Taylor. Both Short and Taylor had been constant threats to Shard End.
Both teams had late chances to score. Shard End flicked the ball into the box but Craig Evans made a fantastic block while in mid air. He came down with the ball and managed to clear the danger too. At the other end Dean Campbell had a long-range effort blocked by the defence.
Lee Harris had the last chance of the game as he weaved his way past two defenders leaving just the keeper to beat. He tried to go around him too but the keeper managed to gather the ball.
Renaldo Mayers replaced the injured Ed Godwood before the final whistle.
Smithswood ran out winners 3-0 but Shard End Crown played very well on the night. Manager Paul Ryder had a lot of positives from tonight’s game to take into Saturday’s match as a few new partnerships worked well. The partnerships of Evans and Rooke, Leek and Taylor and Short and Hemming all did well through the centre of the pitch. The width from Glenn, Godwood, Harris and Mayers was also very impressive in the first half as Smithswood looked really good defensively and going forward.
Next up is Aston on Saturday at The Mackadown as another pre-season game comes around quickly.