The great thing about pre-season is that you often witness some of the most entertaining games of the season as players aren't as sharp as they want to be. Tonights clash between Smithswood Firs and Shirley Dynamo was no exception. Anyone who turned up to watch witnessed a twelve goal thriller incuding great goals, amazing saves, defensive errors, quality team moves but overall a battle between two teams who played the game in the right spirit.
Manager Paul Ryder decided to continue with his experimental 3-5-2 which he has adopted a few times in pre-season so far. It may not be the way he wants to set his team up come the opening game of the season, but he needs to have that option in case he needs to adopt it in the league this season and would rather the team have some experience of playing that way than none at all.
The Firs lined up as follows:
Thompson, Glenn, Morton
McKenna, Short, Leek, Taylor, Wall
Subs: Anderson, Godwood, Thomas
Shirley Dynamo took the early lead with a defence splitting through ball that caught the back three flat footed. David Stratford had also advanced off his line to try and sweep up and their striker finished cooly beating the defenders and lobbing the keeper to make it 1-0. Not the best of starts for the Smithswood defence and keeper.
The goal seemed to be the kick up the ass that the Firs needed and they were quickly on the front foot. It didn't take them too long to get on level terms and it was an absolute screamer of a goal. The ball was out for a throw in to the Firs and one of the opposition players was on the ground injured. There was a bit of confusion when the throw was taken as to whether it should be passed back to Shirley Dynamo but the ref called to play on so Nathan Leek picked the ball up about 25 yards from goal just to the right of the area and put his foot through it. It flew like a missile in to the top corner. All the keeper could do was stare and admire as he was getting nowhere near it so didnt even offer a dive. 1-1 and definitely game on.
Anthony Short went close soon after as he pounced on a mistake from the defender. A high ball looked like it would be the defenders but he hesitated and misjudged the fligh and Short was quick to hustle him off it. He lobbed the keeper but it went agonisingly wide of the post by inches.
Nathan Leek was involved in the second goal too as he split the defence with a pin point ball over the top. Dean Morris looked like he might be second favourite to win the ball but he made up ground and was quicker to react than the keeper and calmly rounded him to slot home to give Smithswood a 2-1 lead.
They say your'e always at your most vulnerable after scoring a goal and Smithswood gave the lead up straight away as Shirley passed through their defence with ease and slotted the ball home bottom corner to level at 2-2.
Dean Morris was a constant threat up top and went close with a curling shot from the edge of the box which brought out a phenominal save from their keeper. From the resulting corner, Anthony Short whipped a great ball in and it was Dean Morris who got his goal rising above everyone to power his header home and put Smithswood back in front 3-2 keeping up his record of being the only player to score in every pre-season game so far.
Smithswood didn't learn from their previous mistake and conceeded again soon after. Nathan Leek tried to square the ball across the midfield and passed it straight to the opposition. Their striker still had a bit to do but he hit a great long range strike in the bottom corner to level it at 3-3.
The ref blew up for half-time to end a great 45 minutes. It was fair to say that the attacking football was aided by some defensive lapses but some of the goals and saves had been quality from both teams. Nathan Leek was being hard on himself as the teams come off but his goal had been class and his through ball for the second quality so he was being a bit harsh on himself for one mistake. Better to get it out the way in pre-season. He had also picked up a knock and wouldn't be risked for the remainder of the match.
Paul Ryder made the change to revert to 4-4-2 and made three substitutions with new signing Ed Godwood replacing Carl Thompson, Curtis Thomas replacing Daniel Wall and Aaron Anderson replacing Nathan Leek.
Ed Godwood settled into the left back slot with ease and broke up a Shirley Dynamo attack anticipating a through ball. He quickly spread the ball wide to Aaron Anderson who ran the full back down the wing. He picked out Adam Hemming with a great low cross-field pass to feet in the box who turned and drilled the ball into the bottom corner. Quality move by Smithswood to put them 4-3 up.
Smithswood were having more joy down the wings as a four man midfield and there was some great work by Anthony Short wide right. He squared it into Dean Morris who shoot just over the bar from outside the box.
It wasn't long before Smithswood went two up after some more great work wide, this time from Adam Hemming on the left. He whipped the ball in and Stuart Taylor arrived from midfield to slot the ball home and make it 5-3 to Smithswood. It looked like the Firs had stepped up a gear but they weren't expecting another fightback from Shirley Dynamo, but they got one.
Ryder made a change bringing Carl Thompso back on for Matt Morton.
Shirley attacked down the wing and manged to create a yard of space to get a shot off hard and low. David Stratford was down quick to save well but the ball rebounded out and they were the quickest to react to the rebound for a tap in 5-4 and Shirley were looking for the equaliser again. It didn't take them long either following a defensive error from Carl Thompson who didn't clear the ball and allowed a simple finish one on one to level it up at 5-5.
Aaron Anderson and Curtis Thomas were proving a real handfull on the wings, Anderson using his pace to get past the full back and Thomas using his great passing range to build the play and create chances. Anderson bought a save out the keeper from close range after he had parried another long range Dean Morris effort as Smithswood looked to get back in front.
They did get the goal their play deserved and it was a real quality move from Smithswood. Anthony Short received the ball and played it into Dean Morris. Morris calmly played the ball between two defender for Curtis Thomas who made the run in behind and calmly slid the ball past the keeper to make it 6-5.
Another sub for Smithswood saw Daniel Wall come back on for Adam Hemming.
Smithswood finally put the game to bed following some great work from Daniel Wall to try and bring a bullet cross under control, chest high while three feet in the air. It fell for Anthony Short who just got ahead of the lunging defender to slot home in the bottom corner to make it 7-5. The same two combined again shortly after as Daniel Wall skinned the full back and crossed for Anthony Short who met it first time but fired just over the bar.
The ref blew up for full time at the end of a great game between to good teams. Smithswood ran out 7-5 winners in the end but there was plenty for Paul Ryder to think about before next weeks game against B.T. He will need to decide whether to go back to 4-4-2 from the start as Smithswood were more of an attacking threat, especially down the flanks and if they can cut out the errors which happen in pre-season, then the score would have been a lot different. You can't argue with three wins out of three in pre-season, especially with the amount of new players that have come into the squad. Things are certainly positive for the coming season and the squad is looking forward to life in the new Midland Football League.
Next Game: Vs B.T.F.C at the Mackadown Wedesday 16th July 2014 at 6.30 pm