It was a positive opening pre season performance and result for the boys in red as they narrowly overcame step 5 Tividale in a competitive friendly, that was not without incident and controversy. With several established members of the squad isolating and a few more unavailable through work, Dom and Steve took the opportunity to demonstrate that the newly established u21 side is absolutely a pathway for 1st team opportunity. In summary four lads from the recent trials plus newcomers Jake Shelly, Ryan Chilton and Sheikh Barrow made for a young and untested new look side on the day. The existing, more experienced squad members were superb in making the youngsters feel welcome and at ease with three starting and the other four all coming on at HT to play the second half and every one of them did themselves and the club proud.
The game had a good tempo from the outset and this isn't surprising with everyone having been starved of the game we love throughout this past fragmented year. First blood went to the hosts with what was arguably the move of the game. Ten passes complimented with good movement saw the ball shift from Joe Morris in the home goal to nestling in the away net. The ball was brought out from the back down the Town left and found its way to Tom Duffy who had dropped deep from his no.2 position. He received on the half turn and swept the ball out to wide right to advancing center back Jake Shelly. Shelly invited his marker in then offloaded to wing back Nathan Scott. Scott evaded the lunge tackle from his marker, stayed on his feet and drove to the byline. His right footed delivery was met at the far post by by opposite wing man Kyle Ashman who met it sweetly on the half volley. A lovely team goal indeed.
Tividale reacted to the bloody nose and just eight minutes later showed their class. A flowing move culminated in a lovely one two that was tucked away under the advancing Morris who did his best Peter Schmeichel starfish impression.
With honors even at the break Town made six changes giving the youngsters their opportunity. A few early nerves were evident however they soon settled into the game and were enjoying themselves.
The moment of controversy came in the 79th minute, with a match deciding penalty at the heart of things. A clipped forward aerial pass by center back Matt Dudley was chased down by the debutant Kieran O'Sullivan. The Tivi keeper advanced in an attempt to get to the ball first and appeared to get his foot to the high ball a fraction before both players collided into each other. Some in attendance thought the winger was about to get booked where others called for a penalty. The referee deemed the latter for what can only be interpreted as a wreckless act perhaps? Anyway the controversy wasn't done there as Sheikh Barrows initial spot kick was saved by the outstretched right arm of the Tivi no.1. The rebound was pounced on by a Barrow who stabbed it to the opposite corner which the keeper did superbly to get to and smother the ball on the line. The referee pointed to the halfway line having deemed that the ball crossed the line to the dismay of the Tividale contingent.
The last ten minutes saw chances at both ends but overall the young side in red managed the game out well to take a confidence boosting start to pre season. The topic of conversation in all quarters of the ground post game was two fold. Was the initial collision a penalty and did the rebounded spot kick cross the line or not. The referee on this occasion decided from his angle and perspective that the answer was yes on both counts.
Ten mins of the best bits are available to view at our YouTube channel 'Stafford Town TV' via the link below so take a look and decide for yourself: