Tuesday 2 August 2011

Boys against more boys

So that's that done and dusted.
Pre-season is officially over, and now we can get into gear for the proper stuff to start at Gillingham on Saturday.
Tonight's game with the Glenn Hoddle Academy was an entertaining end to a month of friendlies which started dodgily and ended strongly ... which is just what pre-seasons should do.
The 4-2 defeat against Mr Hoddle's group of discarded players from clubs such as Watford, Millwall, Fulham and QPR was a worthwile exercise as it got 90 minutes into our fringe players, and an hour into some who will play a part somewhere on Saturday.
We started with Brad Poole in goal, Kyle Haynes, Harry Hooman, Matt Williams and Sido Jombati across the back, with Junior Smikle, Russ Penn, Dave Bird and Bagasan Graham in midfield, while Theo Lewis played just off Darryl Duffy.
The only recognisable face in the GHA side was David Hutton - still only 5' 3" tall and three stone dripping wet, but you could see that being under the wing of Mr Hoddle had improved his touch and awareness.
The Academy scored four fantastic goals as the sandwich to ours, scored t the start and end of the game by Matt Williams and Junior Smikle.
Williams touched in a  Dave Bird corner but George Thompson rifled in a 25-yarder midway through the half to level for the GHA.
We started well and I thought it was going to be a one-sided game when Williams scored, but the GHA settled and passed the ball superbly in their Brazil kit.
They played a very flexible, ever-changing formation with players turning up all over the place - doing the website commentary was tough work as it was hard to keep track of who was playing where from one minute to the next.
The GHA players were good athletes and had technical ability. They looked to pass and move - which was fine in a training game on our nice surface, but you wonder what they would do on a wet Tuesday at Accrington against full-blooded League Two defenders or midfielders.
For our part, we struggled to get much service to Darryl Duffy, who was very isolated, only having one header which he put wide in the second half to show for his 75 minute outing.
Theo Lewis was most effective when he dropped deeper, while Dave Bird's corners, all of which seemed attracted to Matt Williams' head, were our best chance of scoring.
Kyle Haynes tried to get forward when he could, but bar the cross for Duffy's header mentioned above, he struggled with his delivery.
On the other side, I thought Bagasan Graham and Sido Jombati linked up quite well, Bagasan again using his directness to get crosses in and looked to attack his full-back every time.
Matt Williams and Harry Hooman started well, but were caught out a couple of times for the third and fourth GHA goals.
We started the second half quite well with Dave Bird having a long-range shot saved but fell behind to an incredible goal when Alex Fisher lobbed brilliantly over Brad Poole from inside the centre-circle, fully 50 yards out.
It was an incredible goal and Lathan Forrester outpaced Williams to chip Poole from 20 yards for the third, then Jay Folkes ran through after our corner was cleared to him and smacked in the fourth. These guys were not into tap-ins!
Junior Smikle's cross evaded everyone to go in for a consolation and it was a good, entertaining game - with absolutely no bearing on Saturday's game at Gillingham.
Russ Penn played for an hour, simply to get game time into his legs, and he will start, as will everyone else (bar Gallinagh and Pook...) who was not out there tonight.
After the game, Neil Howarth revealed that he is extremely confident Luke Summerfield will be added to the squad by Saturday, which is a massive bonus.
Along with Russ Penn and Marlon Pack, it gives us a cracking midfield trio, and with Dave Bird as well a plethora of options.
If Summerfield signs, I see him competing with Kaid Mohamed for a start at Priestfield - and I reckon Luke will get the nod, as a more solid option.
Away from home, I see Kaid as an impact player against tiring legs for the last 20-30 minutes.
Duffy's run out tonight makes it more certain that Jeff Goulding and Jimmy Spencer will start up top on Saturday.
While categorically ruling out registering Steve Book to sit on the bench, Neil Howarth also hinted that, with the new five-sub rule, we may opt to go without a sub keeper on Saturday, and if that is the case, I can see the bench being something like Sido Jombati, Brian Smikle, Kaid Mohamed, Darryl Duffy and maybe Dave Bird.
That is a strong-looking bench with plenty of options and a couple of go-to men for Mark Yates if things don't go to plan - or if they do and he wants to shore things up.
Mark wanted a squad which ensured the team does not pick himself, and to his credit it seems that he has gone out and assembled one - bar the goalkeeping position.
We have been told a loan keeper is in the pipeline, widely believed to be Wigan's Lee Nicholls, and I would hope this is still the case as Scott Brown needs the competition.
Nicholls is in Colombia on the bench for England Under-20s, who play their final World Cup group game against Mexico on Thursday.
A win (or, with other results in favour, a draw) will see them through, and could delay his arrival for a week or two
Defeat, a flight home and a rubber stamping of the deal could see him here maybe for MK Dons or, more likely, Swindon a week on Saturday.
That would complete our squad and round off what, after a slow and slightly worrying start, would make it a summer of 12 signings, which is remarkable.
It has really got the optimism going for the season, and I can't wait for Saturday now.
Come on you Rubies...

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