Sunday 22 July 2012

First impressions

Think back a year or so, and remember a 1-1 draw at Cirencester which was our first outing of last season.

It was a warm day and we played two different teams in each half with a few trialists, at a friendly Southern League club with a nice modern ground.

Well, we did exactly the same at Evesham's new Spiers and Hartwell Jubilee Stadium (yes, really...) and the other similarity with that game at Cirencester is that the result does not matter one bit.

It was a fitness exercise, an extended training session, and a chance for the trialists that we have had in training for the past 10 days or so to impress and earn a trip to the Wales training camp this week.

Trouble is, they didn't do that, of which more later.

Our first half team included new signings Sam Deering and Billy Jones, along with one of the trialists, the ex-Marine Rob Farkins, and also Danny Andrew, playing in midfield.

In both halves, we used the same formation, a 4-2-3-1 system, and in the opening 45 it was Scott Brown in goal, Sido Jombati and Jones at full-back and Farkins and Steve Elliott at centre-half. In mdfield, Marlon Pack and Danny Andrew sat back with Deering further forward and Jeff Goulding up front supported by Bags Graham and Jermaine McGlashan.

I thought we did well in the first half, spending about 80 per cent of the time in the Evesham half, and could easily have come out a couple of goals to the good.

Bags and Jermaine were lively on the wings, linking well with Billy Jones and Sido, who got forward well.

I liked the look of Jones, who got forward and tried to get some crosses in, also playing one lovely cross-field ball to Jermaine, who took it down well but then shot wide.

Deering also made a promising start and was the pick of the first half team for me, always busy, always wanting the ball and linking well with Jeff for a chance which the goalkeeper saved.

We were not really troubled at the back, bar the odd free-kick and couple of Evesham corners, so it was difficult to assess the trialist Farkins as he was alongside Steve Elliott, who won everything in the air and was his usual commanding self.

It was interesting to see Danny in midfield - I thought he did okay in there, but his presence in that role does show to me that we need another central midfielder in the squad.

That's why it was then going to be of more interest to see how the second-half team got on, as it included six trialists, including Mark Hughes, formerly at Barnet, and Ibrahim Farah, still under contract at Cardiff.

Alongside them, we had two new faces in former Swindon keeper Phil Smith (who has been training with us, Yatesy said post-match) and ex-Bristol City striker Tristan Plummer, who has just come back to his native Bristol from a spell playing in Portugal with Portimonense.

In front of Smith, Keith Lowe was at right back, with Niall Wellington on the left and Harry Hooman and Colin Hamilton at centre-half. The midfield three was Hughes, Farah and Russ Penn, with Darryl Duffy through the middle supported by Kaid Mohamed and Plummer.

We started the half quite well and the Evesham keeper made good saves from Duffy and a double save from him and Plummer, while Darryl also had a shot blocked on the line.

But we went a goal down when Roland Agbor, who was a real handful on the left and gave Keith Lowe a torrid time all half, crossed and Hamilton headed past Smith for an own goal.

You felt sorry for the lad, but I am sure that moment only confirmed his impending exit. Cracking header though.

Hughes started well I thought but then faded, and didn't look very dynamic. He seemed a bit one-paced to me, while Farah or Wellington struggled to make any impression.

I know it is harsh judging players on 45 minutes, but you want them to improve your squad, so they have to make an impression in games like this.

None of the trial players on show, bar Smith in goal and Plummer, looked like they would improve us, so Yatesy has made the right choice by letting them go.

Smith pulled off a superb save from Luke Corbett's penalty after Keith Lowe fouled our old youth teamer Marcus Palmer, before we grabbed our equaliser.

Plummer had been lively on the right-hand side, and it was a good finish, a bit of trickery followed by a shot across the keeper and inside the far post. He is worth another look.

After the game, Yatesy had the task of saying thanks but no thanks to the trialists bar Plummer, and also said that he might have someone in on Monday for the trip to Wales, and more intriguingly confirmed that he isn't only looking at out of contract players.

On Phil Smith, Mark said that he cannot afford him and said that Alan Bennett, who did not play a part, was not injured, but just given a rest so he could look at other players - confirmed also by the man himself.

So off they go to Wales, and Port Talbot on Tuesday, followed by the first home friendly against Birmingham on Saturday.

I won't be at either due to work and the Olympics, so my next look at us will be against Cardiff on July 31, by which time we might have some new players, but will definitely have a new kit...

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