Preparations for our 2019 season cranked up a notch when our senior men’s team faced off in a practice match with Nelson Eastern Suburbs on a blazing afternoon at Pembroke Park.
With a host of first-teamers unavailable, it was very much a makeshift team senior coach Glen Roland put out for our first pre-season outing. Nelson, whilst not having had the best times of late, are Southern Championship stalwarts nonetheless, and they are hoping for an upturn in fortunes under the guidance of their vastly experienced new coach, Chris Barrell.
The visitors brought a travelling party of around twenty first-team players, including two goalkeepers, which was handy as we didn’t actually have anyone available, so we were able to give their reserve keeper a valuable outing. And a great job he did for us too.
With agreement from both teams and the referee, the match took place over three 30-minutes thirds. After a cagey opening, we began to assert ourselves and two opportunist strikes from the in-form Jono Smith saw us two goals to the good by the end of the first stanza.
As the second period wore on, fatigue began to set in, and we had to start rotating our playing pool and, predictably, Nelson started to fight their way back into the contest. The deficit had been halved by the end of the third, with only some excellent goalkeeping from our loanee keeper and a strong defensive line keeping us in front.
Nelson stepped it up in the final third, and were able to register three rather soft goals to kill off the game, before Nick Taylor stroked home a delicious freekick right on the whistle to reduce the deficit to one.
The defeat was of no concern. We had too many players away for the result to have any real meaning, but the fact we were competitive with a seasoned Southern Championship team points to some real positives for us.
Jono looked sharp again up front, while Nick Roland promises to fill the massive void left by Kasper’s departure with aplomb. Tony and Nick T look a very solid CM pair, while Brock and Toby excelled in their respective full back slots. In the first period, Brock Jordan and Nick R tore strips down the right flank time and again.
All up, considering how many players were away, we put up a terrific fight, and things look incredibly bright for 2019.
With our full-strength team on the park, we believe more than ever before that we can ruffle some feathers in this league.
Training Tuesday everyone. This team is definitely going places.