After a seven-month wait, the Slough Town Community Team has begun friendlies in preparation for the forthcoming season, writes coach Alex Efthimiou.
A fortnight ago (Saturday 12 June) we played St. Albans Deaf at the Watford training ground, and having begun brightly, we took the lead after 20 minutes when Darrell Barltrop slotted home at the far post following a Dwayne Shaw corner. Gideon Asuming forced a smart save from their keeper and Dwayne’s shot hit the bar before Darrell drilled home from the edge of the box after 30 minutes. We had a deserved two goal lead at half time with goalkeeper Yannick var Prinslay tipping a free kick over the bar at the end of the first half.
It was a warm afternoon and we made some changes at the break, however tiredness and mistakes at the back soon cost us dearly. St Albans scored first from a poorly defended corner, then a striker ran through unopposed from a goal kick to round our keeper before taking the lead with a long-range lob catching Yannick off his line, all within 15 minutes.
We regained some composure and equalized when Darrell ran through and lobbed their keeper to complete his hat-trick after 75 minutes. Not settling for a draw, we pushed forward but were punished with a counterattack 5 minutes later, with the game ending in a 4-3 defeat. Darrell Barltrop was clearly man of the match with his excellent hat-trick.
Considering the strength and experience of the opposition, we were very pleased with our performance overall without a couple of key players. I thought the attitude of the players was excellent and we certainly played more like a team rather than talented individuals.
Our second pre-season friendly was against Welling United Deaf’s reserve side on Sunday 27 June. Welling are a team we had never played against before and their reserve side were recommended to us as a good test against a team who regularly play at a higher level than ourselves.
We began the game well, showing a calmness in possession whilst maintaining an aggressive press when we were without the ball. This resulted in several good moves with Dwayne Shaw and Mohib Farhan causing the Welling defence all kinds of problems with their pace and movement, either leading to shots on goal or set pieces in dangerous positions.
We took the lead in the 16th minute with centre back Jack Pullin scoring a towering header from a Tudor Papuc corner. This was really pleasing as we had been working on attacking set pieces in recent training sessions.
Unfortunately, five minutes later Welling scored from a set piece of their own as they looked to come back into the game, although we were still posing a good threat on the counter, and we won a free kick on the left hand side about 40 yards out. Darrell Barltrop swung the ball in dangerously and again Jack Pullin met the ball with an excellent header in the 28th minute.
At half time there were some tired legs but we persevered – however the fitter Welling team started very well. In the fourth minute of the second half they scored a driven effort from just outside the area which came through a crowd of bodies giving our goalkeeper Yannick var Prinslay no chance.
Eight minutes later Welling scored again after breaking our offside trap and rounding the keeper as he rushed to cover. Although disappointing to concede this way, the high line and offside trap had proven very effective throughout the game with Yannick var Prinslay playing well, clearing or collecting almost every chance that was created by sweeping up behind our defence.
We made some changes and brought on fresh legs, and as we had been throughout the game, played the better football of the two teams including one gilt-edged chance to equalise, but Dwayne Shaw’s effort went over the bar whilst under pressure in the box at the death.
Despite the defeat, we were comfortably the better side throughout the match, creating chances and restricting the efforts on our goal, and all the squad can be delighted with their performance against another extremely strong and experienced opponent. On another day we could have won this game comfortably, but it wasn’t to be this time. The team all agreed that the man of the match was Jack Pullin, scoring two good goals and being very solid in defence.
Over the two games we have not been able to field our strongest possible side, and with five players making their debuts for us in these matches, we have an exciting season ahead of us.
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