4.Trials and Tribulations
I looked over the squad as they warmed down after training; we’d managed to grab a few players on trials, who I thought would be able to make a difference to the squad. Dale Johnson and Gareth Arnison had both departed, so I would maybe have to sign another striker, depending on how the season went, but right now my focus was on my defence and goalkeeper, and finding some solid wingers.
Our first trials was Simon Lenighan, A 22 year old central midfielder who started his career at Leeds United way back in 2010, and spent time on loan at Bradford and Halifax before being released in 2014. Since then, he hasn’t really settled, playing at Harrogate, Frickley, Rotherham, Warrington and most recently Altrincham, but only really getting any playing time at Harrogate…In fact, he hasn’t played a competitive game since his 18 starts for them in 2014. He’s got a good footballing brain though, and I reckon he could be a good fit if he impresses in this trial.
Ahead of our first pre-season game, we also had 30 year old defender Dominic Roma on trial; the veteran can play anywhere across the backline, so could provide some cheap cover…although I’d rather have a master of one trade than a jack of them all. Roma has loads of experience at this level, having spent the last 6 years at Gainsborough, with a few clubs between that and his release by Sheffield United in 2007.
We’ve also brought in Jasper Johns, a former Everton youth player from Stafford, who was let go by Everton in 2013, and played once for Sheffield United in 2014, but hasn’t had a team since then. That isn’t too much of a concern: the left midfielder is pretty quick, and quite an intelligent player of the game, so I think he’s got a lot to come, given he’s just 21.
Our first pre-season game of the season was against Clitheroe, and all three trialists would be given the chance to stretch their legs. All three started the match, and although the team started slowly, Dominic Roma’s experience quickly showed, as our backline held firm under sustained pressure from our hosts.
The breakthrough came after 28 minutes, when Roma cut out a cross field pass, and moved the ball forwards to Lenighan, who played a quick one-two with Tom Graves as he scampered into the Clitheroe box before laying the ball right to Gilchrist. Gilchrist shaped to shoot, but spotted Jasper Johns out to the left side of the penalty box, and the winger made no mistake, rattling Gilchrist’s lofted pass into the back of the net with style.
George Thomson came off at half time with a bruised head, and I think we missed his bite in midfield in the second half, as the defence certainly had more work to do. I pulled a yellow-carded Lenighan off after 60 minutes, and despite his booking I was impressed by his work-rate and passing throughout the match.
Roma also impressed, but after 75 minutes his legs were gone, and I had to sub him off, giving Tom Eckersley his central defensive position. That was a concern, and probably meant I needed another centre back alongside Roma, although his experience is invaluable in keeping the team functioning as a unit.
Jasper Johns was looking like he could run all day though, and he was heavily involved in the buildup to our second goal. He picked up a pass from Lowe on the left wing, and skipped past his defender before cutting the ball inside to Sheridan. Sheridan released Fallon with a beautiful cross-field pass, and Fallon’s cross into the middle was met by the head of Jason Gilchrist, who made no mistake.
We conceded not two minutes later, as some lax defending allowed Rennell Pepper far too much space in the box, and his top-corner effort meant that David Carnell could only watch the ball hit the back of the net.
I made a few more substitutions with 10 minutes to go, and it was plainly obvious by this point that we were struggling for stamina, and also for squad depth. Jason Gilchrist was one of the players who was still huffing and puffing, and he added our third goal, once again capitalising on some brilliant team play in midfield which released Fallon, and the right winger’s through ball was inch-perfect, and Gilchrist had all the time and space he needed to fire home.
Our fourth came soon after, as the fresh legs of our subs played havoc with the tired Clitheroe defence. Sheridan broke up an attack just outside our area, and released Gilchrist through the middle. The striker found Lowe just outside the box, and Lowe’s first time pass put Matty Wolfenden clean through on goal, and he cooly slotted the ball past the goalkeeper.
Overall, the 4-1 win was exactly what we needed, and it was encouraging to see us net so many goals so early in pre-season.
Full Time: Clitheroe 1-4 FC United