Wetherby Athletic Reserves kicked off their pre-season schedule with a solid 3-0 win over York Minster Division 4 side Clifford AFC.
Fielding a strong eleven from the off, Athletic forced the visitors into their own half with a series of passes, but it was evident that rustiness was haunting both sides and moves that would easily be made mid-season were being miscontrolled and put out of play all to easily.
The first real attack came in the 7th minute when an over hit pass slammed into the Clifford custodian and rebounded into the path of Sam Straker, however unable to bring the ball under control, it ricocheted into touch leaving the youngster to let out a frustrated cry.
Wetherby tried the left wing next and a pass by Steve Dickinson sent Dave Pawson scampering after it, but a good bit of shepherding by a covering defender saw the ball roll out harmlessly for a goal kick.
Managing to loosen their shackles a little, Clifford played a couple of balls looking to turn Wetherby’s defence, however each time Greg Harrison and Dave McKay stepped in and managed to guide the ball back to Jason Lowe in goal.
A dangerous break by the visitors was stopped when their own striker realised he was offside and allowed the ball to roll to Lowe who cleared downfield.
Coming down the pitch, Dickinson and Straker were starting to form what could be a very profitable partnership, but again the final ball was the loose link and Clifford’s keeper was able to claim the pass without obstruction.
There was a great tussle developing on the right wing and on this occasion it was Michael McCartney who won and went on a surging run before putting in a deep cross, despite stretching Dickinson could only flick the ball on weakly and the chance was gone.
Half chances were beginning to fall to both teams and Lowe and his Clifford counterpart were being kept busy, but not really tested, as the final pass was often over played or off target.
The best chance of the half fell to Straker when he was put free and shot low, however reading the ball well the keeper got down low to save with his feet. Reacting quicker Straker retrieved the situation and tried to go round the grounded custodian, shooting again, this time a covering defender reached the ball and cleared from danger.
The second half started With Dickinson flicking his header into Straker’s path, however and not for the first time, Clifford’s keeper raced from his line and got to the ball first to clear.
Straight down the pitch it was then Clifford who put Lowe under pressure and a smart snap shot at the near post brought an equally cool stop by Lowe.
Lowe was busy again within minutes as Tom Frost forced the striker wide, but he still managed to get his shot away, however standing tall at his post Lowe forced the ball away.
The usual practice of a raft of substitutions at half time was beginning to take its toil and Wetherby were now winning the majority of balls in midfield through Paul Hustwit. Spreading the play well he found Dickinson who released Straker down the right wing. Getting the ball out of his feet, he evaded a tackle and tried to curl the ball into the far corner, however a superb diving save forced the ball wide for a corner.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 57th minute when a cross wasn’t dealt with cleanly by Clifford’s defence and Straker managed to turn and get a scuffed shot away. Wrong footing the keeper, the ball bounced several times before finding the net. Not the cleanest of goals he will ever score, but a nice bit of predatory skill to pounce on a mistake.
With some more substitutions unsettling the games flow, Frost had to show his experience by stepping in to rob Clifford’s winger following a good run.
The visitors were having success down both flanks and a dangerous cross saw their striker jump for the ball, however it was always at a difficult angle for him to direct his effort goalwards and substitute goalkeeper Daniel Jackson watched it go harmlessly over.
Wetherby’s second goal arrived in the 70th minute and it was an impressive strike by Schofield! A long ball out of defence saw him latch onto the ball. Steading himself he let fly with a super dipping shot from outside the area that arced over the keeper and into the net.
Three minutes later and it was 3-0 to Athletic when another piece of lax defending saw the ball only cleared as far as Schofield. Lurking just inside the area, he drilled the ball low past the keeper and into the corner of the net.
With 76 minutes on the clock, Schofield spurned a glorious chance for the hat-trick when he latched onto another through ball but lifted the ball over both keeper and crossbar.
The chances were coming thick and fast now for Wetherby and Hustwit saw his fierce drive blocked before McCartney curled his shot into the keeper’s gloves.
Clifford thought they had pulled one back when their player flicked a good header goalwards only for Jackson to tip the ball over.
With the referee looking at his watch, Schofield broke free again, although there was an element of offside about the run, however, not for the first time, a good save low down pushed the ball clear. Soon after the keeper made another good save to deny McCartney after a superb run that left several players trailing in his wake.
In all a good test for Chris Plews’s men in their first pre-season game, but it would be interesting to see this match played again when both teams are a lot sharper.
Good luck to Clifford AFC in their new challenge in the York League.
Report by Pete Arnett
Team: Lowe, Frost, Kirk, McKay, Harrison, McCartney, Pawson, Hustwit, Schofield, Straker, Dickinson
Subs (all used): Jackson, Tucker, Cavlton, Hannan.
Post-match reaction from Chris Plews. "It was a useful match really as all players needed to get minutes in their legs. We had some new players down today which was good for us.
I expect us to be pushing again this season and I can’t see why that shouldn’t be. We need to keep plugging away, but I think by the first game of the season we will be ready to go!"
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Updated 23:37 - 13 Jul 2017 by Pete Arnett