Another new face joins the squad, with goalkeeper Aaron McCarey joining us after having been released by Wolves. It’s the third goalkeeper I’ve signed, but I like to have strength in depth just in case. Jan Sebek will remain first choice and McCarey is likely to take the place of Andrew McNeil as the keeper on the bench.
We welcome League 2 Shrewsbury Town to Park Hall Stadium in our penultimate pre-season game (and final pre-season game at home). We’re 11/5 underdogs for the game. The 11th minute see McCrae pick up a yellow card for pulling back David Mooney. Disaster strikes in the 19th minute as Paudie Quinn goes off injured; he’s suffering from a hip injury and I’ve sent him to see a specialist, so he won’t be making his debut for three months. The 30th minute sees Richie Partridge break down the right and feed Mooney. The keeper starts to come out and Mooney squares for Matty Williams, who is 25 yards out and lifts the ball over the stranded keeper and into the net. A delightful goal and I’m sure the majority of the 817 fans in attendance love what they’ve just seen. Williams nearly doubles our lead 6 minutes later after a cross from the right, but he heads just over. Williams has a further chance in the 61st minute as Jeff Whitley plays him in, but he can only fire wide. Five minutes later, Bradshaw shoots from distance, but it poses little danger to our goal. Phil Rayner tries his luck from 20 yards in the 78th minute, but his shot goes just wide. Bagsan Graham tries his luck from 5 yards further out 3 minutes later with the same result. We claim a 1-0 victory and out-shoot Shrewsbury 8-3, but only 1 shot (for both teams!) is on target – an area we need to work on if we’re to be winning the league. Matty Williams claims Man of the Match with a rating of 8.3 and the game winning goal.
There’s another new face in the squad, as veteran right midfielder Wayne Carlisle joins the club. A lot of the signings I’ve made have been younger players, so Carlisle will bring a bit of experience to the squad. Carlisle had been at Mansfield, but has played at several other clubs through his career.
Our final match of pre-season sees us travel to Luigi Razza, home of my former employers, Vibonese. We’re 6/4 favourites, but Vibonese start the better as Bernardo has a 1 on 1 chance saved in the 3rd minute. We soon create a chance of our own, with Joseph Oastler picking out Jeff Whitley on the edge of the area with a pull back from the right, but Whitley’s effort is wild and no threat to the goal. In the 12th minute, Bernardo races clear of our defence, but shoots wide. Bernardo remains a goal threat, but the final product is lacking, something that I was frustratingly familiar with. A 32nd minute cross from Wayne Carlisle is met by David Mooney sliding in on the 6 yard box line, but his effort agonisingly hits the post and it’s cleared for a corner. Eleven minutes later, it’s the turn of Vibonese to threaten with a cross from the right as Legrenzi finds a sliding Malafronte; his shot hits Jan Sebek. I berate left back Marco Pelosi until I realise it was the linesman who wasn’t closing Legrenzi down; the officials are all in white, which makes distinguishing them from my players in white and green close to impossible. Vibonese take an adventurous start to the second half as Bernardo runs forward from kick off and shoots from 30 yards, forcing Sebek to tip the ball over. A couple of yellow cards follow as De Martino trips Darren Otten in the 63rd minute and Joe Jones fouls Malafronte on the halfway line 2 minutes later. Kofi Poyser picks up a rib injury that will keep him out for 2 weeks – not as big a loss as Quinn, as he was not going to be starting any games and even the bench was unlikely. Lucas Akins, his replacement, shoots wide in the 75th minute. Grimaldi collects the third yellow card of the game in the 77th minute by fouling Richie Partridge. Paul Robson collects the fourth yellow card of the game in the 89th minute; Petrucci take the resulting free kick and Perna rises highest and heads home from 12 yards. Perna’s goal is enough to give Vibonese the win and him the Man of the Match award with a rating of 7.4.
Pre-season is now over and I receive the final total for season ticket sales; 83 have been sold, down by 3 from the previous season. We’re set to begin our league campaign away at Port Talbot and hopefully it will be a winning start.