Game 5 of the season
The final pre-season fixture before the big kick off at Torquay on August 8th. After Stoke U21 pulled out at pretty short notice, Congleton stepped in to ensure that we were able to complete our preparations in a semi-competitive environment. The Silkmen put out a strong line-up, with Sampson, Pilkington and Turnbull out with injury.
One entertaining feature of pre-season games at this level is trying to work out who the trialists are. Shawan Jalal was pretty well known, but our number 14 for the day was merely known as Mr Holmes, very formal if not slightly mysterious. What was not quite so entertaining was the injury to Curtis Haynes-Brown early in the first half, with an innocuous looking challenge seeing the left back stretchered from the field and taken to hospital. Initial reports seem to suggest a ruptured achillies, which would rule him out for the majority of the season.
As expected, the Silkmen looked the brighter side, and were able to stroke the ball about comfortably, as Congleton were not able to press with the same intensity of the league opposition we have played at home already. Several good chances came in the opening 20 minutes, but a combination of wasteful finishing, excellent goalkeeping and the woodwork kept the scores level.
One pleasing aspect of the game was that delivery from wide areas was more consistent, often finding much better areas and hit with a bit of pace. One such delivery from the left saw Kristian Dennis fire straight at the keeper from 6 yards, although the ball fell kindly and the on loan Stockport forward prodded home for the opener.
The remainder of the first half passed without further goals, although Congleton did manage a few efforts on goal as their confidence grew. However the early stages of the second half saw the result put beyond doubt, with Dennis heading home a second from a pinpoint Diagne cross, and Whitaker adding a third after Bailey-Jones had been denied.
The goals continued to flow, with another 4 in a 15 minute spell. James Poole curled home a wonderful free-kick from 25 yards, and showed more match sharpness to supplement his quality in his half an hour cameo. Bailey-Jones poked home a fifth, before Congleton got a deserved goal and a mix up between Paul Lewis and Richie Branagan. Pleasingly, this did not seem to affect the Silkmen, who emphatically finished off a flowing move to make it 6-1 just minutes later.
Danny Whitehead curled home a fine seventh as the clock ticked down, to make the final score a morale boosting 7-1. The game provided a good work out and was certainly more competitive than against the league sides, with plenty of full-blooded challenges throughout.
The signing of Danny Whitehead has given the squad some much needed quality, however the injury to Haynes-Brown and the lack of match time for Sampson, Turnbull and Pilkington will be worrying, with just 7 days until the long trip to Torquay.
Entertainment = 6/10