#6 Stanley starts

empty-stadium

With two new signings up my sleeve I headed up to Wolverhampton for my first away friendly against Midland Football League giants AFC Wulfrunians.

The intimidating Castlecroft Stadium would prove to be a good test of nerve for my relatively young squad with 40-odd hardcore Wulf fans dotted around the terraces.

Despite only signing a few days ago I decided to throw Craig Stanley straight into the action, instructing him to sit at the base of my central midfield as a ball-winning midfielder. This was as much to do with my confidence in his ability to hit the ground running as it was with my dislike for Tyler Weir, the underwhelming former Hereford midfielder who I’d tasked with the same role in the last few games.

In contrast I decided to keep AA on the bench. Less of a strategic decision, this was more to do with pissing off his annoying dad than anything else. Despite this week’s wages therefore going completely to waste, it was worth it to see the smug grin wiped off AA senior’s face after he’d made the 60 mile round trip to watch his enigmatic son’s debut.

‘Maybe next week’ I smirked to myself.

As it was, the game couldn’t have gone much better. The man of the moment Ebby Nelson-Addy rifled in his third goal in three games after just 20 minutes and after that point City didn’t look back. Thanks to Stanley’s class we dominated possession and territory throughout the game, and it was only a matter of time before the Ginger Ninja Lee Hughes put the game to bed with his fourth goal of pre-season, albeit through a desperately unconvincing scuff-in which needed a fortuitous gust of wind to carry it over the line.

In complete control and with the second half underway I then had the luxury of bringing in youngster Chekaine Steele on for Ebby in the second half who duly picked up where the mercurial midfielder had left off by getting himself onto the end of a loose ball on the edge of the Wulfranian box and rocketing a scorching volley into the top corner.

Thank god I didn’t have any wage budget left else I would have offered to triple his wages then and there on the spot.

The game ended 3-0, massively flattering the part-timers from Wolverhampton. Unfortunately AA never got to make a late cameo. As we headed off the pitch I gave Brede Hangeland an affectionate rub on his back, endorsing the work he’d put in that past week on our defensive shape that had merited our first clean sheet of the season. Although the physical contact didn’t seem too welcome (I guess we’re not ‘there’ yet) I think he appreciated the gesture, and simply nodded quietly in his increasingly familiar Scandinavian way.

Three games, three wins. I was pretty happy with how pre-season was shaping up, and with performances getting better each game I was beginning to feel slightly optimistic about the upcoming season.

Up next, another away trip to Rugby. On this current form, this will be a walk in the park…

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