After the BBC series waterloo road ended its latest Wednesday night run, my Wednesday evenings became blank once more. Not being able to play Football Manager makes it worse, thankfully the beautiful game rescued me from the brink of boredom.
Although it wasn't stags, a game of football is a game of football, and to my delight, I had two to choose from! I really wanted to see the stags youth team in action, but baring in mind I’ll see them on August the 6th at Chasetown before the first team play, last night's destination was Eastwood Town's coronation park.
A few things drew me to Eastwood yesterday evening, mainly the Mansfield connection. Eastwood, managed by ex-stag Craig Armstrong, featured no less than 6 former stags, along with player manager Armstrong, former strikers Lee Morris & Jason Beardsley took their place in the starting line up along with two players from last season, defender Kevin Sandwith & Midfielder Stevie Istead. On the bench, completing the 'Ex-Stags Six' was former Stags trialist Spencer Weir-Daley.
The other factor to last night’s trip to Coronation Park, was having a look at how another BSBP are shaping up during pre-season, and basically trying to get a look at how far in front or behind other teams in our league we are, something I will do again next week when Alfreton take on both Sheffield Clubs.
Eastwood Line Up: Ian Deakin, Alex Troke, Sam Benjamin, Igor, Kevin Sandwith, Craig Armstrong, Stevie Istead (C), Jake Sheridan, Lee Morris, Jason Bradley, Jervais Christie. SUBS: Ben Fairclough, Danny Poole, Josh Ross, Will Mellors-Blair, Spencer Weir-Daley, Paul Riley, Aaron Mitchell.
Wrexham had the brighter start of the two sides as the new look home set up took time to find their feet, Jamie Tolley tested home shot stopper Ian Deakin from distance in the opening minutes, before former stags striker Jake Speight was one of the several bodies attempting to slam home in a goal mouth scramble from a Wrexham corner, Speight’s effort cannoned off an Eastwood leg to allow the home side to clear.
Eastwood then started to find their feet and former stags midfielder, skipper for the night Stevie Istead was at the heart of a neat Eastwood move, a good cross field ball from the far side saw Istead battle well to keep the ball in play, harshly flagged offside.
Eastwood were again denied by the offside flag, this time there were less complaints as a stag-connection thought they’d put Eastwood in front. Good battling in the centre of the park from skipper Istead won possession back, Istead sent Lee Morris on his way forward, Morris was going away from goal but did well to pull the ball back and cross low for Jason Bradley who finished well but was the man standing in an offside position.
Both sides impressed with short spells on and off the ball, Eastwood’s Jervais Christie showed good strength and pace on the left wing but failed to find his required target in the box, whilst Wrexham showed Ariel strength following a corner, virtually playing head tennis in the Eastwood penalty area, the move ended when the welsh side hit the side netting.
Eastwood then had a golden chance of their own, Jason Bradley send Christie on his way wide left, with the tricky winger crossing low for the on rushing Bradley, the former stags forward smashed a shot straight at Chris Maxwell who saved well, conceding a corner which Eastwood failed to work to their advantage.
Wrexham found themselves in front, but it wasn’t a spectacular effort, Steve Tomassen’s long range effort should have been easy to deal with, however the shot somehow squirmed underneath the diving Ian Deakin’s body to open the scoring with 33minutes gone.
Eastwood, who were perhaps the better of the two sides in the first half, grouped together in search of a leveler, first a goal mouth scramble saw Wrexham somehow clear, before some good combination play saw an Istead cross headed away but, to their credit Eastwood picked up the second ball and started to build once more.
At the other end, former stag’s defender Kevin Sandwith, on trial at Eastwood, did well to force a Wrexham shot wide of the target after a powerful break down field.
Just before the half time whistle, Eastwood again showed quality in the final third, Combination between Christie & Morris helped to get Bradley in space, Bradley’s final pass found the feet of former Tamworth midfielder Jake Sheridan who blasted his shot well over the cross bar.
Half Time: Eastwood 0-1 Wrexham.
Substitutions were made by both sides, I must say it made a refreshing change to be able to finish my half time cuppa rather than trying to figure out who’s replaced who, whose playing were and commentate! (I won’t lie, I missed it a little, roll on Saturday). It was a fairly average start as the substitutes looked to settle in, Player manager Craig Armstrong was amongst those departing the pitch, to take his place alongside Jamie Brough in the technical area dishing out the orders.
Ian Deakin made up for his early error throughout the second half, doing well to deny the tricky Mathias Pegba after he found himself 1 vs. 1.
The home side eventually found their feet, the home support impressed by the two touch passing movement which saw Wrexham chasing shadows at times; they also said it made a refreshing chance to the long ball game Paul Cox used to play – should we be worried? I’m not sure but I think the players Cox has at Mansfield differs massively to those he had at Eastwood, our football with be played on the floor – no neck braces will be needed.
Back to last night’s action, Wrexham began to threaten out wide with numerous strong crosses from the left wing, all well dealt with by Sandwith & Deakin. Eastwood themselves continued to test the visiting back four, Stevie Istead sold the Wrexham centre half a great dummy to allow Jervais Christie to blast goal wards, denied by Wrexham’s substitute keeper who made a good low save.
Eastwood substitute Paul Riley impressed with some strong running, but the praise belonged to home shot stopper Ian Deakin, denying Gareth Taylor with a strong save, after Taylor skipped past Kevin Sandwith’s challenge to blast an effort towards goal.
Deakin was again the hero as the game entered its final moments, strong running by Wrexham saw Eastwood’s Igor concede a penalty, Gareth Taylor stepped up with a powerful right footed effort, Ian Deakin pulling off a tremendous save away to his left.
Full Time: Eastwood 0-1 Wrexham; Attendance 237
I went along to see how far away stags’ were to another BSBP side, in the end I couldn’t really find any answers, Eastwood were they side which impressed me the most. Some strong passing and creativity saw the new look badgers knock at Wrexham’s door throughout, had it not been for the first half error, last night’s result could have been a totally different story. Craig Armstrong & Jamie Brough have some good players on their hands, like Mansfield a few more tweaks in certain areas and the badgers will once again have a strong side. If you’re at a loose end on the 28th July, go along to Coronation park and watch the badgers take on Huddersfield, kick off is 7.45PM.
It was nice to watch a game without the radio stuff, but the media bug still bit, which is why you’ve just read a match report! Next up, FC Halifax vs. the beloved – don’t forget full match commentary on Takeover Radio 106.9FM from 2PM, the link to listen online is on the far right hand side. I’m now looking forwards to checking out another BSBP side in a week’s time or so when I watch Alfreton, I’m also looking forwards to watching the stags youth team, who won 11 (yes eleven) – 0 last night! Some great prospects by the sound of it, well done boys!
Good luck to Craig & Jamie for the season ahead, also to all the ex-stags playing for the badgers. Thanks for reading, see you soon.