We had an introduction to a number of the 1st year intake, though some appeared to be playing out of their typical position, presumably as we look to develop their all round game. In the back line Tyler Shrimpton played at left back, while Olatunde Bayode was in a more advanced position on the right wing. Fellow newcomers Mark Howarth (midfield) and Tommy Wood (striker) also lined up, surrounded by 2nd year scholars.
The slope of the pitch and the high bounce on the dry surface seemed to give us a real issue during periods of the first half. Coupled with that, our passing radars seemed to be suffering under the hot sun, en masse. This meant a number of situations broke down, either through mis-controlling of the ball or loosely played passes.
In terms of opportunities in the first half we probably had the better in terms of number. Josh Dolling should have got the season up and running when he outmuscled his marker and broke onto a bouncing ball in the box. He probably had more time than he thought and steered a volley wide, when controlling and slotting in may have been a better option. He then saw a shot well blocked by a covering defender after Bayode had beaten the keeper to a through ball and pulled back to our captain. Chakwana also curled a cross in from the left but the ref had already blown for offside. At the other end the best chance of the half fell for the visitors as indecision in the middle allowed their striker to streak free, with only a great low reaction saves from Tony Aghayere seeing the ball roll the right side of the post.
The second half started and we seemed to see more of the same frantic play. Around 10 minutes in we had a real chance as pinball broke out in the Tranmere box. They managed to clear and it lead to them taking the lead. Casual play out on the left saw them take possession and advance. They got into the box and shot across goal, seeing a deflection fall into the path of another forward who looked to have been in an offside position from our perspective. He tucked home and the flag stayed down though, so the goal stood.
We had the ball in the back of their net 5 minutes later but ours was ruled out for offside. Dolling flashed in a shot that was parried by the keeper, and while Wood snaffled the rebound, the flag did go up this time. We seemed to spark to life at this and had a series of good chances. Chakwana rolled a shot wide after good hold up play by Wood. We brought on the squad's eldest member in Andreas Bianga, replacing Howarth as we tried to grab the midfield by the scruff of the neck. A marauding Vashiko Dixon run was halted in the box as he was hauled down, but penalty appeals were waved away.
Khius Metz, returning from a pre-season injury was introduced to try and save the game, but our general play remained too frantic. The pace of Metz did get him in but he also placed his shot wide. Our passing was our biggest problem through the game though and another example lead to a glorious chance for Tranmere to but the cherry on top, but Aghayere was again alive to threw their strike force.
An under par opening, but as we get told by the 1st team after a setback, ‘we go again’.
Team:- Tony Aghayere, Vash Dixon, Tyler Shrimpton, Lewis Norvock, Shaun Hobson, Hamam El-Fitouri (Miles Fenton), Mark Howarth (Andreas Bianga), Ola Bayode (Khius Metz), Nashe Chakwana, Tommy Wood, Josh Dolling.
Subs not used:- Connor King, Billy Grogan.