Second-half performance brings deserved win
- Excellent second-half performance from Town's Under-21s
- Four goals give young Terriers the win
- Second-half substitutes make a difference
An excellent second-half gave Town’s Development Squad a fully deserved win at Stalybridge Celtic this evening, with players from the Academy right at the fore.
Having trailed at the interval, the introduction of second year scholars Rekeil Pyke and Regan Booty seemed to turn the game in Frankie Bunn’s favour, with goals from Booty, Flo Bojaj, Pyke and Duane Holmes sealing the victory.
It was more impressive in that the win came against the highest ranked opponent the young Terriers faced in the pre-season campaign; Stalybridge Celtic plays in the sixth tier, the Vanarama National League North.
The evening will have given the travelling Town fans in attendance plenty to be excited about for the future, with the second 45 the best performance of pre-season.
Throughout the game, the Terriers played the better passing football – but the older, more physical hosts took every opportunity to get men forward at set-pieces and carried a big threat in that manner.
The game was played on a great surface that had recently been relayed and that permitted the Development Squad to get the ball down on the surface and play through the thirds, with the challenge being to hold the ball in high areas against three big centre halves.
Stalybridge made the running in the opening eight minutes, but that was ended by an eighth minute free-kick for Town. Duane Holmes, who was far and away the most experienced player in Bunn’s young side, stepped up and sent a rocket of a shot goalwards from 25 yards that goalkeeper Tony McMillan had to smartly push over the crossbar.
Town, playing a diamond in midfield with Irishman Ronan Coughlan at the tip, improved at that point and started to press the Celtic team back into its half without producing the killer final pass or cross into the box.
A 20th minute corner from left back Jack Senior caused mayhem in the Stalybridge six yard box and had to be cleared off the line by a man on the post, whereas set pieces were causing equal issues for Town at the other end.
Stalybridge Manager Liam Watson sent his big men forward at every opportunity, with winger Adam Farrell bowling huge long throws into the box whenever the chance was in range.
As such, it was unsurprising when one of his deliveries led to the first goal on the half hour mark. Aaron Chalmers had just volleyed over from one delivery into the box and when Farrell got the opportunity, his throw fell at the back post for Dale Wright, who span and fired low into the bottom corner. Frankie Bunn will have been disappointed with the space afforded to the scorer.
At the other end, a few decent opportunities went begging – with Liam Coogans scuffing one shot tamely into the goalkeeper’s waiting hands after a good move.
Bunn made a double change during the interval – and the introduction of Academy scholars Pyke and Booty made a big impact on the game. Just two minutes in, Pyke sped down the left channel and beat a defender before crossing. The ball was cleared back out to him and he whipped a fierce shot across the face of goal with his right foot.
The ball went straight down the other end and skipper Joe Wilkinson had to clear the ball off Town’s line, but in general the Terriers took charge – adding pace to the passing in the attacking third.
It was no surprise when the Terriers drew level, and it was the half-time subs that combined. Booty found space in midfield to play an excellent pass into the left channel for Pyke; he held it up and slipped it back to the edge of the box, where Booty made up ground to hit a first time curler off his instep and inside the far post, with the goalkeeper not even moving.
Bunn’s side grew in confidence and took the lead just five minutes later with a move that started with ‘keeper Wilczynski. He found right back Jacob Hanson, who advanced up the pitch; the ball was worked through midfielder before Holmes broke the lines with a through ball that found Coughlan’s bending run. Ronan rounded the goalkeeper and crossed into the middle, where striker Flo Bojaj tapped home for yet another pre-season goal.
Town continued to control the game after the second, but gradually the hosts got a foothold in the game and equalised in the 76th minute. Former Town Academy player Aidan Chippendale found a yard on Booty to whip a good cross into the box from the right and substitute Alex Johnson did the rest, guiding a deft header inside the far post that gave Wilczynski no chance.
However, it took just three minutes for the Terriers to restore the advantage. This time the strikers combined; Bojaj received a pass inside the area and advanced to the dead ball line before drilling the ball low across the face for Pyke to turn home ahead of the goalkeeper at close range.
With just a few minutes left, Holmes put the icing on the cake. A short corner routine worked the ball to the midfielder and his 25 yard drive was too powerful for the goalkeeper to keep out, despite him getting a good hand to the ball.
Town’s team (4-4-2 diamond):
Ed Wilczynski; Jack Senior, Fraser Horsfall, Joe Wilkinson (c), Jacob Hanson; Jamie Spencer (Regan Booty, 46), Duane Holmes, Sondre Tronstad, Ronan Coughlan (Jack Boyle, 65); Liam Coogans (Rekeil Pyke, 46), Flo Bojaj
Sam Guthrie, Dylan Cogill