So the pre-season campaign is over and it’s next stop Sleaford. At home fortunately on Saturday at the Dog Duck as we get the UCL Prem season underway with opponents we had tough games with last season.
Are we prepared and ready? Is our squad as good as or better than last year? What will the starting line-up be on Saturday? From what we’ve seen in pre-season I’d say the answers are…yes…probably but early to tell…and really not sure but plenty of options.
We rounded the first team campaign off with an emphatic looking 5-2 win against Southern League opponents Rugby Town on Saturday. It was an unusual game in that Diamonds led 4-0 at half-time with some excellent finishing and great open up the defence attacking play, but on general play and pressure the two teams built it was a pretty even contest.
Rugby started well and got into a strong attacking rhythm, particularly down the right, and I was thinking at that stage you could see a difference in quality of the two sides. But their attacks didn’t produce too many real chances, and Diamonds defended the box well with Brad Harris, Aaron Parkinson, Joe Henderson and Sam Brown working really hard.
Diamonds did retain the ball better as the half wore-on and were getting in behind the Rugby defence through Elliot Lamb-Johnson, Fazel Koriya and Greg Ling who had one of his better games for Diamonds.
We then had a flood of goals in the final 20 minutes of the half where we seemed to cut open a flatfooted Rugby defence at will.
First a free kick found Dunkley alone on 6 yard line, his stooping header was blocked by the keeper but Henderson had followed up and tucked away the rebound without a Rugby defender in sight.
Next Fazel Koriya was found in space on the edge of the box, he jinked past a couple of defenders along the 18 yard line and curled a superb shot past the keeper into the far corner.
The third was similar to the first with a Greg Ling free-kick finding Dunkley in acres of space behind the Rugby defence again. But this time he didn’t quite make contact although the keeper clearly expected him to and we saw Lings kick untouched nestle in the far corner. Some initial uncertainty, but it soon became clear that yes….Greg Ling had scored.
And just to prove it was no fluke, Ling made an excellent run behind the Rugby back four and Lamb-Johnson found him superbly with a cut-back ball, and Ling coolly slotted past the advancing keeper from 15 yards.
Rugby were brighter and more energised at the start of the second half and pulled one back with a fantastic sweeping move, started with a ball in behind McBride who had moved to right back, and excellent first time cross behind the Diamonds centre half’s and a superb first time finish. It was a goal worthy of much higher level football and showed what Rugby are capable of.
The game settled into a period of good possession by both sides between the penalty areas but not much created inside them. We did get further goals though, with Fazel Koriya stooping to head home from 4 yards after Lamb-Johnson had seized on a deflected clearance, and a final goal for Rugby with another good finish from an excellent left wing cross. It was a decent game with good entertainment in parts and some decent finishing from both sides.
So 5-2 to Diamonds and re-assuring to see chances taken and goals scored. It is one area of the team that maybe hasn’t fully fired in pre-season. All the strikers have bagged goals, and got valuable game time together, and we’ve operated a variety of wide players and central midfield combinations, but there is a sense we need to step up the chance conversion. We look capable of creating chances from all over the pitch, and defensively sound whichever combination we’ve played, but the test as ever will be can we convert those chance in the close games and the pressure situations that turn good team into champions.
The new players have all played some part in all the games but I’m not sure we’ve seen the starting line-up emerge yet due in part to injuries and availability.
Will Turner or Koriya partner Dunkley up front or will Tom Lorraine get a chance?
Will Lamb-Johnson start as one of the wide players or will it be Gearing, Ling or Koriya?
Will Henderson start at full-back or will it be Merrill and Brown or even McBride or Rashid Koriya?
Who will play centre-half from Hewitt and Parkinson or Dolman if he is fit or Ashton if he is available, then there is Clarke when he is fit or even Brad Harris who has played well in there when asked?
Who will partner Bunting in centre-midfield…Harris…Confue….McBride?
It’ll be fascinating to see the first team sheet when we get it in the Radio Diamonds commentary box on Saturday. We’re really looking forward to bringing you all the action as the season gets underway and have more of the regular faces returning to bolster the commentary team.
So tune in on Saturday and let’s see if we can we go one better than last year and claim that elusive promotion place.
Radio Diamonds Presenter