THE battle for League One points starts again tomorrow, with Oldham Athletic in town. We have had so few opening day home games in recent years that it seems unnatural to start on home territory.
We are always a good bet for an opening day win as we have have a habit of starting the season like a train. Unforgettable wins at Gillingham last year, and high-scoring spectaculars at Preston (4-2) and Norwich (7-1) are still fresh in the memory. As always, I’d settle for a squeaky 1-0 win!
The pre-season friendlies have given all the squad time on the pitch, and the starting line-up tomorrow is a matter of fevered speculation. We have seen a multitude of different formations, and rotational changes, and the flexibility of the side should equip us for any game situation (injuries permitting!) All will be revealed soon enough. Joe Dunne will have cemented his starting 11 this week, well away from the gaze of inquisitive journalists.
New signings Clohessy, Gordon and Lewington should all be involved, and hopefully Dan Holman – previously with Braintree Town – will also be match fit, and ready to play a part. Holman looks like a natural goalscorer with an exceptional all-round game. His first two touches for the club in pre-season were a right-foot goal, and a left-foot shot at Brantham, which he followed with an impressive headed goal at Sudbury. Dan could be a revelation as the season unfolds.
There can be no doubt that the club’s Academy production line will be feeding players into the first team like never before. A few months ago Joe Dunne promised that the pre-season friendly fixtures would open a few eyes, and Joe’s words came to fruition in the final first team official pre-season game at Bishop’s Stortford.
Tosin Olufemi, Sammie Szmodics and Alex Gilbey started the game, and we ended with an outfield side including Marley Andrews, Frankie Kent, Billy Roast, Tom Lapslie, Drey Wright, Jack Curtis, Michael O’Donoghue and Macauley Bonne. That’s 11 outfield players who have risen through the Youth ranks and are on the verge of a professional career.
My best moment from pre-season involved young defender Frankie Kent, in our game against Ipswich Town. We had an impressive and dominant first half, but Town unlocked our defence three times after the break. With the bullets flying, Kent’s reaction to the third goal was fantastic, head held high, getting his message across to the defence that there were no excuses, nowhere to hide, and every defender had a job to do.
It was a glimpse into the future and a great moment, not for the crowd, or for the manager’s benefit, but because leadership was needed at that precise moment.
We’ll see tomorrow who gets the shirts. With the players we have, it will be a squad game like never before, with the substitutes potentially as vital as the starting 11. It will be a season that tests us to the very limit, and we expect no less. Let battle commence.