Pre-season is always a strange type of match to write for. With various tactics being tried, an unknown quality of opposition and a search for fitness, it doesn’t seem like the traditional match report will do the trick here. Instead, here’s a run down of the teams, tactics and a bumper first look at the entire squad so far this season.

The first half saw the Reds line-up fielding 4 youngsters, with Matt Steade joining debutants from last season John Stones, Paul Digby and Jordan Clark. The Reds lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Hassell and Digby standing guard in front of defence, and a rotating attacking midfield operating behind Egyptian hitman Mido. Steele appeared to be unready to take up his number 1 spot between the sticks, leaving new signing Ben Alnwick to deputise. The squad took to the field sporting random numbers on last season’s white away strip, and were without a captain, though Jim McNulty was nominated to shake the hand of the referee and Alfreton skipper.

The Reds kept the ball well in the first half, under constant reminder by a vocal Keith Hill. The Reds looked to employ the pace of Stones and Steade in the overlap of the wingers, with each of the attacking midfielders continually dropping deep in order to collect the ball and bring the others into play. O’Brien was tireless as always and linked up well with Stones and Digby in order to link the midfield with the attack, though the Reds were struggling to make their final balls count. Hassell looked solid in the midfield position, and appeared calm and collected on the ball, spreading passes out wide to Done and Clark as they rotated. The philosophy in ball keeping was perhaps overwrought, with the midfield unable to give a plentiful supply of dangerous balls to the forward line. Generally, all players kept the ball well however, both youth and senior – though the final ball was lacking on many occasions and the Reds struggled to bring Clark and Done into the game, starving Mido of any real opportunities to go for goal, though he did sky one attempt that he should have scored, having misconnected with his weaker foot. Overall the first half was lacking major action and perhaps pace or the final ball from wingers or the overlapping full backs. It was a good run out for the youngsters, though 45 minutes would be the end of the day for all the players, with Keith Hill substituting the whole side at half time, opting for a slightly different formation.
Having made wholesale changes at half time, this gave opportunities for the two remaining summer signings Jacob Mellis and Kelvin Etuhu to win over the travelling Barnsley support. Though the formation was similar, the Reds sought to link up the midfield and attack more effectively by bringing Jacob Mellis just in front of the more defensive minded David Perkins, and the box-to-box Stephen Dawson. The Reds got off to a brighter start, with more urgency in the attacks. The combination of Scott Golbourne overlapping and combining with Kelvin Etuhu provided a real threat, with an excellent display of pace from both down the left hand side. Mellis appeared to be all action, constantly linking up with the attacks and helping out with the defence, with Perkins having the role of sweeping up behind him, and at times covering for the out of position Golbourne. The Reds seemed more composed at the back, though did have a couple of mix ups, leading to Rob Edwards leaving with a head injury late on.

Mellis and Davies before the game
Going forward the Reds were much more potent with Etuhu and Golbourne creating multiple crosses for Craig Davies to feed off. The combination of play between the aforementioned trio, plus Jacob Mellis played a part in creating the sharpened Craig Davies excellent chances, allowing him to return to Barnsley with a brace – both goals coming about in similar fashion, with excellent passing through the midfield and out wide to Davies. The former Chesterfield hitman searched for a hat-trick, though it wasn’t to be, though Chris Dagnall should have probably passed Davies and Etuhu through on goal on numerous occasions, missing 3 key passes that he will no doubt have been disappointed with. The Reds didn’t leave Derbyshire with a clean sheet, though were perhaps unlucky to concede to a header from the Conference’s answer to Peter Crouch in Tom Denton, which young keeper Lukas Lidakevicius couldn’t have done much about.

Final score: Alfreton (Denton) 1 – 2 Barnsley (Davies, 2)

Player-by-player run down and a look at potential stars this season

Ben Alnwick – very little to do, though appeared comfortable on the floor. Tactics dictated no long kicking and he didn’t have a save to make, making it very difficult to judge him; other than that his vocality and play on the floor was decent

Lukas Lidakevicius  - again had little to do, though did make a decent stop. Perhaps unlucky to concede to Alreton’s giant striker

John Stones – appeared more composed on the ball than in previous sightings and dealt with the left wing threat well. Perhaps could have been more effective when overlapping in the final third

Scott Wiseman – seems to have even more pace than last season, though struggled to link up with Dagnall effectively. Didn’t let anything past him however

Stephen Foster – looks more composed on the floor but needs to make better decisions in looking for attackers with long balls; failed to make any of them count

Jim McNulty – occasionally became tangled though provided good accompaniment with Foster; would perhaps work better with a different defensive partner

Rob Edwards – seemed composed and passed between himself and Collins well, went off with a head injury after getting caught up with an attacker

Lee Collins – despite coming straight from League 2, Collins appeared the most composed on the ball and made some decent passes. Could be contender to start alongside McNulty if the balance between 2 left footers would work

Matt Steade – was limited to a couple of runs down the wing, but has pace In abundance when given the opportunity, more to come from the youngster

Scott Golbourne – appears to have found a good partnership down the left hand side already with Kelvin Etuhu, constantly linking up and being a threat to the opposition

Bobby Hassell – didn’t look out of place in midfield and spread some passes out well. Might be a better option into the future than his traditional right back role

Paul Digby – tackled and passed with solidity, though was perhaps unimaginative in his positioning, often meaning that drives forward would return to square one. With experience, he could certainly be a decent choice in midfield, but is certainly solid right now

David Perkins – a typical David Perkins performance, tireless, tenacious and unselfish. Linked up very well with Mellis, picking up the craps that allowed his more creative partner to play

Stephen Dawson – like Perkins did an excellent job in stewarding the midfield, and playing to the right of central midfield was perhaps limited in his attacking outlets

Jacob Mellis – appeared to have a good attitude and did much more defensive work than in his loan stint. One of the more exciting players and perhaps a more than suitable candidate to replace his East Anglian departed namesake

Attacking Midfield/Wings:
Jim O’Brien – worked hard but wasn’t as creative as he could have been, due to having to drop back and link with the overly defensive minded Hassell and Digby

Jordan Clark – struggled to get into the game and had to continually rotate with Matt Done in order to see the ball. Needs more experience

Matt Done – like Clark, struggled to get into the game, though might have linked up better with the midfield options available in the second half

Flitcroft coordinating some pre-match shooting practice
Kelvin Etuhu – a very exciting prospect who continually linked up with the full back. Crossed well, passed effectively and looked a threat running at the defence. Will have been disappointed not to have been played through on goal by Dagnall

Chris Dagnall – appeared fit and determined, but missed opportunities to play Davies and Etuhu on goal by being unable to play the killer ball. Has all the attributes but appears to lack the confidence – a little encouragement from the stands could go a long way here

Mido – appeared slightly off the pace but was starved of supply from the midfield. This pre-season is all about fitness for the Egyptian

Craig Davies – appeared sharper than ever and appeared more focused in his goal getting. Might have had a hat-trick on a different day

Danny Rose – didn’t have time to make impact, but appears too lightweight; time in the weight room will be valuable for the youngster

So there it is, a full run down of all the players. The game presented a good run out for all within the squad but absentee Luke Steele. There were certainly many talking points,
though my tips for the season are Jacob Mellis, Kelvin Etuhu and Craig Davies who appeared a very potent force when linking up. If pressed for a starting line-up at this stage, I would choose the one staring the second half, bringing O’Brien in for Dagnall at this stage – though it is important all players get the opportunity to shine at this stage.

I hope you enjoyed my bumper first look at the side. As always make sure to ask any questions or comment below, and don’t forget you can follow me @MichaelRoach55 and @OnThePontyEnd on Twitter. 

You can take a look at Mido's miss below:

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3 comments so far,add yours

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the breakdown. Of all the players that you talk about which of those - in your opinion - are able to play in more than one position?

Unknown said...

To be honest I think flexibility runs throughout the squad - Hassell was in midfield, Dagnall on the wing, Etuhu was on his opposite to usual wing from what I'd heard before, and Dawson moved to right back when Edwards went off, with Wiseman going into the centre.

I would say that nearly every player could play more than one position effectively, and we'll find out more as the pre-season goes along. That said I wouldn't particularly encourage playing Dagnall on the wing - but it was just an experiment and he lacks a bit of confidence in general

Anonymous said...

Peronsally I think that Barnsley played poorly, especially in the first half. They looked like they didnt want to make chances and just wanted to kepe the ball.
What Kieth Hill has done however is instead of keeping the ball in a defence that is only 4 yards away from their own box they are keeping the ball in midfield and a higher up the field defence, also the wings seem to be a major factor in how the reds play with a lot of the game being played on the left and right side for Kieth Hill's men.

The second half was by far the better half for Barnsley, Mellis, Etuhu and Davis all looked to be fired up for the new season looking to get themselves on the team sheet for the beginning of th enew campiagn. Mellis's passing was second to none, every pass he made either created a chance or allowed some else to create a chance. Davis looked a lot better in front of goal and fully dersved his 2 goals. Etuhu can be a great star for Barnsley in the next 2 seasons. Mido however thinks Barnsley is a stepping stone in his career to get back into the big time of English football but if he plays this season like he did on Tuesday then he isnt going anywhere near were he used to be. Finally Chris Dagnall, simply had a shocker could have had a hat-tric and could have set up Davis for a hat-tric, should have done better and will struggle to get in teh first team this season.

My starting eleven for the beginning of the new season based on Tuesdays game would be: