Fisher 2 Saffron Walden Town 2
With the August heatwave subsiding, and more typical wetter football weather sweeping into St Pauls, Fisher’s pre-season campaign saw a high tempo and fiercely contested encounter with Essex Senior League side Saffron Walden Town.
A return into midfield for Julio DaMata gave Fisher more punch than in last week’s games and his energy and ball winning freed Jacob Katonia to make more runs forward, ensuring Fisher spent a lot of the first half on the front foot. Manager Ajay Ashanike will have been pleased with the link up play between the midfield and the front three with forward Roddy Lemba providing a huge presence in the number nine shirt and his ability to hold the ball up and bring others into the attack caused the visitors a lot of early problems. In one such move he brought a trialist winger into play and from his chipped cross Lewis Francis ghosted in at the back of the area and looked set to finish until the keeper’s scrambled block denied him.
At the back Fisher looked solid and clear cut chances were few and far between for the visitors with the centre backs coping well with long throws into the box which along with set plays looked the biggest threat.
On the half hour mark Fisher took the lead. A spell of sustained pressure around the visitors’ area saw Francis pull the ball back for Lemba to rifle home a low drive from ten yards. It was a deserved lead in a spell of football as good as any played so far in pre-season. A trialist at right back combined well with the fellow trialists on the wing and then when the wide men swapped sides with Francis to provide a continued attacking threat and deliver a series of threatening balls into the box as Fisher continued to sweep forward.
A second goal duly arrived five minutes from the break as Lemba again held up the ball and switched it out wide for Francis to run onto in acres of space and craftily lift the ball over the advancing keeper from the right hand side of the box. The visitors appealed loudly for offside and it may well be the assistant’s insistence that a player on the far side played the forward on was in fact a socially distanced substitute spilling over from the technical area! There is a lot to get used to in this new ‘normal’ for football.
Fisher could have added a third as Lewis – a constant threat almost acrobatically converted at the far post following a mazy run from the right wing trialist who showed why he had played professionally for a host of European clubs in the past.
The second half will have baffled the Fisher coaching staff as from the outset the fluency moving forward seemed to vanish. Usually in pre-season this may be attributed to adjusting for substitutions but it had in fact been the visitors who had made a number of changes not the Fish. Whether they had strengthened or not is unknown but it had an effect and they quickly pulled a goal back with a good bit of control in the box allowing a clear sight of goal for their centre forward to fire home.
In the same way the first half had been one way traffic so the second became, but in a different direction and there was no surprise when in a similar move the visitors found a yard of space in the D outside the box and advanced to slide the ball home past substitute keeper, Charlie Payne back with the club on trial.
Fisher managed to create some chances of their own to regain the lead. From a long Payne clearance Malaki Coker broke free but was forced a little wide and his shot was well smothered by the keeper. In the final minutes substitute Christian Udo powered forward and his powerful shot was very well saved to keep the scores level.
On the balance of the two halves a draw was probably a fair result. Both sides will have seen the game as a useful run out – with the whole 90 minutes played at a much higher intensity than usual for pre-season friendlies. Fisher are starting to shape a squad that looks to be ready for the start of competitive football in September should that get the green light this week.
Line Up: Villanucci, Trialist, Lockwood, DaMata, Fitzgerald, Trialist, Katonia, Coker, Francis, Lemba, Trialist. Subs: Payne, Brown, Flavien-Howard, Udo and two trialists.