9:00am Sunday 28th July 2013
By Andrew Simpson
THE task for Ian Street’s men was one in stark contrast to that envisaged when a friendly was fixed with 1874 Northwich’s landlords Winsford United.
They expected to face a foe preparing for an assault on the North West Counties League title after a successful first season under Lloyd Morrison.
Instead, following the manager’s departure last week – along with Blues’ entire playing staff save for goalkeeper Andy Jones – they took on a team that only met each other on Tuesday.
The gloss in a comfortable 5-2 win, during which 1874 led 4-0 at the interval, was provided by striker Mike Brandon’s brace as the newly-formed club played for the first time on a pitch they will call home for the next two seasons at least.
While supporters settled into new surroundings the team, including 10 men who played previously for Street during his spell in charge at Winsford, had less of an adjustment to make.
Among them was ex-Blue Adam Foy, who started in midfield.
After a first goal arrived inside five minutes, when Brandon – probably offside – danced around Jones before rolling the ball into an empty net, they assumed control.
Street, while likely disappointed his side were not tested at all in defence in a one-sided half, will have enjoyed the tenants’ ruthless finishing.
Brandon shrugged off a weak challenge from Dan Smith to steer in a second goal on 17 minutes.
Blues’ charity in defence was punished again on the half hour, this time Lee Hendley driving low with accuracy from the edge of the box after an attempted clearance fell kindly into his path.
A fourth goal followed shortly afterwards, defender Danny Thomas reacting smartly to sweep Brandon’s hooked assist past Jones from close range after a corner reached him at the back post.
And Brandon, the half’s outstanding performer in attack, was denied a deserved hat-trick by Jones’ brilliant save after a Winsford substitute had passed sloppily inside his own half.
Replacement Andy Crompton converted a penalty at the start of the second period to reduce Blues’ arrears, a gap he almost narrowed further only for full back Ryan Stewart to block his goal-bound attempt.
Jack Lane, left unmarked, thumped home a header from a corner to make it 4-2 before Dean McGregor completed the scoring at the other end when he diverted substitute Paul Bowyer’s knock-down – again from a set piece – high into the net.
Winsford Jones (GK), Banda, Jones, Smith, Lane, Botwe, Rothwell, Mac, Jennings, Walcott, Zajac. Subs (all used) Herd, Crompton, Queeley, Mehmet, Ingham. Goals Crompton 48 (penalty), Lane 80
1874 Northwich Conkie (GK), Mitchell, Thomas, Duckworth, Stewart, Foy, Crane, Hendley, Marshall, McGregor, Brandon. Subs (all used) Bowyer, McKay, Lewis, Wilding, Coffin. Goals Brandon 4, 17 Hendley 33, Thomas 38, McGregor 89
Referee Ian Hurdle (Holmes Chapel)
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