First Saturday of the season, we entertain Gretna(2008) –https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gretna_F.C._2008 – formed during the final death throws of the original Gretna team, they’ve been in the Lowland League since the 2013/14 season, and finished 8th in 2017-18. Their squad looks OK, with a couple of 4.5* current ability rated players and are predicted to finish 8th again, so I’d expect them to give us a good game at Christie Gillies Park. Its a nice day for football, sunny spells and 16C, so lets get to it.
We’re going with the 4141 Control, only difference to normal is Mair at WB with Mackay at AML as Craig Newell is shaking off a bruised ankle he got in training. Kyle Fee is good cover for both sides at FB/WB. Hoping to keep it tight early doors and then take <<drum roll please>> “Control”…………….<<fade to black>>
Gretna definitely looked more dangerous in the first 10 minutes or so but Kev Waugh controlled the back line well. We then started to get into gear, with Andy Mair getting well up the pitch for a WB on Support with no Overlap instruction (guess that’s his Winger instinct, something we will need to be careful of if he plays much at WB) and some nice interplay between Mackay (Who had drifted inside as Mair was up the pitch), McCulloch, Devers led to a Mair cross which was headed against the right upright by Alieau Faye, with the Gretna keeper falling gratefully onto the loose ball (Physics be damned!).
Gretna, who were playing an identical formation to us, continued to look dangerous in patches, with a kelly 25 yard piledriver pulling a fine save out of Donaldson in the Strollers goal on 17 minutes.
Andy Mair made the breakthrough in the 29th minute with a left foot free kick from almost at the left perpendicular of the Gretna area, somehow beating Atkinson in the top right hand corner, celebrating with what may be described as a glitch., though in slow motion was one of those stationary cartwheels. Our first competitive goal of the season, my first in management. Fist-pumps galore.
From that point we dominated possession, with Mair especially an attacking threat, closing out the half comfortably.
HT Strollers 1 (Andy Mair 29) Gretna 2008 0
The second half started brightly, with James Hainey nearly getting onto a long ball in the first 10 seconds. The middle 3 was becoming a middle 4 with Mackay almost constantly off the wing (We are playing the Fairly Wide instruction – if we were playing Narrow I’d expect it a bit more) with Mair marauding up the left side we were looking pretty dangerous, but I decided to bring the fresh legs of David Churchill on for Johnny Devers (6.8) in the 60th minute, hopefully bringing something slightly different in his preferred CM (A) role.
Then in the 63rd minute the Strollers were awarded a penalty. An initial ball over from Kev Waugh was controlled well by James Hainey with his back to goal. He passed out to Mackay who ran at the Gretna defence and was brought down just inside the area by Holliday via a nasty looking 2-footed lunge. Hainey stepped up and dispatched the ball top bins just right of centre. 2-0, 2 set-piece goals.
i decided to make our second sub just after the goal, McVitie coming on as DM BWM(S) for Scott Clapperton (6.9 but on a yellow) – a position he is training but isn’t a natural at. The rest of the game was Stroller pressure, lots of nice interplay but with no end result – Alieau Faye should have scored after a lovely move involving 6 Strollers left him 8 yards out but the keeper made a good save down to his left.
The Final Sub was made on 77 minutes – Kyle Fee on as FB (WBR), Mair moving up to AMR and Mackay coming off (6.5) – I want to give Fee time as he looks useful and would like to see him develop for next season. The final 10 was pretty comfortable involving plenty of nice passing play, and that’s how it finished.
FT Strollers 2 (Andy Mair 29, James Hainey pen 64) Gretna 2008 0 – Att 49 (6 Away)
So, 45 home fans………..We’ve also sold 10 season tickets 🙂 🙂 🙂
Pretty comfortable all in all, Mair & McCulloch ran the show – Nice to see McCulloch working well as a DLP with 5 key passes. McVitie came on and made 2 key passes in the last 27 minutes as well which is promising as he was working as a BWM in the DM role. I’d like to think the additional friendlies has built our fitness up as we really dominated in the last half hour, 65% possesion, 81% pass completion but only 3 crosses completed out of 51 makes me wonder whether we should try cross less often if at all possible. The fact that we only had to make 6 tackles to Gretna’s 26 is quite telling.
Lastly the individual stats were very interesting – Murray McCulloch’s 89% pass completion on 110 passes is very encouraging, Tom Kelly didn’t make one of his 13 crosses (Cross less often) and the whole defence finished 7.1 and above.
The next league game (Kelty Hearts (A) – Lost to Dalbettie Star 1-0 in today’s game) isn’t until Saturday Week (18th) so I’ve slotted in a Friendly against Jeanfield Swifts Away for the 11th. Next time I’ll do a write up of the friendly and we will look at our staffing situation.