WITH the 2019/20 BetVictor Southern Premier Central season just around the corner, Stratford Town boss Tommy Wright has challenged his players to impress in their final pre-season friendly against Evesham United on Monday night.
Town welcome the Robins to the Arden Garages Stadium for a 7.45pm kick-off and Wright stressed those who are in the starting XI for that game must make the most of their playing time in a bid to nail a shirt for the opening fixture of the new league campaign against Needham Market on Saturday, 10th August.
Wright also confirmed the scheduled friendly against Desborough Town yesterday, Wednesday, was cancelled so he could work with his players on Tuesday night and tonight, Thursday, to tighten up in a few areas both defensively and offensively.
Wright added: “The Evesham game will be used as a test to see if they’ve digested it all and that we are ready for the league season.
“A lot of teams usually go light at the start of pre-season with the games whereas we have gone really heavy and now we want to fine tune and calm things down before the proverbial storm.
“My starting XI for the first game of the season is not a long way off. I think there’s one or two places still up for grabs.
“There’s plenty of competition and it’s still there for the lads. I don’t want to give too much away, but I think the lads need to know the team isn’t picked [for the first game of the season] and that they still have to apply themselves in training.
“Against Evesham I expect the lads that start could probably be the same that start against Needham, but they need to ensure that remains the case.
“The fact they have been given a shirt for the Evesham game gives them a chance to show they want to keep it for the following Saturday.
“Training this week is the chance for lads to impress me to get into that starting line-up on Monday, and at that point they have to be quietly confident that they will be involved against Needham and that it’s their shirt to lose – and that’s the mentality we’ve got to have.”
Town head into the Robins clash on the back of Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to National League North outfit Brackley Town at the Arden Garages Stadium.
A fifth-minute strike from Gareth Dean and a last-gasp goal from Dan Holman secured the win for the Saints and although disappointed with the performance against the 2018 FA Trophy winners, Wright told the Herald there were some positives to take from the defeat.
“I thought we were the second best team to everything all day, which is what the majority of people would expect as we have played a team that has finished in the National League North play-offs for the last three seasons and been in two FA Trophy finals in the last two seasons,” he said.
“On that basis, we have probably played against one of the title favourites in the league above us.
“They are well-drilled team and to be honest, that was the worst I have probably seen Brackley play!
“They have got some very good footballers and I’ve got the utmost respect for that club and their manager (Kevin Wilkin) as he brings in players year after year who want to achieve something.
“Even when they’re not functioning very well they find a way – and we’ve got to try and replicate that.
“The positives for us were that up until we conceded the second goal, I would have been quite happy losing that game 1-0.
“We weren’t at the races going forward, but we were resilient. Sam Lomax made some terrific saves, particularly late on, so that was a massive plus point.
“We also got more minutes into the legs and I’m not going to get all sad because we were beaten by Brackley Town.
“For me we have had a great pre-season. We’ve scored goals, we’ve shown we can keep clean sheets and against a good Brackley side, we nearly kept a clean sheet without deserving one.”
- A FAMILY open day is being held at the Arden Garages Stadium on Saturday as a select Stratford Town XI, including some first-team players, entertain FC Stratford (noon kick-off). Gates will be open free of charge. The 3G pitches will also be available so children can have a kick around during the day.