Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Young Forest side taught a lesson by predatory Pilgrims

Ah, football. Back at last. After a tournament-less summer, pre-season is upon us. That at least means we've got some on-field action to pass the time between made-up transfer garbage and tweets worrying about kit release dates and club shop opening times.

So, with glee, I made the short trip to Boston United's York Street ground - the Jakemans Stadium if you will - to kick off my 2015/16 programme with the Pilgrims against Forest under-21s.

It's fair to say that Jamie Fullarton's boys struggled against the men of the Vanarama North side, who had been cruelly denied in the play offs at the end of last season (we feel your pain!).

It took just 38 seconds for Mark Jones to fire the home side in front. In these opening exchanges Forest were bright too though, Luke Thomas forging a couple of chances with his pace and direct running on the right of the Forest midfield.

Still, the defence was given a really stern test as the Pilgrims quickly came out of the traps, pressurising the centre back pairing of Andreas Karo and Joe Worrall. Right back Dylan Burns also found Kaine Felix tough to handle and the Boston United man engineered himself room for a smartly-taken second on 17 minutes.

The under siege back line found themselves undone again as a long throw was headed home by Scott Garner just a few minutes later.

That took the wind out of Forest's sails really, with Thomas' threat fading as the half wore on and the attackers growing frustrated by not being able to get into the game.

Half time saw Ross Durrant brought on to replace Tim Erlandsson between and he caught the eye, notably denying Pilgrims triallist Jack Friend in a one-on-one in a performance that was an improvement on the man he replaced.

Forest cleared the resultant corner and midfielder Jorge Grant - who had netted at White Hart Lane in the League Cup last year - led the charge upfield and squared the ball to left back Jack Kelly, who finished the move with a cooly taken finish.

Kelly was the most impressive of the defenders on show and Grant, his provider, showed the odd touch that hinted at his quality even though he struggled to get into a game dominated by the hosts. Grant almost netted a second late on with a decent curled free kick and Kelly too went close with a smart set piece.

That was all after Forest conceded a fourth. The young Reds had dealt with crosses better as they found their feet in the second half but lapsed and allowed the ball to be headed into the path of a grateful Zak Mills.

First-half star man Luke Thomas had been switched to the left early in the second half as the subs joined the fray. Although less effective on the opposite flank he almost got reward for his night's effort, only denied a goal by a superb clearance by Carl Piergianni, the impressive Boston United centre back. With that it finished 4-1.

All in all there was much to learn for Fullarton's charges. Few players seemed ready for the step up to the next level, although touches from Grant and Kelly in the second half hinted at their talents while Thomas' pace showed real potential in the opening 45 minutes. Nikolay Todorov held onto the ball well and allowed Grant to come into the game more.

It was shame that the injured Oliver Burke couldn't have showcased his talents while Tyler Walker - who started at York Street 12 months ago - was involved with the first team in Doncaster last night.

Another notable absentee was Julian Bennett. The ex Forest man looks set to join Boston United after injury forced him out of life in the Football League and featured for them at the weekend but sadly didn't make it to the ground tonight. 

The corresponding fixture finished 4-1 last season too, that time it was a Forest win however. Those were the pre-season days when we wallowed in the fairytale of the returning hero as Stuart Pearce took up the City Ground hotseat. Fast forward 12 months and harsh realism has replaced much of that optimism, not least because of the constraints of Financial Fair Play.

FFP makes the academy even more important now as that reality bites. Tonight, though, the reality for the players was that they've got a fair amount of work to do tin order to be ready for senior level action.

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