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98/99: Friendlies:

Pre-season friendly, 1/8/98
Cambridge United 3(2)
Watford 2(0)
Team: Chamberlain, Bazeley, Gudmundsson, Mooney, Robinson, Yates, Palmer, Easton, Rosenthal, Smart, Wright
Subs: Day (for Chamberlain), Millen (for Robinson), Hazan (for Gudmundsson), Kennedy (for Rosenthal), Noel-Williams (for Bazeley)
Scorers: Noel-Williams, Millen
Seven days to go
Report by Mike Scofield

First half.

They were really up for it, and we simply were not.

Two simple flicks over the top of the back four and their number nine raced through for two (although Alec parried away his original effort before he slotted home the second) very simple goals. I can't remember a single shot from us, although Smart looks like he is a good maker of chances. Wright, playing with him up front, gave plenty of effort but nothing he tried came off. Ronny was distinctly under the weather. I've never seen him so negative, berating his team-mates every time something went wrong. Baze gave him a right wigging for complaining after he made a mess of a pass.

We had no real midfield, as Ronny and Gudmundsson were both out wide and not really contributing, Easton is not really a battler and Palmer was on his own really. We lost every single aerial battle.

Second Half

Chamberlain, Rosenthal, Robinson, Gudmundsson came off. Day, Millen, Kennedy, Hazan came on.

Millen (and I can't believe I'm saying this) was brilliant, winning everything in the air and on the ground. Hazan also looked very good with some good interchanges with Wright and Smart. Kennedy was not really very involved. Day made a couple of good saves and could not be faulted - except for an abortive attempt at a punch from a corner, but he recovered to save the resulting header anyway.

Some good crosses from the right resulted in not very much. Ronny sat next to the dug-out with a large ice-pack wrapped around his knee - hope it was just a precaution. Baze got hurt and was subbed for Gifton Noel-Williams who looked very very good.

He hit the bar and generally looked like Michael Owen's England Youth striking partner should. Eventually he got our first goal, a tap in after a good cross put them under pressure. Kennedy then had a good volley saved and it looked like we might get back at them.

But their 'brick sh*t house' substitute (six foot six?) beat four defenders (including a Mooney challenge that would have flattened anyone else) and slotted home their third.

A good corner panicked their keeper and the ball ran loose to Millen who put it in. But that was just about it.

Our players looked like they really did not want such a hard work-out with only seven days to go, and they looked to me like they were collectively suffering from the exertions of the training camp and subsequent friendlies. Still, it is a well known fact, that after intense training you need 'active rest' to reap the rewards of the hard work, and I guess that a week's 'tapering down' for the first match, together with the hoped for return of Hyde, Johnno and Ngonge, things should be better for next week.

I hope I am wrong about Dean Yates, but I've seen him play twice now and have not been impressed so far. Millen surpassed anything he did today.

Going by what I have seen, I would be happy with Smart or GNW and Lee up front at Portsmouth with Ngonge in Ronny's role. Ronny does not look ready yet. Lee would certainly give us that extra option of the big high ball and, if we can use Smart and Ngonge for the tricky 'on the floor stuff', then our Jase would be left free for flicks and knock downs.

GT is already saying that Wright will have to battle for a place and I don't think he will get the vote ahead of the others.