Evesham United 3 Stratford Town 7
PAUL COLLICUTT is too wily a manager to worry too much about results in pre-season friendlies.
Saturday’s match was a thumping defeat, for sure, but as the Robins boss admitted it will be part of a learning curve towards being fully prepared for the August 6 kick-off.
In mitigation, the Robins had just 13 players fully fit from a squad of 22 and they were simply swept aside in the first 50 minutes before Collicutt’s half time changes sparked a more purposeful second half.
Stratford had produced a masterclass in finishing to lead 7-0 after 55 minutes, before Matt Sysum headed home and Adam Mann showed his striker instincts with two more.
Collicutt certainly knows Evesham will need to play much better but having a fully fit squad will be a start.
“I told them at half time how poor we were in the first half,” said Collicutt.
“I asked them to go and win the second half and they did that. They were more competitive.
“I learned a lot. I will take a lot of things out of the game. All I would say is judge me when I’ve got everybody fit. We have had six, seven, eight players missing. It’s a learning curve.”
The biggest lesson in the first half was that failing to track forwards will be punished as Stratford rattled in spectacular goal after scintillating finish.
Richard Gregory opened the scoring on 12 minutes with a shimmy and low angled shot across keeper Kevin Sawyer from the left into the far corner and Dior Angus held off Will Wellon to drill in a second on 31 minutes.
Simeon Tulloch’s solo effort added a third on 34 minutes, Tulloch then slipped a shot under Sawyer before Gregory floated a perfect finish home from the inside left channel to make it 5-0 on the stroke of half time.
Gregory’s diving header flashed into the net four minutes into the second period and the Town striker scored a magnificent seventh moments later.
Collicutt’s half time substitutions – bringing on Sysum who played despite 14 stitches in a head wound, Ashley Williams and Jordan Bryan – sparked a response and Evesham began to pose a few more questions of the visitors.
Sysum headed home a corner from inside the six-yard box on 58 minutes and a minute later Mann rifled a low shot past keeper Niall Cooper into the bottom corner.
Mann added his second, connecting with keeper Sam Gilder’s clearance to fire home smartly, despite Cooper getting a touch.
Mann might have had a hat-trick, being denied by the woodwork from a Lewis Binns corner and having another effort deflected over, whilst Sysum headed wide and Cleverson’s shot was saved by Cooper.
Pre-season has been a mixed bag so far for Evesham, but Collicutt will be hoping for his absentees to return as soon as possible before the countdown really begins to the first Southern League Division One South & West match on August 6 at Salisbury.