Great work-out for Alty as new boys shine and Pringle and Marriott dominate midfield
These hot, sultry July evenings are hardly conducive with tearing round a football pitch for 90 minutes, but, as their name might suggest, pre-season games have to be played before we get into August, and they do have their uses.
For players, they offer an opportunity to test how all the training ground fitness and conditioning work is going, while managers and coaches can be guided towards their best starting Xl by the evidence provided in a pre-season programme.
For fans, the appeal is forming first impressions of new arrivals, and those forged by Alty followers should be largely positive, based on what they have seen so far.
Three down, four to go, and there are distinct signs of encouragement that Phil Parkinson’s latest array of talent is well equipped to lead the club into an historic new era of full-time professional football.
After a useful work-out in Saturday’s double-header at West Didsbury & Chorlton and Wythenshawe Town, Alty made the short trip to Shawe View for the traditional friendly with Trafford in stifling temperatures that necessitated a drinks break at the midway point of each half.
And those Alty fans among a healthy turnout of 571 - confirmation of this fixture’s enduring popularity - must have liked what they witnessed from a team who, even without their three most potent attacking weapons, namely Jordan Hulme, Ryan Colclough and Matty Kosylo, were good value for a 2-0 win.
The only gripe might have been that both goals came from triallists in a second half full of unfamiliar faces after a more recognisable Alty line-up dominated the opening 45 minutes without finding that all-important finishing touch.
But the flip side of that, of course, is there could yet be one or two additions to the squad from those vying for an opportunity, and judging by the way the second-half triallists kept Alty on the front foot and scored twice without reply, Phil has plenty to choose from.
Trafford invariably prove doughty opponents for Alty, but a strong Robins side, even allowing for the three key absentees, kept them on the back foot for much of a first half that was controlled by the visitors.
In Ross Barrows and Liam Brockbank, it is clear Alty have recruited two top-notch full-backs, while Josh Lundstram looks as assured and unflustered as ever in central midfield and keeper Ollie Byrne, though never seriously tested, has a left foot that promises to be a launchpad for many an Alty attack in the coming season.
On top of that, Ben Pringle looked revitalised by his brief summer break, constantly at the heart of Alty’s best first-half moments, and Marcus Dinanga suggested he could still have a role to fill in Robins colours with some effective hold-up play.
Indeed, it was a foul on Dinanga that led to Alty’s first scoring opportunity in the 10th minute, as the resulting free-kick by Elliot Osborne forced the Trafford keeper into an awkward save low down by his near post.
Osborne drilled another opportunity narrowly wide five minutes later, and when Pringle showed firstly tenacity by winning the ball back and then vision with a pinpoint crossfield pass in the 20th minute, the one first-half triallist saw his deflected shot saved.
It was all Alty, and their attacking enterprise was summed up by Pringle in the 22nd minute when, after a hurried clearance reached him with the keeper out of position, he tried an audacious first-time shot from the left touchline 45 yards from goal that only just missed a gaping net.
It was Pringle threatening again in the 28th minute, accepting a pass from the triallist and hammering a shot that the Trafford keeper did well to turn round the post.
Osborne had the final chance of the first half, just failing to force the ball home after more good work from the triallist on the right, but with the opening 45 minutes ending scoreless, it was left to the second-half hopefuls to locate what was proving to be an elusive cutting edge.
They succeeded with a far-post header in the 73rd minute that was followed by a crisp volley for goal number two after a corner was flicked on seven minutes later.
As Alty cross the Irish Sea for Saturday’s game against the Isle of Man, they will be hoping to post authentic names on the scoresheet, rather than ‘triallist’, but they will otherwise be buoyed by a performance that clicked smoothly and swiftly into gear, with Isaac Marriott, in particular, prominent in midfield, alongside Osborne and Lundstram, and the defence looking not only sound but full of attacking endeavour on both flanks.