How do you know you’re a football addict? After a summer of going cold turkey, getting excited by driving 45 miles to watch half of your club’s combined U18 & U21 squads playing a pre-season friendly must be reason enough.
I’m an unashamed fan of pre-season. Not the tedious friendlies against foreign teams that almost always end in a draw part but the playing teams you’ve barely heard of at grounds in the middle of nowhere with one stand bit.
Today’s trip was to Frickley which isn’t really a place – it once was a colliery and seems to be survived by Frickley Athletic FC and the neighbouring cricket club (who were also at home today and were 300 all out 1st innings in case you’re interested.) The ground is at the end of a dusty lane and has a large area of grass outside that features the sign “Don’t drive on the grass” but was being used as a car park.
The ground is amenable. Well stocked “Big Fellas” bar, snack bar, stand with a mix of plastic seats and wooden benches and a nice view of some grassy hills behind the shelter than ran alongside the opposite touchline. It was rougher than some of City’s other recent pre-season haunts. It wasn’t as cosy as Winterton or as smart as Harrogate. But they did sell mushy peas, which is the key indicator of a football ground worth visiting, you could watch the game with your beer and no-one was moaning within earshot. Heaven.
City: Watson; Tymon, Myers, Clackstone, Townsend; Hamilton, McKenzie, Olley, Bowen; Fyfe; Ter Horst.
The opposition were bigger and worldlier than our young side, the pitch sloping and bobbly in places and the wind whipping in off them there hills. It was an experience to put hairs on their young chests, which I guess was the point.
The young Tigers (in some cases, very young) were smart enough in possession of the ball with Rhys Fyfe, playing literally as the “number ten”, and Robbie McKenzie in midfield both impressing. Defensively they just could not cope with the physical challenge of the Frickley strikers and the know-how they possessed. It was, again literally, men against boys.
Frickley took the lead early on when Thomas was allowed to get a shot in from the edge of the box and Watson in trying to save it diverted it into his own net when it was probably going wide [1-0]. The home side were awarded two penalties before the break. The first was a soft decision but came from the naivety of the City defence getting into a wrestling match with striker Thompson and the second a rash challenge by Clackstone on Thompson. It was Thompson who stepped up both times. He smashed the first one against the left hand post but converted the second into the top left corner [2-0].
Half time: Frickley Athletic 2 Hull City U18/U21 0
The second half took on a similar pattern with City chasing the game through the bright but small forwards but shot themselves in the foot at the back time and again. Johan Ter Horst, denied twice in the first half by the keeper and a defender on the goal line, pulled a goal back after Fyfe released him in behind and he lifted the ball over the keeper [2-1].
Will Aimson came on for City. It was great to see him back after he broke his leg while on loan at Tranmere last season but his first action saw him outstripped by one of the million Frickley subs only for Watson to rescue him with a fine save. From the resulting corner another sub, identified as Chris Wood by the random PA announcements, headed home unmarked [3-1]. Jarrod Bowen go City back in the game again with a lovely curling finish after Ter Horst laid the ball off [3-2] but Wood scored again immediately at the second attempt with the defence watching him [4-2].
The gangly, slightly balding Wood, wearing that traditional strikers number six shirt, then completed a hat-trick when he read a lovely left-wing cross far better than Aimson and headed home [5-2].
Full time: Frickley Athletic 5 Hull City U18/U21 2
The youngsters looked pretty shell-shocked after the game and will hopefully take plenty from a tough game against opposition who may be technically limited but know the game and played it far better. It should also be pointed out that the Tigers team were unfamiliar to each other which might explain some of the defensive uncertainty.
The forward players looked the brightest. All were sharp, moved well with and without the ball and looked a goal threat but like 99% of those that come through our youth system – they are really small.
One of the City players was absolutely terrible – Frickley will be in the Champions League before he makes a pro-footballer. I won’t name him, these are just kids after all, but I’ll note it for when he makes it and I have to admit I was wrong!
Thank you for a fine afternoon, Frickley. I doubt I’ll be back any time soon but I enjoyed the visit.