27th August 2006: Bank on a good pre-season
The Bank holiday weekend provided Esprit with a tough game against favourites for the league title, Valentines. It did prove to be an entertaining game with Valentines starting off the better side. Even though Esprit were playing a few new faces in preparation to finalise the squad, the Vale had a strong side out and were doing all the attacking. Esprit defended wave of attack and it was only going to be a matter of time before a Vale player scored. Ironically it was an own goal by Phil Lewis which broke the deadlock, when a ball drilled in, looped off his leg and over goalkeeper Danny Burton. It got worse as a couple of players got restless and and failed to deal with a clearance and the Vale went into the break 2 goals up, but it should have been 3 if old Esprit boy, Gavin Winter had taken his chance. Esprit were pretty poor in the first half and after a pressure-easing half time talk, the players went into the second half as a completely different side.
The Vale didnt know what hit them and and once Tolga was fouled in the box clear on goal, Wale put the spot kick away. This was quickly followed by the equaliser as Tolga's corner found Martin Webb whose buller header rested in the back of the net for his first goal for the club on his 10th appearance. Another header put Esprit in front as a clever header across the goal by Andy Hollick set up Olgun for his trademark on the hour. His second in two games, putting him top of the goalscoring charts for pre-season. Neg fed Wale for a clear chance but Wale should have wrapped things up but flicked it wide. In the dying minutes, Vale got their third and a draw was a fair result, but Esprit left the field the more content as it was a great comeback.
20th August 2006: Double Header
The previous week saw Esprit's first afternoon kick off and this week was another first as there were TWO Esprit matches at the same time at different venues as the squad was split in two so that all the players would get a run out. There were many first appearances to the season and a few more debuts. The squad has to be cut for the start of the season and the management thought it would be only fair to see as much of the players as possible before making the final decision. The first game was unfortuntely abandoned a few minutes into the second half as one of the Barking Sunday Blues was badly injured as he fell awkwardly. In the other match, run by the legendary Howard Parker, Esprit managed to beat last season's runners-up Ladzio in a 2-1 victory as Darren Bull and JayJay "Okacha" Hill got the goals. Pre-season is coming along nicely but the real business starts in a few weeks.
6th August 2006: First Game of the Season and First Game for Most Players
This game was really about improving the stamina of all the players and having a good look at the new players as half the team made their debuts against our good friends, Romhill. Amongst the new boys were, Danny Burton who started at right back and played the second half in goal, Anthony Edwards on the left wing and Rob "Bumpy" Hart on the right. Dan Surridge was up front, with Gus Elkashef and Ted Asmah in the middle of the park. There was also a debut from the younger of the Cutler brothers, Lee. Whilst brother Adam, Ricky Blanks and Gary Murphy made their comebacks.
During the first half, everyone was pretty much finding their feet and it was a difficult game to get control of, during the humid conditions and the fact no one had played for a few months. Esprit came close on several occasions, but their touch keep letting them down. This is understandable at this stage of the season but the gaffer will have harsher words to say later on in the season if it were to continue. It was Romhill who got 2 quick goals just before half time. In the 43rd minute, Dan Yeo was harshly judged to have handballed in the area and the Romhill striker made no mistake from the spot. Two minutes later a defensive mishap led to another Romhill goal as he calmed chipped the ball into an empty net.
The second half was an improvement in the performance, especially as Esprit had to chase the game, and with a few of the regular powerhouses brought into the side, it led Esprit to dominate the half. Martin Webb having beaten his Romhill cousin, crossed the ball which was forced into the Romhill net by one of their defenders.
On reflection, Romhill maybe derserved the win, especially as Esprit had robbed a win off them in the Creative Printes Cup last season and they had scored all the day's 3 goals. Manager Runo was positive after the game, " The result doesnt mean anything, of course a win would have been great but it was more important that everyone got a game, especially the new players. Its going to take time and unfortuntely I think the start of the season is going to be too soon for most of them, but I was 100% satisfied with everyones attitude. It was spot on. The upcoming games will give me a clearer picture, there were a few nervous players out there today, and it was difficult to rotate 20 players for one match."
Esprit move on to their next friendly with a handful of more debuts to come and hopefully more improvements.
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