Check out captain Jesse Cook's thoughts on a undefeated pre-season.

NUMFC vs Magdala Amateurs FC | 29th August 2020

After almost 6 months without any football we returned to the pitch on the 29th August for our first match of pre-season. Our opponents for the day were a Magdala Amateurs side who play in step 7 of the footballing world, a challenging start. 18 of NUMFC’s finest turned up bright and early for the occasion on Captain’s orders to be there over an hour before kick-off. After the obligatory warm up, rondo’s and team talk had been completed, the clock ticked over to 12:00pm and our pre-season began.

It was a strong start from our boys who showed little nerves or rustiness in the face of being underdogs for the match. Any lingering doubts were put to bed when Jabbar powered a header in from a sumptuous Holden free kick in the 12th minute. From there we looked comfortable in the first half; the defence had little trouble dealing with the balls over the top and the lads up top continued to create half chances from an effective high press. On the stroke of half time we deservedly doubled our lead through Medz latching onto a Holden through ball and slotting it home. Half-time was filled with overwhelmingly positive words earned by the quality of the performance from the starting 11.

Magdala Amateurs came out of the blocks quickly in the second half converting an early penalty. The game then grew disjointed as multiple changes from both sides slowed down the pace as well as disrupt the shapes of the teams. It was Magdala who capitalised on the forming spaces and found the back of the net with a top effort from outside the area. However, being pegged back to level saw only to energise us and a NUMFC response came but 5 minutes later. A long ball from the back by Jabbar was taken down and finished brilliantly by Medz who secured his second of the match. With the help of some fresh legs and 20 minutes of gritty but composed defending, we got over the line and clinched our first match back against a quality opposition by 3 goals to 2. It was an extremely promising performance from a NUMFC perspective with a large number of positives to take into the second match of the weekend.

NUMFC vs Hemingotn Hammers | 30th August 2020

A slightly smaller squad of 16 travelled to Sunday’s opposition in the form of Hemington Hammers, a team who we would face in our own division this season. Any aches and pains from the day before were stretched out before the match on a pitch bathed in morning sunshine. Due to the enthusiasm of our club towards pre-season we had the luxury of being able to make 6 changes to the side that started Saturday’s game thanks to the number of different players available; football was back and no-one wanted to miss out.

Sunday saw a change in system as well as some new faces in the NUMFC starting line-up and it brought a slower start compared to Saturdays match. Hemington didn’t sleep on the opportunity and took the lead after 10 minutes. Conceding seemed to be what was required to kickstart our lads though, and it took them 8 minutes to draw level through a signature finish across the Hemington GK by Calvesy. A drinks break followed on a hot day giving an opportunity for some strong words by the skipper to motivate the boys to raise their games which upon the restart they duly did. A clear increase in intensity saw J. Cook win the ball back high up the pitch and play a Busquets style ball to Gracethorne who fired into the near post from distance 5 minutes before half time.

The second half saw fresh legs and a return to the system that worked so well in the Saturday match. These changes, combined with an unfortunate injury to Hemington taking them down to 10 men, paved the way to a half controlled by the NUMFC boys who kept hold of the ball in what turned into a very professional display. Some exceptional skill by Gracethorne who glided through 3 defenders before squaring it for a grateful Holden to slot home in the 70th minute prevented any last 20 minute nerves. The full time whistle brought a 3-1 victory and an end to a very successful pre-season campaign.

Going into the new season a lot of confidence can be taken not just from 2 wins from 2, but from the way in which these matches were won. It was a pair of NUMFC performances that, despite having had no football for 5 months+, used a new system to great effect, remained composed under pressure and exhibited excellent work rate. We want to wish the best of luck to the two sides we played and thank them both for the way they conducted themselves in the friendlies. All that’s left to say is well done to our boys who played in the matches and bring on the new season!

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