Photos by Jonathan White
The Dabbers recorded their first win of 2022/23 pre-season with an impressive 4-1 victory over Stoke City Under 23s at the Swansway Stadium.
First-team regulars Joel Stair and Sean Cooke returned to the pitch for the first time in pre-season, and Cooke was found in a pocket of space in the Stoke box early on with a searching long ball by Matty Devine but had just strayed offside.
Stair then had a flick header caught comfortably by Stoke keeper Tommy Simkin, after Joel had stayed up for a corner.
After looking very isolated at times in last week’s match against Crewe, there was definitely an effort to get more bodies up with Dan Cockerline in this match, this was primarily done by Joe Robbins and Cooke. Robbins and Cockerline combined well to give Robbins an opening of goal (pictured below), which Simkin held well.
From the early stages, Simkin could be seen standing a long way off his line even when the Dabbers were in possession, and it seemed the Nantwich players had started to spot this, as shown when Cooke tried a lob that dropped over the bar after being picked out by Jon Moran.
A Ronaldinho style rainbow flick was a great cameo from Caspar Hughes, combining with Cockerline before the move broke down.
A short backpass from Troy Bourne almost let in Dara McGuinness for Stoke but Louis Grey did enough to take the ball off his feet.
Cooke and Heath swapped wings and this had an almost instant effect, Cooke on the right being found by Grey straight after the Stoke chance, and his cross in seemed to have lost everyone before Heath appeared almost from nowhere to slam in for 1-0.
Stoke’s response was fast and brilliant. The impressive ‘Trialist B’ curled in a wonderful a free kick that beat Grey all ends up (pictured below), the icing on the cake of a performance at left back that makes you think he won’t be a trialist for much longer.
The Dabbers came out strong in the second half, and it took only 12 minutes for the home side to retake the lead.
Heath was heavily involved again, cutting in from the left flank and hitting one of his trademark powerful shots that Simkin couldn’t hold, and Cockerline was there to tuck in the rebound.
The tails were up and the quality of the football and the goals got better and better. Just two minutes later, Bourne was the latest Dabbers defender to show his range of passing, finding Heath with a raking ball, Heath brought it down well and flicked it across to Cockerline who struck a beauty that cannoned in off the crossbar.
Cockerline could have had a hat trick were it not for a clever bit of defending, easing him away from a cross that he had risen to try and head in.
There were a couple of half chances for Stoke, former Dabbers loanee Ibrahima Sy curling over, he also put in a good showing and stood out amongst the Stoke players.
But the best was yet to come. Simkin had not learned his lesson about his positioning and was brutally exposed by Heath. Picking the ball up just inside the Stoke half, he looked up and saw the opening, but it’s one thing to see it and another to find it. Heath hit it perfectly, enough height and dip to squeeze in at the near post and leave Simkin grasping at thin air (pictured below).
That capped off a great day for the Dabbers in the Cheshire sunshine, and we are straight back at it on Tuesday evening at home against Curzon Ashton, tickets for which are available here.
Nantwich Town: Louis Grey (Ollie Hawkins, 60), Joel Stair (C) (Matty France, 66), Matty Devine (Jacob Edwards, 46), Troy Bourne, Jon Moran (Scott Butler, 54), Caspar Hughes (Matt Bell, 46), Connor Heath, Jack Sherratt, Dan Cockerline (Kobe Nelson, 66), Sean Cooke (Marius Mocanu), Joe Robbins (Alfonso Castellano, 60)
Subs not used: Callum Huxley
Stoke City U23s: Tommy Simkin, Trialist A, Trialist B, Dan Malone, David Okagnue, Matty Baker, Kahrel Redding, Sunny Singh, Dara McGuinness, Ibrahima Sy, Trialist C
Subs: Josh Bickerton, Nina Noukeu, Josh Roney, Will Smith, Trialist D, Nathan Lowe