Two goals from Jake Cass ensured Enfield Town picked up a third pre-season win on the bounce on Tuesday evening, but they were made to work for their victory by a dogged Rayners Lane side.
Although on paper this was a test against a Step 5 outfit, the hosts started with several players who spent last season two divisions higher and they frustrated Town for large spells in a stop-start first half punctuated by a series of fouls.
The visitors were unable to carve through the Lane defence or muster any clear-cut chances of note, with Joe Payne’s 25-yard free-kick on 20 minutes easily gathered by the goalkeeper, while at the other end former Towner Alex Cathline missed a gilt-edged header from close range following a swift counter down the left flank. On the cusp of half time, Town’s best chance fell to James Richmond, whose hooked shot following a Payne long throw was directed straight at the keeper.
An unchanged XI after the break, but there was now far more verve to Town’s performance. Adi Connolly stood tall and remained sharp to hold onto an effort at his near post before a trialist embarked on a surging run through the centre and nudged the ball into the path of Cass, whose low snapshot bobbled into the goalkeeper.
But Town’s number 9 made amends a minute later and in quite some fashion. After good combination play on the edge of the box by two midfield trialists, a fizzed cross found Cass in the centre, who brought it down with the side of the boot and, on the bounce, produced a sensational overhead kick which looped into the left-hand corner.
It was soon two in as many minutes as Mickey Parcell’s sweeping pass picked out Cass at the gallop to clip the ball over the advancing goalkeeper for his, and Town’s, second of the evening.
Town were now in control of proceedings and were denied a third by a lick of paint; a driving run from a midfield trialist concluding with his long-range shot smacking the post. Town introduced five changes to the fold for the final quarter of the game and – with the exception of Lane’s Keano Robinson striking a post from a sloppy free-kick – saw out the game in relative comfort.
While this could be summed up as another display of two halves, Town’s marked improvement after the restart, as well as a clean sheet, pleased manager Gavin Macpherson:
“Firstly, credit to [Rayners Lane]: they’re not a Step 5 side, that’s for sure. They are in league terms, but there’s a lot of Step 3 and above players out there.”
“I wasn’t best pleased at half time and I told [the players], if I’m honest. I won’t know if the reaction is due to me telling them but I thought the second half was really good, especially that initial half an hour … legs, energy, passion: everything I’m asking from the team. I thought the first half, even though we spoke about it before the game, was devoid of that.”
“Players are sometimes too accountable by managers, and I’ve told them the first thing I’ll do is go away and look at what we’re doing and how we’ve set them up and see whether that first half is anything to do with that. There are certainly concerns that I have at the moment, of course, it’s pre-season – why wouldn’t you? You’re taking over a team that’s trying to learn your methods. But all in all, it’s a fairly pleasing night I think.”
“Massively pleased with Cassy; scored two and could have had more, so that’s a real bonus for us to see him functioning.”
Enfield Town: Connolly; Parcell, Richmond (Okotcha), Bailey, Payne (Bessadi); Birch, Trialist (Thomas), Trialist, Trialist; Wyllie (Youngs), Cass (Beckles-Richards)