Having returned to The Creek for Pre-Season this week, Bristol Manor Farm’s opening friendly fixture got off to the best start with a sound victory against Step 5 Hereford Lads Club, writes William Ledbury.
With a renewed sense of optimism circulating the football club, Manager Lee Lashenko, his backroom staff, and his new-look squad of players made the relatively short trip north to Herefordshire. The Farmers were due to play Roman Glass St. George at Oaklands Park, but due to unavailability within the Glass squad, an agreement was reached with Lads Club to host last minute.
In spite of a few notable absentees, including Mason Winter, Shea Bennington-Mannings, Will Gallagher and Jamie Bird, the squad displayed a healthy blend of youth and experience with Jamie Adams returning in his trademark quarterback-esque role and Ben Bament leading the attack.
The Farmers enjoyed much of the ball early on, with the midfield trio of Harry Lucas, Lloyd Mills and Adams quickly finding the dynamic front three of Bament, Luco Ponsillo and Jayden Nielsen in the pockets of space.
It was the latter of the three who had the Farm’s first clear-cut opportunity. Nielsen was hurled to the floor early on and saw his free-kick attempt parried away to safety.
A Farm corner was then cleared away by Lads Club, who then charged at Seth Locke’s goal looking to catch the visiting defence out – but Adam Hockey missed a gilt edged chance by firing wide of the back post.
Lads Club then hard Farm’s hearts in their mouths when a long-range strike cannoned off the underside and into the grateful arms of Locke.
In added time of the first-half, the home side did take the lead through Hockey. The wide man knocked the ball past Mills and Robbins and lashed a deadly left-footed strike into the top right corner.
With seconds left until the interval, Ponsillo showed great strength to find space in the area but his strike went wide of the back post – with Bament unable to stretch as far to make the all-important final touch.
Following the break, Lashenko rolled the dice as his team went in search of an equaliser at the County Ground. Frankie Phillips, Alfie Cummings, Bevan Cross, and Regan Lashenko all joined in the action throughout the half.
Cummings played Bament in behind, and after seemingly taking the ball past the home keeper, the ball was snatched from under his feet and smothered to safety. Bament’s persistence moments later would be rewarded when he controlled well inside the penalty area before picking out the bottom left corner to draw level.
Having scored on the final day of the 22/23 season, the ever-reliable Aron Robbins popped up with what turned out to be the winner on a sun-kissed afternoon at the County Ground. Nielsen delivered a pinpoint cross onto the head of Robbins into the bottom right corner.
With the score ending 2-1 to Manor Farm, attention turns to another difficult test for the players with a trip to Bridgewater United’s Fairfax Park on Saturday 8 July.