The Maitland Magpies continued their strong build-up to the 2019 NPL season with a 1-all draw against Lake Macquarie City at Cooks Square Park on Friday night.
Sean Pratt scored Maitland’s goal in the first of three, 30 minute periods, thanks to some good work by Joel Wood up front.
The score was levelled int the second-half when Maitland conceded an own-goal trying unsuccessfully to clear the ball from a Lake Macquarie attack.
It was the only time the Magpies backs looked troubled apart from the final 10 minutes of the game when Lake Macquarie took advantage of a tiring Maitland outfit.
“I was happy with the game. We moved the ball around well and had some really good combinations going,” Magpies coach Mick Bolch said.
“We just lacked that bit of end product in front of goals. It is really the only thing we need to work on.
“Everyone got 60 to 70 minutes in their legs so gradually the match fitness is building.
“A few of the sides like Lakes had a five or six week block before Christmas, we only really just came back in January and we are probably a little bit behind them fitness wise but we’ve got the bye in the first round so we’ve still got five or six weeks before our first game so I’m sure we’ll be fine by then.
“At that second change, the last 30 minutes, we brought on four of our under-20s and they all played 80 minutes the night before in a trial game.
“At this time of the year I don’t want Matt Thompson, the Swan boys and Carl (Thornton) playing beyond 60 to 65 minutes.
“We’ve got four trial games in the next two weeks. Wednesday and Saturday, Wednesday and Saturday so the aim is by the end of then they all should be match fit.
“And then our last two trial games we’ll look at giving them 80 minutes.”
Bolch was wrapped with Jimmy Thompson’s adaptation to a new role.
“We had a chat to him at the start of the year, he had generally started up front, but we’ve got Matt Thompson, Ryan Clarke, Joel Wood, Sean Pratt and there’s a lot of competition for spots up there.
“He has a great engine and we spoke about him using him in the wide areas as a sort of wing-back. He said he had played a fair bit of defence when he was a kid and was keen to have a got at it.
“Now, I think he has really adapted to it really well.
“He could have had two or three goals on another night. He made some great late runs into the box and last year he was only an 18-year-old kid and he was probably more respectful of the older players and reticent to speak up.
“But what you saw last night was that if he is in the right or he sees something he is giving his input..”
Bolch said Thomspon and fellow talented youngster Zac Thomas benefitted from playing with a wealth of experienced players last year.
“Last year was a great year for them experience wise, they are playing around guys like, Carl (Thornton), Reidy (Alex Reid), the Swans (Matt and Andrew), Matt Thompson they.are learning of these guys each week at training. We’ve got a bit more depth than last year with .
“There’s a lot of competition now, particularly for spots in the back three. There’s Zack, Carl, Zach Hill, Reidy, Tommy Davies. There’s five really good players fighting out for three spots so they’ve got to be on their game all the time.”
Bolch said he had rested Ryan Clarke and Tommy Davies from Friday night’s game.
“Clarkey adds a lot up front with his pace, the boys (Pratt and Wood) did well last night but they are similar sorts of players. They both hold the ball and bring other players into play, whereas Clarkey is a lot more direct and can get on the end of things.”
“He gives us another dimension up front, he was very good the week before against Toronto.
“Tommy Davies is only 21 and has played 96 first grade games against Olympic. He’ll bring a lot of steel in the backline and bring more competition among the players for places.”
Returning from a year overseas Blake Thompson’s pre-season suffered a minor setback with the defender injuring his hamstring, but isexpected to play in next Saturday’s trial game against Valentine.
His fellow traveller Ryan Broadley’s touch and fitness is improving with each hit-out and training session.
“Probably a week-and-half ago he was struggling, but he did well against Toronto last Saturday and he built on that again on Friday. I thought he was very good,” Bolch said
“I thought, him, the two Swan boys and Jimmy Thompson were very good.”
Bolch said the Magpies should be more dangerous forward with the return of Wood to Maitland.
“Last year we really didn’t have a No.9 up front to hold the ball up. That will hopefully give us a different dimension to our game this year with him and Clarkey up front they are completely different types of players who complement each other well,” he said.
“With Matt Thompson, sitting behind I think they will cause a lot of headaches and throw Sean Pratt into the mix we have four quality players up front and youngsters like Tommy Duggan to come in as well.”