Walthamstow’s pre-season so has seen them win two and lose two, as Max Mitchell builds his new team ahead of the 2020/21 season. A victory against Harpenden Town helped Stow a good start to the schedule before losses against Bearsted and Wingate & Finchley gave the Stow boss something to think about. They soon got back to winning ways when they beat Halstead Town on Saturday.
“It’s been a bit different to your general pre-season for obvious reasons but we have dealt with it well so far,” said the Stow boss, looking back at the pre-season results so far. “We have made some changes both on the playing side and the managerial side and things are starting to gel really well. We have seen first hand the progression week to week which is a good sign.”
The result on Tuesday against Wingate saw Stow take a 2-0 lead before conceding late to lose the game, but for Max it wasn’t about the result.
“I think in any friendly, any manager will tell you it’s about the performance and not the results and that’s exactly what we saw from our squad on Tuesday night. It was a good performance. I thought we imposed ourselves on them very well considering they’re a team from the Isthmian League Premier.”
“In the first 15 minutes, we didn’t settle but had some good periods in both halves where we looked stronger in possession and were effective in our approach towards their goal. I thought we settled into the game after 15-minutes and we could start to see our shape improve when we didn’t have the ball, the more the game progressed. Pre-season is about getting minutes into the players so they can have the best possible start come the start of the season. You make changes and it changes the true complexion on the game which reflects in the result. Wingate have good individuals within their set-up and gave a good account of themselves. I know their manager and assistant really well and they play football the right way and we wish them all the best for the upcoming season.”
There was no doubt that there were positives to take from the game. For one, Stow had scored two goals against a strong team and this was something the squad could build upon. “It’s always good to see goals going in against any side and I thought Clem deserved his goal with his work ethic on Tuesday. The commitment and attitude he has shown over pre-season has been second to none. He has everything in his makeup to cause teams problems next season along with the other forwards at the club. Toner has come back in really good shape and it’s probably the fittest I’ve ever seen him.”
“We have spoken about not relying on one or two players to get all the goals next season so it’s pleasing to see him get on the scoresheet over the last couple of games. The squad is settled and we have a group all buying into the commitment culture we want for next season. We have some local lads that are building ties with each other and the football club which is also pleasing to see.”
Having put the last couple of games behind them, Walthamstow travelled to Halstead, looking for a positive result and that is exactly what got.
“It definitely served its purpose. Having managed against Halstead a few years back and watching them challenge last year in their respective league, we knew what kind of approach they would have to the game. It was highly competitive which we wanted and they had a direct approach which was important for me to see how we dealt with that dynamic as will getting teams that play that way against us next season. I thought we never looked like conceding throughout and could only see us switching off at a set-piece for them to score which didn’t happen which is testament to the back line.
“They will be right up there in their league and they play to their strengths and play percentage football really really well. I thought the way in which they conducted themselves before the game was very professional and an eye-opener into what environment will find ourselves in during the early stages of next season with regards to the COVID situation. Good luck to Mark and all at Halstead over the course of next season. I’d also like to mention Ben Byrne’s second-half appearance, a player who performed well in our reserves game against Ryan FC a few weeks ago who slotted well into the backline. There will be opportunities next season to train and play for any players showing promise and commitment in their sides next season.
The team had once again taken a two-goal lead, showing they can score goals and control a game. This was a promising sign for Max ahead of the new season. “It’s important to get off to good starts within games and you can’t look too much on how the games vary over 90 minutes due to the number of changes made in pre-season games. But we’ve shown good energy in periods of both halves within all the pre-season games so far bar Bearsted which we didn’t deal with the conditions well enough. We have good quality in forward areas and they are showing glimpses of our potential.
The next test for Walthamstow will see them welcome Isthmian League South Central side Barking to the Lodge on Tuesday. It will certainly be another tough test but one Max will be looking forward to.
“I think it will be another tough test for us and another chance to put in a good performance against a side in the division above. We need to be a little smarter on Tuesday and improve on what we have shown today and the last week.”
“It will be our first game on the main pitch at Wadham Lodge which we have made some changes to during this period so where looking forward to returning home. It’s a real shame that both sets of fans can’t attend this game as I’m sure it will be a good watch but we’re hoping a solution can be put in place quickly for the return of the Rabble which I know will give us an extra lift.
“Our approach will be the same as any other game, again will have the opportunity to look at a few things and look how players can adapt to a different opponent and an environment that we need to get used to over the coming weeks.”