The first pre-season game of the 07-08 season was played last night in North Wales as Rovers began their preperation for the new season with a hard fought victory over a hard working if slightly limited Wrexham side.
The first half saw both teams prefered line ups in play with Rovers largely in control as Tugay and the returning Robbie Savage controlling things. A few players looked out of shape but that is to be expected at this stage. The match was played at a slow pace with not many chnces in the first 20 mins.
The breakthrough did however come from a mazy run and finish from the lively Jason Roberts. With Benni making sporadic runs it was up to JR to take the initiative with a powerful drive past 2 defenders and low finish to open the scoring.
And as would chance would happen Roberts had a big hand in the 2nd goal as he completely skinned a Wexham CB to win a blatant penalty. Benni McCarthy was relieved of his penalty duties for the night by sentimental hometown hero Robbie who (just abou) drilled the ball past the Wrexham goalie low into the bottom left corner.
The second half saw a whole host of changes as Wrexham made 11 changes and Rovers made 5 or 6 which saw the god like Ryan Nelsen replaced by the frankly tired and old looking Stephane Henchoz and the majestic Tugay replaced by the clumsy Dave Dunn.
One highlight was the emergence on the hour mark of new boy Maceo Rigters who looked very lively and with the right preperation looks like an absolute BARGAIN. He is also a lot stronger looking than I originally gave him credit for.
On the whole though in the 2nd half Rovers were largely terrible in defence with Berner, Zurab and Henchoz in there. Only Samba, who didnt actually put a foot wrong all evening, emerged looking like a Premiership defender.
There were however some good performances from Paul Gallagher and Aaron Mokoena to admire as the AXE in particular looks to build on last season.
THE MAIN HIGHLIGHT of last night for yours truly actually too place at half time!!!! At the start of the game it was announced that Matt Derbyshire was injured and wouldn’t play, me and my girlfriends Dad were a bit gutted but little did we know that at half time he was spotted in the crowd… 2 rows behind where we were sat.
He was asked onto the pitch to do the half time draw and on the wayback he was collered by yours truly for a photo and a chat… a great moment as he is genuinely a fantastic, grounded lad. I was absolutely delighted!
Anyway… In summary of the match, We looked the business in the first half but when the mass changes came into play we looked disjointed and lost rythym but managed to see the game out due to a couple of good stops from Brad.
2-1 it finished.
Brad Friedel – 7
Little to do in the first half, made some very good saves in the second half.
Andre Ooijer – 5
Looked slow and off the pace, but that was to be expected. Will get better as he gets fitter.
Chris Samba – 9
Superb, Wrexham players looked scared of him and he dominated all night.
Ryan Nelsen – 8
He is our captain and a big player, when he left the field defensively we looked terrible.
Stephen Warnock -7
Pacy, moved well and defended stoutly. Liverpool must be gutted they let him go so cheaply.
David Bentley – 7
Slow starter and got some rough treatment. But once he got the crossing goingh he looked lethal and his influence grew.
Robbie Savage – 6
Looked unfit but that will come with games, ran his heart out and took his penalty well.
Controlled things in the first half and his passing as usual was emmaculate.
Morten Gamst – 6
Seemed more bothered about his hair in the first 10 mins but himself abut and tried to create.
Jason Roberts – 8
Powerful, held ball up well and was at the epicentre of anything dangerous Rovers did. Anyone who slates him should watch this match and realise just how vital he will be this year.
Benni McCarthy – 6
Didnt do a great deal but had too much flair and nice touches for Wrexham when he did.
Paul Gallagher, Sergio Peter, Maceo Rigters, Aaron Mokoena and to an extent Bruno Berner.
Stephane Henchoz (looked absolutely shattered after 2 mins), Zurab Kizanishvilli (caught out of position too much), Dave Dunn (didnt pass accurately once.), Francis Jeffers (in fairness didnt get much time).