By Casey Evans
Today marked the historic first ever fixture of Stretford Paddock FC as they took on Manchester Premier League side Dukinfield Town in a friendly. Stephen Howson’s side unfortunately fell to a 3-0 defeat, but the scoreline was not truly reflective of the game.
Stretford Paddock FC was a long-time dream of Stephen Howson, he wanted to create a team that could compete and that translated his passion onto the pitch. The team today did that in spades.
From kick off, Paddock did not look like a team that would be starting seven leagues below Dukinfield in non-league next season. The team pressed well and challenged for every ball. The midfield trio of Ieuan Evans, Aaron Hopley and Cameron Watters were very important in the early stages, stopping Dukinfield gaining an early foothold in the game.
In fact, it was a very even game with neither side giving the other any clear cut chances. However, experience played a factor early on, with Dukinfield’s Mitch Andrew seeing Paddock keeper Jake Moore too far off his line and chipping him from 40 yards out to make it 1-0 to the home side.
The rest of the first half was a hard-fought affair, with neither side giving the other an inch. Ronaldo Brown and Jav Hussein tried to break down the Dukinfield defence with some intuitive dribbling but it held strong.
The performances of Jay Wong during this first half were very impressive. The player was filling in at right back despite having never played there before, but you were unable to tell. As Dukinfield tried to exploit his lack of height and stature to break through, he defended exceptionally to stop any attackers who tried to pass him.
As half time came and past, Dukinfield fully rotated their team, bringing on a completely new eleven, this would prove a difficult test for the Paddock side, however they had youth on their side.
The Stretford Paddock team is made up of many young players eager to impress. Right back Luke Zakian and substitute Mason Royales are only 16 years old, with midfielder Aaron Hopley only being 17. The majority of the players are around 20-21 and against a side like Dukinfield who have been playing together for years, you would have excused the cliché that ‘it was men against boys’ at kick off, however this was never the case.
The second half started out much like the first, with a hard-fought battle between the sides. The centre back partnership of James Oatt and Conor Knowles was imperious, cutting out chance after chance as Dukinfield’s fresher legs began to show.
Disaster struck for Paddock when a clash between Dukinfield forward Ben Fox and substitute goalkeeper Johnny Hart resulted in a loose ball heading towards the net. Oatt showed no urgency to collect the ball, certain that it had not crossed the line. Much to the surprise of everyone on the pitch however the referee gave the goal and made it 2-0 to Dukinfield.
Paddock had many chances throughout the second half, but none better than when a long ball from deep by Paddock was misjudged by the defensive line allowing Ronaldo Brown to break through 1-on-1 with the keeper. He tried to place his shot bottom corner but it unfortunately hit the post.
Not 30 seconds later, Dukinfield countered up the pitch and Ruben Abreu scored the third and final goal of the game to cap off a 3-0 win for the home team. ‘And that’s football’ remarked manager Stephen Howson as it went in.
Stretford Paddock may not be happy with the result but there were a lot of positives to be taken from the match, they faced the top side in the Manchester Premier League and gave them a game, created many chances and showed a willingness to fight that they will hopefully take into their next game.