Legs were stretched and cobwebs blown away but neither Cinderford Town nor Gloucester City could get off the mark with a goal as they kicked off pre-season with a 0-0 draw.
With the feeling of a summer’s evening and barbecue smoke in the air both sides took a while to shake off their holidays and focus on the game. But with both keepers tested and both sides showing promise in front of goal the game had more bit than the scoreline suggested.
Cinderford were quicker off the mark than Gloucester and the towering presence of Lewis Sommers, the Foresters’ statuesque frontman, took a while for Tom Hamblin and Matt Coupe to adjust to. Sommers’ beating the experienced pair to a number of headers in the early stages of the game. But Sommers lacked the support alongside him, when he headed an early free kick towards City keeper Green he could only watch as the ball was scooped up by the former Bristol Rovers man.
Another free kick 15 minutes in, looped into the box by Matt Smith, was easily caught by Green, playing his first game since returning from a knee operation at the end of last season. Sommers linked up well with new Forester Karin Rendall but found their routes to the box thwarted by Jack Harris and City’s other Mike Green at right back.
Darren Edwards’ glancing header on 21 minutes found Steve Davies, who ran the ball to the corner before whipping in a cross but Harris, arriving late into the box, couldn’t connect as the visitors began to step up a gear.
A foul from Geraint Bater in the box on Edwards on 25 minutes saw City awarded a penalty. But Edwards, not long back from his honeymoon, was too casual in his approach to the spot kick and poked the ball to the right of Ben John’s goal.
Darren Mullings fired two free kicks into the wall as City began to look more of a threat.
City triallist Ash McGrann, recommended by former Gloucester keeper Ray Johnstone, looked quick on the right, linking up well with Davies. But the combined defence of Andy Lewis and Dan Smith were resolute and alert, closing down runs and clearing the ball up field.
Davies, who left at half time to go straight to the airport for his summer holiday, looked sharp in his first game since breaking his arm. Three times he nipped into the box and rifled a shot towards goal, but each time Cinderford keeper John was there to block his way, with the lively keeper cancelling out a still slightly rusty forward.
City new boy Lewis Hogg showed flashes of the skill and guile which will be unleashed on the Blue Square North for the first time this season. He almost made a perfect debut, nipping through one-on-one with John, only to find the Cinderford keeper’s reactions were as quick as his to stop the shot.
After the break the deadlock continued with neither side able to penetrate the opposition defence. Bater’s early free kick was comfortably claimed by Green, before the former Mangotsfield man made way for the first Cinderford substitution.
With Sam Rawlings on for Adam Mann, Gloucester reshuffled with Rawlings slotting in at left back and Jack Harris moving to the wing. For Cinderford Craig Tait came on in place of Sommers, almost two years to the day after he ruptured his cruciate ligaments against City in a previous preseason fixture.
When Mike Green rushed off his line and bravely headed out the ball, only to head it directly upwards, it looked like Cinderford might have a chance to snatch the lead but although Tait, beat the City keeper he couldn’t find a way past Tom Hamblin, who dropped back to cover his keeper’s goal, blocking Tait’s shot with a low diving header – showing the benefits of hours of head tennis in training!
Hogg showed a brief flash of temper, sticking a sharp tackle on former City triallist Matt Barnes and diving into a bit of shoving and pushing before swiftly making way for Joe Parker.
Parker, and fellow young guns Kieron Mace and Matt Liddiard slotted in well, with Liddiard, who is making the step up to the first team this season, looking right at home in the centre of midfield.
With the clock running down the scoreline seemed inevitable, but both managers will be happy with strong defensive performances and crucially, no injuries.
Cinderford face Bath City in their next pre-season fixture, while City travel to Bishops Cleeve on Saturday for theirs.
Cinderford Town: B John, J Camm (N Hanford 78), M Smith, A Lewis, G Lewis (D Harrison 66), D Evans, M Barnes, G Bate (W Andrews 58), L Sommers (C Tait 66), K Rendall, D Lee. Not used: J Lewis, S O’Sullivan, B Andrews
Gloucester City: M Green, M Green (K Mace) , M Coupe, T Hamblin, J Harris, L Hogg (J Parker), A McGrann, (T Webb 46), D Mullings (M Liddiard 68), D Edwards, S Davies (S Wilson 46), A Mann (S Rawlings 61).
Star men: M Coupe (Gloucester) A Lewis (Cinderford)