Kidsgrove boss Ryan Austin declared himself to be very pleased with the character shown by his side to recover from conceding an early goal. Grove eventually ran out comfortable winners in a game played in energy-sapping heat.
Austin was unhappy with conceding an early goal claiming that Alex Steadaman was able to get in behind the home defence due to sloppy defending. But there was no arguing with the quality of the shot for the game’s opener and Steadman was to be a thorn in Athletic’s side until he became one of the many Moatmen to make way for a whole raft of substitutions from the visitors.
Kidsgrove eventually weathered the early storm and it was Pete Williams who made the most of their growing superiority as he helped himself to a hat trick.
The pick of the midfielder’s goals came shortly after the break when Williams gave his side the lead. A flowing move down the left saw Ant Malbon play a clever dummy that completely wrong-footed the visiting defence. The ball was then swiftly passed down the line to Williams who scored with a neatly-placed effort from eighteen yards that went just inside the keeper’s left-hand post.
Willo had earlier levelled just before half-time when a quick switch in direction of attack left half the goal undefended. The Grove player gleefully accepted the golden opportunity to score.
The hat-trick was completed when Chris Budrys was floored by Jamie Barrett inside the area and Williams sent the keeper the wrong way with his spot kick.
And the icing was put on the cake a minute from time. Good work down the left from the excellent Alex Lingard saw him pick out Will Saxton who was able to open his body before firing into the top corner for Athletic’s fourth.
Malbon will be disappointed not to have got his own name on the scoresheet. He almost profited from a defensive lapse but hit narrowly wide with just the keeper to beat after racing half the length of the pitch. He also uncharacteristically got his technique all wrong later in the game when he blazed over from a good position.
But the prolific scorer had an influential game otherwise and his trickery drew a number of fouls – none more so than the horribly reckless tackle from behind by Dexter Morris-Clarke that would have earned a red in a competitive fixture.
In the bizarre world of pre-season football, Morris-Clarke was merely told to go and calm down on the bench. The Gresley man was allowed to return in the second period and showed his gratitude by lunging into Saxton’s achilles to earn a second “red card” from Mr Sinclair and receive the rare distinction of being sent from the field of play twice in the same match.
In a post-match interview, Austin said he was very pleased with his summer recruitment but was still looking for one or two players to add to the competition for defensive positions. He also insisted that he and his squad are now raring to go once the season proper starts.
Kidsgrove’s pre-season will be wrapped up with home fixtures against Burton Albion and Mickleover Sports.
Final score – Kidsgrove Athletic (Williams 3, Saxton) 4-1 Gresley (Steadman)
Burzynski, Thompson, Morris, Bergin, Jepson, Diskin, Freeland, Williams, Cole, Malbon, Lingard Subs Rhodes, Saxton, Budrys, Rumenio (All used)
Livesey, Allens, Branch, Barrett, McIntosh, Graves, Riddell, Morris_Clarke, Smyth, Steadman, HarrisonSubs O’Connell, Morgan, Steel, Lee, Lansdowne, Slater, Alsop (All used)