AFC Telford United 0-1 Notts County – report and pictures

AFC Telford United were edged by National League visitors Notts County in a competitive pre-season friendly as the hosts handed an introduction to star signing Nathan Pond.

Telford corner crossed to Theo Streete Pic: Kieren Griffin Photography
Telford corner crossed to Theo Streete Pic: Kieren Griffin Photography

Experienced defender Pond, the former Fleetwood legend who joined from league rivals Fylde earlier in the day, played just over an hour and helped Gavin Cowan’s side keep Notts out in an evenly-battled clash.

But both sides made a raft of changes for the final half hour and the visitors’ injection of class told as star winger Callum Roberts thrashed in a fine, rising left-footed drive to hand the Magpies a narrow 1-0 victory, just Telford’s second of six friendlies so far.

The Bucks go to Rushall Olympic on Tuesday before a trip to Wales to face Caernarfon Town next weekend. The next home friendly is against Stafford Rangers on Tuesday week.

New marquee addition Pond took his place in the centre of Cowan’s back three following the Bucks’ confirmation of his signing ahead of kick-off.

Pond, 36, made 498 appearances for Fleetwood - where he is recognised as a club legend after a record six promotions - over a 15-year career.

He was an organisational presence throughout for his new side, and Telford gave as good as they got in a first period with Brendon Daniels firing across goal and Dom McHale creative in the middle.

Fellow new summer recruits in Cowan’s starting XI included Jed Abbey, Arlen Birch and Elliott Durrell in Telford’s sixth friendly of the summer.

Notts, under head coach Ian Burchnall, who was appointed in March, are looking to respond from play-off semi-final disappointment last season. A couple of hundred visiting fans filled the main stand at the New Bucks Head.

Their side included a couple of trialists as well as Telford-born Kyle Bennett, following in the footsteps of brother Elliott – of Shrewsbury – playing in their hometown in recent weeks. Four or five Magpies stars started on the bench ahead of vast changes around the hour mark.

The visitors looked after possession well in the early stages without troubling the Bucks backline, as Pond began a new partnership alongside Theo Streete and Zak Lilly at the back.

McHale warmed the home fans up with a delightful first-touch spin which bamboozled his defender. At the other end, new midfielder Jed Abbey showed impressive calmness in defending at the back.

Striker Jason Oswell might have tested Notts from a brilliant McHale pass but the County backline recovered to clear.

Telford had the first effort on goal as Daniels fizzed a low strike across Tieran Brooks’ goal from the left corner of the box as the hosts began to hold their own.

County enjoyed possession outside the Telford area but struggled to force any sort of opener. New boy Pond put in a few strong blocks and was ordering his new defence.

The home side won a couple of good headers through Streete and Oswell from deep free-kicks but Durrell had gone early and was pulled up for offside.

Some good defending from Lilly helped Telford clear before, shortly afterwards - following an important Pond header - the hosts were unable to clear their lines through Lilly and Notts trialist Andre Wright blazed over a clear chance with half hour gone.

No home shirt could get a telling touch on a Daniels delivery whipped in agonizingly across the County six-yard box.

The final 10 minutes or so of the first period passed without real drama of note, saving for injury delays for keeper Russ Griffiths and McHale, as Telford remained solid until the interval.

Cowan introduced new boy Kai Williams for Durrell at the break. But it was Notts almost ahead a minute after the break as right-back Richard Brindley’s powerful, close-range header was saved instinctively by Griffiths.

Telford asked questions to draw level as first a stinging McHale drive was bravely blocked before Oswell’s looping header from a Daniels cross dropped just over.

Moments later some slack Notts defending allowed McHale into the right side of the box and his strike with a weaker right foot was parried by Brooks.

A lively, end-to-end second period then saw County sub Ruben Rodrigus fire into the side netting.

A flurry of changes followed just after the hour. The Bucks made six alterations, introducing Ross White, Lewis Earl, a trialist left wing-back, Henry Cowans, Jack Byrne and Tyrell Hamilton.

Burchnall did likewise. Having made two changes at the break, the visiting coach swapped the remaining nine players, adding considerable strength to his ranks.

And the increase in quality told almost immediately as Rodrigues thumped a 25-yard free-kick against the angle of post and crossbar.

Seconds later, at the midway point of the second half, star winger Roberts - just on as a sub after a nightmare season of injury last term - arrived to thump a stunning left footed drive high past Griffiths at the near post to break the deadlock in style.

Notts were on top and could’ve had a second with 10 minutes left as Scott Wootton sent wide from close-range before Griffiths saved low from youngster Brad McGregor and Kyle Cameron’s header. Wootton then headed narrowly off target.

Telford’s second string remained honest in their attempts to peg back the visitors but it was a second pre-season defeat for Cowan’s men.

AFC Telford United (3-4-2-1):

Griffiths; Streete (Bower, 69), Pond (White, 63), Lilly (Earl, 63); Birch (Booth, 69), Jed Abbey (Cowans, 63), Walker © (Byrne, 63), Daniels (trialist, 63); McHale (Jez Abbey, 69), Durrell (Williams, 45); Oswell (Hamilton, 63).

Subs not used: Scott.

Notts County (3-5-2):

Brooks (Slocombe 61); Chicksen (Cameron 61), McCrory (Rawlinson 61), Brindley (Kaba Sherif 61); Taylor (McGregor 61), Kelly-Evans (Knight 61), Francis (Palmer 45), O'Brien (Hondermarck 61), Bennett (Roberts 61), Sam (Rodrigues 45), Wright (Wootton 61).

Attendance: 668

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