Depleted Wisbech Town suffer opening day defeat
Wisbech Town 0, Coleshill Town 4
Pitching In Northern Premier League Midland Division
A disastrous final week before their first game of the season saw the Fenmen depleted by unavailability, injuries and Covid cases for this afternoon's game.
Missing Avi Vieira and Oli Williams with the virus, Jack Keeble because of injury and Jon Fairweather and Ben Richards who were not available, Brett Whaley's men (reaction here) went into this opening fixture with an unfamiliar defence.
Boston United youth player Ben Robson was signed on loan to play his first game in senior men's football at centre back, with club captain Liam Marshall, usually a left back or midfielder, playing alongside him on the right.
Another emergency loan signing from Boston's youth outfit, Elliot Foster, was on the bench and a third late loan signing was unavailable after a work injury as Wisbech's undefeated and carefully planned pre-season was torn apart.
Wisbech's ground is now called Fountain Fresh Park after they secured a naming deal with town company Fountain Foods Imports, but there was no winning welcome for the new sponsor as the Fenmen went 1-0 down after just three minutes. The impressive forward Kai Tonge crossed for Joseph Phillips to acrobatically volley past home keeper Charlie Congreve – both players on their competitive debuts for their respective clubs.
Tonge then had an effort well saved by the onrushing former March Town keeper before 30 seconds that defined the game on the half hour.
A great cross from the left by Tom Mcleish was headed powerfully by Danny Draper but saved by visiting keeper Paul Hathaway. A swift break down Wisbech's left followed and the hard working Liam Molesworth scored from 30 yards out, with Congreve badly positioned too far from his line.
A minute before the break and that man Tonge was torturing the home defence again, turning them this way and that before drilling home for 3-0.
The Fenmen surely must have been on the receiving end of harsh words at the break, but did little to suggest they would pull a goal back after it, and it was Congreve who was the busier of the two keepers, denying Josh Wills and Tonge in the space of four minutes half way through the second half.
The fourth goal came after 68 minutes and was the stuff of nightmares for Congreve. The visitors were awarded a free kick 10 yards inside their own half, keeper Paul Hathaway stepped up to take it and, spotting the young stopper off his line, attempted the most skilful of lobs. It seemed Congreve would still make the save, but at the final moment he seemed to lose the flight of the ball, which arced over him and nestled into the back of the net.
Wisbech did fight back but saw Sam Murphy's low effort from outside the box strike the foot of the post in the 71st minute before Congreve was called on again, saving a Molesworth curler before the referee ended the game and put the home fans out of their misery.
It was a tough opening for a young group and a real baptism of fire for Robson, who grew in stature and confidence as the match progressed despite what must have been a tough afternoon.
After three months of careful preparation by manager Brett Whaley and his assistant Chris Lenton, to lose five men on the eve of the opening game and be forced to field a central defence pair who only met on Thursday in training was just too much to ask.
Hopefully, they can regroup, get in a couple of more reinforcements and be more competitive for Wednesday night's league game at Corby Town and the FA Cup clash with Whitton United at Fountain Fresh Park next Saturday.
Wisbech Town (4-2-3-1, l-r): Congreve; McLeish, Robson, Marshall, Hart; Maddison, Murphy; McQuaid (Williams 45 mins), Adams, Draper; Edge (Allen 70). Subs (not used): Foster, Pearson.
Booked: Robson, Marshall.
Star man: Sam Murphy – never let his head go down and kept trying to make that killer pass.