Paget were looking to start the season on a positive against tough opposition in Stapenhill. The Bears had their game against AFC Bridgnorth postponed at the weekend and got their season underway last evening at Coles Lane. Stapenhill were coming off the back of a brilliant opening day win at Bilston and were looking to build on it and get a run of form going early in the season.
The ground looked in good condition with the main stand offering supporters an excellent view of the pitch. Stapenhill started to warm up early in preparation for the match with Paget getting their warmup underway at round about 7pm. Supporters of both teams started to turn up and enter the main stand from 7:25pm onwards and the atmosphere was optimistic and hopeful of what the season might bring.
Paget’s starting line up for their first game of the season was a youthful looking team with a lot of new players brought in throughout the summer. Lewis Riley was the starting goalkeeper for the Bears and defender Jai Berry was the skipper. Joshua Baloucoune was the holding midfielder for Paget in what appeared to be a 4-2-3-1 formation for the Bears with new signing Freddie Cockerell leading the line as the number nine.
The starting line up for Stapenhill was similar to the one that started against Bilston on Saturday with defender Matt Roome being the skipper for the Swans. The visitors made two changes in total with former Paget player Jevani Robinson starting at right-back and replacing Ronnie Bonser. The other change was Joseph Moore coming into the midfield and replacing George Teeney. Sam Birks operated as the number nine for the visitors in a 4-3-3 formation which worked to good effect throughout the match.
Paget started the match brightly and had a few positive moments to encourage Bears supporters. Connor Ryan on the left wing was impressive for Paget throughout the first half and was trying to make things happen on the ball.
However, just as the hosts were starting to build a run of momentum the visitors took the lead in the 9th minute with Sam Birks scoring a header from a corner to give the Swans the lead. Paget had a good chance to respond from a corner moments later with Donald Egbon having a good chance which went wide in the 16th minute.
Throughout the first half left-back Kallum Powell looked good on the left-hand side and was constantly getting up the pitch to support attacks and work balls into the box. A five-minute spell of Paget pressure paid off with Freddie Cockerell firing into the bottom left corner to give the hosts an equaliser and a foothold in the match in the 19th minute. There were a lot of positives from the first half for Paget and Joshua Baloucoune looked impressive in the holding midfield role. He was composed on the ball and moved the ball well for the hosts.
Throughout the first half the visitors were mainly playing on the counterattack. This gave Paget a 25-minute spell where they looked good in possession and showed what they could do with a lot of effective link-up play.
However, the visitors did have a number of notable chances near the end of the first half with Ryan King having a shot that was well saved by Lewis Riley in the 41st minute and Connor Richins firing wide from a good position. Stapenhill managed to take the lead just before HT with Sam Birks finishing well from a good delivery into the box by Ryan King which was a key moment in the match.
The match gradually got more stretched as it progressed which suited the visitors and played into their counter attacking style. There was a great chance for Connor Richins on the right with Jevani Robinson playing a brilliant ball to set him up for a shot that was well saved by Lewis Riley in the 54th minute.
The momentum was with Stapenhill throughout the second half, and they had numerous chances to increase their lead and take control of the match. Alex Weir linked up well with Connor Richins who got into the right position before putting his shot wide in the 71st minute. There was a well struck free kick by Ryan King which was well saved by Lewis Riley to keep the Bears in the match in the hope they could get something late on.
The Swans made their effective attacking play count in the last ten minutes and scored a flurry of goals to send the away supporters ecstatic in a deserved win for the visitors. Ryan King scored from a corner in the 82nd minute to open a two-goal lead and effectively seal the match. Alex Weir showed brilliant movement to round Lewis Riley and calmy finish into an open net in the 86th minute. The scoring was completed by a late goal from Ryan King who struck a well-placed finish into the top left-hand corner.
This clearly effected the confidence of the Paget team, and the situation got the better of Kallum Powell in injury time who had an altercation with one of the Stapenhill players and was shown a red card. Not long after the referee blew the final whistle to make the full-time score Paget Rangers 1-5 Stapenhill.
Paget had a lot of players who showed promise despite the defeat. Dominic Ellington was good at the back for the Bears and was constantly heading dangerous balls out of the box and made key blocks. Kallum Powell really stood out on the left and was good defensively as well as going forwards. Jonathan Millinchip linked up play well in the number 10 role, especially in the first half when Paget were building into the game. Lewis Riley made several key saves playing as a sweeper for Paget which is encouraging and something to build on.
Stapenhill are a really good team that could be challenging for the play offs come the end of the season. Matt Roome was excellent as the skipper and did an underrated job at the back for the Swans. He constantly headed balls away and read dangerous situations well to alleviate the pressure for the visitors. Sam Birks was a classic poacher and finished his chances well in the first half when it mattered to change the match.
The standout player for Stapenhill was undoubtedly Ryan King who was excellent on the left-hand side of the pitch. He showed brilliant pace to beat his markers and constantly made clever runs to get in the right positions to make things happen for the visitors.
Both teams are shaping up to have interesting seasons competing in MFL Division One and are worth following from August to the end of April.
FT score: Paget Rangers 1-5 Stapenhill
Man of the match: Ryan King
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