The prelude to the 21/22 season kicked off with a host of new faces (and the return of some familiar ones) and 5-goal thriller. Despite a few heavy heads and a couple of last minute dropouts, 27 players showed up for the first unofficial session of the 2021/22 season.
The game was an opportunity for some to make a lasting first impression, and for others to shake off some rust.
There was one familiar face in the form of Kieran Williamson, the former CSKA striker who signed for the club upon inception back in 2008 wanted to see if he still had it after almost nine years away from the club.
Ash Jones and Joe Coleman were the first to arrive and introduce themselves. Ash Jones who had been tipped to join the club at the end of the 2020/21 season had finally made it to a session and took his place on the left wing.
Joe Coleman, a defender formerly of Mossdale Rangers lined up in central defence alongside Connor Williams (previously of Rothley Imps) who arrived with Cian Ward (also of Rothley Imps) and Daniel Danes (Anstey Nomads) and would both occupy midfield roles.
Other midfielders arriving for trial were Hiten Mak and Ruben Capp, the latter who had put in an impressive display at the end of season friendly back in May. Also returning for a second trial was Lee Cleaver, who would battle it out with the last trialist Sonu who took up an attacking role.
Both sides were very well matched throughout and the breakthrough wouldn’t come until the 55th minute when a corner wasn’t cleared and was lofted back into the mixer cleverly by Kieran Warner and turned home by Nathan Tate. Kieran Williamson marked his return to his old stomping ground by curling in a sublime effort from the edge of the box 10 minutes later to draw the sides level. Tate added his second when he broke the defensive offside trap and sweetly knocked it past the onrushing Augustus, rounding him and tapping into the empty net.
The eventual winners went 3-1 up, this time it was another debutant Sonu, who mimicked Williamson at the other end by striking from outside the box with a superb finish.
With minutes left, there was time for Dave Payne (who had now switched sides) to add a consolation goal to make it 3-2 and a fair reflection of a well-balanced game where fitness levels showed towards the end as the game opened up.
Those on trial all impressed and none looked out of their depth, certainly catching the eyes of managers Jon Brice and Steve Maggs. Pre-season training will begin on Sunday the 11th with most already hinting that they are keen to come, and Chairman Chris McCafferty will be hoping to tie many of them down to a CSKA contract for the 2021/22 season. After all, he is overdue a new pair of boots.