A late Reece Hales strike sealed an impressive victory for the Blues development squad side last night against the buoyant non-leaguers of Leamington.
The hosts, who are preparing for life in the Skrill North – the sixth tier of English football – after winning promotion last season, provided a stern test for Richard Beale’s men, but it’s one that they passed with flying colours. “We faced a very physical and confident Leamington team that won their league last season,” said Beale, whose side lined up in the same 3-5-2 formation that the first-team have used in recent weeks. “They had players of experience that our younger lads have got to be able to deal with and find ways of overcoming, and they did that. It was a good learning experience.”
The only goal of the game came ten minutes from time when Hales turned his marker inside the area and produced an excellent finish to beat former Kidderminster Harriers goalkeeper Tony Breeden. “It was good reward for his hard work,” said Beale. “Reece is an old-fashioned, hard-working centre-forward who still has a lot to learn but he does a lot of unselfish work for the team and it was pleasing that he got his reward with a really well-taken goal.”
Senior players Peter Lovenkrands and Hayden Mullins both started the game, while there was also a run-out for ex-Blues defender Marcos Painter. Beale explained the background behind the inclusion of the 26-year-old centre-half, who is currently without a club after being released by Brighton & Hove Albion at the end of last season. “Marcos contacted us to ask whether, as a former player and a local lad, he could come in and use the facilities. That’s all it is at the moment,” said the development squad boss.
Blues, who lost 2-1 to Oxford City in a pre-season outing last Wednesday, will face Oxford United in a behind-closed-doors training match next week as a final warm-up ahead of their U21 Professional Development League 2 campaign, which kicks off on Monday 19 August with a visit from Sheffield United to St. Andrew’s (1pm).
Blues: Preston; Mullins (Kalenda 60), Fry, Painter; Higgins, Brown, Gray, Adams, Bell; Lovenkrands (Solomon 70), Hales.