Kenilworth Wardens play Balsall and Berkswell in first preseason friendly
By James Smith
24th Aug 2020 | Football
Kenilworth Wardens first team played their first proper match since March last night, against local rivals Balsall and Berkswell FC.
Wardens, whose first team are set to play in Coventry Alliance division two this season, lined up against a Balsall and Berkswell side that will be two divisions above them for the 2020/21 campaign.
Despite the apparent disparity between the two sides, the Wardens delivered a mature performance, and won the match 1-0 courtesy of a goal scored Tom Shanley.
The deadlock was broken on 73 minutes as Dan Neeld cleared a ball from the Kenilworth half.
The Balsall keeper came to collect it, but spilled only for Shanley to put the ball into the back of an empty net.
Following the win, manager Eamonn Richards said "the game was good actually, high quality, both teams were organised, and worked hard, but the quality of the play didn't really end up with out and out chances."
That being said Balsall did have to clear the ball from the line three times during the 90 minutes.
The Wardens were promoted from Division Three at the end of last season, which was stopped with games still to play due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Wardens, who then sat joint on points with third-placed Balsall and Berkswell reserves, were promoted into Division Two as the league tables were moderated.
This was so be their second successive promotion following the re-establishment of the men's side in 2018.
Richards had been aiming for promotion at the beginning of the 2019/20 season and said "so we did achieve our goals of promotion but, it just doesn't quite have the same sense of satisfaction.
"Nobody even told us about it, I just looked at the league and saw 'oh cool, both teams have been promoted!'"
Whilst the return to football proper is welcomed by the Wardens, they have been keeping the community side of the squad together during the lockdown period.
Early on during the period, a group of seventeen players took part in weekly running challenges as they competed to see who could run the furthest, or set the fastest 5km time, for example.
In all over ten weeks, they ran a combined 2,500 miles, as the management team sought to look after the wellbeing of their players – "positivity and staying connected was at the heart of it."
Once lockdown measures eased the team could then begin to engage in small socially-distanced training sessions of up to six players in a group, spread out across the training pitches, in what was described as a "logistical nightmare" by Richards.
He was however pleased with the way the team were progressing ahead of their first fixture, stating "the training ground work was good, the first team did look really fit."
With the result against Balsall and Berkswell in mind, the hard work and commitment that the Wardens have already shown in training appears to be working.
Whilst the fixtures for the new season are yet to be announced, current communication from the FA indicates that community football can return from 12 September onwards, the same weekend set for the return of the Premier League.
With more friendlies lined up against Central Ajax Reserves, Stockton Reserves, and Craftsmen FC, Kenilworth Wardens look set to hit the ground running once the new season is underway.
If you are interested in joining Kenilworth Wardens FC, you can find them on Facebook, and join the group for details on training sessions and matches.