Pictured: Adam Bygrave celebrates with the ‘Boro man of the match, awarded by main club sponsor Travelex, Nic Ciardini (Picture: Prime Focus Photography)
‘Boro manager Spencer Day acknowledged his side weren’t at their best in the 2-1 win over Weston, but was pleased with the mental strength shown by his men as they registered their first win of the new season.
A moment of individual brilliance from substitute Nic Ciardini, who later followed up with a second after being teed up by the irrepressible Phil Page, set up the victory and despite a late strike by Ross Stearn, Weston were left to rue a number of missed opportunities.
Craig Laird’s outfit, which drew their opener against Hayes & Yeading, were unlucky not to leave a muggy Cherrywood with at least a share of the spoils, something which Day honestly admitted to.
“We were a little bit fortunate tonight as we were nowhere near the level that we know we can play at,” he said.
“Credit to Weston, they were unlucky on a couple of occasions but having said that, we also had opportunities. I thought the two penalty claims were very strong, and Dan Bennett also forced a top drawer save out of their goalkeeper in the first half.
“It’s a classic football cliché though – the sign of a good team is that they win when they haven’t played well – and that’s exactly what happened tonight. It’s very much a case of ‘must do better’ but we showed glimpses of the quality we have, with Nic’s first effort as good a goal you’ll see at any level.
“We know we will have to be much better for the Dorchester game on Saturday and the boys know that. We do have a small window now, though, to gel a little more as you have to remember that though the large bulk of last year’s squad are still here, there are a number of new faces.”
Day was able to name a full-matchday squad after international clearance was obtained for Polish duo Jacek Magdzinski and Michal Steinke shortly before kick-off, the former coming into the starting line-up in place of Ciardini. Miles Smith also made way, allowing Jordan Clarke to make an impressive full home debut.
‘Boro settled the better, Bennett and Page providing the width and pace up top early on but it was the visitors who came closest to breaching the deadlock when Jamie Price hit a thunderous drive onto the bar after a defensive header from Olly Treacher fell straight into the full-back’s path.
After playing in conditions more akin to the Caribbean at the weekend, a second game in four days was tough going for both teams with moments of quality interspersed with frustrating mistakes. Clarke and another of ‘Boro’s new boys, Medi Abalimba, showed glimpses in the middle third but there was little for the 352 souls in attendance to shout about.
Clarke’s split pass inside Price set away Bennett for the Yellow’s best chance of the half but Lloyd Irish was equal to it, excellently parrying it out of harm’s way.
Bennett and Clarke continued to see a lot of the ball and Bennett was involved in a big penalty shout on the stroke of half time. He led the claim of the ball striking a Weston hand but referee Dan Cook was unbowed as he motioned for a corner instead.
Steve Laidler almost gifted Chas Hemmings with a one-on-one at the start of the second period when misjudging a back pass but that man Bennett rallied back to snuff out the danger.
Hemmings went still further close some 10 minutes later, putting his muscular frame to good use in holding off a couple of defenders before hitting a floated curler which beat Craig Bradshaw – but not the crossbar. Weston were beginning to ask questions and Day responded by bringing on Ciardini for Magdzinski.
It paid instant dividends as the crowd favourite scored a wonderful, solo opener which had everyone in the ground on their feet. After picking the ball up from some 35 yards, he drove right at the heart of a back-pedalling Weston defence before sliding it expertly into the far hand corner past a fully-stretched Irish.
With Bennett having had another shout for a penalty turned down just moments before, the sense of relief was evident as the entire outfield XI mobbed the goalscorer.
Marcus Moody and Miles Smith were both sent forth from the substitutes’ bench with the instruction to see out the game but ‘Boro were indebted to their No.1 Bradshaw, who pulled of top drawer reflex saves to deny Nabi Diallo, Hemmings and Price as the game reached a climax.
Ciardini made the game seemingly safe six minutes from time when the tireless Phil Page robbed Matt Villis before laying it up nicely for his attack partner to slot home from close range.
Weston’s Ross Stearn though, who was outstanding on the left flank, made it a jittery final couple of minutes when he thundered one in from inside the area with Weston throwing everything they had left at a heavily congested home defence.
‘Boro will look to complete their positive start to the term when they host Dorchester Town this Saturday afternoon, kick-off at 3pm.
‘Boro: 1- Craig Bradshaw, 2- Adam Bygrave, 3- Olly Treacher, 4- Alfred Bosch, 5- Alan Inns (c), 6- Medi Abalimba, 7- Dan Bennett, 8- Steve Laidler, 9- Jacek Magdzinski, 10- Jordan Clarke, 11- Phil Page
Subs: 12- Nic Ciardini (for Magdzinski, 56), 14- Marcus Moody (for Clarke, 68), 15- Miles Smith (for Abalimba, 82), 16- Michal Steinke, 17- Jamie Norris (GK)
Referee: Daniel Cook
Booked: Bennett, Inns
Goals: Ciardini (61, 84)