Wanderers' pre-season plans took shape over the course of 8 matches but, most crucially, over 30 new players signed up to the club's 11-a-side teams. A very exciting announcement for the men's squads was the confirmation that four former players would be returning - Steve Casey and James Byrne to lead the Men's 2nd XI, with Louis Sinclair and Alasko Soumahoro in playing capacities.
Our regular warm-up versus Effra Academicals ended in a rare defeat - 2-3 with Tim Bamigbade and Nico Kourmouzis scoring - although Joe Poxon did get to see four new faces under the floodlights. The next match was against well-established Sunday league opponents AFC Croydon Town. 'The Crows' were overwhelmed and faced an uphill battle after Wanderers raced into a three-goal lead. However, they fought back strongly and in a real epic encounter, edged it 5-4. Salvador Rodrigues-Taylor, Elliot Winspear, and Leo Natsis (2) scored for Wanderers, notable for marking two consecutive matches where a Greek player has scored for the club.
Another defeat followed against AFC Ewell at Dorking Wanderers' flashy new gaff. However, considering 8 new or returning players were involved and Ewell ply their trade three divisions higher than Wanderers' 1sts, it was a good performance, capped by James Byrne scoring his first goal since 23rd September 2017.
The improvement demonstrated in the preceding games was complete with a confident and dominant display by both the 1sts and 2nds in a double-header against Reigate Priory Reserves and As respectively. The 2nds were on the undercard, playing directly and purposefully. Tim Bamigbade scored twice and was only denied a nailed on hat-trick by Steve Casey's opportunistic run at the front post to head in Dare Mustapha's corner. The main event started with a fluke deep cross sweeping into the far corner over Chris Wolf's head against the run of play and without a target man in the box. A test of the team's mettle was met with a brilliant comeback, scoring four goals without reply. Byrney, Leo (2), and Elliot continued their excellent pre-season scoring form. The talking point of the day though was the nonchalant rainbow flick pulled off by Chris Suter in the 2nds game which caused jubilant reactions on the sidelines!
The good work was undone though is an eminently forgettable and depressingly dull match against Wilberforce Wanderers of the Middlesex County Football League. A 0-4 defeat is disappointing although WWFC compete four levels in the pyramid higher than Wanderers. Lessons were learned though as the men would face a Clapton CFC from the same league a week later...
The Women began their pre-season with an impressive 1-1 draw versus Lambeth All-Stars. Lewis Adams fielded an eleven containing just two players with less than 5 caps but end-of-season signing Laurel Ifebigh scored her second for the club.
The much-anticipated game against Clapton CFC attracted nearly 250 fans to Walthamstow and the game did not disappoint. Clapton were fortunate to take the lead with a goalmouth scramble resulting in a wayward shot slicing off of Ross McAllister. However, Filimon Mulugeta restored parity with a superb run and finish. The MCFL team took the lead again before half-time but after the break Elliot Winspear drew Wanderers level. As experience, ability, and fitness told - to say nothing of several changes to give fringe players opportunities to impress Pox and Jose - Clapton closed the game out with three more goals.
The club's final pre-season game was against the Plymouth Argyle Supporters' Association London Branch at Old Meadonians. PASALB only had nine players so Tom Rodriguez-Perez used the opportunity to play a full 90 as he strives for match fitness and Chris Suter also donned the white and green shirt to help his development. At 0-0, Flo Saulnier took a heavy kick to the back and was forced to retire as emergency medical attention was sought - he was under strict advice from the doctors to remain still, do not get up, and do not eat. The game resumed after a lengthy break with the Green Army going ahead. Wanderers equalised through Alfie Rowlands-Rickelsford and Aaron McCann scored between two further Plymouth goals. Steve Casey was (almost) unable to celebrate as his 35-yard effort squeaked into the bottom corner when the goalkeeper should have done better. Most keen to celebrate though was Saulnier, now jumping up and down and eating a sandwich! Wanderers conceded a fourth from a long ball through the middle and a goalkeeping error - but Aaron's free-kick saved the team's blushes to close out an eight-goal thriller.
The season is poised to be an exciting one for the club with lofty ambitions and huge plans afoot...