By Mark Strickland
The 2017/18 season ended in a deflating manner for Warrington, as they were dismantled 3-0 at home, by Grantham Town in semi-final 2 of the Evo Stik League play offs. However, for the club it was a case of don’t look back, but onwards and upwards. After all, the club had recorded its highest finish to date and exciting times lie in store.
The transfer merry-go-round of non-league football meant that there would be new faces, as well as departures of several seasoned pros. Perhaps concerningly, there were numerous departures to start. Firstly, Sean Williams, who netted 15 times last term for the Yellows was to move Altrincham. He would be joined by Liam Goulding in making the trip across Cheshire. This was to be followed by another double departure of Liam Hayhurst and Jack Higgins, who was named in the Northern Premier League team of the year. The pair would join fellow league rivals, Farsley Celtic. Meanwhile, Brad Barnes would leave for FC United of Manchester.
On a more positive note several pivotal squad members committed their futures, including club captain James McCarten. Elsewhere, 4 fixtures had been pencilled in against EFL side Tranmere Rovers, National League North’s Stockport County, as well as away trips to Runcorn Town and Trafford.
By early June, Carden had added the first new additions to the squad. Alex Honeyball, the former Bolton U23 captain, and, Lewis Nightingale, the attacking dynamo from Bamber Bridge opted for a move to Latchford. Before the end of the month, extra fire power had been added upfront in menacing marksmen, Josh Amis and Richard Brodie. Ben Garrity made it 5 departures, 5 arrivals, when he was snapped up from the local leagues on Merseyside. With the squad now back near full strength, another exciting season surely beckons.
The first Thursday of the year’s the year’s 7th month, saw the players return to Cantilever Park to embark on their preparations for the 2018/19 season. Honeyball, Nightingale, Amis, Brodie and Garrity all made the commute to the club facility and several players from fefaUK, Robbie Fowler’s academy were also in attendance.
The Evo Stik League announce the 46 fixtures for each side ahead of the new campaign. The start date of the 18th of August sees Warrington faced with a tricky opening home fixture against Farsley Celtic.
The incredible FA Cup run of 2014 still remains firm in the memory and the Wire will look to evoke that again this year. The sides go head to head in the extra preliminary round against fellow league side, Stalybridge Celtic.
Likewise, with last year the key date of Boxing Day sees an identical fixture scheduled. The day after Christmas, the squad will travel to play against Witton Albion.
The final day is an away trip to Buxton – could it be the coronation of a promotion?
The first 90 minutes are conducted against North West Counties Football League side, Wythenshawe Town. It is now apparent that the club will go up against Ashton town and Bangor City, in addition to the other arranged match ups.
As the players emerged at Ericstan Park, new boys Honeyball, Amis and Brodie were all in attendance. Meanwhile, there was good news as Dylan Vassallo and Liam Hynes returned from extended spells on the side-lines.
The game would end in a stalemate, but it was a positive run out on the whole for Town. Josh Amis had the Yellows best chance of the game, but his tidy shot was well kept out. Elsewhere, Tony McMillan impressed, and Tony Gray lead the side well, with the armband in the first 45.
Next up was the visit from the newly promoted League 2 side, Tranmere. Spearheaded by manager Micky Mellon, Rovers brought a strong squad to the Winner Recruitment Stadium.
Before the game, it was announced that Mitchell Duggan had re-signed, and would make his second Warrington debut against the club he played for last year. Excitement was also building over the return of Jamie McDonald to first team action, after he had returned from his holiday. Jack Dunn also made the starting XI, the former Liverpool FC attacking man was playing as part of his trial at the club.
The team gave an excellent account of themselves, particularly in the first half. However, the continuous squandering of chances was capitalised on. The Super White Army would run out as comfortable 2-0 winners in the end. Jonny Smith and Paul Mullin registering either side of the interval.
Round 3 of the pre-season fixture list saw Town take the short trip to Runcorn Town and the saying ‘3rd time lucky’ was more than relevant.
Although Town trailed, an Amis double with Brodie being credited with each assist, saw the tide of the game change. Ben Garrity caught the eye in his maiden appearance, and marked it with a goal, being on the scene after Dunn’s effort was parried.
A mishap from the keeper allowed Tony Gray to get off the mark and Carden and the coaching staff left the Pavilions more than satisfied.
Stockport County would provide the next opposition, as the intensity of the workouts began to progress. It was another important workout, but County’s efficiency was for all to see. Two-nil down after 20 or so minutes played and exquisite strike from Tony Gray breathed new life in to the Yellows. The score was almost tied after the break, only for Amis’ header to skim the crossbar. A brace for the visitors late on, made the score lie more than harsh on Warrington.
Despite the heavy defeat, there was positive news the day after. Jack Dunn was to become Warrington’s sixth signing of the summer. The former Liverpool man netted 3 minutes in to his debut at the Anfield-based club. He has also represented England at U19 level.
Earlier in the day of the Ashton Town game, the club announced they had removed the Bangor City game, scheduled for the 31st of July off the schedule.
The game at Edge Green Street saw Warrington held to a 1-1 draw. The home side lead after 5 minutes, but Gray had the Yellows level right after the interval. He then missed from 12 yards, but the side remained unbeaten on the road so far in pre-season.
After the cancellation of the game versus Bangor, it was released that the Wire will travel to Skelmersdale United for an 8 o’clock kick off on Tuesday, the 7th of August.
Transfers galore. 2 arrivals and the solitary departure.
Sadly, for the club, Jamie McDonald had cut short his spell in the town and was to return to City of Liverpool FC, under the management of former Yellow, Craig Robinson. The Liverpudlian cited work commitments for his decision. He netted 17 goals last year and was a delight to watch, as he terrorised opposition defences.
In contrast though, there were two arrivals to applaud. Firstly, David Raven an experienced defender. The full back started off at Liverpool and under Rafael Benitez put in a sensational performance at White Hart lane, in an English League Cup quarter final. Since then, he has spent a successful career in the EFL and Scotland.
Also, former Wrexham captain, Robbie Evans has been brought in to add to the midfield of Vassallo, Dunn, Hynes and Garrity.
To revisit the pre-season games thus far, go to the fixtures section and click the newspaper icon to explore match previews, reports and overviews.