Brondby 1 Wanderers 1: Davies rises to the occasion as Wanderers enjoy an El of a start to pre-season
CARLSBERG don’t do pre-season friendlies, but if they did, Johan Elmander and Craig Davies would probably pick this one.
The return of Swedish hero Elmander had been built up to gigantic proportion by the Copenhagen media, with his face adorning every newspaper sports section for the last few weeks.
Every touch he made in the warm-up was cheered to the rafters by a loud home support and as his name was read out in European first-name-only style, the “Elmander” part echoed all the way to Malmo.
It is fair to say he is less fondly remembered by Wanderers fans, many of whom are still upset at the way he left the club for nothing having been nursed back to form by Owen Coyle.
But just when it seemed his 45-minute cameo had stolen yet more headlines on a balmy summer’s evening in the Copenhagen suburbs – another returning striker had his say.
Craig Davies’s place at Wanderers is anything but secure at present, having spent the second half of last season out on loan at Preston.
Rumours have persisted through the summer that he could again be destined for League One, as Freedman looks to stock his striking ranks yet further. But the player who roared out of the traps for the second half to tuck away a penalty looked anything but yesterday’s man.
The home fans had turned out for Elmander, brought “home” on a free transfer after spells at Galatasaray and Norwich City.
The 33-year-old is perhaps packing a bit more weight than he did in his heyday, when Gary Megson shelled out £8.2million for his services in the summer of 2008.
The phenomenal work-rate that seemed to have replaced his appetite for goals during his spell at the Reebok was a little more economical but you just knew if someone was going to break the deadlock in this summer training exercise, it would be him.
Jermaine Beckford should have levelled the scores with the last kick of the first half – his penalty fizzing inexcusably wide of goal. But it wasn’t all bad news for Dougie Freedman’s side, who got the thorough workout they were looking for from a side that will be in European competition in the next couple of weeks.
Van Halen’s classic rock staple “Jump” welcomed the players on to the pitch but as ever in these pre-season friendlies, the football rarely matched the same sort of upbeat tempo.
Brondby’s fans did their best to make a party atmosphere, dressed almost to a man in bright yellow shirts, you can only imagine what a spectacle this stadium would be for a European night against one of the top clubs.
Wanderers’ hardy bunch of fans totalled around 50 and were most vocal when their club’s record signing was on the ball.
Freedman stuck with his tried-and-trusted 4-2-3-1 formation, with Medo and Josh Vela patrolling the busy space in front of the back four.
Both coped well – but it was more advanced midfielder Mark Davies who proved the brightest spark of the first half, with his direct running contributing directly to the penalty award.
Dean Moxey looked comfortable enough in his first start at left-back and Liam Feeney – making a debut of sorts – tried to inject a bit of pace into proceedings whenever he received the ball.
On the opposite wing, youngster Georg Iliev struggled to get into the game and thus middle man Beckford cut a very isolated figure for the whole first half, up to the last minute.
With Brondby jeers ringing in his ears, Beckford didn’t even get his effort on target.
Freedman revolved his entire outfield side in the second half – giving Davies the chance to grab some headlines of his own.
It took just two minutes for him to make an impact, drawing another clumsy challenge from ex-West Brom defender Martin Albrechtsen, and earning a second penalty.
Davies raced to claim the ball and you just knew he wouldn’t make the same mistake as his strike partner.
Gambian trialist Modou Barrow was thrown on wide left in the second half and got himself immediately involved. On first impressions, he looks quick, comfortable on the ball and well worth another look.
Tempers even started to flare up a little midway through the half as Jay Spearing, Neil Danns and Ariel Nunez all picked up bookings – somewhat of a rarity in a friendly.
Dorian Dervite looked assured in his first outing in the stylish new Whites kit, while perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the night was the return of Joe Riley at right-back in the second half.
All in all it was a night that left the merry band of fans to trek back towards the bars and cafes of Copenhagen with plenty to talk about.
Not even a straight red card for Rob Hall for a lungeing tackle on Dario Dumic could take the shine off a good display.