DENMARK was recently named the happiest country in the world – and from Wanderers’ experiences so far, the good vibes appear to be rubbing off.
After a thoroughly pleasing draw against Brondby, the Whites completed the Danish leg of their Scandinavian tour with a relatively comfortable win over another top flight club in FC Vestsjaelland.
The win wasn’t exactly flashy, in fact it would be hard to show any sort of flamboyance at a venue as sparse as the Harboe Arena.
But Liam Feeney’s first-half tap-in was enough to keep the spirits up in Scandinavia and send Dougie Freedman’s side to Sweden in fine fettle.
The Whites completed the task with a few big names watching on from the bench – David Wheater, Adam Bogdan, Mark Davies and Liam Trotter all considered too big a risk to feature after picking up minor injuries.
Their presence wasn’t felt too acutely. Wanderers did what they had to do against a side that were not anything close to the level Brondby had been a few days earlier.
With the arrival of Kevin McNaughton imminent, Freedman’s squad is starting to shape up nicely in all areas but one.
Optimism within the supporters is also starting to grow – and if the Whites boss can boost his paper-thin attack before the start of the season, there is every reason to believe the poor start of last season can be avoided completely.
Craig Davies is doing his utmost to make sure his name stays in the frame for a starting spot at Watford on August 9, and not just as a back-up plan in case a deal for Lukas Jutkiewicz cannot be done.
Vestsjaelland did not really know what to do with the powerful front man when he was in full flow, and but for some great goalkeeping by home stopper Thomas Mikkelsen, he would have added a second goal to his pre-season tally.
Mikkelsen’s double save from Davies, and Georg Iliev on the follow-up, was perhaps the classiest moment of an afternoon when everyone seemed to be going through the motions.
The smattering of Wanderers fans who made the trip were in top voice though, playfully teasing first goalscorer Liam Feeney after his name had been mispronounced by the stadium announcer.
His goal was a simple enough affair, turning home a low cross from Davies at the far post. And but for more heroics from Mikkelsen, he would have had a second just before the break.
But the winger’s overall performance on the right highlighted where he could be of some use to Freedman this season – pace, power and direction – something Wanderers have lacked in the wide areas for some time.
Vestsjaelland nearly got themselves back into the game just after half time when Dorian Dervite was adjudged to have handled Jan Kristiansen’s cross. It looked a little harsh on the Frenchman at first glance but he need not have worried – Rasmus Festersen’s effort from the spot cleared the crossbar by feet and not inches.
Andy Lonergan had to be on his toes a few moments later, punching an inswinging corner from Anders Due from under his bar, then making a stunning reaction save from Festersen as he looked to atone for his error from the spot.
As Wanderers prepared a flurry of substitutions on the hour mark Davies had another sighter of goal, turning on to a clever pass from Feeney and blasting his shot into the side netting.
Given the starting line-up spent around 70 minutes on the pitch, it is a safe bet they will be rotated to the bench for Wednesday’s final foreign friendly against Mjallby AIF.
But to see three home-grown players – Joe Riley, Josh Vela and Oscar Threlkeld – was another pleasing aspect of the afternoon.
Riley’s last 90-minute stint for the first team was August 2012 against Crawley Town, and though he got an elbow in the nose for his troubles in the first half, he coped comfortably against one of the home side’s trickier customers in Due.
Vela saw a lot of the ball early on and marshalled the space in front of the back four well, while Threlkeld showed his flexibility playing either side of defence and letting no one down.
At the end it took some great defending from sub Dean Moxey to preserve a clean sheet, the full-back nicking the ball off the toes of Danni Konig just as he prepared to shoot.
Marc Dal Hende also drilled an injury-time shot just over the bar that, for a moment, had sub keeper Rob Fitzsimons a worried man.
Things had slowed down to a crawl by that point and the home side may argue they deserved something from the game after an improved second-half performance but then this is Denmark, everyone goes home happy anyway.