The Big Verdict: Mjallby AIF 3 Wanderers 2
6:30am Thursday 17th July 2014 in Sport
Mjallby AIF 3 Wanderers 2
Lonergan; McNaughton, Mills, Ream, Moxey; Spearing; Feeney, Mark Davies, Danns, Hall; Beckford. Subs: Vela 50 (for Mark Davies), Fitzsimons, C Davies 72 (for Beckford), Iliev 60 (for Feeney), Pratley 63 (for Danns), Medo 72 (for Spearing), Riley 60 (for McNaughton), Bolger 63 (for Ream), Dervite 68 (for Mills), Threlkeld 60 (for Moxey).
JUST outside the facility where Wanderers have trained in Malmo, a cowboy-themed circus recently set up residence.
Dozens of animals – including zebras, bizarrely – watched on as Dougie Freedman put his side through their paces, while in the background various theme tunes from the old western films played on a loop as the entertainers perfected their art in the big top.
It made for a surreal experience for the casual spectator – although the players had their minds on other things as they were put through their paces on the pitch.
So it was fitting, perhaps, that after absorbing all that subliminal music they should serve up The Good, The Bad and The Ugly on the final game of their Scandinavian tour.
Racing into a two-goal lead inside seven minutes, this looked to be a stroll by the Baltic sea for the Whites.
Jermaine Beckford and Rob Hall finished off two moves straight from the training ground to leave the merry band of travelling fans singing in the early-evening sunshine and expecting a rout.
But no such luck. Two bad errors from Jay Spearing and Matt Mills were punished fully and Wanderers failed to regain the same buzz before conceding a third just before the break.
It won’t be a result that gives Freedman any sleepless nights. But there are clearly a couple of kinks he needs to iron out before the real business starts.
With David Wheater, Adam Bogdan and Liam Trotter still not being risked, the Whites boss played arguably his strongest available 11, and was also able to call on Kevin McNaughton for the first time after his international clearance came through to finalise a season-long loan from Cardiff City.
The game burst into life as Hall hassled a mistake out of defender Viktor Nilsson and raced on to cut a low cross back for Beckford to slam home from close range.
Freedman had wanted more from his wide men and with Liam Feeney’s pace causing all sorts of problems on the opposite wing, he was getting it.
Beckford returned the favour a few minutes later as he flicked McNaughton’s cross into Hall’s path and the youngster smashed a shot from the edge of the box into the top corner.
At this speed, you feared for the home side. But one mis-placed pass by Spearing allowed Mattias Hokonsson to race in on goal and slot a shot past Andy Lonergan, sparking the comeback.
Just four minutes later Matt Mills had a pass charged down and after a cross was whipped in from the right, the defender looked to have bundled the ball into his own net at the near post. The stadium announcer was a little kinder, and awarded the strike to Kristian Haynes.
The energy had disappeared from Wanderers’ game by this point and while Beckford sniffed around for chances and twice came close to connecting with crosses from Hall and Feeney, the home side had more of the ball.
They made it count just before half time when Daniel Janovski whipped in a fine cross from the left and Kwame Bonzo tucked his shot inside Andy Lonergan’s left-hand post.
Lonergan prevented a fourth shortly after the restart with a smart save from Viktor Nilsson’s shot as the Whites continued to react slowly in and around the penalty box.
While at the other end, Mattias Asper got down well to deny Beckford a second after a defensive lapse by Ednar Thorlsson.
The travelling fans did their best to stir their side back into life but that early zip had gone, slick one-touch football replaced by the more laborious variety.
And the frustration started to sneak out a little too. Mills got involved with home hero Marcus Ekenberg, who accused him of stamping off the ball. Moments earlier, Nilsson had clattered into Josh Vela to provoke a similarly annoyed reaction from the Wanderers camp.
The introduction of Craig Davies gave Mjallby something very different to think about and he was unlucky not to have scored a second goal of the tour.
Keeper Asper denied him twice in two minutes – but was rescued in the first instance by defender Thorlsson, who made a goal-saving block on Georg Iliev’s follow-up.
But the home side could easily have increased their advantage. A speculative shot from Viktor Nilsson nearly caught out Lonergan, who was relieved to see the ball bounce off a post.
Ekenberg then raced through the middle and got round Lonergan, only for Dorian Dervite to block his shot on the line, and then get in the way of his follow-up.
It was a slightly disappointing note to end the tour on because it had gone so well in Denmark. Perhaps Sweden was just a bridge too far?