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Robinson returns to former club as Hungerford and Thatcham conclude pre-season preparations





Danny Robinson returned to his former club on Saturday as Hungerford Town thumped local rivals Thatcham 3-0 to make it six wins from seven in pre-season.

The Crusaders were well below their best in a goalless first half at the newly-named Metall Stadium but goals from Matt Partridge, Conor McDonagh and Sean Moore helped Hungerford to a comfortable win following a dominant second half showing.

Both sides have had decent pre-seasons that suggest the Kingfishers and the Crusaders could be set for successful campaigns to come and Robinson and Thatcham boss Yashwa Romeo will have taken positives from the weekend's game, with Thatcham shading the first half before Hungerford battled back after the break.

Thatcham Town boss Yashwa Romeo
Thatcham Town boss Yashwa Romeo
Hungerford Town manager Danny Robinson
Hungerford Town manager Danny Robinson

This was a match as much about old friends as new faces, with Robinson - who won the FA Vase with Thatcham and coached Romeo during his time at the club - returning to his former side along with assistant Andy Darnton and defenders Curtis Angell, Jack Alexander and Matt Partridge, while tough-tackling midfielder Callum Willmoth was starting for the Kingfishers having spent three seasons at Bulpit Lane.

Hungerford, setting up once again in a 4-2-3-1 formation, had eight summer signings in their starting XI and while their were a few more familiar faces in the Kingfishers line-up, this was also a chance to look at new signings Josh Blackwood and Harry Hoath, who Romeo will hope can add some much-needed muscle to his side.

Cameron Rohart-Brown sends the ball forward with his trademark left foot
Cameron Rohart-Brown sends the ball forward with his trademark left foot
Thatcham Town skipper Nathan Jones
Thatcham Town skipper Nathan Jones

Although Hungerford almost took the lead within 60 seconds when dynamic midfielder Joe Shepherd lashed an effort over the bar from the edge of the box, the Kingfishers were the better side for much of the first half, dealing with the visitors' long throws and balls into the box and threatening in the final third, particularly from out wide.

While Willmoth went close from a free-kick in the 12th minute, new Crusaders frontman Conor McDonagh forced a fine save from goalkeeper Toby Fisher after he turned Blackwood and sent a half-volley towards the bottom left-hand corner 19 minutes in.

Conor McDonagh tests Toby Fisher in the first half
Conor McDonagh tests Toby Fisher in the first half

Hungerford were unfortunate not to lead after 29 minutes Luke Carnell was first to a trademark Nathan Davis long throw and George Smith bundled it in at the back post but the referee ruled it out, presumably for a foul on Fisher, but possibly for handball – either way, it looked like a harsh decision.

Box-to-box midfielder Nathan Davis on the ball
Box-to-box midfielder Nathan Davis on the ball

Thatcham's front four had caused the Crusaders problems with their tireless press and the Kingfishers were almost rewarded in the 34th minute when veteran goalkeeper Ryan Clarke rolled the ball in the direction of marauding full-back Jack Stanley but it was cut out and pulled back to the edge of the six yard box, where the retreating Rhys Tyler hammered the ball against the underside of his own crossbar before it somehow bounced on the line and was cleared out of danger.

Robinson cut a frustrated figure as he walked towards the dressing room at half time and, having already replaced Fabio Lopes with Sean Moore after the winger went down holding his knee, made three more changes at the break, bringing on former Thatcham defenders Matt Partridge and Curtis Angell as well as in-form Michael Fernandes.

Winger Fabio Lopes lets fly from range
Winger Fabio Lopes lets fly from range

Robinson's changes made an instant impact, with the Crusaders taking the lead in the 47th minute after Fernandes's shot from the left-hand side of the box was spilled straight into the path of Partridge, who rolled the ball into an empty net to make it 1-0.

Michael Fernandes brings the ball down ahead of Levi Heholt
Michael Fernandes brings the ball down ahead of Levi Heholt

It was 2-0 after 58 minutes when former Swindon Supermarine striker Conor McDonagh – who has been one of Hungerford's outstanding players since signing in the summer – beat his man and bent an effort from distance into the right-hand corner to double the visitors' lead.

Conor McDonagh wins a header
Conor McDonagh wins a header
Sean Moore shields the ball
Sean Moore shields the ball

Teenage substitute Owain Wheeler was denied a sensational goal minutes from time after he'd beaten four Thatcham defenders but saw his strike well-saved but Hungerford had a third in the 89th minute when Sean Moore, another who made a big impact from the bench, scored his first Crusaders goal to make it 3-0.



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