SALTMEN boss Mark Owen says the early signs for the new strike partnership of Connor Collins and James Lemon are positive, after the two forwards shared the goals between them in a 5-2 thrashing of Gornal Athletic.
The win was Spa’s first in the West Midlands (Regional) League Division One this season, and ensured an immediate response to an opening defeat to Old Wulfrunians.
Collins struck with a hat-trick, whilst Lemon added a brace in the away tie in Dudley, leaving Owen delighted with the overall showing from his players.
“That’s what it was about, the plan straight away was to bounce back and we did that,” he said.
“At the same time, our approach stayed the same, the only difference being we scored our chances unlike last week.
“In all honesty it should have been more, their goalkeeper was outstanding, but it could have been double figures.”
A fast start by the Saltmen led to chances aplenty for their strike force and midfielders, keeping Matt Oliver untroubled between the sticks down the other end.
Collins opened the scoring on 19 minutes with a close range finish that proved his first for the club – but certainly not the last by all accounts.
Gornal levelled with their first effort of the game, when Ryan Piggott nestled the ball in the back of the net with a first-time volley from outside the area.
The lead was resumed with an even better strike from Collins, who swerved a 25-yard free kick into the top corner to ensure Spa went in ahead at half time.
Spa had a cushion ten minutes after the break when Collins sealed his hat-trick by beating Will Burrows in a one-on-one, following unselfish play by strike partner Lemon to put him through.
James Lemon made it 4-1 moments before Gornal were reduced to ten men, later adding his second with a finish inside the area.
The hosts pulled a goal back when Oliver kept out Piggott’s penalty, but was beaten by the rebound, to finish off the scoring.
One key improvement in the win was the overall balance to the team, with the Droitwich manager adding: “Our shape was a lot better, Cory Rudd playing in defensive midfield freed up Ben [Tilbury] and didn’t drag James [Lemon] back as much.
“There was less confusion in midfield, and our overall balance was a lot better.”
Owen is confident that the partnership of Collins and Lemon can provide the Saltmen with plenty of zest up front throughout the season – although he accepts patience as the duo adapt to the team’s style of play.
“It will take a while for them to gel, both of them have been used to playing in formations with just one up front in the past,” he said.
“But once they’ve adapted they can be a real threat for us this season.”
Spa have a break before their FA Vase tie against Wednesfield (August 31), while the under-21s are in Smedley Crooke Cup action against FC Darlaston on Saturday (1.30pm) at King George V playing fields.