My first chance to see Sean Connor's new-look Bohemians came on Saturday, 17th February. I'd read on the official site that they were playing a friendly against first division side Kildare County at Station Road in Newbridge (around an hour or so south west of Dublin).
As the name of the ground suggests, the stadium is located beside the town's railway station which has regular trains to and from Dublin. However, I decided to take the car down so that I could get back home quicker after the final whistle. I got there about 15 minutes before kick-off and was able to park inside the gates at the side of the pitch. Station Road is a fairly small stadium but I was still quite impressed. There wasn't much to it, but what was there was fairly modern and well looked after. I walked round and found a seat in the main stand amongst the other Bohs fans who had made their way down from Dublin. I'd say around 200-250 had made the trip, probably eager, like me, to see how the team was looking after a winter of much upheaval. When the teams ran out it was apparent that Sean Connor had not just made radical changed to the playing staff though, as Bohs had ditched their famous black and red shirts in favour of an incredibly bright illuminous yellow!
Several of the new signings were on show, including striker Darren Mansaram (signed from Sligo Rovers), goalkeeper Brian Murphy (signed from Waterford) and winger Chris Kingsberry (signed from Linfield). Also up front for Bohs was Glen Crowe who had moved back to the club from Shelbourne during the close season. From what I had read and heard from other Bohs fans, Crow was something of a legend in his first spell with Bohs and had scored goals for fun. Needless to say then, I was keen to see what he was like.
Bohs started the game well and wingers Chris Kingsberry and John Paul Kelly (Joxer) looked particularly lively down the flanks. I didn't have to wait long to witness my first Glen Crowe goal as he turned in a John Paul Kelly cross to put Bohs into a deserved lead. Apart from his goal though Crowe was far from impressive. He was more than able to hold the ball up for others, but his movement off the ball was virtually non-existent and he didn't look like he'd been pulling himself away from the dinner table too often over the winter months!
Despite creating several more chances in the remainder of the half, Bohs were unable to add to Crowe's opener and the teams went in at the break at 0-1. This gave me a chance to sample the Kildare County hospitality underneath the main stand. E2 euro for a small cup of soup seemed a little steep (especially to a Scotsman!) but it was enough to keep the hands warm for the start of the second half.
As is so often the case with friendlies, the second period brought a multitude of changes to either side. This allowed me to see a few more of our new signings in action though, and former Leeds United winger Harpal Singh looked particularly impressive on the left side. As the half wore on Kildare came more and more into the game and they really should have scored at least once. However, poor finishing and perhaps a lack of belief stopped them from capitalising on some lax Bohs defending. They were made to pay in the dying minutes of the game too when Singh's flighted ball into the box came off the head of a Kildare defender and into the net.
The scoreline flattered Bohs a little and Kildare would no doubt have felt aggrieved that they couldn't have snatched at least a draw.
The drive back allowed me time to reflect on what I'd saw, and while Bohs looked far from the finished article, they had shown enough to suggest that we were in for a more successful season that last year.
I was able to catch the second goal on my camera, which you can see here...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKfTjaJM4zM
Meanwhile, more extensive highlights can be seen here...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ERmCsWeTis