Saturday’s triple header with Hobart United at Pembroke Park was a true blend of ups and downs and thrills and spills.
The U15s were superb in their friendly against their Tier 1 counterparts, holding a 1-0 lead until late in the game, before the opposition finished off strong to take home a 2-1 win. TJ had an awesome game in goals, it was great to see Natty back in the fold, while Brad, Will and Sam led by example and the younger players playing up a year, such as Zyhe, Andy and Tom, also caught the eye.
In the men’s Southern Championships, the reserves had a wonderful battle. Apples wound back the clock with a sweet 20 yard left foot curler to give us an early lead before 16-year-old Jack took advantage of a defensive lapse with a ferocious finish from the edge of the area to double our advantage.
The visitors fought back well and had turned the game around to lead 3-2 with only five minutes to play, before a penalty gave 15-year-old Jesse Mason, who had just stepped out from goals to play outfield, the opportunity to level the scores and become the club’s youngest senior goalscorer - an opportunity he took with admirable composure.
In the end, Hobart found a winner in the dying moments, but this was a second successive solid display from our reserves, with Steve, Alex, Jesse, Shaun and Stolpy enjoying particularly solid outings, although the club has an anxious wait to learn the extent of the worrying shoulder injury sustained by the livewire Riz late in the game.
The senior men’s game unfortunately took on a familiar tone. With ten players unavailable, leaving us with no first choice midfielders, it was always going to be a difficult task to compete with the in-form Hobart.
The first half was solid enough, but two cheap defensive errors and a sweet Heathorn finish gave the visitors a 3-0 half-time lead, which would have been even bigger had Simon McGuire not backed up from last week's Metro game to save his third straight penalty late in the half.
After the break, the contest was pretty even for 10-15 minutes, before a catalogue of defensive catastrophes handed Hobart goal after goal. Unfortunately, heads went down and it had become something of a procession by the full-time whistle.
Once again, we are left to reflect on a heavy loss, which was largely of our own making. We can only hope to get more of our first-choice team on the park, because we are paying a heavy price for player unavailabilities.
Even so, moral is high. We have a fantastic young team who are only starting to find their way at this level, with some wise heads and tremendous clubmen leading them, and coach Glen Roland knows well that we have a good thing going here. Every game and every loss is a chance to learn.
We had hoped to slowly bleed our youngsters into the higher grade, primarily through the reserves but, with so many senior players unavailable every week at the moment, we have had no choice but to throw them in at the deep end. Today we fielded no fewer than nine teenagers.
Make no mistake, Hobart United are a very good team and in striker King Kenyi - who followed up his haul of four in the Summer Cup with a rare double hatrick -they have probably the league’s top marksman. They are high on confidence and it shows, after three unbelievably tight contests with championship favourites Beachside in the past couple of weeks, and they will be right up there this season.
But, from our perspective, if we could just eliminate the unforced errors that are the cause of so many of these goals, for the remainder of the game, we are pretty competitive. And we will learn. Our youngsters have so much talent.
We will get better.
Go South East!