South East suffered more Southern Championship heartbreak, as Metro turned around a half-time deficit to claim the points in a thrilling encounter at North Chigwell on Saturday.
Glen Roland’s team struck the woodwork no fewer than FIVE times, before a brilliant 25-yard free kick from Metro’s Shane Kent ultimately decided the contest.
United were looking to build on recent improvements and Nick Roland’s clinical finish - his first of the season - had given his team a deserved half time lead. The margin could easily have been greater, but Roland’s terrific stretching lob hit the crossbar and Andy Rhodes’s header came back off the post, while the returning Blaise Booth's header drew an excellent early save from the Metro goalkeeper.
As expected, the hosts came out strongly in the second period and duly grabbed the equaliser with a quality finish ten minutes in. While Metro began to dominate possession, South East’s youngsters always looked dangerous on the break, and the winning goal could easily have come at either end.
However, United's misfortune was simply outrageous. Roland and Rhodes each rattled the woodwork for a second time, before teenage stand-in skipper Pat Quinlan’s superb left foot strike from the edge of the box also crashed back off the bar, and a lovely curling chip from Roland landed agonisingly on the roof of the goal with the keeper well beaten.
When Metro went down to ten men with a quarter of an hour remaining, South East coach Glen Roland must have sensed that his young team’s time had finally come.
In the reverse fixture in Round 8, it had been a quickly-taken free kick which caught out a naive United to settle the points at Pembroke Park. A free kick was the difference again this time, although there was absolutely nothing 15-year-old South East 'keeper Jesse Mason could do to stop Kent’s spectacular effort with ten to play.
Earlier, the reserve teams fought out an entertaining battle in windy conditions, a couple of late goals putting the gloss on a 5-2 win for the hosts.
Riley Allchin’s third of the season had given the visitors the lead after half an hour, while Glen Roland notched his second goal in as many weeks midway through the second half.
The record books will record two more defeats, but the manner of this week's performances will have really pleased the coach. Both teams fought with great spirit and showed genuine quality at both ends of the field, providing Metro with the kind of competitive outing which would not have been thought likely after the opening day of the season, when a Metro in cruise control could even afford the luxury of missing two penalties on their way to an 8-0 rout.
Earlier in the day, Luca Paolini’s U13s maintained their advantage at the top of the league, as goals from Ben (2), Jacob, Alex and Eli saw off the Hobart Zebras in a 5-2 win at Queens Walk, while an unusually subdued U15s wasted the opportunity to capitalise on Huon Valley’s surprise draw at Cygnet in the Huon derby. A victory could have seen United claim top spot on the ladder. However, bottom club South Hobart Blue provided stubborn opposition on a difficult Wellesley Park pitch, turning around an early goal from Brad’a corner to lead 3-1 midway through the second half.
Ethan halved the arrears with a goal of the season contender from 25 yards, before Dane levelled the scores late on. But it was enough for the delighted South Hobart girls (plus a couple of guests) to claim their first point of the season.
The SEU Ladies had a bye, while Antony Appleby's U12s showed more great signs of improvement in the Friday evening game (scores not recorded in U12s).
Thanks also to Jo Dingle for sending through some of these pictures from Saturday’s senior games.