Our senior men’s pre-season program continued to build with a hard-fought 3-2 win over the reigning Southern League 1 Champions, Phoenix Rovers, at Pembroke Park on Saturday afternoon.
In a game played in three 30-minute thirds, our youthful side proved a good match for the vastly experienced Rovers from the outset, with our high energy and neat combination play causing a constant threat on both wings, while the debutant Pullen brothers brought a much-needed calm assurance to the backline.
It was ironic then that a dreadful mix-up on the edge of our own box should prove to be the decisive moment of the opening stanza, allowing the visitors to go into the break a goal to the good.
South East came out strongly in the middle third and it was substitute Jamie Pender – making his first appearance of pre-season – who evened the game up with his very first contribution, a delightful chip over the keeper from the edge of the area.
Jordan Bailey, enjoying a very productive outing on the right wing, was then unfortunate to see a smart finish ruled out for an offside earlier in the build-up, before arguably the game’s stand-out performer, Nathan Daniels, restored the visitors’ advantage with a powerful header from a corner.
In the final half-hour, the home side began to capitalise on its youthful edge, and it came as no surprise when the leveller arrived midway through the term, through a superb curling effort from Nick Roland’s left boot.
There was still time for a final twist in the tale when Brock Adams capped another terrific performance at right-back by bursting forward, twisting deftly past two challenges, and lofting a swerving drive into the top left corner with just seconds remaining.
Following a couple of tough pre-season defeats to Southern Championships rivals, Nelson, and Olympia’s Challenge League team, it was good to see the boys dig in to turn this game around and record a morale-boosting victory.
However, it was the manner of win which will have most pleased coach Glen Roland. There were strong performances all over the park, with clear signs that our players are starting to gel with each other, and three very special individual goals, in what was, by some distance, our best pre-season outing to date.
Of greater concern may be an apparent dearth of goalkeepers, with Phoenix – like Nelson before them – fortunately being gracious enough to allow us to loan one of their custodians, with both ours once again unavailable.
The build-up to the club’s first ever campaign in the Veto Men’s Southern Championships continues apace, with a reverse friendly with Phoenix Rovers at Wentworth Park on Wednesday evening, before the club’s official season launch next Saturday, and a marquee fixture against our great friends and NPL giants, South Hobart Football Club.