It was another breathtaking Saturday of soccer for South East which for so long looked likely to delivery maximum results, only for a cruel twist to rob the seniors at the last gasp.
The action began at Pembroke Park, where a ruthless Under 13s maintained their 100% start to the season, proving far too strong for a young Hobart Zebras outfit, with Eli’s hattrick and braces each for Alex, Ben and Jacob all ultimately usurped by Brigitte’s very popular first-ever goal for the club.
Meanwhile, over at Taroona, our Under 15s were looking to maintain their own 100% record. After labouring to a 1-0 half time lead, courtesy of a trademark strike from Sam, the team turned in a much more professional second half effort, which was rewarded with goals from Brad, Zyhe and a second from Sam, in a game where the margin could have been far wider.
Over at North Warrane, our seniors and reserves were in Southern Championships action against Nelson. The reserves started brightly and the outstanding Walter Dayton put us ahead, before we were reigned back in to go to half time level.
An unfortunate own goal restored our lead before Jono Smith rifled home a cracking third to seal our club’s first-ever senior victory, in doing so lifting us to the heady heights of sixth in the Southern Championship 1.
The seniors, however, knew that their game would be a different proposition. The hosts managed an outstanding draw with then-leaders University last week, in a game they were very unlucky not to win. As a measure of how impressive this point was, Uni today went down narrowly 2-1 to Tasmania’s leading club, Devonport Strikers, in the semi-final of the Lakoseljac Cup – the most prestigious cup competition in the state.
Whilst Nelson themselves were missing a few first-team regulars, South East went into this game minus injured skipper Tony Damm, the Pullen brothers (transferred to Beachside), regular ‘keeper Simon McGuire, first-team stalwart Jamie Pender as well as the cultured Nick Taylor.
Additionally, several exciting young players who had been training with us in recent weeks lined up for today’s game in Nelson colours instead. With our squad arguably at its lowest ebb, coach Glen Roland was left with no option but to rely on his existing supply of teenagers once again.
Incredibly, after twenty relatively even minutes, we took the lead, when Andy Rhodes floated a delicious long-range free kick perfectly for in-form seventeen-year-old striker Blaise Booth to dive in to head home his second goal in successive games.
As expected, the hosts upped the ante after the break and we spent much of the second half defending deep. However, we were able to restrict their chances to hopeful crosses and optimistic long-range efforts, and it was United who had the best opportunities to score, with Reuben Mayo denied by the crossbar, and Blaise Booth and Mayo also denied by heroic last-gasp blocks by Nelson defenders.
With 10 minutes to go, a lapse in concentration at the back saw a long Nelson clearance find its way right through to the substitute striker, who raced away and finished with aplomb to level the scores.
The United defence battened down the hatches as Nelson poured forward in search of the winner, and remained stoic right until a soft free-kick was awarded to Nelson in the third minute of stoppage time. A decent ball in, a bit of a scramble, and the ball was in the net, and the game was over.
While the hosts left the field to jubilantly sing out the club song in the change rooms, United – with six teenagers on the pitch at the end – were left to swallow a rather bitter pill, having stolen defeat from the jaws of an incredible victory.
Even so, it was a day for the club to be proud of – in every respect. Slowly but surely we are are earning acceptance and respect at all levels.
Go South East!