This was a repeat of our first game of the season, which had been a comfortable win, marred by some unnecessary angst, raised voices and the odd bit of swearing following an eccentric refereeing performance involving the award of 3 penalties. Two of these (ours) were nailed on pens and one (theirs) involved their forward “tripping over flat grass” (credit: M. Clissold) with our defenders nowhere near. However, this hadn’t stopped Belnorth arguing and complaining incessantly throughout most of the second half.
This time, things would be different, we thought, and so on a beautiful balmy late Autumn morning, we turned up at Giralang looking forward to a nice game of footy, played in the right spirit, followed by a couple of cleansing ales on the sidelines. How wrong we were on all counts!
The game started pretty evenly – Belnorth, despite their lowly position in the table, closed us down quickly and hammered into their tackles. There was also a little bit of off the ball nudging and verbal niggling, but nothing untoward at this stage. ANU looked solid and played the ball well around the back and out from defence, but for the first 20 minutes or so didn’t create much in the way of chances. Belnorth were more direct and nearly took the lead when they drew a fantastic double save from Juan of our two Juans (Guerschman) – who parried a shot and then recovered almost instantly to smother another shot from the rebound on the goal line – top drawer Juan!
The value of those saves was enforced just a few minutes later when we took the lead. A couple of nice passes from midfield found Sam bearing down on goal just inside the box, and he shot first time. The ball cannoned off the defenders knee nicely into the path of Pat, who took a touch inside the defender, and was just about to hammer it beautifully into the top corner (writes Pat!) when his standing leg was clipped. The ref’s whistle had hardly died down when I was on my feet, ball in hands, striding towards the spot. 1-0 at half time.
The half time team talk was spot on – we were doing OK, didn’t look overly troubled and were passing the ball nicely. Chris and Juan L on the wings had the beating of their respective full backs but we just needed to speed up our passing and move it wider more quickly to stretch a determined Belnorth.
Early in the second half we scored again, when their keeper rolled the ball to their central defender, who obligingly trod on the ball and fell over. Moving like a young whippet, I swooped and slotted home past the immobile keeper – who was understandably transfixed by the calamity in front of him. 2-0 and surely a smooth final 30 minutes was ahead of us as we looked to make it 6 wins out of 7.
Just a few minutes later, however, all hell broke loose. A through ball down the wing resulted in me and their defender reaching the ball at the same time, and the defender took legs and ball. Not sure which was first, but I had no complaints about the challenge as I picked myself up, expecting a throw in or possibly a free kick to us. Bizarrely the Belnorth defenders were incensed “stay on your f…in feet you cheat” being among the kinder words uttered to me as there was jostling when the ref gave a free kick. One of their players got sent off in the melee – either for dissent or kicking the ball away in disgust. From then on things got out of hand, and Ranse wisely took me off for a “breather” (ie to avoid a red card.)