There’s something special about the collegiate cup, a competition where minnows take on CSL giants, cricket scores are plentiful & the occasional upset can happen to any team on cup day.
The Uni Whites 4’s have made it through to the second round of the cup a couple of times before, but facing Uni SA 2B promised to be a daunting task. Not only were they 2 divisions higher than us, but they’d also finished runner up in 2B last season scoring 88 goals! So we were expecting a tough encounter.
Coach Brez though had done his homework… This was a game that was going to be won in the dugout… On Thursday, instead of a big training session, we spent 45 minutes in the clubroom looking at a whiteboard. Brez made the bold decision to name his team the night before the game & he’d set us up with tactics to pressure our more highly rated opponents.
Of course much of what we saw & heard on Thursday night was quickly forgotten, but we did learn who has the guts to call out a weak link in the team (thanks Adi), and that no matter what happened on Friday, we’d be the first team – either through to the next round, or to have the long weekend off. the important thing was we’d be first.
Friday arrived, and unsurprisingly there were some late withdrawals meaning the author made the starting XI and young buck Jason Nichol was promoted to the bench.
This was a first night time outing at Magill & the lights could be described as adequate rather than dazzling. What wasn’t adequate though was Uni SA’s organisation. Kick off was 20 minutes late as the Uni SA boys dilly-dallied with the team sheet & most of the Whites boys were cold when the whistle finally arrived.
Early on Uni SA showed some quick movement & passing and pressured us from the outset. They scored after 10 minutes with a flowing piece of play in which no Whites player touched the ball from behind half-way until it was plucked out of the back of the net.
Our boys responded strongly though, with Bez and Saber working hard in the midfield, we managed to get a lovely through ball for Wez whose shot was well saved by the youthful Tony Zollo in goals.
As the half wore on, we picked up the speed of the game. The boys began to pick up more tackles which stifled Uni SA’s attacks, and Ollie and Eddie were hitting targets out of defence, which allowed our wingers Phil and Bobby to push Uni SA’s defence back.
Soon one of these breaking plays saw Bobby run at his defender & get to the bye line before a lovely cut back found Johnny ‘The Lotus’ Wilson inside the box – his first time strike wrong footed the keeper & we were back in the game at 1-all.
Unfortunately from the kick off, Uni SA again showed their skill and speed & in a mirror image of their first goal, they again worked it from the centre of the pitch to the back of the net without us getting a touch (although Rob was desperately unlucky, with the ball somehow going under his tackle for the last pass). Down 2-1 & looking down the barrel.
Not long after this we won our first corner of the match & Steve had given us a set play to use. Whilst that didn’t work – Johnny was blatantly pushed in the back, yet somehow no penalty was given.
We had another opportunity to show of Brez’ coaching panache however, as our first free kick allowed Bez to run onto the ball & bang it beautifully, it hit the crossbar & sailed over, but it did look pretty.
Thankfully though the football gods eventually smiled on us, as again we managed to get behind Uni SA’s defence, this time through Phillip. Just as he shot he was tackled & the ref adjudged it a penalty!
Captain Bobby stepped up to take it & netted it with aplomb. Then something odd happened… Bobby celebrated the goal, but there was no rifling through his pants, no reveal of a sweaty-ball-sack-smelling wrestling mask, no hysterical laughter from the dozens of Uni Whites who came to support us, just a few high-fives and a walk back to the centre spot.
Whilst the celebrations were subdued, the boys were still pretty happy & when the half-time whistle sounded with the score at 2 all, we knew we were right in this match.
Bez had taken a nasty knock just before the half, so he was the only substitution at the break with Homood coming on to replace him in a like-for-like move.
At the half, Brez was pretty happy with proceedings, he told us to keep the short passing game going & importantly to run at the Uni SA defence, who were struggling with the pace of our boys (I don’t get to say that too often!).
The boys started brightly, with Saber & Homood working some nice plays in the midfield & Phil and Bobby again pushing Uni back.
Defensively Glynn was cutting off all the long balls & our boys were doing a good job of nullifying the pacey Uni SA attackers.
One Ollie interception, allowed him to provide Phil a nice ball to run onto. Phil outsprinted his opponent & worked himself to the edge of the box. The keeper came at him, but Phil passed instead of shooting allowing Wez a straightforward finish from 12 yards! 3-2 and the boys were pumped!
Once we had the lead things got interesting. A couple of pretty ordinary tackles lead to Saber coming off for Darren & then both Bobby and Phil being hacked pretty savagely. Daniel and Jason came on for Jonny & Wez as we attempted to shore up the midfield.
Our old friend Tony Zollo got fired up in the opposition goal, at one stage accusing our spectators of stealing the match ball in what was a pretty funny exchange.
Each time the ball went down the hill (those of you who’ve played at Magill would know it’s pretty steep), we decided not to get our keeper Glynn to fetch it we asked for the second match ball (which was already down the hill), at this point the game would stop for minutes at a time – Uni SA had 20 or 30 spectators, but none of them was willing to help their team by fetching the ball.
Not surprisingly though, this did seem to fire up the Uni SA boys, and with their superior fitness starting to show through the whites goal was under siege.
In the final 20 minutes our defence was sorely tested, but Glyn was excellent in goals & our back 4 held firm – Rob & Eddie were outstanding during this period, repelling dozens of Uni SA Forays.
In the end though the final whistle blew & we were battered, bruised, exhausted and victorious! The song was sung with vigour and we also gave 3 cheers to the Uni SA boys who pushed us to the brink!
A special win for the boys & a real confidence booster for the season. A final word of thanks must go to the spectators who made it out to support us – Family, Friends, Committee members, the President and players from the A’s, B’s, C’s and D’s came along & we definitely appreciated the atmosphere they created! We’ll do our best to return the favour during the course of the season.
That’s it! #RoadtoBurton