A strong reserves line up took to Skinner Reserve as Old Hill looked to continue their strong start to the season and keep the pressure on the top two. Having lost Andy to the Seniors, Phil Sing selflessly took over the role of custodian behind an unchanged back 4 of John, Alan, Nick and Salmon. In midfield Alex took over from Adam (who had also been promoted to the Seniors on the back of some fine holding performances), and lined up alongside Billy in the middle, with Rich and Ellis reprising their marauding winger roles of previous weeks. Mick started his second game up front alongside Paul C who came in for the suspended Scottish John.
Old Hill dominated the early exchanges with Rich, Ellis and John each creating decent chances for either themselves or their team mates, but the first real cheer of the afternoon was reserved for Rachel offering around a bag of Gummy Bears on the sideline.
After 10 minutes Mick found himself clean through on goal, only for Ellis to be rule offside when it appeared as though he wasn’t involved in the play. Unfortunately this would prove to be an all-too-common theme throughout the first half as Maribyrnong stoically maintained a suicidally high line. It’s unclear how many such calls were made against people actively involved in the play and how many were for those who happened to be caught sightseeing, but in any case the game has to be played by the whistle. It just happened that the whistle seemed all too often to be invoked on some of Old Hill’s best forays forward.
Regardless of such shenanigans, Paul opened the scoring with a header at the far post after screaming at Alex to deliver it in from wide on the right. He got exactly what he asked for as Alex picked him out and Paul made no mistake from 3 yards. 0-1.
The Maribyrnong featured a number of players that could best be described as ‘nuggety’, but one in particular stood out for his flamboyant disregard for the trim physique of your standard elite sportsman. Even so he managed on more than one occasion to bamboozle the Old Hill defence. Both Ellis and Alan were first half victims of his finesse, comprehensively nutmegged by this modern day Ronaldo (the fat one, obviously). And yet somehow both managed to avoid scrutiny at the kangaroo court. How did that one manage to slip through?
Despite #16’s heroics, Old Hill continued to press and it was only a matter of time before they struck again. This time Paul turned provider, getting to the by-line, whipping in a low cross, and Rich turned the ball home. 0-2 to the Old Hill.
Contiguous with the theme of last week, John used the opportunity of a break in play to sneak a drink of water from the sidelines. Those on the bench started discussing the logistics of holding an intervention. John, if you’re reading this, it’s only because we’re worried about you and care for you. Xxx.
John need not have worried about when he’d next be able to take a drink, as Mick managed to bamboozle the Maribyrnong left back, get to the by-line and deliver a pinpoint cross to Paul who, unmarked again, headed his second from 10 yards out. 0-3.
In a bid to claim another drink, John accidentally shirt-fronted Maribyrnong’s young #10 as he tried skipping down the wing. Despite his claims of innocence the ref awarded a free kick, but the young fellow was immediately switched to the left wing to avoid any more awkward run ins with poor old John.
Play was soon back up the other end however, and Ellis seemed to smack the ball straight into Paul, and yet the ref awarded Old Hill a corner. Nick risked nosebleed and barged his way into the box. After a bit of a scrap the ball fell to him near the by-line and he crossed to the far post, where Paul- or more accurately Paul’s nipple- was waiting to prod the ball across the line. A fine and legless 20 minute hat trick for the returning forward. 0-4, with each assist coming from a different player, a sure sign this side is really gelling and getting the most out of each others attributes.
Goals were flowing thick and fast, and the Maribyrnong goalkeeper seemed to have given up, leaning on his goalpost and staring off into the ether. He was still in the same place when Ellis tried his luck with a bicycle kick which flew agonisingly wide. He tried it again a minute later, but didn’t really commit to it in the same fashion and it sailed high and wide.
Up the other end JD was showing great form as linesman, fashioning himself a lovely hat out of his flag to ward off the surprisingly warm sun.
Chances kept coming for Old Hill, but none managed to trouble the scorers further in the first half. Players started trying to show off, attempting the more difficult passes or shots when another of the team mates was perhaps better placed to take advantage of some lax defending. Even John was starting to feel sorry for the opposition, giving away a foul throw much to the amusement of his own bench, including some who have been guilty of the same offense in the past (Stixy). He did try to make amends late in the half however, as his cross/shot came back off the crossbar. Ellis failed his attempt at the crossbar challenge on the follow up, leaving John to take home the pot of gold at the end of the day.
In goal Philly was eating his own hands in boredom. In fact he was so lethargic from his protein loading that some may question whether he even noticed when Maribyrnong had their first attempt on goal as the half was coming to an end. It didn’t matter though as the ball was always swerving wide of the upright.
So at half time Old Hill had opened up a handy 0-4 lead. Paul’s hat trick was certainly a highlight, and as is somehow customary at Old Hill he was substituted for his gallant efforts. Ian came on the replace him up front, and Sammy, back from injury, came on for Rich on the left.
The less that is said of the second half the better, aside from a couple of moments of glory by Salmon. The game was spluttering towards its inevitable conclusion, and Rob made a couple more changes in bringing Gary and Charlie on for Mick and Billy. Ian found himself offside by a cumulative 600m throughout the half due to a combination of Maribyrnong’s suicidally high line and poorly timed passes (not the runs themselves. those runs were impeccable). Maribyrnong even managed to get a shot on target, but it happened to hit Philly as he was gazing off at some puppies frolicking in the distance. Sammy was putting himself about in midfield with his usually verve, winning the ball before screaming “Go you Fuckers” in a fine display of teamsmanship. An opponent silenced him with a swift punch to the head.
But Salmon, who took it upon himself to lead the line, would soon resuscitate the game. Alex played the ball to Salmon on the left, who swam forward through the sea of Ian’s remnant sweat before firing a torpedo past the advancing keeper. 0-5.
He had another after he lined up Charlie’s pull-back from the by-line. His first time shot was a cracker, but the keeper managed to get a touch to send it over the bar. It must have stung though.
A minute later Salmon made no mistake. In space at the left hand corner of the box he took a touch and curling an absolute beauty into the top corner of the net. 0-5. As with his last goat he wheeled away nodding at his own brilliance and with his hand raised to accept the plaudits of his peers. And for this gesture he earned himself the Muumuu, and rightly so.
And that was it. Another win for the Reserves, which keeps them within touch of the top two. At the risk of putting the mocker on them, if they keep displaying the form that they’ve shown in the past few weeks they might just see themselves challenging for the title at the pointy end of the season. A long way to go, to be sure, but the seeds of something special have been planted.
0-6 to the Old Hill Wanderers.
The Seniors team looked to build on the momentum created by the Reserves and finally ignite their spluttering start to the season. Andy and Adam were welcomed back into the Seniors team after hitting some fine form in the Reserves in a move that should hearten other players on the fringe of the first team and spur on the Seniors to some better performances. They lined up as a 4-4-2: Andy, BK, JD, Stu, Adam, Stixy, Josh, Colm, Nico, Az, Jules.
And they started brightly. Az was making a constant nuisance of himself up front, pressing the defenders, then running on to a ball over the top from Josh, before taking a good touch and shooting. His arm started to go up in celebration, but the ball rolled agonizingly the wrong side of the post.
In the early stages the ball rarely escaped the Maribyrnong half, although few clear-cut chances were created. Az saw a header fly over, before Jules made the mistake of challenging JD in the air from a corner, and yet he somehow managed to win the header! Still, the attack petered out and it came to naught but bragging rights.
Back in defense, JD had a go at bumming the Maribyrnong striker, and the ref, perturbed, gave a free kick. Even so, it certainly gave the striker something to think about. Maribyrnong hit the free hard and flat and it looked to be heading into the roof of the net, only for Andy, ever alert, to stick out a hand and touch it over.
As Salmon was making some metaphor combining grapes and crack, the ball was floated into the box and looked to be a comfortable take for the keeper, only for Jules to throw off his invisibility cloak at the last minute to reveal him all up in the keeper’s business. The keeper threw the ball out for a corner in terror. The cleanliness of his pants was also called into question. The resultant corner bobbled around in the box, and Stu was alert enough to pull the ball back for Colm to rifle into the net. 0-1.
Adam and BK switched wings, but it was Nico who had the next attempt at goal, dribbling into the box (*snigger*) before shooting. The keeper made a flying dive, but the shot itself was at least 30 yards off target, leading to speculation that the keeper’s girlfriend must have been watching from up in the stadium behind us.
Stixy found himself in the ref’s book for kicking the ball away, shortly followed by Nico for a spontaneous bout of the giggles, while Rachel brought the gummy bears back out. While these three events were almost certainly unlinked, each drew enthusiastic applause nonetheless. But this was all spoiled by Stevie W admission that he’s recently been “drinking JD. I had about 7 shots of JD.” Half digested gummy bears and grapes were vomited up onto the pitch, and my stomach is churning again just from having to write about it. I have a feeling that the phrase team-bonding has been taken too far by some on the team, and while their argument that protein is indeed an essential part of a balanced diet, the mere thought of it makes me pale.
The action on field was becoming increasingly disjointed, with Old Hill unable to put the game to bed, and JD giving away one free kick after the other in front of the bench. How he avoided the ire of the ref I doubt we’ll ever know. But as the frees were awarded in front of the ever-mature Old Hill bench, each kick was accompanied by a unique fart or straining noise. And so as the 10th such free was awarded, this time by Adam getting involved in the fun, the Maribyrnong midfielder stayed down, and needed a team mate to help him hug it out.
Not content with merely conceding frees to entertain the supporters; JD went one step further and made an unnecessary clearance straight into Sammy’s face. For the life of us we can’t work out why Sammy didn’t simply use his tried and true handball technique to save his beautiful face, but his kangaroo court defense went along the lines of “Get Fucked”. So there you go. I report, you decide.
Old Hill took a surprisingly narrow 0-1 lead into the break, and ghosts of previous games where they hadn’t closed out their dominance started wailing in the distance.
The game seemed to open up a bit in the second half, with both teams having chances. Indeed Maribyrnong probably had the best of the chances, however Andy was equal to the task; his positional sense more that making up for anything he may lack in the agility stakes.
Maribyrnong started using their excessively high line, cramping play into a 10 meter high area. But if there’s one thing you should know about Old Hill, it’s that if you insist of playing a high line against Old Hill, make sure Jules isn’t on the pitch. Dom played the ball over the top, and Jules timed his run to perfection, taking time to steady himself before chipping the keeper delightfully. 0-2, and finally a little bit of breathing space for Old Hill.
Maribyrnong staunchly refused to learn from their mistake. Both Az and Jules were springing the offside trap with regularity, however they couldn’t take advantage of their chances.
Perhaps surprisingly it wasn’t a careful springing of the offside trap that brought about the third goal, but a corner. JD managed to bundle the ball across the line, but there was some confusion as to whether Adam had got the last touch on the line, or even if the goal had been ruled out for a push. Both teams started to set themselves out for a free kick to Maribyrnong, before the ref finally decided to allow the goal to stand. The official documentation probably says that JD was the goal scorer, and despite Adam’s claims that he didn’t get a touch on it, I am tempted to award the goal to him anyway, mainly because I don’t want JD climbing any further above me in the goal scoring stakes. Selfish? Perhaps, but I’m the one with the keyboard. Great goal Adam. 0-3.
Old Hill won another corner, and this time it was Stu’s turn to stride up from the back and win the header, however his shot came back off the bar and the follow up shot was blocked on the line and cleared.
But Old Hill needn’t wait long for another, as Dom sprung the offside trap, chested the ball down superbly, crossed to Jules in the box, who took a touch and rolled the ball past the keeper. It looked for all the world that it was heading in, but Az tapped it across the line to make sure. 0-4.
It was Az’s last involvement, and as he crossed the sideline, and perhaps preempting the scorn of his peers, claimed that the ball was definitely going out for a throw in and if it weren’t for his intervention the score would still be 0-3.
Stevie W, an earlier substitute for Josh, ignored his coach’s order to slot into centre back to charge forward a couple of times, and was called upon to take a few shots from inside the box. But in true Stevie W fashion, he spurned them all. For shame.
As the ref was preparing his whistle to blow for full time, John called for Cal to take on his man. But Cal’s mind couldn’t keep up with the elegance of his footwork, as he pirouetted upon the ball before falling over as if shot. It was a lovely touch of culture, and a perfectly satisfactory metaphor for something none of us could quite grasp but are sure was incredibly highbrow and witty.
0-4 to Old Hill at the end, and a much needed win that sees the Seniors push back up towards mid-table. Hopefully this performance Spurs them on and get a good run of form going to surge on up the table.
Having experimented successfully with Total Football tactics in the Cup the week before, Coach Rob reverted to a classic 4-4-2 for Old Hill Wanderers’ league match against Trojan Athletic. Andy started in goal behind Johnboy, Alan, Nick Shaw and Salmon in defense, Rich, Billy, Adam and Ellis in midfield and New John and Conroy forming a combative strike force.
A stiff wind was howling across Clifton Park, and the early thinking was that it would slightly favour the team kicking towards the Sydney Rd end. And so it turned out to be. Alan played a long ball/hacked a clearance over the top, and the wind carried it not only over the midfield, but also over a static Trojan defense. New John seemed to be the only person alert to this possibility, and he scampered forward to collect and place the ball into the net. 1-0.
John took advantage of the stop in play to grab a drink from the sidelines.
And it could have been 2-0 when OHW won a free on the halfway line. Trojan again set out a high line despite the wind, and John floated the ball behind them. Rich met it first time, only to see his effort bounce away off the crossbar.
In an effort to slow the game down, Trojan set about belting the ball away as far as possible at every given opportunity. With balls flying over the fence willy-nilly, Philly found himself a flat match ball and set about furiously pumping in what appeared to the untrained eye to be a well-practiced action. Indeed, he was so excited by it all that he felt the need to streak onto the field before security could be called and have him evicted with a witches-hat demurely covering his shame.
John braved the shenanigans in the stands to grab a drink of water.
Old Hill were putting in a dominant performance and could have been even further ahead, with Ellis and Conroy both nearly converting well orchestrated chances.
With talk on the sidelines starting to drift towards memories of past Old Hill dominance being undone by profligacy in front of goal and unaccountable bad luck at the other end, Billy collected the ball 35 yards out. After sidestepped one opponent as if he wasn’t there, Billy launched a sweet curler over the goalkeeper and into the top corner. 2-0 and justly deserved.
John took the opportunity to take on more water.
The Trojan players looked like they were suffering through a series of existential crises- their eyes blank and imploring; their mouths twitching and slack. John laughed in their faces and had a drink while collecting the ball for a throw in, and the ref, in exasperation, finally told him off. Good ref. Won’t stop John though. He’s a force unto himself.
While John was having another drink on the sideline, New John was showing off on the field. A ball was played in to his feet, and he nonchalantly flicked it first time over his shoulder to Ellis, who dinked it over the defense and back into the path of New John, who rolled it home. 3-0.
Would you believe John had another drink while the ball was plucked out of the back of the net? Far be it from me to be casting aspersions, but could it be that he was hungover? Just speculating of course; putting it out there for the universe to mull over…
Old Hill were dominating. It was the first match that Rich, Billy, New John and Conroy had played together, but it looked like they had been playing together their whole lives, instinctively knowing where to move and which ball to play. Pressure was being applied all over the field, and was being coupled with some lovely skill going forward. Andy could have fashioned a hammock out of the net and taken a kip for all the action he was seeing.
But then all of a sudden he was seeing some action, albeit just to pick the ball out of his net. Out of nowhere, what we can only presume to have been Sammy dressed in some superhero outfit, streaked onto the field to handball in his own penalty area. The ref, baffled by the sudden appearance and just as sudden disappearance of this Handball Vigilante, waited a full minute before blowing his whistle and pointing to the spot where the Handball Vigilante was last seen, which also happened to coincide with the position of the penalty spot. Confusion reigned, with Trojan insisting that as the ref had indeed pointed to the spot that he could only have meant for a penalty to be awarded. The ref, not wanting to look the fool, duly agreed. 3-1.
John, disgusted, took a drink.
Having scored, Trojan stepped up a gear and started to really press for the first time. Fingernails were being chewed on the sidelines, but the half time whistle saved them from being taken down to the quick.
While John had a drink, Coach Rob took the opportunity of the break to complimenting his charges on how nice their socks looked. Meanwhile, not 20 yards away, the Trojan players were receiving the full hairdryer treatment. At least we now know what Fergie is doing in his retirement.
Early in the second half Nick Shaw could have brought a long ball down and played the ball forwards again, but that simply isn’t the Wigan way. While not a supporter of his hometown team, he still felt the need to celebrate their FA Cup triumph, smashing the ball into a tram on Sydney Road. A fine celebration and worth every sent of the bill for a new windscreen if they ever catch up with him.
Once the glass shards had been removed from the ball, play resumed. Salmon slid through the Trojan #14, who hit the ground, dead. A teammate rushed in to deliver the kiss of life, and once he’d brought him back, was thanked with a forthright “FUCK.OFF.”, which can only be regarded as a solid display of team spirit.
John concurred and claimed another drink.
As Old Hill continued where they left off in the first half, New John sprinted forward to try to get on the end of a cross, only to be met by the studs of the onrushing goalkeeper. Despite more of his guts being out of his body than in, the ref stepped up and waved what looked like a red card in his face. My theory is that the ref was merely trying to do a Pantone colour match with New John’s scone*, however no one else saw it that way and New John trudged dejectedly off, followed by Old John who wanted to sneak in yet another drink.
[From New John: in retaliation to the studs-up challenge, New John had yelled “Shut it you fucking dick” at the keeper, however he was looking at the ref at the time. The ref interpreted this as an assault on himself. Red card. Off. Although apparently this isn’t the first time New John has been sent off. Who would have though a redheaded Scot would ever have been booked, let alone sent off? Shocked I am. Shocked.]
It was a true measure of how far this Old Hill Reserves side has come that the sending off did not disrupt their dominance of the match. They continued to press and could have gone further ahead, with Rich shooting wide, then Nick heading over.
Rich manage to hold off 7 defenders, winning a free kick in the process more for the effort than any obvious infringement. With it about 25 out, directly in front everyone though it was a prime position from which Rich could unleash a trademark thunderbolt. However John had different ideas, rushing forward from left back to push Rich over and gleefully smack the ball high and wide of the goal.
Still, while a lesser player could have stormed off in a huff, Rich put himself about with an added fervour. Conroy sent a perfect through ball between two defenders with the outside of his foot, leaving Rich with the comparatively easy task of rounding the keeper and side-footing home. 4-1.
Coach Rob made a few like-for-like changes in bringing Adam, Conroy and Salmon off for Alex, Ian and Juan, and the injection of fresh legs kept Old Hill rolling ever forwards. Ellis won a free in the same spot as the previous one and the whole crowd screamed as one for Rich to have his chance. Although perhaps not wanting to rub salt into the wounds of the 1st team coach and chief selector, he duly smacked the ball straight into the wall.
With 5 minutes left, Coach Rob decided that it was time to unleash the star of the 2010 championship winning side- Charlie- Billy making way. The crowd rose as one to welcome him back for his first match in over a year. However Charlie refused to take the advice of the bench to ‘shoooooot!’ whenever he had the ball, instead preferring to actually, you know, play football. Poor form Charlie.
And with that, the ref whistled for full time. 4-1 to the Old Hill, a win that lifts them up to 3rd on the table behind Spartans and Hume. It was a beautiful match to watch; undoubtedly the best full 90 minutes of football ever played by the Old Hill Reserves. Against one of the traditional frontrunners in the league, they dominated possession and territory, dictating terms across the park. Every player did their part, and most importantly played like a real team. Inspiring stuff.
* obligatory redhead joke
As the weather cooled and the clouds fattened and darkened overhead, Stevie P made the bold prediction that it wasn’t going to rain. Even before the two teams took to the field he was proven wrong. While play got under way at Clifton Park, most of the Reserves and spectators were to be found scurrying around to the pavilion opposite.
On the field the match started at a high tempo, with Trojan having the best of the running and Stu and JD having a lot of work to do to nullify the direct play of their opponents. And it wasn’t long before Trojan got the result they were looking for. Another long ball over the top caused confusion between JD and Meaney, and a striker was on hand to tap in. 0-1, and not the best start for Old Hill.
After this early set back, The Wanderers lifted, with Roddy using his pace and strength to find some space on the right and cut into the box. As he was setting himself to shoot the full back hauled him down, leaving the ref with little choice but to ignore Andy’s protests from the pavilion and point to the penalty spot. Bill stepped forward and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner. 1-1.
With the scoreboard back to parity Old Hill built into the game. The hyperactive Roddy won a free near half way and tried to take it quickly, only for it to be brought back, allowing a stretched Trojan defence to re-organise (more on this later). Then Colm had a rasping strike from nowhere. Half-chances sure, but a clear sign that Old Hill were definitely gaining the ascendency in the match.
Meanwhile in the stands, Nick Shaw was talking about “slipping into happy baby”. He claims this to be a yoga term, but his peers seem a little more circumspect. The antics in the pavilion, coupled with the frantic intensity of the match meant that my pen was having difficulty keeping up with the action. Both sides seemed to be nullifying each other, with the physicality, particularly from the Trojan defence, reaching a crescendo.
Indeed, it was after a scrap in the box that the ball was squeezed out by a Trojan striker to the edge of the box, and an onrushing team mate buried the chance to make it 1-2.
With the lead regained, tackles were flying in hard and fast, with the ref allowing potentially dangerous challenges to go. Things were getting heated on field, and with the rain any slide tackles (of which there were many) were now tobogganing an extra few meters, which in a congested midfield were proving a definite hazard, and leading to more than one Trojan bringing down his own team mate.
Sammy re-emerged after his presumed cameo in the Reserves match and talk on the sidelines quickly descended into the realm of ‘toe-anal’. I think that pretty much sums up what was occurring on the pitch as well...
Finally the ref blew for half time, allowing the players to regroup, splint up their broken bones and strap their organs back into their bodies.
But the second half continued in the same vein as the first. The pace and intensity were electric, and tackles kept flying in from both sides, although now Trojan started adding another string to their bow- going down screaming under the slightest of touches, prompting jeers from the sidelines.
Roddy once again won a free kick 30 yards out, but went more for the power over precision approach and the ball sailed well over the bar.
After some more patchy play, Roddy and a Trojan defender slide tackled each other, and to everyone’s amazement, Roddy was sent off. After 55 minutes of some frankly appalling tackles, Roddy slides in once, and in the same manner as at least a dozen tackles before it and the ref gives a second (second?) yellow card. It remains unclear whether the screams of the defender and the comment “he’s broken his leg” by his colleague had any influence in the decision, but in this observers eyes, and given the context of the match, it wasn’t even a foul, let alone a booking.
Once Roddy had trudged off, joined his team mates in the pavilion, and had been commiserated for his bad luck, the reasoning for the first yellow was explained: “for taking the free kick before the whistle.” Yep. A booking for trying to keep the game flowing.
With his team down to 10 men, Coach John opted for an injection of pace out wide, hoping to sit back and hold off the Trojans before launching swift counter-attacks. Tom and Jules were brought on for Stixy and Josh.
But it was no avail as a speculative ball into the box took the faintest of touches of the strikers head and looped over and beyond Meaney into the net. 1-3.
And it went from bad to worse when a free kick was awarded for what I personally suspected to be a dive at the edge of the box, and the striker, miraculous healed, stroked it into the bottom corner. 1-4.
Both teams took the opportunity to make double substitutions, with Dom and Cal making way for BK and Nico.
With the result now seemingly a formality, some of the fire went out of the match. The Wanderer’s heads dropped and they started trying to make things happen by attempting miracle balls rather than playing the easy ball, while Trojans tactics dammed any flow that the game may have had.
After a couple of half-chances at the other end, Trojans scored again. A corner was swung in from the right to the edge of the 6-yard box, which Meaney came to claim but happened to spill it and following the resultant melee the ball somehow found its way into the net. 1-5.
Old Hill did manage to get a consolation goal with the last move of the match. Tom found himself with space to run into on the left, before squaring the ball from the goal line. The keeper tried to palm it to safety but only found Az, who made no mistake from 12 yards.
Full Time. 2-5.
It was a combative match, and Old Hill went toe-to toe with the highly fancied Trojans for the first half, but a soft dismissal put paid to any real hope Old Hill had of getting something out of the game. Most players will be licking their physical wounds as well as their mental ones. I have no problem with sides choosing to play a physical brand of football, but when those same players then start going down screaming under the slightest touch, then I feel those teams run the risk of losing the respect of their peers. Sure it may get the points, but at what cost?
But enough moaning about the opposition. Old Hill proved that they can go toe-to-toe with the team placed #2 in the league when they have 11 men, but when taken down to 10 it is a bridge too far for this mangled metaphor. Old Hill, confronted by an extremely physical brand of football were unable to impose their own style onto the match, instead resorting to trying to match Trojan at their long-ball game. In the end, it was like trying to argue with an idiot: first they bring you down to their level, and then they beat you with experience.
Old Hill Wanderers Reserves started their 2013 Invitational Cup campaign under cloudy Brunswick skies, a chilly wind blowing across the ground from the north. Rob fielded a strong team, with Andy donning the gloves behind a back 3 of Alan, the returning JD, and Nick Shaw. Cal and Billy sat back in midfield and broke up play brilliantly, feeding Ellis and John out wide where the Wanderers really took a lacklustre Monash Gryphon apart in the first half. Ian, Dom and Paul prowled front and centre making space and providing direct options for a defence ever alert to the possibility of a swift counter attack. But it was out wide where Old Hill found early joy with Dom, Ellis and John exploiting the space allowed them and getting to the by-line to whip in dangerous crosses. It was from one such cross from John that fell lovingly onto Billy ‘s head, and despite Billy’s protestations before the game that he couldn't head the ball he cushioned it beautifully into the back of the net. 1-0 to the Old Hill.
Ellis and Dom were doing all the damage, and it was just rewards when the pair combined to make it 2-0. After some great one touch passing through midfield, Dom ran at the defenders deep on the left, cut inside and sent a delicious ball across the 6-yard line with the outside of his right boot, and Ellis was alert to stick his foot out and put it in the back of the net with aplomb. 2-0.
Cal and Billy were dictating play in the middle, majestically striding forward and spraying delicious cross-field balls at will. Each Wanderer was doing his bit to close down and harry the opposition, but were repeatedly pulled up by the ref for what he perceived as bullying. John flew into a few typically bone-shattering challenges before one tackl-ee finally took umbrage and spoke his mind, to which John merely swaggered away drawing the ire of the ref and drawing a booking. Soon after, JD (aka Fabio)- long blonde locks flowing, olive skin glistening and shirt threatening to tear due to his rippling physique- should have earned a yellow for firstly completing a successful pass, then having a Monash forward clatter into his taut pecs and bounce off across the halfway line. The Romanian judge gave the landing a 9.45. But how dare JD treat the opposition with such contempt.
JD’s cavalier ways must have got Stevie P’s and Stixy’s hormones surging as they could be found on the sidelines squabbling over who would retrieve the errant match balls, both wanting to be the one to return them to the clutches of their heroes. Relax guys, there’s enough man to go around.
Even the Monash defenders were trying to get in on the action, with one trying to hug Cal as he surged into the box. The ref, obviously aroused, thought that was fair enough and allowed play to continue unabated.
At 2-0 at half time, Old Hill felt as though they had the game sewn up. Rob made a trio of tactical changes. With Old Hill feeling comfortable with their performance so far, it was a different Monash that emerged for the second half. They had a renewed purpose and chased the ball and closed down the Wanderers and murmurs on the sidelines started to the effect that Old Hill hadn't killed off the game, as they probably should have done in the first half. Monash started to dominate possession and Old Hill were left to feed of speculative long balls, although one of these did lead to a great chance for Paul who hit a first time shot into the side netting from 18 yards.
Billy used his great vision to pick out Rich rushing forward. He pulled the ball back to Salmon on the edge of the box, but his ‘shot’ almost went out for a throw in.
The misses started to look more costly as Monash pressured. One of their forward skipped past a couple of tackles before a chipped toe-poke from near the penalty spot lobbed over Andy and into the top corner. 2-1, and game well and truly on.
Monash continued to press and were successful in narrowing the pitch more to their suiting, however a quick break by Old Hill saw a Monash defender, under pressure from Dom, launch a spectacular clearance/shot from the half-way line over his own keeper, who had crept out to the edge of the box, and bounced into the vacant net. One of the finest own goals you are ever likely to see (or so I am told; my vision of the clearance/shot blocked by JD’s glorious blonde locks, which I can reliably report smells like fresh orange peel and frolicking puppies). 3-1.
The 2-goal buffer was restored and some of the steam went out of the game, however Monash did manage to create a couple more chances which, on another day, could have found the back of the net. The Monash keeper, obviously feeling left out by his team mates toiling down at the other end of the pitch, cried out a heart-rending plea for “someone please talk to me”. No one did. (If you are feeling the same, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636).
With about 15 minutes remaining, Rob made another tactical change, bringing Conroy on to the right to try and stretch the width of the field, with Ian making way and Rich becoming the point man in attack. But before he could have an impact, more direct play from Monash saw the ball deflect off Alan and into the path of an onrushing striker, who thankfully shot just wide when one-on-one with Andy.
Monash did manage to get the ball into the Old Hill net for a second time, but the flag was up for the strikers being offside by approximately a mile, twice. These two events finally saw Monash’s belief dry up, and Old Hill once more gained the possession ascendency. After a corner from the left, Dom’s powerful shot was saved by the keeper for a corner, from which a 6-yard scrap gave Nick Shaw a chance to kill the game off completely, but once more the keeper parried well, however only into the path of Rich, who buried the opportunity. 4-1.
And that is how the game finished.
With Old Hill dominating the entirety of first half you could have been forgiven for thinking it was all over, but Monash to their credit dug deep, applied pressure and clawed their way back. However a spectacular own goal effectively killed the match as a true contest. When a Monash forward committed a foul throw in the very last second, Nick felt compelled to scream out “You Beauty”. The ref concurred and blew full time.
Old Hill Wanderers Reserves are through to the next round of the Invitational Cup. ‘You Beauty’ indeed.
Old Hill Wanderers 4-1 Monash Gryphon
Scorers: Billy, Ellis, own goal, Rich
The first outing for Old Hill on actual grass proved to be a surprising challenge; but it wasn't the surface that caused the boys from Old Hill problems, rather it was the typical Melbourne weather. The exposed pitch allowed a gale of a wind to blow down the pitch in one direction.Reserves:
ETA Buffalo 0 - Old Hill Wanderers 0
Andy, Juan, Alan, Nick, John, Ellis, Adam, Billy, Salmon, Ian, Dom
Subs: Simon, Philly,
Old Hill lost the toss, but ETA opted to play into the wind for the first half. This tactic at first baffled the Old Hill contingent, but during the course of the game it became apparent why. The game opened at a frantic pace that didn't subside during the game. ETA pressed the Old Hill players at every opportunity and limited us any time on the ball. As such the game at times was
difficult to keep up with and resulted in a dis-jointed game.
However, it was Old Hill who had the better of the first half and were unlucky not to enter the break with a winning advantage. Billy had poked home from 6 yards out after a goal box scramble, but was controversially rules off-side and so the goal was chalked off.
The sides came out in the second half and Old Hill were keen to push ahead to seek the goal that the first half performance deserved. However, with the boys now playing into the wind, it was at times difficult to get the ball out of our own half. Any opportunities that did break our way, were soon snuffed out by the efficient pressing of the ETA players. With the wind on their backs, ETA too became to push for the elusive goal and had a shot cannon off the cross-bar and bounce on the line, but was ruled by the referee as not fully crossing and so play resumed. As the half wore on, players began to tire with the frantic nature of the game taking its toll on both sides. ETA's pressing game suffered and they started to fly in with some late challenges in an effort to stem Old Hills attacking threat. Soon
enough though, the referee had seen enough and blew for full-time.
All in all a fair result against a strong, organised team under difficult conditions.
ETA Buffalo 3 - Old Hill Wanderers 1
Scorer: Steve W
Stu M, Josh, Stu B, JD, BK, Stixy, Colm, Steve W, Tom, Roddy, Az
Subs: Jules, Cal, Rich
The Seniors game started under a similar hectic pace to that of the reserves. The intensity that ETA like to play their football, and their ability to sustain that over 90 minutes is quite frankly amazing. ETA opted to play with the wind behind them in this game and looked to press home an early advantage. With less than 10 minutes on the clock, they attempted to test Stu M from range, who brilliantly matched the shot but could only parry it into the path of an advancing ETA played who poked home from close range to make it 1-0 to ETA. The half wore on and Old Hill got into the game more by playing controlled passing, on the deck football to counter the effect of the wind. Az found himself clear on a number of occasions, but struggled to get the ball clear of his feet to pull the trigger before being closed down by ETA defenders. With half-time approaching, the game looked to be pretty even, but a melee in the box allowed Steve W to fire in an equaliser to make it 1-1.
Accounts differed at half-time as to who actually got the final touch on the goal. Steve W was claiming it, but Stu B claimed it cannoned in off his knee. Some also say it was going wide before hitting a blade of grass and wrong-footing the 'keeper, and so credit should go to the grass. From the side-lines it looked like an own goal, but this self appointed dubious goals panel has awarded it to Steve W (even if the league doesn't).
Old Hill came out for the second half and raised their game to match the intensity of ETA, but neither side was able to find the break-through. The introduction of Jules early in the second half gave Old Hill a new impetus and we looked threatening for a 10-15 minute spell, with a number of guilt-edged changes whistling narrowly wide or over. Further changes to the Old Hill line-up allowed us to push on and look more threatening, but ETA made changes of their own in the hope of shifting the game in their favour. With the clock running down to the 90-minute mark, but teams seemed settled on a draw. However, ETA had a free kick wide on the right and cleverly played a line-ball that was subsequently squared centrally for the ETA player to send into the back of the net. 2-1 to ETA. The celebrations from the ETA crowd were a little over the top, after all this was a league game and not the World Cup final, but that didn't stop their club appointed barbequer to run up the touch-line tongs in hand.
From the kick-off Old Hill pushed forward and too found themselves with a free-kick. We pushed men forward in the hope of an equaliser that would have been a fair result, but the free kick was cleared by ETA, and with too many men committed forward, ETA were one-on-one with Stu M and delicately placed the ball home to make it 3-1. Again the celebrations from the sideline were probably a little too much, with said barbequer again neglecting his duties and going for a run, this time with tongs and tray in hand.
The result was probably unfair, and especially going down to two goals so late in the game. With the 3-1 loss the Old Hill players trudged off, only to hear the ETA Buffalo club song, a god-awful mash-up of 'Barmy Army songs' and Buffalo Soild
Credit to Chile Sport for this game going ahead. With game time approaching, Chile Sport did not have enough numbers to field a team for the match to go ahead. But a few phone calls and they managed to rally a few extra players so that the game could start, albeit a little delayed.
Old Hill Wanderers 8 - Chile Sport 0
Scorer: New John (x2), Ellis (x2), Paul C (x2), Salmon, Callum
Philly, Juan, Nick, Alan, John S, Ellis, Billy, John K, Salmon, Paul C, Dom
Subs: Callum, Gaz, BK, Rob,
The game kicked-off with the opposition only having 8-men on the field. Early pressing from Old Hill kept the game under control and it wasn't long before Paul put Old Hill 1-0 up. Old Hill continued to boss the game and have the lions share of the possession and Ellis ghosted in at the far post to put Old Hill 2-0 up and continue his purple patch that has seen him score in all 3 league games so far this season. Ellis is quickly turning himself into a Golden Boot contender. The Chile back-line continued to struggle to cope with Old Hills dominance in midfield and attacking in numbers, but they played the off-side trap well. As such the game became stop- start with the over eagerness of the Old Hill forwards pushing forward to early. Nevertheless though, one such attack that Old Hill managed to stay onside for saw the ball squared to John K on the edge of the area who fired home. 3-0 to Old Hill. Chile Sport were finally up to the full compliment of 11-players on the field, and so began to put more players behind the ball and crowd the midfield. But Ellis found himself with the ball on the right, and swung in a cross for Salmon to finish to make it 4-0. That's how it remained until half-time.
With Old Hill controlling much of the game, Rob made some changes at half-time. Philly came out of goal to be replaced by John S in s straight swap. Gaz came on for Juan at RB and Callum came on in centre-mid for Billy.
The second half was more of the same from Old Hill first Paul C got his second to make it 5-0 and shortly after Callum got himself on the score-sheet, powering through from the midfield to make it 6-0. Ellis got his double not too long after to make it 7-0. Old Hill continued to push on through the second half and squandered a number of opportunities to increase the score. We may have been guilty of trying to be too cute rather than ruthless, but some of the football and passing we got going was a joy to watch. Late in the half the ball fell to John K on the edge of the area who riffled the ball goal-ward. The unlucky Chile 'keeper didn't get enough of himself behind the ball and deflected it across the line. 8-0 to Old Hill. The final whistle wasn't long coming.
A good win for Old Hill despite the relative ease of the victory. We can take a lot from the game, some of the football played at times was joyful.
Game was called off with the score at 1-1 due to perceived offensive comments from the opposition officials directed towards the referee.
Old Hill Wanderers 1 - Chile Sport 1
Andy, Nicolas, Steve P, Stu B, Sam, Stixy, Steve W, Josh, Rich, Bill, Tom
Subs: BK, John S, Colm
Despite the emphatic nature of the Reserves win, and the fact that Chile Sport started the match with only 10 men, Johnboy resisted the advice of his learned bench to field a 2-4-4 formation and started the match with a more conservative 4-4-2. Old Hill Wanderers learnt from the mistakes of last week and came out of the blocks from the kickoff, camping in the Chile half for the first 5 minutes. However despite some lovely passing and movement the incisive pass in the forward third eluded the mighty Wanderers.
Chile almost fashioned a chance with their first foray forward after 5 minutes. A free kick out near the right by-line was whipped in and eluded the heads in the box, and a shot from the back post went thankfully wide.
From the resultant kick in, our heroes swept upfield. Rich did well to get to the left by-line and Josh crossed the ball deep into the Chile box. What ensued was every bit as farcical as many shows at the comedy festival. The ball clipped the crossbar, bounced, and the keeper flapped it into the back of his own defender, and then threw the rebound into the back of his own net under no real pressure from any Wanderer. All it needed was the Benny Hill theme song and he could have a hit show on his hands. Four Stars. 1-0.
But any thoughts of a cakewalk were quickly put to bed as a mix up at the back allowed the Chile #9 to nip in and steal the ball and as he set himself to shoot, Stevie P, desperate not to allow the opposition to score, swept across and did the job for them, poking the ball past the outrushing Andy to level the scores.
Unfortunately that was the last real action for Stevie P who re-aggravated his knee injury and limped off in obvious pain.
As Chile Sport tried to make the most of the changes in the Old Hill defence, Sammy did his utmost to put that idea to bed, scything down their winger then having the temerity to claim that he didn’t even touch him. This raised the ire of the Chile officials on the far side and lead to what could only have been some colourful language. The referee spent the next 5 minutes trying to calm the crowd down, an attempt that culminated in the decision to send off one of the officials. When the official refused to move, the referee simply called the game off, handing our heroes a walkover win inside 15 minutes. Neither side were truly happy with the game being abandoned, and the teams sought negotiations to keep playing. Alex was unwilling to exercise his power as a linesman and convince the referee to overturn his own decision, so the task was left to our almighty President Salmon. However the referee stood by his original decision and the game was abandoned.
After milling about for a few minutes it was decided that the Seniors, fresh from their triumph, would do some shooting practise, while the those of us with any sanity headed for the Vic Hotel beer garden.
In the second outing of the season, Old Hill were well beaten in the two games by Melbourne Spartans.
Old Hill Wanderers 1 - Melbourne Spartans 5
Stu M, Simon, Lloyd, Paul, Alan, New John, Alex, Adam, Rich, Ellis, Ian
Subs: Nick, Philly, Salmon, Gaz, Andy, Juan,
Prior to the game, Old Hill had to improvise with the use of corner flags by utilising the engineering skills of the team to sellotape a couple of training bibs to the flag poles.
Old Hill knew that Melbourne Spartans would be much more of a test than their last outing vs Kensington City, but no one before the game would have expected such a one-sided score-line, that in truth flattered Melbourne Spartans.
Both teams came out of the blocks fighting (Lloyd was an early casualty for Old Hill with a recurrence of a niggling injury), desperate to exert some kind of dominance on the game, but it was Melbourne Spartans who drew first blood. After testing the Old Hill keeper a few times, a defensive error from a long range effort allowed the Melbourne Spartans forward to tap in from close range. 1-0 to Spartans. Old Hill didn't let their heads drop and pushed on for an equaliser, but found it hard to break down the resilient Spartans defence who put bodies behind the ball. A tactical change from Coach Rob allowed New John and Rich to get into the game more, and the two linked up well down the left to deliver a ball in that Ellis somehow powered in at the near post to make it 1-1.
The equaliser gave Old Hill the belief and began a period of dominance for Old Hill where some beautiful football was played but the ball just couldn't find its way into the back of the net. With Spartans looking threatening on the counter attack, it wasn't long before Spartans found themselves 2-1 to the good. Spartans continued to push on and Old Hill defence failing to mark at a corner allowed the Spartans player to rise unchallenged and nod in to make it 3-1, and so it remained until half-time.
Rob made some half-time substitutions, but they failed to stem the flow of Spartans, more defensive errors and a lack of communication allowed Spartans to go 4-1 up and not long after 5-1 up. It was when Old Hill were 5-1 one down, that we played some of our best football, but were unable to break through. Late injuries to Adam and Rich further impeded Old Hills chances, but in truth the game was long over.
A flattering result for Spartans who ruthlessly capitalised on Old Hills mistakes, but there's a few things to work on going forward.
Old Hill Wanderers 1 - Melbourne Spartans 3
Quentin, Nicolas, Steve P, Stu B, BK, Nico, Colm, Steve W, Josh, Stixy, Az
Subs: Bill, Jules, Tom, Stu M, Sam
Spartans, buoyed by the earlier victory over the Reserves came out at kick-off all guns blazing, but did not expect such a resilient Old Hill outfit who matched everything that was thrown at them. But as with the reserves earlier, a defensive mix-up between the Old Hill defender and the 'keeper broke the deadlock. 1-0 to Spartans. Old Hill pushed for the equaliser throughout the first half but again struggled to make the break-through, and a swift counter-attack from Spartans saw them 2-0 up with half-time approaching. An injury to Colm on the stroke of half-time meant a reshuffle for the Old Hill pack.
The boys came our in the second half with the rain falling and started to play some really attractive football, but Spartans go 3-0 up. Old Hill continued to press despite the score-line, and the wet conditions helped Old Hill pull one back to make it 3-1. A floated cross from a corner was dropped by the Spartans 'keeper in the wet and Bill found himself well positioned to poke home from close range. That's the way it remained until the final whistle.
All in all a bad day at the office for Old Hill who were well beaten by the better team on the day. A few things to work on at training on Tuesday and we'll be looking to get our season back on track next weekend at home to Chile Sport.
The new VicSoccer Premier League season kicked off on Sunday 7 April, with Old Hill starting their campaign away to Kensington City, in JJ Holland Park.
With the number of new players Old Hill has signed in the off-season, we were all really excited about the start of the season and what should be a really competitive year.
Kensington City 0 - Old Hill Wanderers 5
Scorers: New John (x2), Jules, Ellis, Old John
Stu M, Philly, Paul, Gaz, Rich, New John, Alex, Adam, Salmon, Ellis, Jules
Subs: Rob, Old John, Andy, Simon
Old Hill started the day, and showed the gulf between the two teams with a great 5-0 win over Kensington City. The game was a game of two halves, nothing to do with the football, but with the typical unpredictable Melbourne weather. The game started in 26 degree heat, and ended in a thunderstorm and torrential down-pour. With the pitch becoming slick as the rain came down, a number of players changed their boots at half-time.
The day started in bizarre fashion when there was a risk the game would be called off when Kensington City couldn't find their corner flags. The game eventually kicked-off after Old Hill's efforts to retrieve Kensington's corner flags form a locked compound.
Both teams came out of the blocks hard, but it wasn't long before Old Hill found themselves 1-0 to the good. A cross was drifted in from the left, Alex leap for the free header, but there was no connection, New John then drifted in to riffle home through the 'keepers legs with just 6 minutes on the clock. The game then tightened up with some entertaining end-to-end football being played by both sides, Kensington had more time on the ball, but Old Hill always looked threatening in attack. As the half drew to a close Salmon squared to Jules who fired home to make it 2-0. With that the ref blew for for half-time.
Old Hill came out in the second half with the more desire of the two teams, Kensington began to tire quickly and with that Old Hill pushed for the goals to kill the game off. It took a while for Old Hill to break down the Kensington defence, but on the 60 minute mark, Salmon crosses form the left was not dealt with and New John was on hand to volley home. 3-0 to Old Hill. Salmon had a number of chances to get himself on the score sheet but was denied by a Kensington defender on the line and a volley being send harmlessly over. That didn't stop the rest of the Old Hill team getting in on the action though, Alex fires in from the edge of the box only for Ellis to elegantly flick the ball past the diving Kensington 'keeper to make it 4-0 to Old Hill. With the game all but over, Kensington sat back and soaked up the Old Hill pressure. Old John was having none of it though, and pushed on, and when a cross was floated in from Jules on the right, John gambled to nod the ball into the back of the net too make it 5-0.
A superb performance from the whole team, and new John kept up the Old Hill tradition of players scoring on their debut, and deservedly picked up the three points. Two points went to Adam, and one point to Rich.
Kensington City 0 - Old Hill Wanderers 5
Scorers: Bill (x2), Tom (x2), Colm
Quinten, Nico, JD, Stevie P, BK, Nicolas, Colm, Steve W, Stixy, Az, Bill
Subs: Ian, Sam, Josh, Tom
For the seniors it was a case of what the reserves can do, the seniors can do too, as they followed up the reserves 5-0 win with a 5-0 win of their own that was executed in a similarly ruthless manner.
The game started with an early scare from Kensington, who from the kick-off took a shot which only just grazed over the bar. The first 15 minutes of the match was played at an absolute cracking speed, with both teams going toe-to-toe. Stixy, Bill and Nicolas linked up well and saw the resultant shot cleared off the line for a corner. The corner was lifted in beautifully by Stixy and Bill rose to meet the cross to make it 1-0 to Old Hill. Az was looking really lively upfront and after having a half chance skewed over, saw himself hacked down on the edge of the box. Bill stepped up to take the resulting free-kick and passed it around the non-existent wall and into the back of the net. It almost looked like Bill was a bit too embarrassed to even celebrate that one. 2-0 to Old Hill and that's how it remained until half-time, with Bill unlucky not to have had his hat-trick.
Old Hill came out for the second half and absolutely peppered the Kensington goal in search of the third goal that would put the game to bed, but it didn't come. Despite many chance falling to him, Bill was unable to complete his hat-trick. With Bill in search of Old Hills and his third, the Kensington 'keeper saves well from his shot, but super-sub Tom found himself free to tap home. 3-0 to Old Hill. Colm was absolutely running things in the middle of the park throughout the game, and all was needed was a goal to seal the performance, which he duely provided in the 85 minute following a driving run form midfield. 4-0 to Old Hill. With the game drawing to a close, Old Hill probed for a 5th, Bill rather unselfishly passed to Tom who powered home from an angle to make it 5-0 to Old Hill. The race was not on for who would get the hat-trick. Bill was firing everything that came his way goal ward, but unfortunately for him nothing came of them. The game finished 5-0 to Old Hill.
Another superb performance from the Seniors who kept up their unbeaten pre-season run into the season proper. Colm had a solid game in the middle, got the goal that he deserved and continued the Old Hill tradition of players scoring on their debut, and deservedly got the three points. Two points went to Bill who scored two and got himself countless opportunities for that elusive third. ONe point went to Steve W who bossed the midfield in the first half, and did a disciplined job at centre-back in the second half.
On to our first home game of the week next week against Melbourne Spartans.
Old Hill Wanderers continued their pre-season friendly preparations with a hard fought, nervy win against a JFG side keen to get one over on us.
All the talk pre-game was focused on welcoming the return of the prodigal son in Phil Mac. A great servant to the club in the past, who has not been involved for the past year due to personal reasons. Once those were sorted, his first priority was how soon he could pull on an Old Hill shirt again. Welcome back Phil.
Andy, Philly, Nick Shaw, Paul W, Salmon, Nico, Josh, Alex, Sammy, Bill, Dom
Subs: Mike, Steve W, Paul C, Phil Mac, BK, Simon, Stixy
The opening half an hour of the game was pretty un-eventful, both teams having chances to take the lead, but failed to bury them. The theme of the first half an hour seemed to be: aerial ping pong, with both teams unsure of the bounce on the synthetic surface of Clifton Park; and counter attacks. Andy pulled off a number of impressive saves in goal to keep Old Hill in the game which defied his pre-game talk of being 'rusty'. Philly, who was making a rare outfield appearance for Old Hill made a very impressive sliding challenge to deny the advancing JFG striker - unfortunately Philly skin grafts are not included in the Old Hill first aid kit.
Nick was very lucky in the first half not to give away a penalty on a couple of occasions with some high footed challenges and a very deliberate hand-ball. Obviously, as Sammy wasn't in the back line he had given tips to Nick on how to ensure there is at least one deliberate hand ball a game.
No prizes for guessing who opened the scoring. He's been in form all pre-season and a nice passing move by Old Hill saw the ball arrive for Bill to finish to make it 1-0 to Old Hill. That's how it remained until half time.
At half-time, Rob, making his managerial debut made 7 changes (he's obviously been reading 'A Guide to Coaching', by Sven Goran Eriksson). The entire midfield and strike force was replaced along with Philly being given a break from RB. Phil Mac got the biggest cheer as he re-entered the playing arena.
The second half started much like the first, nervy from Old Hill, with both sides still unsure of the un-predictable bounce, and Old Hill were unable to make the decisive break through to put the game to bed. However, a beautiful pass and move exchange between BK and Paul C saw Phil Mac with the ball at his feet. Despite not playing in nearly a year, he buried the ball past the diving JFG 'keeper to make it 2-0. A humorous goal celebration followed where the goal scorer somehow lost his boot.
Old Hills uncharacteristic nervy performance continued and numerous counter attacks from JFG followed, one of which results in a goal. 2-1 to Old Hill. JFG now had the bit between their teeth and were pushing forward, looking for the equalizer that would surely have felt like a win for them. However, as uncharacteristic our performance was, some nice football was played again resulting in a corner with only a few minutes on the clock. Stixy floated the ball in and by-passed everyone in the middle and landed beautifully on the un-marked Mikes head at the back post, who rose delicately with a shout of 'Conroys' to nod the ball home. 3-1 to Old Hill and that's how it remained.
Old Hill Wanderers 3 - JFG Wanderers 1
Scorers: Bill, Phil Mac, Mike
Bill and Mike have now scored in every pre-season fixture this year, and hopefully they will continue their impressive form into the season proper.
After competing in the Energy Australia Shield in 2012, we were again invited back to Newborough in Gippsland, Victoria, by host club Monash SC to compete in the 2013 edition of the tournament.
Old HIll Wanderers, along with Trojan Athletic were the VicSoccer representatives in the tournament which also encompassed teams from the FFV, Bayside League and Gippsland Leagues. Prior to the start of the competition, we were drawn in Group A with Harrisfield Hurricanes (FFV), Croydon Ranges (Bayside League) and Monash SC (Gippsland Leagues).
The games were reduced format 20-minute half games, with the top two of the group going through to the semi-finals.
In the days running up to the tournament, a number of player pull-outs led us to believe we may not have enough players. But in the end we managed to, so a huge thanks to all the guys who made their way 2 hours from Melbourne to Newborough, including those fill-ins who helped us out.
Quentin, Nicolas, Stu, JD, Salmon, Nico, Stixy, Michael, Sam, Cal, Tommy, Az, Bill, John, Rob, Gaz, Craig (out of retirement for one game). Water-boy - Charlie
Group A, Game 1 - Old Hill Wanderers vs Croydon Ranges
With kick-off for this game at 10.00am, some of the Old Hill boys were at the ground with enough time to get prepared, however, the car with the kits and gear was with John, who decided that it would be good to get some bagels before getting to the ground. With the opposition already out on the paddock kitted up and warming up, the Old Hill boys were beginning to worry, but in true Old Hill fashion, we were kitted up and ready for kick-off, albeit with a limited warm-up.
So with that the game kicked-off in blustery conditions. Old Hill made a nervous start, with the lack of warm-up evident in the opening exchanges. Croydon fancied their chance from distance with a number of long-range efforts forcing a string of excellent and acrobatic saves from 'keeper Quentin. John made himself clear form the sidelines that if we played our football we'd get a result in the game.
So, as Old Hill grew into the game, Nico showed himself to be Old Hill's most potent attacking threat, giving the Croydon LB a torrid time, a delicate ball drilled in, was easily controlled by Bill, who delicately finished to make it 1-0 to Old Hill. Defensive errors from Old Hill led to an equaliser, but soon after Michael, who has been impressive all pre-season again popped-up to drill one home to make it 2-1 to Old Hill. A concentration lapse from Old Hill led to an equaliser for Croydon and that's how it remained until the final whistle.
All in all, a fair result and an unbeaten start to the tournament.
Final Score: Old Hill Wanderers 2 - Croydon Ranges 2
Scorers: Bill, Michael
Group A, Game 2 - Old Hill Wanderers vs Harrisfield Hurricanes
Old Hill started the second group game very nervy, most likely due to the speculative nature of Harrisfield attempting a shot on goal straight form the kick-off. A number of players made uncharacteristic, un-forced errors, and rather than play football, the first half was a long spell of 'hoof-ball'. As the half wore on the boys managed to get into the game, and began to play football.
A half-time pep-talk form John, and some changes, Old Hill came out of the blocks in the second half wanting the win. Sustained pressure on the Harrisfield goal resulted in a number of corners, but with the squally wind, they either fell short, or were carried harmlessly over the box. One such corner didn't though, floated in brilliantly by Nico, Bill had dropped off to the back post, and from the edge of the box found himself unmarked to hit a first-time volley into the top corner evoking memories of Scholes vs Bradford in 2000. This pre-season is starting to be one where all of our Goal of the Season contenders could come from.
The Old Hill players were still celebrating Bills sublime volley, when Harrisfield broke, and seemingly walked through the Old Hill defence to register what is the oldest trick in the book and equaliser. This led John to bring out the old cliche of 'you're always most vulnerable when you've just scored'.
Final Score: Old Hill Wanderers 1 - Harrisfield Hurricanes 1
Group A, Game 3 - Old Hill Wanderers vs Croydon SC
Old Hill Wanderers went into the final group game against host club in 3rd position, knowing only a win would guarantee passage to the semi-finals. A slight change of formation, and the introduction of Gaz (who arrived at the ground only to watch) saw Old Hill on their way.
The game itself was very even, with both teams sparring and looking threatening going forward, but unable to make the decisive break-through. The game was decided on a pretty dodgy penalty, that had it been awarded against Old Hill, we'd have surely remonstrated more than Monash did.
A corner was drifted in by Old Hill, and as the ball was floating in, the Monash 'keeper pushed pushed an Old Hill player who was making himself a bit of a nuisance. The ref blew and said foul, free-kick to 'Wanderers', when Bill reminded the referee that we were Wanderers and the attacking team, and so it should be a penalty. Which the referee duly awarded. Bill slotted home the penalty.
Monash pushed for an equaliser, but Old Hill held firm to take the win and advance to the semi-finals.
Final Score: Old Hill Wanderers 1 - Monash SC 0
Scorer: Bill (pen)
Results in the other game of Group A meant that Old Hill went through the group stage as Group A winners. Old Hill paid close attention to the Group B games as each of the teams were level on 3 points.
Fellow VicSoccer team Trojan go the result they needed to advance and finished Group B in 2nd place, meaning they would face Old Hill in an all VicSoccer semi-final.
Old Hill were happy to face Trojan, but also there were some nerves as we had not beaten them in the VicSoccer season last year.
Semi-final: Old Hill Wanderers 1 - Trojan Athletic 0
The opening exchanges of this semi-final were very even with both teams wanting to claim VicSoccer bragging rights ahead of the 2013 season. Nico again was Old Hills most potent threat and was in devastating form down the wings. It wasn't long before an impulsive run and a drilled in cross found itself at Az's feet, Az delicately took control of the ball to fire a composed finish past the Trojan 'keeper. Advantage Old Hill.
Old Hill pushed on, looking for a 2nd, but could not find the break-through. With players beginning to feel the effects of the heavy ground and a 4th game of football, managing aches, pains and cramps became the name of the game for John, who had to regularly shuffle the pack to ensure no injuries occurred. Trojan were in a similar position and brought on some spritely attackers who seemed to have been saved for this moment. With a tiring Old Hill, and an advancing Trojan, Old Hill conceded corners galore. In true cup fashion, a corner to Trojan near the end of the match saw the goalkeeper gallop up the field, Old Hill managed to clear the ball, and before Old Hill could go for the speculative long range effort into the empty goal, the ref blew and Old Hill were in the final!
Highlight of the game would be John, after giving Sam such a hard time and the Muu-muu to Sam last week for entering the field of play wearing sun-glasses on, sub-ed himself on while still wearing his sun-glasses
Final: Old Hill Wanderers 0 - Harrisfield Hurricanes 0
(Harrisfield Hurricanes win 5-4 on penalties)
In the first final in Old Hill history, John took a few minutes before the game to pep the boys up and let us all know how proud he was of us. It was very emotional, and all caught on camera by Football Chaos. The boys were sent out with the message of 'have fun' you've done yourselves proud already.
Old Hill seemed to be the more dynamic of the two sides in the final and seemed to want it more. Old Hill took the game to Harrisfield, with Stixy controlling everything in the middle of the park. However, we could not break down the stubborn Harrisfield defence which with every attack seemed to be increasing in numbers.
As the game went on, it became apparent that Harrisfield were content with taking their chances in the lottery of penalties, after already overcoming a Mazenod United side in the semi-final on penalties that contained former Man Utd player Grant Brebner in their ranks.
With that, the final whistle blew, and we were into penalties. Rob, forgetting the drama of last years VicSoccer cup penalty shoot-out made the comment that 'we have too many English-men in our team to be good at shoot-outs'. As has been documented, we were not successful in the shoot-out, losing 5-4 on penalties.
It was a bitter pill to swallow after having 3 clean-sheets in a row and being the only un-defeated team in the tournament. But as always, it's not if you can hold your nerve but when you hold your nerve that counts. Congratulations to Harrisfield, we'll be back next year looking to take the shield off your hands for you!
While they say there's no prizes for second place, this was not entirely true in the Energy Australia Shield, where we received a Runners-up plaque. Which you can see Captain Stu on receiving on the left.
You can also see below a nice picture of the squad, (minus the two Nico's who had to leave early) with their Runners-Up plaque from the Energy Australia Shield.
To outfield players Az and Stu, and goalkeeper Quinten who played every minute of every of every game in the tournament. A monumental effort and no one will give them a hard time if they have any aches or pains.
To the organisers Monash SC who again invited us to compete and again put on an incredible tournament that was played in the right spirit and at a technically high level.
To Harrisfield Hurricanes, who we played in two games, and it took penalties to split the two sides. Hopefully we can return next year and reacquaint ourselves with them and hopefully take out the tournament.
Old Hill Wanderers continued our pre-season preparations with a seniors and reserves double header vs Albert Park on a warm Melbourne Saturday.
These fixtures, although friendlies had significant meaning to Old Hill Wanderers:
- they were the first games to be played at our new home ground of Clifton Park in Brunswick (see photo left);
- it was an opportunity to see a number of the new signings the club has made in action for the first time; and
- it was perfect to see how far we'd come as a club after we were twice resoundingly beaten by Albert Park 3rds in our first season in 2009.
Philly, Nico, Lloyd, Gary, Salmon, Irish Alex (who incidentally is English), Josh, Alex, Steve, Jules, Colombian Nick.
Subs: John, Az, Peter, Rob, Johnny,
The boys were quick out of the blocks, but so too were Albert Park. Within the first few minutes Old Hill were dispossessed in the middle of the park, and a quick Albert Park counter attack lead to a chance. CB Gary (making his return to the Old Hill line-up after a year in Auckland) got his toe to the ball as the striker was coiled to shoot, the ball then easily fell through to the grateful arms of Old Hill 'keeper Philly. However, the referee, somewhat bizarrely, blew for a back-pass. The indirect free-kick to Albert Park was well worked, and despite Old Hill having men on the line, the classic drag-back and drive was too much and the ball rocketed into the back of the net. 1-0 to Albert Park.
Rather than letting our heads down, the boys dug deep and continued to pressure Albert Park. The Albert Park 'keeper kept them in the game with a string of superb saves. The sustained pressure soon paid off, and a through ball form Jules to Colombian Nick saw the ball riffle into the back of the net. 1-1.
Albert Park made the most of the rolling subs rule to give their boys a rest, while we tried to remain consistent to see the new players in action. The remainder of the first half was pretty even, with both teams having an opportunity to take the lead, but failing to capitalise on the chances created.
The players came out for the second half in earnest, both sides made a number of changes, with Old Hill introducing further new faces and Albert Park seemingly changing formation to pack the midfield. The heat was starting to get to the players as the half went on with stoppages being utilised at every opportunity to get more water on-board. A few more changes for both sides as players felt the effects of the heat occurred and the game became more disjointed.
As the half wore on, both sides were reduced to speculative long range efforts, however one such effort from Albert Park was spilled by the Old Hill GK, and the Old Hill defence failed to close down the advancing Albert Park attacker who pounced on the lose ball and fired into the empty net. 2-1 to Albert Park. Less than 5 minutes later in an almost carbon copy of the previous goal, Albert Park put themselves 3-1 up.
That's how it remained until the final whistle (which was surprisingly not the at the 90 minute mark, but around 15 minutes earlier, but due to the heat, there weren't too many complaints!).
Final Score: Old Hill Wanderers 1 - Albert Park 3
Scorer: Colombian Nick
Photo above is of the Seniors in action vs Albert Park
Quintin, Cal, Stu B, JD, BK, Stixy, Mike, Colm, Adam, Bill, Vincent
Subs: Sammy, Tommy, Barney, Stu M, Josh, Irish Alex, John, Az
The heat from the reserves game had increased as the day wore on, and by the time the seniors game came around at 1pm, the temperature was a few degrees hotter. This however didn't discourage the Old Hill boys and were again quick out of the blocks to try and exert some early pressure on Albert Park. However, Albert Park had the same idea, this led for a very entertaining and open game from the sidelines, but very tiring for the players on the pitch. This open game led to a blistering chance for Albert Park, where the ball ricocheted off the bottom of the bar and appeared to cross the line, Old Hill linesman Barney also flagged to indicate the ball had crossed but was over-ruled by the referee, much to the disdain of Albert Park.
The boys began to get themselves into the game, but also began screaming to the sidelines for repeated water to be available, the heat was really starting to get to them... and it wasn't long before the heat claimed its first casualties, with a number of players wanting to come off to get a break, some water and some shade. Despite this, Bill found himself with an opportunity to shoot, but didn't take it, everyone on the sidelines thought the chance had gone, but not the big-man himself who pivoted on his preferred right foot and delivered a delicate left-foot shot with his back to goal that curled into the top corner. 1-0 to Old Hill. The remainder of the first half was a case of more of the same, as both sides played with high intensity despite the stifling heat.
The boys came out for the second half raring to go, it wasn't long before Vincent was delicately fed through on goal. An average player may have riffled home when in such a position, but not the flamboyant french-man who dragged the ball back, past a defender, and then the advancing Albert Park 'keeper to pass into the back of the net. 2-0 to Old Hill.
Continued rolling substitutions disjointed the game somewhat, but that didn't stop Michael scoring what was described as one of the best goals by a player in an Old Hill shirt, where with the box full of defenders, he delicately lobbed the Albert Park 'keeper to make it 3-0. Albert Park didn't like this score-line too much, and began to take advantage of a tiring Old Hill with further rolling substitutions and attacked in number, a scrappy penalty box resulted in Albert Park poking the ball home to make it 3-1. Soon after they made it 3-2 with continued pressure and a ever wearing Old Hill.
Old Hill consolidated things at the back to see out the game, a late corner from Albert park threatened, but the referee had had enough (of the heat not the game) and blew for the last time in the game.Final Score: Old Hill Wanderers 3 - Albert Park 2
Scorers: Bill, Vincent, Michael
All in all good results from both teams. We got to see many new faces grace the Old Hill shirt, with some very impressive debuts; we also got to play out first game at our new home, which hopefully we can turn into a fortress going forward.
Thanks to Albert park for the friendly games which were played in good compe