After playing three games in 7 days, Saturday’s matches against an Avalon team that were fresh after a BYE round was always going to stretch our squad. It was also great to see a familiar face in the opposition “dug-out”, with Rob Flemming, the Former Division 1 Keeper, returning to the sacred grounds of Wyatt Ave, having left the club three years earlier. Knowing that Rob had trained under the tutelage of the great man Nate Gray, meant that this was going to be two epic games and it did not disappoint.
After hearing the Avalon ‘Magic’ team song performed after another unlucky Ressie’s loss, the Firsts knew they had to take the win. The game started out evenly on the water-drenched pitch with both goal boxes extremely muddy after the weekend rain. But growing up in the farmland of Terry Hills, the BTH boys had the advantage.
The teams played with ease early with some shots put wide and over the bar by both squads. During an Avalon corner, the ball glanced off a header at the front post melee, and ended up at the back post in what looked like a certain goal for the visitors. Jordan was having none of it though and launched himself at the ball and the player and pulled off a massive save to keep the scores even. At the other end of the pitch, a corner whipped in by Mauritzio was headed on and while Lachie looked certain to score a header at the back post an Avalon defender managed to head it out, before the pair fell into the net and tore it off the cross bar, resulting in a pause in play while the net was reconnected. Despite a number of chances being created, both keepers kept a clean sheet going into the half at 0-0.
A rousing half time talk and new instructions from the Gaffa inspired the Raiders to start the second half with renewed intensity and agression. Sheldon, Mauritzio, Jordy and Sammy were all lethal along the wings and put pressure on the Avalon defence early on. After 50 minutes of resolute defending, Avalon finally cracked when Sheldon put in a shot/cross that the keeper nudged just by his own defender and was smacked right into the top of the net by Conor to make it 1-0. The BTH confidence was high and you could sense more goals were on the cards. Harry’s long shot from just inside the Avalon half narrowly floated over the cross bar, but it inspired the young Isaiah whom in a moment of brilliance, seeing the keeper off his line, took a shot 10 yards outside the box that rocketed off the bottom of the crossbar, making it 2-0.
Pandemonium ensued as the team celebrated like they had just been released from quarantine. The team continued to play with increasing confidence, and Javed, who had been making unbelievable runs all game, took a shot from just outside the goal box, a remarkable right-footed curler from that ended up in the bottom right-hand corner and sealed the win.
But Avalon didn’t give up and with ten minutes to go, against the run of play, the Avalon striker spectacularly volleyed a cross into the top right-hand of the goal from outside the box, leaving no chance for Jordy to make the save. Overall, a great win with the boys undefeated heading into Round 4.
Thanks to Conor for the write-up
Round 4 saw our Ressies take on Avalon at a very wet Wyatt. With the inspirational words of coach Vasey firing up the lads, we started the game with great intensity again and had the majority of the territory, pressing well from the forwards in particular to keep Avalon in their half. Neno and Andy were holding the midfield well, causing lot of frustration and forcing fouls. We created chances, Michael Howie in particular with a rocket outside the box and Ryan again a constant threat. To his credit, the Avalon keeper was equal to everything we threw at him and made several big saves, including three one-on-ones. Against the run of play, Avalon had a lucky break and put one past our keeper, 30 minutes into the match. The rest of the half, we held them out well with a strong defensive line. The half ended 1-0 to down.
In the second half we lifted our energy to another gear and we continued to dominate possession and space. The team was lifting and kept Avalon on the backfoot. The continued press created confusion and the Avalon team’s composure started to wane. Aidan, Lachie and Corey all doing their bit to contain Avalon in the final third, whilst an injured Howie stepped up the physicality through the middle and with Neno and Chuddy, were relentless. This pressure eventually created an opening for Ryan, who powered into the box down the right hand side with a brilliant burst of speed. The Avalon defenders brought him down inside the box … PENALTY! Unfortunately, the keeper once again made a spectacular save, guessing the right way to deny Ryan our opening goal. A few minutes later, in what can only be described as D'ja vu, Ryan was again fouled inside the box. Luca took the ball and was desperate to take the penalty. With a staggered run up, reminiscent of a young petulant Mario Balotelli, Luca glided the ball past the keeper to equalise!
From here, the game took a very strange turn, and a few minutes later, a clash between Connor and Spuddy whilst defending inside our box, led to an Avalon player being fouled, and they were awarded a questionable penalty, which gave Avalon converted and regained the lead. Spirits were still high though, and the team continued to drive hard. Luca was causing a constant headache with his ‘Ronaldinho’ like runs through the middle, was fouled on the edge of the box, and the referee awarded a free kick. Up stepped Luca... curler into the top right corner! As we were celebrating, the referee disallowed the goal, citing one of the BTH players being within 1 metre of the wall. When questioned which player, the referee couldn’t confirm. Unfortunately, the referee’s decision is final and the players struggled to refocus. At the end of the game, the Gaffa, who recorded the free kick, showed the video to the referee and pointed out that there was in fact no player in or within 1 metre of the wall, to which the referee replied with a smile, “that’s my interpretation”.
That decision was a game changer, and it seemed our luck went from bad to worse, when 4 minutes later, the referee awarded another penalty to Avalon, this time for a hand ball inside the box (not our luck so far with them!). Avalon converted the penalty and despite fighting until the end, the damage was done and the game finished 3-1 to Avalon.
Thanks to Luke for the write-up