After a tough first game, the omens were better for week 2. It was a beautiful warm day and the sky was as clear as Bieber’s complexion (and presumably much clearer than his conscience). Coach Walker had assembled an impressive squad of skilled and athletic young players who were warming up on the bottom field. There were also two much older players who seemed as out of place in the youthful team as Germaine Greer’s tasteless attempt to link the Bali 9 executions to the incredibly tacky Free the Nipple campaign (which, let’s be honest, is just a new way of trying to justify exhibitionism and attention-seeking).
I was pretty happy with my timing, rocking up in time for the end of the warm up, but not so late as to start on the bench. I had had some major dental work during the week and was battling some gastric issues on the day, but the positive energy of the playing group was infectious and by the time the whistle blew for the start of the game I was pumped.
We found ourselves under some early pressure but our defence quickly got organised and asserted itself, giving us a springboard to build pressure and launch our own attacks. Big Cookie and the Westy Storm were defensive wrecking balls on anyone trying to come through, while Gav and Little Cookie (Crumbs) were consistently beating their players to the ball and snuffing out attacking threats on the wings.
The midfield battle was even to begin with, as both teams were adjusting to the speed of the game, but gradually we began to take control on the back of solid tackling and accurate short passes. Jac was all class, winning challenges and setting up play wherever you looked, whilst the old man of midfield barked a constant stream of instructions to those around him so that he didn’t actually have to do anything himself.
Coach Walker lived up to his name (apart from not performing Chuck Norris-style roundhouse kicks) by refusing to run once in the seven minutes he was on the field, before subbing off for some (much) fresher legs.
Midway through the half, the deadlock was broken, when Jac won possession in midfield and played a pass out to the old man, who either forgot what he was doing, as a result of his advanced dementia, or just chose to wait on the ball for a while as Josh ran past. Eventually he slid the ball out in front of the advancing winger. Josh hit the ball at speed, took a touch and floated a cross back towards the penalty spot, where the youthful Rose did as his name suggested to tower over the defence and win the header, flicking it inside the far post to make it 1-nil.
Things were beginning to look promising for the handsome men in green (and Big Cookie). Hobart United had some quality players in their team, but they were playing with the unity and organisation of the Glenorchy City Council and had been largely restricted to direct balls over the top. This strategy was generally as beneficial as Pete Evans’ paleo children’s recipes, as our defence would routinely win the ball and launch new attacks through accurate passing into the midfield. The most dangerous opposition plays tended to come down our left flank. Unfortunately for them, Sam had taken a break from guarding the gates of Minas Tirith, to guard his territory at left back with equal stoicism.
In the shadows of half time (a phrase I only use to point out how stupid and overused it is) the ball was won calmly in defence and knocked up the line, before being squared up and then passed forward to Big Burd who played a through-ball behind the defence. The old man of midfield abandoned his walking frame and sprinted forward faster than anyone had seen him run for the first 20 minutes (kind of like in Forest Gump), beating the keeper to the ball and stroking it into the far corner to double the lead (he may well have stroked it a few more times later too).
There was plenty of energy and confidence in the half time huddle. Walker Sandown Ranger was very happy with his charges, but wasn’t getting carried away, reminding them of some finer tactical points he wanted us to concentrate on.
Further energised by the Sandown Ranger (a man who motivates Chuck Norris to try to be tougher), Beachside came out strongly in the second half. The Law(rence) and Josh were using their pace and passing to dangerous effect on the wings, while Gav gave us another mobile ball-winner in the midfield who also shut down the most dangerous opposition player.
After three consecutive fouls, a free kick was awarded to our heroes on the halfway line. The resultant kick was nodded on towards the Rose who again showed agility that put Christopher Pyne’s backflips to shame (a difficult feat since Christopher Pyne apparently has no shame), somehow keeping his feet, turning and shooting whilst being manhandled. As his turning shot bounced into the net, we took a three-nil lead.
Credit to United, they could have fallen apart at this part (it took much less pressure for the PUP to start to disintegrate), but they kept working hard and locked the ball in our forward half for protracted periods towards the end of the game. Our defence worked hard though, with Lucas giving us a powerful presence in goals and there were few clear cut scoring chances.
As the half wore on, it began to resemble the movie Grumpy Old Men, with both older players taking exception to some of the tackles and returning them with some interest. At one point the old man made a fairly clumsy tackle on a united player, who dived like Tony Abbott’s popularity after his first budget. For a moment it looked like the fallen player might need the help of Ryan Crowley’s pharmacist to see out the game, but the next moment he made a ‘miraculous’ recovery. It didn’t end there either, with the old man (who clearly needed a Snickers at this point) proceeding to give the player and nearby referee a fairly robust assessment of both of their performances thus far.
The three-nil scoreline was probably flattering to our opponents, as we had a number of other good chances to extend the lead. Some of the one-touch passing through the middle and out wide would be better described as football-porn, with just finishing and decision making in the final third preventing us doing more damage on the scoreline.
In the final minutes of the game, a long goalkick carried over the defence for the United striker to work his way towards goal. Up until then, he had found the ball more elusive than the cops found Ben Cousins, but in that moment his luck turned. The Cookie Monster pounced like Kevin Rudd on a selfie opportunity and made a solid tackle. Somehow the ball ricocheted forward out of the tackle, still to the attacker’s advantage, allowing him to continue forward and knock it past Lucas for a consolation goal.
In the dying moments (another overly dramatic choice of words sports writers are obsessed with- what’s wrong with the word final?), the Burd man flew away (I don't need to point that pun out do I?) down the right wing, putting in a cross/shot that bounced erratically and almost got past the keeper to find the net, but was ultimately denied, leaving the score at 3-1.
After a well-deserved win, Walker Sandown Ranger (who once scored a hat-trick with only two touches) congratulated the boys back in the rooms, but kept a lid on early premiership speculation, choosing instead to direct our attention to next week’s game. The Cookie Monster produced the beers and our typically professional warm down had begun. I feel another good season for the boys in green coming on.