Sometimes one point is all you need and that’s exactly how it turned out today for the Russell Vale U13A’s to be crowned “League Champions”.
Like several other teams we’ve come up against in recent weeks our opponents did a Chelsea and parked the bus. Faced with six defenders, two holding midfielders and only two up front, the Cobras dominated possession and literally had a free run of 75% of the field but just couldn’t turn the advantage into a goal.
It never ceases to amaze me how many keepers end up “man of the match” when they play against Russell Vale, today was no exception. In the first half we had a series of half-hearted shots that failed to trouble the keeper and a number of crosses that went straight into his grateful arms. Despite all our “pass & move” football, clear chances in the box were few and far between. The nearest we came to a goal was a Blair Dunn free kick that the goalie somehow managed to get a hand to and with green shirts swarming towards the ball his defenders managed to scramble it to safety. Jarod Tuckwood did a good holding role today and couldn’t resist getting in on the action letting fly from 25 yards out but once again their keeper was up for it. Probably the clearest chance of the half fell to Bailey Baade Mortimer whom was still recovering from a sprained ankle when he found himself wide open at the back post, a moment’s hesitation and the chance was gone.
In the second half the home side continued to dominate the game while Shellharbour just sat on the edge of their 18 yard box, even when they had the ball. The nearest the visitors came to our goal was a back pass from Jack Donnelly to his brother Sean but that said our defence did a very good job today and rarely looked in any trouble. At the other end of the pitch there were efforts at goal from Zac Winter, Jordan Errington and Blair Dunn but we still couldn’t find the back of the net. For the last 20mins we only played with three at the back and pushed another player up front in the hope that the extra player in attack might be able to swing it our way. With only a few minutes remaining a Tommy Heaton shot on the half volley from only 10 yards out looked destined for the back of the net. Somehow their keeper who just happened to be the smallest kid on the pitch flung himself from one side of the goal to the other to parry the ball away for a corner.
At the final whistle you have to laugh at the irony as the visitors celebrated the draw while our lads trudged miserably off the pitch……….as Champions!
I think everyone felt the draw took some of the gloss off the result but I’m still very pleased for the players and proud of each of them that they won the title with two games left to play. I was at Anfield back in 1988 when my beloved LIVERPOOL drew 1-1 with Saints to win the league. I remember feeling down because I wanted to see them finish of the season in style with a win but as the players ran round the pitch after the game holding the trophy aloft my Dad said the cup is about one game lad but the league title is about the whole season. With those words of wisdom in mind Russell Vale have played some very entertaining football this season and are deservedly “League Champions!”