At training I can teach the players how to pass/move, head, shoot, tackle, communicate and work as a team. I also make sure they are always well prepared for every opponent we meet in regards to things to be aware of, players to watch, positions for corners and free kicks etc.………………but come game day I can’t force them to apply what they’ve learnt.
The way games have gone in recent weeks this loss to second placed team Wollongong was probably not that big a surprise. Even though we kicked the game off the home side still managed to win a corner and score (albeit an OG) all in the first minute of the game. A few minutes later their star player was left unmarked on the edge of our box and made it 2-0, all this happened before we had even got out of our own half. In the next 25mins the only worthwhile effort from the Cobras was a Jody Errington shot that was wide of the target. For the rest of the time it was all Wollongong, as one shot skimmed our bar and another brought a good save out of Sean Donnelly.
At the break I was very, very saddened and disappointed by the apathy displayed by every single player along with the inability to put two passes together or show any form of passion to compete. So I suggested something that in 12 years of coaching I’ve never said to one of my teams before. I gave the lads the option of conceding the game and we could all go home “or” start playing for pride in themselves, their team mates and their Club………….I’m pleased to say they chose the latter.
The second half started the way the first half should have done. The Cobras came out all guns firing Tommy Heaton and Tom Curren both went close before a cross from Bailey Baade Mortimer found the head of Zac Winter to pull the score back to 2-1. The pressure was relentless and soon after Zac Winter returned the compliment for Bailey Baade Mortimer to blast home the equaliser, 2-2. Then once again Zac Winter broke quickly with three teammates but even though they outnumbered the defenders, somehow we contrived to waste the numerical advantage. On a rare excursion into our half Wollongong were fortunate to win a free kick on the edge of the box. The shot flew over Sean Donnelly’s head and into the net, to restore the home sides lead, 3-2. Back we came again and Jordy Errington and Tommy Heaton were caught offside several times in their eagerness to restore parity, including a disallowed goal. Defensively in the second half we seemed to be finally in control with Baxter Bowler Prentice sweeping up the loose balls and Jack Donnelly winning tackles in the middle of the park and confidently breaking with the ball to set up the next attack. Another defender Tom Curran overlapped down the left hand side and after displaying a piece of individual brilliance set up Tommy Heaton with a clear route to goal but he was brought down from behind for a penalty. With our usual taker Blair Dunn off sick, Tommy Heaton took on the responsibility but the keeper guessed the correct way and smothered the kick at the second attempt. As the clock ticked down there was still time for more goalmouth drama. A good cross from Christian Baade Mortimer saw and on overhead kick from Jordan Errington well saved on the line, with a little bit more power I’m sure it would have found the net. Then with the very last attack of the game we were awarded a free kick, just few yards outside Wollongong’s area. With all the Russell Vale players pushed up Jarod Tuckwood’s kick clipped a defender and went for a corner but before it could be taken the referee brought the game to an end.
If we had to lose in a game I guess this was the one to do it in as it had nothing at stake, however unfortunately the result would have given Wollongong a tremendous confidence boost for when we meet them next in the Major Semi Final.
On the basis of Russell Vale’s second half performance, a place in the Grand Final at the first attempt is literally in their own hands. Player for player they are technically far better than their opponents, as a team they play a far superior level of football……………I guess it just comes down to how badly they want it?