The 4th match of the APS Soccer season for the 1st XI was to be one of the team’s greatest challenges. Playing BGS away is always extremely difficult as a prospect, notwithstanding the considerable talent BGS had on offer. The small artificial pitch upon which BGS host their home matches always causes concern for opposition teams and XC were no different. Add to that the turbulent weather conditions, with sunshine for a third of the match, downpours for a third of the match and overcast conditions for a third. The small size of the pitch was only exacerbated by the speed at which the ball skidded across the artificial surface – making attacking play very challenging.
The opening half of the match was a tense affair, especially in the first 20 minutes, where it was very obvious that BGS were in the ascendancy, especially through the midfield. A shift of formation from then onwards back to the team’s standard formation, saw more stability in the midfield and gradually XC seemed to move into second gear. Nic Sette’s introduction caused some consternation in the BGS camp as he peppered the BGS defence on the right flank, BGS moved to double-team him, which created openings on the left flank for Frank Kanesoulis (who was also celebrating his 18th birthday) and Mikhail Capodistrias. Goal scoring opportunities were few and far between, but Dean Di Pietro managed to wriggle clear on a few occasions, but that final strike seemed to constantly elude him. The match limped to a 0-0 draw when the half time whistle blew with neither team able to get onto the score sheet.
The second half opened in much the same manner the first ended, with both teams battling each other in the midfield and neither team able to gain any real advantage in deteriorating conditions. As the heavens opened, a poor display of officiating was piqued by the brandishing of a red card for Oscar Bertelle in the 54th minute of the match for reasons that neither set of players nor a single observer ever seemed to understand. Once again the team was under immense pressure to hold on with a man down through no fault of their own. Astonishingly, the team seemed to play better throughout this time. There seemed to be a reinvigoration of the players that seemed not to be there when they were at a full complement. Goal scoring opportunities, although difficult, would fall to Aaron Fabris, Nic Sette, Mikhail Capodistrias and most notably Dean Di Pietro but unfortunately the BGS goalkeeper was able to keep XC at bay. Late in the game, with only 2 minutes remaining, the best goal scoring opportunity of the match would fall to BGS, with good work on the left resulting in a simply strike in front of goal barely 6m from the XC goal line, but the ball shot barely wide. On an earlier occasion, a BGS corner was glanced onto the XC goal by Seb Lock, who very nearly scored an own goal, but for the heroics of Luke Dais in goal as he pulled off a magnificent save low to his right to keep BGS at bay.
Nic Sette came into the match in the 17th minute and instantly caused problems for the BGS defence. His pace and guile saw the BGS defenders twisted and turned continuously and they had little answer to Nic’s running game. Whilst he had the odd chance on goal, it was always from an acute angle, resulting in the odd half chance, but he wasn’t able to convert these half chances into goals. Nevertheless, he had a fine game today whilst playing without luck.
Luke Dais has superb in goals for the team today. He made no less than three wonderful saves late in the game to keep BGS at bay and distributed the ball superbly, whilst only making the one passing error early in the game (need to get that down to none Luke!). A fine performance from Luke that ultimately saw the team secure a point in a tough draw.
Tom Natoli has grown into the role of a midfield enforcer as the season has unfolded. Tom was handed his first starting sport of the season today and was asked to essentially man-mark the opposition captain for the bulk of the game. Having sacrificed his own game for the sake of the team, Tom completely shut out BGS’s skipper and effectively eliminated their most obvious avenue to goal. Another superb performance from a player who has grown in both importance and reputation in the past two matches.
The team must now re-focus with two training sessions left before we play Wesley College at home next Saturday and GGS only three days later. Two matches in four days will test the resolve and stamina of the team. Six competition points from the next 10 days is what the team will be looking for – do the players have what it takes to secure these points? We shall soon see, but my guess is yes.