Stallions v Spirit

Round 4 report by Stephen Webb
Marconi-Fairfield v Northern Spirit

A dream save and a dream goal enabled Marconi Stallions to secure a victory against Northern Spirit and their place as equal leaders on the NSL ladder.

A Michael Turnbull penalty save and a Joe Spiteri strike will be toasted by Marconi fans for many weeks to come. A player down at the end of the game, Marconi seemed vulnerable to Spirits desperate attempts to equalise. But the home team somehow held on. In a showcase of exciting football, either team could have scored several more goals.

Spirit held Marconi at bay early on, principally through the use of the offside trap. Joe Spiteri was very frustrated. The first chances came from free kicks. The first decent shot came from Spirit following a foul 25 metres from goal. The free kick went low and was held by Michael Turnbull diving forward.

Then Ian Ferguson fouled Eric Anabalon in a similar position at the other end. The Marconi free kick looked to be heading just under the crossbar but Paul Henderson kept it out, with two attempts.

Spirit's next free kick was closer and in front of goal. Ferguson hit a low shot that was deflected just to the right of goal. The next Marconi free kick was played for Spiteri who was offside again.

The Spirit backline then appealed as one for another offside decision, angry that the linesman was so slow to respond - but he eventually agreed with them.

The visitors appeared to have Marconi on the back foot with their constant movement on and off the ball.

But Marconi had the next chance, with a ball from the left sideline by Luke Casserly directed at four players running into the box. The connection was headed wide.

Dominic Longo was busy for Marconi and Matthew Hunter looked sharp for Spirit. And there was good work and vision from John Hutchinson, on the left and switching right.

A long run by Brad Maloney put pressure on Henderson and forced him to kick out.

In the 21st minute Jeromy Harris scored into the bottom left corner of the Spirit net, but he owed the goal to fine work - control and persistence - by Spiteri in the right side of the Spirit penalty area, beating several Spirit players before picking Harris out.

Two minutes later Hutchinson hit a long shot into the top right corner of the Marconi goal - it was only just fended clear by Turnbull. From the corner came a partial clearance and another Spirit shot, screaming across the face of goal.

Spiteri was almost played through when Grant Last was tripped by a team mate but the situation was saved for Spirit when Spiteri tripped over Last. At the other end Turnbull saved again, to the home crowd's relieved applause. Maloney was free onto a high ball into the Spirit penalty area, but he couldn't make decent contact.

Harris turned and shot a soft effort straight to Henderson, following a ball in from Chad Gibson on the right. Gibson hooked a shot to the left of goal after a Marconi free kick in the corner was played back to him. Spirit had another free kick 25 metres out to the right of goal. Again it went low and hard into the arms of Turnbull at the near post. Julian Watts dragged out the legs of Nick Carle 22 metres from goal. Gibson's free kick was just wide to the right. Angelo Costanzo cleared after a good sharp run in from the left by Hutchinson. Another Spirit free kick was held high by Turnbull.

In the 40th minute Stewart Petrie was set free on the left of the Marconi penalty area by a defensive blunder and he struck it perfectly with his left foot past Turnbull inside the right post. Three minutes later Spirit would have taken the lead, but for the brilliance of Turnbull. Petrie was brought down in the box. He took what looked like a good penalty into the bottom right corner, but Turnbull incredibly got down to stop it.

Turnbull then saved a header in front of goal from a cross in from the left. Hunter was good chasing back and stopping Spiteri after Spiteri beat him on the left sideline and was heading to goal.

In the second half Wayne OSullivan saved off the line from a shot from the right after Spiteri had rounded Hunter on the left and had his shot deflected across the face of goal. Marconi had a long shot, not held cleanly by Henderson. Spirit had a free kick, 25 metres out, into the Marconi wall. The attempted shot on the rebound went far too high.

Nine minutes into the second term and Carle ran through the middle of the pitch and played left to Spiteri. Spiteri lofted his shot over Henderson and down into the top right corner. A fantastic goal to put Marconi in the lead.

Todd Brodie was played into the Spirit box but couldnt beat his defender. And Harris almost broke through a tackle by Spencer. Marconi's lead looked much less secure with 25 minutes to go when Longo was sent off in an incident that started another Marconi melee. Turnbull held another high ball under pressure from O'Sullivan. And Spirit kept coming. Marconi resorted to just kicking clear. A long Marconi shot bounced at the right post and caused Henderson some trouble.

Costanzo was doing well clearing Spirit crosses and calling his disobedient backline to move up & move up! Marconi threatened on the counter, with Spiteri breaking wide to the right, receiving a long ball and returning it inch-perfect to the far post where Henderson saved the header.

In the 74th minute O'Sullivan ran forward into the Marconi box to receive a short free kick. His cross was precise for Adam Kwasnik who headed just over the crossbar. Then Kwasnik, despite some skill, couldn't beat Brodie and get his cross in from the right. But Hunter did manage it and threatened the Marconi goal until Turnbull got down safely on the ball.

Costanzo again played for offside but his team mates again let him down. Turnbull made two more great saves. But the ball was still loose. Spirit pounced again. Brodie saved off the line. But again the ball came in and Dylan Macallister headed over - missing another golden opportunity to equalise.

The game ended with desperate play from both sides. Casserly missed a real gift as Marconi countered again - but it didn't matter, Marconi were safe.

Marconi coach Jean-Paul de Marigny said Turnbull practically won the three points, apart from Spiteri's goal. "I thought he was superb. He kept us in the game and it's probably his best display for the club since he's come here. He said Spiteri's winner was a world class goal. And at the end when Longo got his marching orders he thought Costanzo and Gibson marshalled the defence well. "The idea was to get them to play in front of us and to whip those balls in and defend properly. Which the boys did".

Spiteri said his shot wasn't speculative. He had been getting into that situation in the three previous games. He'd been turning or running onto that play on the left side of the ground. At the last training session he had been practising getting those shots away. "Today it fell for me so I said I'd back myself with the outside of the left foot". He said he was steering it inside the post but to put it in the top corner was a bonus. "A bit of practice goes a long way".

Spirit coach Lawrie McKinna said in the attempt to get the equaliser he put on Kwasnik. "I thought he did well when he came on. He put in a couple of great balls. I thought Macallister should have done better with his header. But although they defended well, we still created chances in that last 20 minutes". He said, "A few of the balls didn't quite bounce. If you are going to lose a game you are going to want to lose to a special goal. That was definitely a special goal". And he said Turnbull was outstanding. "It was a good hard game and unfortunately we missed a couple of chances and the keeper played very well".