Let me remind everyone that this might actually have literally been the last night for the STRIKERS at Perry Park. A sobering thought in view of what transpired.
I picked up Wade and we arrived early as he particularly, and I think others, were in a kind of nostalgia/resignation/desperate hope mode and he had asked me to lend him my Grand Final "Thanks Frank" banner to remind us all of past glories. Indeed, throughout the night the Banana Army interspersed regular vocal support with renditions of such old time favourites as "Ooh aah Al Huntar" and "There's only one Stefanuto" At one point Alagich took a throw right in front of us and gave us a surreptitious clap when we sang his old song too - class man as always. It was obvious we were up for a good night out and it was equally so for our players.
The Adelaide bussers were gathered near the scoreboard corner close to the gate where I have always dished out the Free Kick and I had a bit of chat with them before getting on with it. They were naturally high spirited and a couple were dancing nearby to a little jazz duet of clarinet and tenor banjo that were playing. The players made me feel young and someone jokingly suggested one of them must have been Clem's brother doing it on the cheap. Another reckoned it could have been his dad!
The Torcida area started up before kick off and I was very happy to get over there and contribute. Sam was advised severally to eff off to Richlands - in the nicest possible way of course, but he remained. We are lucky to have a song for just about every player apart from the generic football songs and at most games a bit of spontaneous invention enlivens the match too. Lately "Show us yer nanas" has been popular. I was especially happy to see Declan back from his commercial reasonability's for this game as he is inventive and always keeps going. In fact, we kept going all night with barely a pause, as the game evolved progressing from "We're going to win four nil" through to "five one" and didn't we nearly do it?
From the start it was clear that we were out to get them with only two defenders and one of them, the Red Baron, a couple of times up the wing as I have never seen him before. I guess I'm biased but I thought we were absolutely all over them for the whole game. Brownlie at one point turned well and was heading goalwards with no defender ahead of him when he was crudely pulled down from behind. Red card? Not from Mr Breeze. We passed well, were very destructive and creative in mid field and after half an hour or so Adelaide began to buckle and we started getting the odd shot in. A couple over the bar, one that hit the underside of it and bounced out, one saved, an amazing moment when we had two free men in the box and both left the ball for the other and then Warren Moon turned and struck a deflected shot into the net just before half time. "Were going to win the league". " I can feel a four nil coming on" and "John Kosmina, we've got better since you left" we sang. I was hoarse already, but was just starting to think we might scramble it.
Into the second half and we and the team were at it non stop. The song was modified to "I can feel a Rose coming on" and he did and he scored an absolute peach from a knock back just outside the area. Cue pandemonium and real hope at last. "Stand up for the STRIKERS" actually for the first time ever seemed to have the whole of the Waddell stand on their feet. We were dominating them, they were obviously in disarray and we needed just one more goal to go to extra time at least. Fitzy had a chance to put us in that position moments later, one on one with the keeper he hit it just wide.
A nasty mistress is football. United made a rare sally into our half, somehow broke through and the ball was goal bound into the bottom left corner when from nowhere the Red Baron was in a power dive and miraculously somehow cleared the ball out for a corner. It was, for me the highlight of the match and the outfielder's save of the season. From the resulting corner there was the very first moment of insecurity in our defence and the ball naturally bobbled to an unmarked Veart who powered it into the roof of the net. The red patch diagonally opposite were up with relief, but I did not hear them all night as we were too noisy. 2-1 and Everest looming. United did have a chance to make it 2-2. but lobbed the chance wide to our relief. We did not falter, neither on the park nor in the stand and the lads, to there everlasting credit rolled up their sleeves and went for it.
About ten minutes from the end Adelaide's Demourtzidis (I think) was red carded possibly after an earlier yellow and that gave us even more hope Brain then powered forward, beat a couple of defenders and planted a world class goal in the back of the Adelaide net. Could we do it? The pressure mounted and after a bit of scrappy play in which the STRIKERS forward line harried and at last had a lucky bounce to find Grierson alone and round the keeper to literally calmly walk it into the net. All week I had been pessimistically predicting we'd have a 4-1 win, but it seemd we could well get a fifth. We should have, Matty MacKay hit a rocket that seem goal bound and my son who was behind the goal said it was going in to curve outside the post at the last moment. Forward we surged Grierson broke through into the box, was patently fouled and went down to the howls of the local support. Amazingly Breeze didn't agree, Pete must have said to him just what all were and was red carded. "Super. Super Pete" we sang.
I always time the match and, despite four goals, sending offs, injuries and blatant time wasting by the United keeper a stingy two minutes were added on - and we didn't actually get them - according to my calculations friend Breeze blew right on forty-five.
What a match and how proud I felt of our players. If we are not there next year this will be fitting finale to our club's history. In the bar after the mood was very up beat - it had to be - and the Adelaide United lads whom we congratulated were clearly shell shocked but relieved to scrape through. Clem, standing on a chair in the bar made a rambling and mainly inaudible speech. I hope he is able to call in a favour from Lowie.
I hope it is not an omen but the tongue in my rattle which has been to every STRIKERS' match, had been threatened with confiscation at Lang Park and even had its own chant at one time gave out at half time and must admit I felt quite disempowered to have lost this old friend.
Just under 3000 was the official crowd number. So sad that the combination of media indifference (no more than the usual crumbs in the Wail all week), our club's intransigent stubbornness regarding promotion and no doubt the seemingly hopeless position deprived those other forty thousand glory hunters from seeing a match that, in my opinion was in many ways the equal of out Grand Final win.
I hope to be reporting next season.