Carlton v Pride

Round 6 report by David Arnold
Carlton SC v Eastern Pride

Carlton's Epping stadium experiment got off to a horrendous start with the kickoff delayed by an hour and half due to problems with the portable goalposts.

The club could have reasonably expected properly secured goalposts would have been setup by Whittlesea council, but this was just one of many surprises the day had in store.

Indeed, the first actual delay was due to the trouble that punters had in getting access to the ground. Traffic was backed up 1km from the stadium, a situation unprecedented in Carlton's history.

Officials delayed the kickoff 15 minutes, but then had to further delay owing to the goals. The 3,000 estimated crowd took this in good nature. Only when an hour had passed did the crowd get restless and a Carlton fan went on a solo pitch invasion. The club should consider itself lucky he was the only one.

Eventually, 1.5 hours after the game was scheduled to start, the teams took position for the kickoff. alleviating the distinctly mutinous atmosphere.

Carlton have matured as a club (on the pitch) in the last year and today would prove no exception. Always a bit too strong, fast and skillful for a manful Pride side, the Blues were adamant on making amends for a 3-0 reverse in Sydney.

Colosimo went on an early run but was crippled by Griffiths, leading to a yellow card for the on-loan Spirit midfielder. As Colosimo sought treatment, Marth's freekick was deflected wide, but worse news for Carlton came in the form of Colosimo being substituted for Vasilevski.

Referee Craig Zettier, a new face to me, was extremely strict in applying the laws of the game. It was thusly a foul on Robert Middleby which led to a free kick near the sideline. Markovski shaped an outswinging floater which was met powerfully by Marth at the penalty spot to give Galekovic in the Pride goal no chance.

Carlton have adapted a powerful, English/Scottish running game abled with physical presence throughout the squad to disconcert opponents.

A Markovski corner saw McPherson nodding back for Middleby to whack just wide. Then Thompson, shaking himself out a torpor, was hauled down for a yellow against Bell.

Nevertheless, Carlton are prone to infuriating bouts of inconsistency and it was from a criminal backpass across the defence that Pride profited.

Brian MacNicol, having just passed 200 NSL games, could not believe his luck picking up the ball 20 metres out with the defence and midfield scattered to the freshening nor'wester. Looking up, he adjudged Anastasiadis off his line and promptly smacked an unbeatable effort over the backpedalling goalkeeper.

Just before the break, Vasilevski was crudely hacked down by Sekulovski. Pride were giving away free kicks in dangerous positions and so it proved. Markovski sent a low, hard curler which Marth 'picked' off the goalkeeper whom let in for a a soft, albeit clever goal.

Deans followed with another set piece header, but had his attempt ruled illegal due to obstruction of the keeper.

The second half, after a long war of attrition in midfield, developed into the Andy Packer show. Packer has been at sea for much of his Carlton career, but chose this inauspicious location north of Melbourne to launch himself into prominence.

Packer has speed, stamina and is increasingly confident in the dribble. If he could only shoot. Today he seemed determined to seal the game for Carlton on his own. From his better centre-midfield position, his power broke him free of the Pride defence time and again only for his cutback, cross or shot to be nullified.

He was ably assisted by Carlton's small ball of Vasilevski, Thompson, Motsiopoulos and the newcomer, ex-Canberran De Jesus as they laid siege to the frazzled Pride goal.

But it was De Jesus who had the final say, combining with a scorcerer-like interchange of passes with Motsiopoulos to give Thompson his easiest of open-play goals.

The siege ended, Carlton well-deserved 3-1 winners. This club seems to attract more attention for it's off-field escapades and today was no different. After a dreadful opening, the club finished in fine fashion.