Spirit v Marconi

Round 9 report by Paul Goodwin
Northern Spirit v Marconi-Fairfield

Last year Northern Spirit regained some respect from their long-suffering supporters when they defeated an unlucky Marconi 2-1 at Spirit Park. After Friday night's effort that respect could well turn to rejection by an ever diminishing band of supporters if the creative juices don't begin to flow more often at the ground.

Two thousand more people attended this game than the corresponding fixture last season, but that would be scant consolation for the club who really should have broken five figures for a game of this stature.

Unlike last season, conditions were perfect and the two sides had everything to play for. The crowd would have expected as much.

Instead, Graham Arnold's aim to turn Spirit Park into a fortress, a view expressed at the start of last season, seems to be happening twelve months later, but at a high cost. Three scoreless draws out of five home outings hardly provide a recipe for winning back the fans.

The game had its moments, admittedly, but with the two sides level on points going into the game it was surely the home team's task to take the initiative, but they only really fired in patches.

This was not a brilliant Marconi side by any means, though in Angelo Costanzo they had a man who was able to move forward with menace through the middle and a dominant Dominic Longo at the heart of their defence.

At the other end Kris Trajanovski and Royce Brownlie got little change out of the classy Matthew Bingley and the gnarled veteran Graham Arnold.

The midfield was another area where there were no real winners, Craig Foster and Robbie Enes engaged throughout the contest in a typical "arm wrestle" with their opposite numbers James Afkos and John Maisano.

Most of the inpiration for Spirit came, inevitably, from Matthew Langdon on the left flank and Troy Cranney who looked to get forward as often as possible, on the other side.

Shots were at a real premium; only two meaningful efforts from Marconi and a paltry three from the hosts. It was hardly thrill-a-minute stuff for a crowd eager for some bright, attractive football.

Typical derby fare, then, as these games have now become, but not played with any real venom, more with an undue respect for the other by both sides.

Longo scrambled away a dangerous looking Spirit cross from Cranney in the first minute or so and Moreira nodded over a corner in the 17th while Marconi's Brownlie, gifted a stray pass by Michael Cunico, drove wide from 25 yards in the 23rd.

In the 38th minute Longo again rescued Marconi with a timely tackle on Ben Burgess in the box, after Moreira had been released by Enes down the right and laid on a first time cross to the far post.

Burgess then angled his shot across the face of the goal in the ensuing minutes, following good work from Foster on the left.

Moreira also nodded a Foster cross over the bar at the start of the second period.

Marconi's Maisano stole possession close to goal in the 51st and fed Trajanovski a good pass, but Cunico made the telling tackle as Paul Henderson's goal looked threatened.

The last ten minutes produced a header from Burgess, which went wide and a one-handed save from David Aceski to a Ryan Griffiths shot from a nice ball laid on by Cranney, but Griffiths was not alert enough to snaffle the rebound.

While Northern Spirit had the better of the chances they certainly did not dominate the game which was a midfield slog for the most part.

The lone points allowed Spirit to cling to the edges of the top six, but for how long? More enterprising sides just beneath them looked set to eclipse them over the remaining games of the weekend and if not then, maybe soon enough.

Marconi, at least, got the point and the team is still looking for its first win at the ground, but did get some reward from the game.

Spirit can't really claim they did.