The STRIKERS had been promoting the game against Wollongong, expressing the ambition of attracting a club record gate which would have meant 13 000 would have needed to attend. Why they selected that game is a mystery to me. With the Wail packed with free publicity for the opening round of the Rugby League season and the STRIKERS relegated to their customary pauper status by that worthy organ of the press. With due respect to the Wolves, they are not our most deadly of rivals, nor exactly one of the glamour sides of the NSL, and the STRIKERS had just come off two hidings and a frustrating nil nil draw. So, with five minutes to the kick off, and after declining an offer of free tickets outside the ground, it was very easy to stroll through the turnstile and take a seat pretty well anywhere you wanted. I thought the stand looked about as full as it had been the previous week, and was surprised that the gate was announced as 4320, or a thousand more then on that occasion.
The ground announcer was just saying something about thanking the "Referee and touch judges" as we sat down and then the start of the game was delayed for about seven minutes "because it was being televised".
OHY was out and Sean Cranney was back. Unfortunately Des Hughes too was not only not starting, but not even on the bench, despite being our leading goal scorer with 4 from 9 games and Kossie sagely stating in the match programme that "Goals win matches". Most of the first half was last week revisited, with the STRIKERS dominant and not scoring .
Steve Laybutt seemed to have headed a great goal, but it hit the bottom of the post and Kasey Wehrman, who really did put himself about a bit, was awarded a very dubious penalty after quite a theatrical dive in the box. He obviously had a twinge of conscience because he very gently rolled the spot kick back directly mid goal to Pogliacomi. That means he's missed our last two penalties and I would like to see the Mad Bull with his net busters in future.
The Wolves were able to put together a few attacks and Clint Bolton made one outstanding save, stretched way out to his right. Once again 0 - 0 at half time and mutterings of unrest from the masses.
The second half continued in much the same way, perhaps a little more even, but still with little decisiveness about either attack, until, with about 20 minutes to go, one of the innumerable long crosses into the box was attacked by a pair of STRIKERS, and one of them, Matthew Bell, powered a header into the net and there were feelings of great relief all round, but many were expecting the dreaded late equalizer or even winner from the Gong. It would have happened too, if Bolton had not been having his best game of the season. He has always been a good shot blocker and had to show that twice within seconds to keep out two powerful and short range strikes in succession.
Kossie took off Gwynne and Meridith and brought on Zorro and Tullamarine and 9 minutes from the end poor Knipey was thrown his now routine crumb of playing time to replace the largely anonymous Cranny kiddy. Whether it was the subs, the Gong tiring or the STRIKERS determination to hold this lead, they played their best attacking football right at the end and gave us another frustrating glimpse of their potential. If only they could get into that gear for a greater part of a game, they could match any team I've seen in the comp this season.
So now we have 3 of the 14 points Kossie reckons we need to play in the finals. Three scrappy points, to be honest, but I'd take them in that style every week without complaint (well, at least for a while). CC - not done. I didn't notice him.