Marconi v Newcastle

Round 24 report by Alan Clark
Marconi-Fairfield v Newcastle Breakers

Marconi's hopes for a Finals place dimmed after their 0-1 loss at home to Newcastle Breakers, but coach Frank Farina is still banking on his remaining four home games to give them sufficient points for May action.

"(Making the Finals) is still very possible. The disappointing thing is it's undone all the good work we did last week in Adelaide (where Marconi won 3-2 against Adelaide City). A good away win, and then we come home and lose.

"We're still pretty much on track, it just makes it much harder."

In a game of little entertainment, the quality of the only goal of the game would have embroidered the most sparkling contest. Robert Shannon received the ball in the centre-circle, exchanged a pass after moving wide to the right. His cross went to Thomas Haythornthwaite who converted in Brazilian fashion, exocetting an unstoppable horizontal bicycle-kick volley from 12 yards.

Breakers coach Lee Sterry summed it up exactly: "It was a damned good goal. If it's not goal of the year, it's in a photo-finish."

The pity for the crowd was that this moment of footballing excellence came after just eleven minutes and required them to sit through another 79 devoid of much else of interest.

Breakers spurned a golden opportunity to go two ahead through Greg Owens in the 22nd minute. A long ball from the back after a Breakers' free-kick dropped more quickly that the otherwise faultless Pan-Keun Kim expected, causing him to stoop when heading. Owens had spotted the potential and was quickly on Kim blocking the attempted clearance which then fell kindly for him as he burst through to face only Marconi keeper Ante Covic. Owens' shot was beyond the reach of Covic, but went narrowly wide.

Newcastle have Finals hopes of their own and set about the task with determination, harrying their more fancied opponents throughout the contest, attacking in numbers whenever the opportunity arose, and defending stoutly when required.

The slick Marconi playing surface, cut shorter than the team's preferred length, was made lightning fast by the rain which fell just after kick-off.

John Buonavoglia - a player of diminutive stature - proved best suited to the combination of conditions while his more solidly statured opponents found their footing perilous.

Neither side was able to construct a play based on maintaining possession, turning the ball over to the frustration of their coaching staff.

Marconi launched a number of almost individual and unconnected goal attempts, but those which did breach the tight Breakers' defence, came to nought because of the skills of goalkeeper Bob Catlin - once a Marconi favourite.

Farina hoped for more from his wide players given Newcastle's reputation of stout defending: "I felt our service from the flanks was atrocious. We were giving (Breakers' goalkeeper) Bobbie Catlin crossing practice. We were getting in dangerous positions and the final ball was just very bad.

"You've got to be able to break teams down like that. If you (don't) you're going to see games similar to tonight's which was a struggle for us."

Sterry admits to Newcastle not being a glamour club, but says his side can compete with the best. "We've got to do with what we've got - an average-type team with a lot of ticker. Technique and skill-factor we mightn't be one of the best, but certainly (we have) character. I wouldn't sell any of my blokes short."