Breakers v Spirit

Round 29 report by Chris Dunkerley
Newcastle Breakers v Northern Spirit

Round 29 of the Northern Youth League:

(Note: Breakers still to play Rnd 26 v. Wolves Tuesday 20th April 5pm)

This was a game I had long looked forward too, with mixed emotions however as I support both teams (Breakers 1st, Spirit 2nd) - so in a sense I couldn't win! With my 3 kids we circled the field getting the feel from both sets of fans. The weather for the past 2 weeks had been very wet and the location of the Breakers Stadium 'in a swamp' meant that on arrival the field was very very heavy with the YL game literally ploughing it up - not as much water as 2 years ago v. Sth Melb. but wet deeper down. The crowd was swelling and by kick-off over 5000 were ready for a hard fought game, including perhaps 4-500 Spirit fans with about 300 coloufull and noisy 'Bob Standers' standing in mud on the western embankment close by the special 'beer' cart. Rowdies Hill was as full as I have seen it too. The Breakers out of the top 6 race but definitely not in the mood for any favours to Spirit, and Spirit sweating on at least a point to secure a spot before facing aspirant Marconi next Sunday.

From the kick off it was apparent that the Breakers have started to learn something about playing on a heavy track and Spirit, used to their lightning fast paddock at NSO, were having to adjust quickly. Both sides had to forget much about 'on the deck' and flank play and moved upfield with kicks in the air. Breakers dropped back in numbers and asked Spirit the question, 'do you want to win this?' The answer was to start lobbing balls from the back, especially by Arnold onto Zane and Slaters feet. For the next 15 mins Spirit had Newcastle scrambling, with Catlin doing a Torvill and Dean. Breakers held their shape well with Shane Pryce marshalling his troops and Andy Roberts giving Slater a hard time, so that by the 40th minute they had weathered the storm and started to push up using Tom Haythornthawaite, Shannon, and Buonovaglia to 'wall pass' through the 'stuck in the mud' Spirit defence. They had two great chances to take the lead, especially when Buonovaglia slipped the defence and the strike hitting the inside of one goalpost spinning and slipping in the mud across the goal line and flipped of the far post and was cleared, all while Hendo was left struggling to respond. The teams went in at half-time wondering who could master the conditions for the final play.

In the second half Spirit again came forward and pressured the sturdy Breakers defence who had Shannon tripping around as if he had played all his life in the Scottish mud for Hibernian! ;-) Haythornthwaite and little Johnny made foray's but to no result. Slater was now struggling due to an old injury and in a swap young strong Daniel Watkins came on for him and immediately gave more penetration. Sterrey decided that Roberts could now come off and Glen Sprod came on. Alas from the next move a corner by Spirit from Langdon, who was having a fine game despite Shannon's attention, Sprod was struck on the arm by the ball and whistler Matthew Breeze pointed to the spot. Bilo capped anotrher good game by making no mistake as he sent Catlin to the left and shaving the other upright with his strike. 0 - 1. Arnold had been General-ing from a deep laying sweeper's spot and continued to urge his 'troops' on but Sterrey made another change to give more offensive bite and the Breakers started to push up and soon Haythornthwaite had one of his overhead kicks picked out of the air by Hendo. More pressure and on a lovely curling cross ball by Shannon from the right flank Hathornthwaite slammed in onto goal where Hendo parried it across goal but right into the path of Arnie who carried it over the line. 1 - 1. It looked like the Breakers might snatch this one but Strerrey put on his third sub. Chris Tancheski, just back from injury, but the lad must be jinxed as during a challenge to Paul Bilopkapic he fell heavily onto his left arm and after being stretchered off he took no further part in the game. Left with 10 men Newcastle eased up the attack but interestingly enough so did Spirit, with Arnie directing traffic they sat in their half playing with the ball, whilst Newcastle stayed in their's except for Johnny. Quite weird really but both sets of noisy fans were having such a good time they hardly noticed - however the 'cardboards' in the Stands started to get a bit picky. I think both teams were happy to go for a shower once Breeze blew his whistle - Breakers fans celebrating their last home game and giving the players and Lee Sterrey a rowsing reception - and the Spirit already looking forward to the 'beach party' at Marconi next Sunday and then the top 6 game back at NSO.

It was I suppose the best result I could have hoped for but I still felt Breakers could have snatched it.