The half time talk among Wolves fans in the boys' toilet was that Wollongong need to fork out the money to buy some decent strikers.
The full time talk in the boys' toilet among Marconi fans is that they should have won 6 - 0. Obviously the Marconi fans, who were quite numerous and sometimes noisy, had reason to be chuffed. But ...
Wollongong 2, Marconi 5
Wolves looked good from the start. Bishop got a threatening cross in early. But Marconi spoilt the mood when Babic made a good defensive intercept, hoicked the ball down the right to Maloney who crossed into the goalmouth for Trajanovski to slot home.
Wolves went on to dominate the first half. Putting long series of passes together, building slowly, congesting the Marconi area and never finishing. Marconi's only tactic seemed to be to belt the ball up to Trajanovski. Stanton had a long run, delivering to Masi in front of goal but Covic just beat him to it. A Surjan cross found Brooks' head but Covic tipped it over the bar. Covic caught a long shot from Dimoski. Masi pulled a cross back from the line, it found Bishop who passed to Chipperfield who headed over.
Still looking good for Wolves. Must score soon. But 26 minutes in and Trajanovski wins a tugging struggle with Souris to get the ball to Maloney in space on the left side of the penalty area. Maloney hits low and hard and Marconi are 2-0 up.
Eight minutes later Wolves have worked the ball up into the Marconi area, the ball bobs tantalising up for a certain goal ... but Covic has it. A minute later Chipperfield heads down to Covic's arms. Wolves players continue to shoot wide, shoot over and fall over in the Marconi penalty area, appealing to no avail.
Awaritefe had a good win against Langan, crossed into the goalmouth but Stanton tidied up and ran the ball upfield ... as he does.
Early in the second half Trajanovski had a great chance free in front of the goal. Shot it into the approaching Beltrame with the ball flying high over the crossbar. Beltrame would have to make a couple more similar saves.
Marconi had a bit more of the ball in the second half. Twelve minutes in Maloney hit the post with another powerful low shot. A minute later Hooker chipped one in over the melee after Beltrame went down scrambling a save.
Around 64 minutes Surjan passed to someone I missed who set Dimoski up for a swerving drive from outside the box into the right side of the net.
Ten minutes later Beltrame made another great save, this time from Trajanovski who had a free run at goal.
Four minutes later, when the ball seemed well clear, Wolves had a penalty. Surjan made it 2-3 and things got really exciting. One Marconi player collected a yellow card before the goal and another got one soon after. A bit of panic set in. Wolves lifted and pushed forward even harder. And Marconi lifted, finding it even easier to attack on the counter. And it was a already a pretty fast game.
No point getting our hopes up. Two minutes after Surjan's goal Souris was running back on his own with a Marconi player on either flank. No hope. An easy one for Maloney. This time Beltrame couldn't perform the miracle.
Three minutes later he does the miraculous against Awaritefe but the ball spins off to bloody Bugsy who does the dirty deed for the third time.
Quennet hit one to Covic. Langan blatantly ankle-tapped Awaritefe and got a yellow card.
Maloney was the main difference between the teams. That seems obvious, but if Wolves had him or someone who could finish at the end of even a third of their attacks the scoreline would have been much different. Babic and Co. did well to cut out and clog up, but for much of the game and on most of the park Marconi were being outplayed. What they did do was do the simple things effectively. Most of their goals looked like they were made for a training video. A clearing pass, another pass or a cross and a proper shot on target.
But Wolves didn't go into the match to defend. There were three strikers on the bench. And Stanton in the first half and Stanton and Langan in the second half, both defenders, were frequently in the Marconi half. Shooting.
Apart from the usual frustration it wasn't a bad game to watch. Dimoski was Wolves' man of the match. He looked more like his peak form last season. Surjan was pushing further forward, often lurking in Marconi's penalty area, but covering a lot of the park and sometimes chasing back to make important defensive tackles. He had a couple of daft touches but many deft ones. Chipperfield and Masi clearly weren't on song. Reid had a good industrious first half. Souris was strong as usual. Beltrame did well to keep it down to five.
Every team above them[Marconi] has strikers who can shoot properly on target. Marconi's next two opponents won't be thinking about forsaking all for entertaining football. They'll have something to lose and not just something to prove.
Maloney was getting eaten otherwise, often suffering Awaritefe's bum-in-the-mud problem. Trajanovski did okay chasing long balls and, like Maloney, putting himself in the acres of space that was left for him.