Die-hard Wolves fans those that came early to see the youth team had the inestimable pleasure of seeing their club score 12 goals to one tonight (and that one was from a miserable penalty).
It wasn't a surprising win for the NYL team (Wolves having one of the best teams in the competition and tonight's opposition being only Northern Spirit's colts side), but what a curtain raiser.
What was surprising was Wolves' 'captain courageous' Matt Horsley not turning up for his 200th game. While he was chucking an extremely rare sickie his boots on the right flank were being worn by Ray Younis and his captain's armband was being worn uncomfortably by Alvin Ceccoli.
Not that Alvin had a bad game; just that he spent a lot time trying to get the armband to stay up.
Younis, however ... Younis ... couldn't decide whether to be hero or villain and, when he wasn't scoring his goal or giving away the penalty, played a stinker (well, in the first half, at least, when I was getting a good look at him and baying for his blood).
Sasha Petrovski, on the other hand, continued his meteoric rise to stardom making himself man of the match with three well-taken goals. (I, like many other near sighted goof balls in the stands, thought he scored the fantastic first goal from a Younis cross, but the authorities swear he didn't get a foot to it all credit going to Falcons' Jeff Hopkins).
Wolves started the main game as though they were going to score 20. For most of the game the very youthful looking Gippsland were simply overawed and outplayed. The only ray of hope was Archie Thompson who from five minutes in let Wolves know it wasn't going to be one way traffic. Apart from the penalty, though, it was only Thompson's individual flair that made Gippsland even look like scoring. And most of his attempts were acrobatic half shots that gave Pogliacomi little trouble. (I wonder if Gippsland spend one night a week practising only bicycle kicks; I've never seen so many attempted by one team in a single game.) Sinozic seemed to be struggling against him in the first half and Ceccoli made a better fist of it in the second half.
A game with lots of needle (lots of players being talked to by the ref, Mr Tippett, of whom I've not previously had the pleasure; several Gippsland players and a couple of Wolves getting cards) didn't seem to be well-managed by the ref. He was knocked off his feet by a Wolves clearance after ten minutes and the crowd obviously thought he'd lost his senses for the duration.
Not long after Hopkins' marvellous effort, Younis lost his senses and mindlessly mangled Vargas (apparently) in the corner of the penalty area. Osman sent Pogliacomi the wrong way and Wolves' optimism and composure went out the window for ten minutes. On 20 minutes Wolves missed some chances with Jevdjevic out of position. Two minutes later Pogliacomi was saving in a scramble with his team mate Younis.
Then Paul Reid (my man of the match for a classy first half performance) put Petrovski through and (except for a Pogliacomi tip over the bar in the next minute and a header over the bar from Thompson on the end of a Hastie cross later in the half) Wolves were cruising. Reid and Surjan started courting one another as the decent ball players they both are ought. Chipperfield and Masi had shots on target (though Masi should have made more of it). Ceccoli had a half chance on the turn from a Surjan free kick. A Surjan-Chipperfield combination gave Petrovski a chance to test the Falcons' keeper.
Then Santa flew in and it was half time.
Pretty soon into the second half and Chipperfield forced a corner from Jevdjevic. From the corner Surjan found Masi who got it back over to Chipperfield who dropped one from his head into the path of Younis. Goal. Then Surjan from midfield found Petrovski on the right hand side of the box; he collected well under pressure and. Goal. Reid missed one. Masi missed one. Noel Spencer came on for Reid (not sure if Reid was injured or if Nick T. just wanted to give him a rest and the other youngster a run) and it became a matter of 'let's line some shots up for Noel' which had Spencer dutifully blasting away.
Hastie wasn't the player I'd have predicted would be red carded (two or three others looked to be trying for it) but his pushing over of Petrovski wasn't very nuanced.
Ceccoli went off with a gammy ankle and decreed Surjan captain. Petrovski gets another one. Goal. Surjan on the edge of the box refuses to shoot, despite the crowd's pleading, and puts the ball through for Spencer who works his way into position and puts Wolves 6-1 up.
Brooks came on for Surjan who passed the captain's mantle to Souris but the last ten minutes were Wolves stuffing chances. Gippsland weren't looking too bad, despite being a man down. And Pogliacomi even had to make a scrambled save in the latter stages.
A couple of the Gippsland players (Vargas in particular, I think) were quick but Thompson was the only real, occasional, standout. Wolves defence, with Langan instead of Stanton, looked sound usually had the numbers back at least but wasn't really tested.
Brooks stomped off at the end (maybe he thought he wasn't given much of a chance, but he wasn't doing too well with the chance he had) and Petrovski received his accolades.
Next week Wolves visit Adelaide Sharks, Wolves' bogey team from last season.
Tell you something, the drive back to Liverpool of a Sunday night is a tad more pleasant after the shellacking has been handed out to the opposition for a change.