An eventful evening began with a generous guy walking up and giving two free tickets to my other half as we waited in line. Not sure why he chose us (maybe took pity on a lady midterm in pregnancy with two kids and a hubby in tow?). Anyway, never got to thank the mystery man as he was gone in an instant but mate if you're reading this, thanks a heap!
Into the stand and a decent crowd had rolled up. Still nothing to boast about (announced as 5010) but probably quite good against the Sharks who I'm sure don't normally have the drawing power of a Marconi or Sth Melbourne.
A further changed Brisbane line-up had a number of stars unable to take the park: Cranney with achilles trouble, Zorro who's game (according to the wail) is still suffering from a blood disorder earlier in the year , Harris (suspended?), Hews (was supposed to play in the QAS game?) and Harper (hammy).
Once again though the young guys lived up to the big raps everyone's giving them. Stefanutto continues to amaze me, surely this guy isn't 19. He plays more like Baresi did at 30!
The strikers came out as if under STRICT instructions not to waste energy. Suspect this is why the first half was fairly flat with neither side dominating. The visitors looked more organised and played a better team game, not having as much possession but more purposeful with the ball in the 18yd box than their younger opponents. The Strikers on the other hand showed they have skill to burn but notable was Kasey's poor performance in this first session. Playing a more forward role didn't suit him and he found it difficult to link up with others in the middle. Nick Meredith had the best chance of the half and probably deserved a goal with a powerdrive following a superb run from Des Hughes down the right. Another good effort (I think from Shroj?) beat the keeper and would have made the scoresheet if only it were on target.
Notable also for the first half was the antics of the Sharks keeper (David Miller?) who booted a goalkick out, gave away a free for handling outside the area and behaved like a monkey whenever Brisbane had a freekick at close range.
0-0 at halftime already had me thinking about the final minute of the match. Would we have scored by then? Again few players seemed to want to shoot. Jade North had made a fantastic break at one stage but just couldn't bring himself to hit it. Others had been in similar situations and I was already getting visions of the 'lost in the last minute' Strikers match headlines (which continue to feature as deep as possible into the Wail sports pages!) Come 89 minutes would we be hanging on for a point or maybe for all three?
The second period commenced and the distant storm quickly became not so distant. Gradually the home team began to buzz. Kasey got better as the match wore on (though still a very poor game by his standards). The storm became quite a spectacle and I read each lightning strike like an omen that tonight the good guys would get the points. With about 25 minutes gone, the first goal came when Wayne Shroj looped a header over the keeper after a cross from the right was deflected on to find him lurking at the far post.
The ref had a good game by the way, only the odd mistake and rightly became more lenient for mistimed tackles once the rain began to fall. After a couple of shocker refs earlier in the season, it was refreshing to see cards reserved only for genuine card offences!
Stuart McLaren (who'd been solid but reasonably quiet) then scored an absolute cracker when from outside the area he drove the ball sweetly with his left foot into the bottom left corner. Keeper had no chance despite the range. The crowd erupted, the lightning continued, it was 2-0 with about 5-10 minutes to go and surely we could go on with this?
But to test whether the young guns had learnt anything from the last 89th minute heartbreak, Adelaide quickly replied with a goal as good as, if not better than McLaren's. Worked down the left, a great strike from the corner of the penalty area had Bolton at full stretch unable to stop the goal. Bolton played well again tonight as did Laybutt who I thought was outstanding (he can become a full socceroo on tonight's showing, he won everything in the air in the first half and with far fewer high balls pumped his way in the 2nd. My bet is Schaefer's halftime talk included "don't hit any more high balls, Laybutt's winning everything!".
Last few minutes were frantic with the usual desperation clearances and while it could have been another heartbreaker it could also so easily have been 3-1. The ever enthusiastic Knipey came so close after some slippery play found him in space but was denied by some determined goalkeeping.
The torrential downpour saturated everyone as we left the ground but couldn't dampen the spirits. Went home to relax watching a quiet Jackie Chan movie on SBS.