Wolves must have goal phobia. Or some malady that is aggravated by the sound of ball hitting net. They could thrash South Melbourne 7-0 on Sunday night. But it won't matter. After tonight's scoreless draw with Knights even fanciful hopes of making the play-offs were dashed. The players were clearly gutted. As were most of the fans.
Wolves were: Pogliacomi, Souris, Ceccoli, Stanton, Horsley, Brooks (Petrovski 54), Surjan, Chipperfield, Spencer, Masi (Younis 20), Reid (Huxley 73). Petrovski was back from suspension. Sinozic was being rested after wading through the Melbourne mud.
Knights were: Didulica, Nastevski, Jolic, Collina, Kelic, Vojtek (by 24 in the 90th), Susa, Kutlesovski, Kiratzoglou, Karl (Deak 66), Vukadin. Reda was supposed to have made his return Brandon Park, but didn't.
Ref: Mr Hugo (I couldn't quite discern from the crowd whether his given name is Wally or Wanker.)
Nick T. was supposedly going for attack. Was reported to be starting with three strikers. But started with two on the bench. Langan was relegated from the bench to the youth team where he defended with aplomb. By scoring five goals Wolves raised the Institute's goals against from 7 to 12. Wolves Colts scored five today as well. Pity the senior side couldn't etc etc etc.
The wind was playing havoc with long passes and shots. Crosses were hard to judge. Ceccoli twice saw long switches directed at him across the back line go out.
(I didn't get my hour glass synchronised with Mr Hugo's in the first half so some of the following times may be out, but you'll get the idea.)
Reid started taking Wolves' corners from the left. Chipperfield on the right. Brooks had Wolves' first decent chance (too many half-decent chances to mention; yet a half-decent chance for Wolves is any other team's certainty) at about 8 minutes, glancing a header from a Chipperfield corner. This was followed by a couple of half chances and the first couple of the myriad offsides.
Surjan started tonight. Possibly on the strength of his subs' performance on Friday. Possibly because Nick thought he'd be more attacking than Huxley. But he had a great first half. Which coincided with Wolves' great first half (if you ignore the absence of alterations to the scoreboard). On 15 minutes he pulled a ball back for Brooks on the left who crossed it in to Surjan who was running through and in a position to shoot but who unbelievably but typically of late gave it to Masi who blasted it over.
Masi started today at Younis' expense (the Lord does answer prayers!) but it wasn't to Masi's advantage in the end. He had his foot opened by someone's studs and Younis replaced him after about 20 minutes.
Five minutes later Younis received a yellow card for chopping down Vojtek (I don't think I noted much about Knights players in the first half ... largely because they weren't very noteworthy. After trying to believe there are all these teams out there with great defenders who magnificently repel Wolves' masterful attacks ... eventually one must come to the conclusion that it's not the defenders who deserve praise but ....) (But another tangent, if you please: in my younger playing days when I fashioned my style on Norman Hunter and bit any legs that came my way -- but only ever fairly -- I prided myself on rarely being booked (yellow carded) but only receiving cautions ("Do that again, son, and I'll book you"). Is it right, now, to record bookings as "cautions"?)
Next thing you know, Brooks is making a great run, chasing an up-and-under, beating his defenders and crossing in to ... Younis. Who whacks an easy opportunity over the bar. A minute later it's Brooks' turn to mess up a sitter from close range. This rebounds to Spencer who wallops his over the bar.
Then there's another offside against Wollongong.
But on about 30 minutes came Knights' first decent half shot. Kiratzoglou ran the ball towards goal, passed to Kelic on the right who beat Stanton and sprayed one across the face of goal.
Down the other end goes the ball, to find Horsley, who has switched to the left. He pulls it back to Younis whose shot is blocked. Surjan takes the corner to no great effect. But it must have been decent enough because he seems to have taken over from Reid who is having his most noncontributing game in many weeks. And even the contributions he _is_ attempting are, unusually for him, not coming off.
Kelic has a turn at being offside.
On 35 minutes Surjan heads a ball to Horsley in front of goal. He turns and looks to be getting a shot in but it's cleared for a corner. Soon Wolves are attacking again, a ball from Ceccoli in midfield looks destined for Surjan in a _very_ tasty position but Vukadin smartly cuts it out. Then Surjan finds Brooks in a shooting position. Brooks for the second time tries for wind assistance to curl one in. This time it's easily saved by Didulica.
On 40 minutes Younis breaks with Brooks in another mouth-watering position on the left. But Younis holds too long. So long that by the time he gets it to the penalty area Brooks or Surjan or both are in front of him and offside.
Soon Surjan crosses to Brooks' head but it falls harmlessly to a Knights defender. Then there's a string of smothered shots before Ceccoli gets a soft one through to the keeper. Then Surjan chips one from midfield to Horsley on the right who heads down to Brooks who delivers another soft shot.
But on 44 minutes someone finally hits the ball hard on target ... well almost. Spencer hits the post. Susa finds himself having a pleasant run at goal but is easily robbed by Stanton. Ceccoli has a good run down the left touchline, chased by Kelic. Looks like he's beaten him and will get in a cross but he's satisfied to win the corner.
Surjan takes a corner. A dangerous one into the goal box. Cleared. But only for another corner. But Brooks is hurt in the process.
The last chance before half time saw Reid delivering a ball to Chipperfield who easily rounds a yellow shirt (Chipperfield was doing pretty well all night rounding yellow shirts and putting in crosses) and gets the ball to Surjan in front of goal but Surjan couldn't get the gather-turn-shoot thing happening.
Can you imagine what our nerves are going to be like after watching this stuff three times in nine days?
Half time entertainment was Rewind, "direct from Sydney". Pretty good rendering of hits from the '70s and '80s. Play that funky music white boy!
Second half started with a few minutes of end-to-end stuff. Younis crosses. Susa crosses.
Younis chases a through ball and makes Jolic look like a genius (In the second half, particularly, every time Younis was given the ball he'd either give it away straight away or be caught offside). Vojtek has a good break but is easily beaten by Ceccoli. In the 52nd minute Souris crosses to Chipperfield who heads over. Brooks can't manage any longer and on comes Petrovski. Nastevski (what a great name for a defender!) brings down Chipperfield bursting through. Surjan takes the free kick, a soft ball through to Ceccoli who blasts it over. From quite close.
On 59 minutes Susa hits a free kick for the Knights harmlessly over Wolves' crossbar. Then Karl has a shot from in front of goal, just outside the box, forcing a low save from Pogliacomi. Then Kelic shoots one into a defender. Not much of a chance, but a Knights player was having a dig. (About this time I was thinking that Knights weren't making as much use of the counter attack as other teams. They were stopping and pulling the ball back and losing the momentum.)
At 65 minutes Pogliacomi collects a cross from Kutlesovski. Then Collina gets in a left foot shot across the face of goal. Younis is offside again. Someone hits a dream ball for Deak almost as soon as he arrives on the pitch. He gets it down to the goal line. Will he cross? Can he shoot from there? Miss-hit so badly he almost missed it altogether.
In the 73rd minute Reid ends his nothing of a game (second in the dog stakes only to Younis). Souris, cleans up after Stanton loses out after some gallant chasing back, hits a great long ball to Chipperfield on the left who crosses to Surjan in front of goal and Surjan heads ... wide. Quite an unpleasant tarnish on an otherwise admirable game.
Horsley does one of his patented tackle-backs, has a run and delivers to Petrovski who overruns the ball. There's more wasted crosses, another offside, and in the 79th minute Petrovski blasts wide.
Kelic does enough to win a free kick from a Horsley tackle. Deak hits one for Pogliacomi to catch. Souris, who is having another man-of-the-match performance, does a good job on Kutlesovski who receives a good cross from another yellow-shirted chappy. In the 84th minute Chipperfield again works well to get a cross in, Horsley gathers and turns and shoots over. Petrovski and Susa have a difference of opinion about something. The crowd, after thinking in the first half that the goal and the three points and the climb up the ladder were all inevitable, are by now hysterical or resigned to season's end. Horsley, looking good, flashes of former brilliance, beats two defenders in the right side corner (sigh ... just like the good old days), looks set to beat another and get in a miracle cross that will lead to the winning goal ... but ... dream ends ... he's brought down on the edge of the area. And there's no free kick.
Just for the record. Wolves' failure wasn't totally due to their zombiness in front of goal. Didulica made a couple of good saves. Two at this stage of the game: going for a cross under a lot of pressure, the ball falling loose, but regathering with boots flailing all around.
Time seems to have run out, but here's Surjan free on the edge of the area. He plays a square ball to Spencer whose shot is blocked. Ceccoli gets in a low cross. Chipperfield goes down. Nothing eventuates. Stanton obviously can't believe the forwards haven't scored yet because he's been pushing up, running the ball through, firing in some crosses. Gets himself booked. Was it something he said?
In injury time Vojtek is replaced. And for all Wolves' attacking it is Knights who have the last chance and maybe even the best chance of the game. Kutlesovski gets Knights breaking with a ball for Kelic who gets it to Deak in front of goal who forces a pretty desperate save from Pogliacomi. The ball goes for a corner (possibly Knights' first) but it's full time before it can be taken.
And Knights are the only away team this round to even get a point! Incredible.