It’s been a mammoth week. So much so I have lost the concept of time, merely marking the days going by through what games are and aren’t on. As a result, and the pure amount of stories this round holds, we are breaking it down to parts! A bit like a good meal out, there will be an entree, the main meal followed by dessert. Trust me, all of it you’ll want to stick around for. Just the highlights so far? Dancing brothers, 30 yard pearlers, media boxes, hot days, teams losing, teams winning and lots of travel.
Here is Part I, the Hobart leg, coming at you on a Sunday because entree’s are always early. Part II, the Melbourne leg, will be coming at you the usual Match Day Monday time of Monday morning, whilst Part III, the Sydney leg will be about Monday evening, you know for your supper reading. So enjoy Match Day Monday, coming at you in three more manageable chunks.
Part I – Hobart
Thursday night football is good football in my book, especially when it’s between two sides who I’m pinning will be fighting it out for that valuable fourth place in Melbourne Victory hosting Newcastle Jets. Thursday nights can also be wild as a matter of “where the bloody hell are ya?”, cause you know, life happens during the week and things crop up. I figure so long as the footy can be on a screen somewhere come the time, I’m more than willing to make it work out. That’s what happened this week, as I was at my Dad’s place, having family dinner as a sort of see you later, in two months, type of thing. Side note, two months isn’t ages, but when you’ve got a birthday, graduation and Christmas in the space of those two months, there probably needs time for a meal shared at some point before leaving yeah.
Anyway. I’m slowly working on getting my dad converted to the beautiful game of the W-League. Another pro of Thursday night football, easy time for my dad to remember when it’s on and no excuse to not watch it as 7.30pm is too close to his bedtime on a weeknight, meaning he will be home. Dinner’s finished, and whilst waiting for the match, in an effort to impress me, my dad starts reading off his email preview for the night’s Victory game (we can forgive him for being a Victory fan just this once). As any good millennial, I decided “what the hey, lets record this sucker, there could be something good in it”. And was there. Dead on the 30 second mark, the moment I was about to pack up shop and stop the recording, my younger brother Jed (the one who I had to take to Willie Smith once and miss chunks of a crazy Roar game last season), comes up behind my dad and starts pulling faces. Then he moves on to not just faces, but full on dancing around my dad, whilst he continues to read his “preview” out. It was magic. I held my laughter back until the end of my 90 second film, then lost it. So it’s decided from here on out, any reading out of match previews is to be accompanied by a 23 year old ghost dancing. You won’t be disappointed when this rule is implemented.
Finally we got to the game. Gee I’m glad we didn’t miss the start to this one, hope you didn’t either. The game started as an absolute banger! First it looked like panic stations for Victory supporters, up against a better outfit in the Jets than Adelaide were last weekend, the Jets controlled possession early, whilst Victory tried to see how many people they could throw through the middle, like clowns in a tiny taxi. Ayres had another idea though. Completely against the run of play, Ayres ripes an absolute, jaw dropping 30-odd yard goal.
A game usually only needs a spark to get it started, Ayres goal provided that. Five minutes later, Victory breached the Jets defence proper this time to get a two goal cushion. If Ayers’ goal was a thing of beauty to have on replay over and over on your phone, then Maher’s through ball is to be put in a frame somewhere for museums to exhibit, capable of pulling in the masses. Maher had far too much time with the ball, carrying it forward to the Jets defence. At just the right time, Maher released the ball into the direction Dowie was pointing to, behind the defender, and Dowie made no mistake sinking it. Maher’s ball was so simple, but completely gutted the Jets defence in one simple blow.
Because two goals in five minutes isn’t enough, Newcastle provided an urgent response. Vine earned her first W-League goal, through a clever run off Stengel, who held the ball up, turned and played the young striker through. It’s not even 15 minutes into the game, it’s 2–1 and my dad is stirring me about saying Victory could struggle to score (I did predict they would get three though, once again demonstrating my wildness and inconsistencies with predicting score lines).
After a boiling start, the game began to simmer. Weatherholt for Melbourne was instrumental to the side winning the ball, kick starting many of their chances. Whilst Melbourne’s ability to shut down Van Egmond for the rest of the first half, meant the Jets opportunities forward weren’t really available, as they couldn’t move the ball to the spaces out wide being left for them.Half time hits. My dad has called it early, then goes through the half as if a seesaw over whether or not to call it. Given the final result and that he’ll be a good sport over this story, we can all *agree* he stuck to his initial conviction of Victory having this in the bag by half time.
With the way the second half plays out, we are given some useful information to ponder. Crummer is wasted at centre back. Her best move of the day came with a shot from range, whilst her lack of experience in the position showed in her passing selection and ability. However, Smith in the right places, with the service of Van Egmond, having worked her way back into the match, will be very dangerous for the Jets. For Victory, it was that they had the chances to bury the game by the hour mark, but didn’t capitalise. They got away with sitting particularly deep and inviting the Jets to play at them, whilst still maintaining the threat of Dowie upfront, with a game plan of getting the ball to Nairn, who looked to play Dowie through, worked somewhat successfully, albeit without another tally on the board.
The thrill of the first fifteen minutes was enough to have the final say over the match. Melbourne came out the winners, but will surely be asking questions about their finishing, despite bagging the early two. The round 1 bye was evident for the Jets, with the gamble that is a round one bye not pulling off for them. This is a side who heavily relied on the midfield gears of Hulster and Van Egmond, without one, they might need to reinvent the wheel a bit if they still want last season’s successes and adapt their play to the players at their disposal.
My dad’s final word on the night? “Should’ve just gone to bed at quarter to 8 after the three goals”.