Pagewood 2-2 Barnstoneworth United
New reign ends in draw
New manager Neil Baker had mixed emotions after watching his new side fail to snatch all three points on the opening day of the Eastern suburbs AA2 league. Taking charge of Barnstoneworth United 2nd’s for the first time Baker’s new look side drew 2-2 with newly promoted Pagewood.
Despite still being unbeaten during his reign following four wins and a draw in pre-season, Baker was disappointed with the goals conceded.
“For 25 minutes in the first-half we stopped playing. We didn’t do the fundamentals that we’ve been working on and that cost us the three points. We conceded two sloppy goals and it’s something we can’t do if we want to challenge for the title. I have a fantastic squad here, which I believe is the best in this league. I have the option to freshen things whenever we need it and I was pleased with the reaction after the break.”
Baker’s selection headache is one that any manager would like which meant the rookie coach having to make big decisions with his starting 11 which included four summer signings in a 4-4-2 formation. Ken Cogley, Stuart Frampton Gerry McEneaney and Adam Smith all made their bows from the first whistle and it was Smith who delighted the away following with a debut goal.
Following a forgettable opening quarter where both teams failed to stamp their authority on the game, Smith pounced with a thunderous diving head from a yard out to give the away side the lead. The Pagewood goalkeeper came and flapped at a flighted free-kick into the box from Ian Rogers giving Smith the chance to nod into an empty net for which the good looking, hard working tenacious and MODEST midfielder duly took.
The 25 minutes that Baker spoke of after the final whistle followed the opening goal which galvanised the home side as they began to take the ascendency. Powerhouse forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic proved a handful up-front and was involved in the equaliser that came ten minutes from the break. The referee who was easily swayed over the 90 minutes gave a harshly adjudged free-kick that was delivered towards Ibrahimovic.
United couldn’t cope with his aerial prowess as the defence failed to clear, the loose ball fell kindly to Pagewood who found the bottom corner.
The home side continued to dominate and they were rewarded five minutes later as United were slow to react to a short corner. Having worked the angle Pagewood hit a low shot that went through a crowd of players and deflected off Joe Ward with Cogley left to watch the ball trickle over the line.
Half-time Pagewood 2-1 Barnstoneworth
Baker rang the chances during the break bringing on all five of his subs to freshen things up in the sweltering Sydney heat.
Both the changes and the rest rejuvenated United as they dominated play and possession in the 2nd half.
The passing interchanges looked good on the eye but creating clinical chances was proving difficult against a stubborn Pagewood defence who played on the counter attack with good effect.
United’s pressure paid off as they got the equaliser they deserved following a flowing 15 pass move that sliced open the assured looking back-line.
Bryn Lawlor was released through on goal after United moved the ball swiftly from left to right and as the forwards shot was blocked last season’s top scoring defender Adam Lowther picked up from where he left off as he rifled the ball into the corner to send the travelling fans into raptures.
More changes followed as United lost centre-back Frampton to injury as both teams pressed for a winner.
Pagewood’s best attempts came from a cross-shot that Cogley did brilliantly to claw away from the top corner and the debutant keeper was at it again to turn a free-kick around the post.
However, it was Barnstoneworth who came closest to taking all three points as the lively Lawlor rattled the crossbar with a left foot shot that looked destined for the top corner following another brilliant passing move. The resulting melee could have proven fruitful as Lee McClair’s miscued overhead kick fell to Niall Deegan who missed the target when it looked easier to score.
Lowther had a late chance to double his tally and grab the winner but miss-hit his shot straight into the hands of the goalkeeper. United tried in vain to break down Pagewood again as they heaped pressure on the home goal with successive corners but just didn’t get the luck of the bounce.
Pagewood were glad to hear the sound of the final whistle but a draw was a fair result as the players head into the Easter break.
Final Score – Pagewood 2-2 Barnstoneworth.
Man of the match: Adam Smith for an energetic 75 minutes in which he bagged his first Barnstoneworth goal before being substituted.