This week’s AA4 fixture was certainly one for the scrapbooks albeit for off field performances as opposed to commanding ones on the field of play. The game was notable as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Barnstoneworth United football club and the camera crew were present with bells on trying to capture the inner workings of the club a quarter century on from it’s foundation.
Preparations were unique in that the basics of passing and running were this week complimented by the learning of an historic tribal dance whose prestige and grace can be matched only by new Zealand’s now famous Haka.
With the team named, the water on board and the tactics set for battle with a Sydney University side with only 9 players fit and ready for the game’s commencement, history tool centre stage. The legendary Mickey led the team and assorted prestigious club members out to the centre circle where a somewhat befuddled Sydney University side awaited along with the Sky Sports cameras. The following 45 seconds will forever be remembered in Australia Football Federation history as Mickey led a rousing rendition of the Humpity that was met with the utmost respect and silence from all in the ground and followed by a standing ovation upon its electric completion!
Unfortunately this rousing pre-match ritual did not inspire the home team to play their best football in trying windy conditions in the now pumping Paine Reserve. Complacency seemed to creep in due to the oppositions incomplete line up though the first half did produce some good spells with success garnered down the flanks in creating chances where first Nick and then Ronan (with a thunderbolt that had him halfway to the cameras planning a classic celebration) hit the woodwork with chances that would have opened the scoring for what would just about have been a deserved lead.
However, mid way through the half Sydney University (at this stage restored to a more formidable 10 men) took the lead on the break to leave the large Barnstoneworth contingent in the vicinity in stunned silence. This bad news was compounded with the arrival of an 11th man from the nearest bus stop clad head to toe in opposition colours ready to return his teammates to the full compliment of eleven.
This seemed to kick the lads into gear a bit more and some more chances were created in the minutes leading up to half time with Ronan particularly effective on the right flank. A number of corners were produced for the home side and a couple of solid efforts nearly produced the equaliser with Joe coming up from centre back to go close with a glancing header. The breakthrough then came when a good move up the left including WYnton and Wes produced a corner which captain Chris stepped up to take. His cultured left boot dropped a perfect corner right onto the six yard box where Al Dowling was waiting to notch his first league goal of the seasons with his noggin. 1-1
Half time shortly followed and the talk at half time was to stay calm and keep the ball on the ground in increasingly windy conditions. Only a win would satisfy a strong home support that were beginning to grow restless.
The second half continued in the same vein as the first with strong performances from Joe and Richie at the back dealing with considerable and consistent aerial bombardment from the visiting students. The first 20 minutes or so passed without too many notable chances for either team.
Then a quick break started from the centre backs that quickly went through the centre of midfield and up the right flank created an opening for the home side. Al Dowling found himself in space down the right and with the ball hopping in front of him tried to find his strike partner nick. The cross quickly turned into an attempted lob which had the visiting goalkeeper struggling to find the ball with the wind swirling and the sun in his eyes. Despite the obstacles the keeper managed to parry away a ball that seemed to be dropping into the top corner but only as far as the oncoming Nick Heather who duly put the ball in the back of the net to put Barnstoneworth in the lead with 25 or so to play.
The game slipped back into a familiar script then with tired legs on both teams struggling to create many clear cut opportunities though Barnstoneworth did have some joy down the right with a strong second half performance from Dave playing wide right doing most of the damage. However, as has been the tale of the last few games, the home side were unable to build on a one goal lead leaving themselves and unnecessarily uncomfortable end to the match.
The conditions continued to dominate and any threats were expertly dealt with by the back four of Tony, Joe, Richie and Wynton leaving little work for Marcel between the posts. The final whistle came with a touch of relief for both the result and many tired legs out on the playing surface.
The general consensus at the end of the game is that the team is still playing within itself and definitely has a few more gears to move up through in the coming weeks. These gears will need to be found soon with a big match coming up next weekend against a Maroubra team going well in the league. All in all though it should be taken as a positive that the team ground out another important win on a day when they didn’t play their best to keep themselves right in contention at the right end of the table on an important and enjoyable day for those involved in the club.