Woodside Soccer Club’s senior men were in Collegiate League Division 4 action last Saturday as they hosted the old scholars from Mercedes at Woodside Oval. With Woodside second on the ladder and Mercedes third, a draw or defeat for either team would likely mean the end of their respective challenge for the 2017 league title. This was a must-win for both.
The game was played out in a cold wintery breeze and infrequent heavy rain with four goals coming in the last dramatic ten minutes of play as Woodside robbed their guests of victory, winning the tie 4-3.
The Reserves had a bye so the First XI enjoyed a luxury of squad numbers to select from. However, one key absence was Will Pashley and, at the risk of suggesting a dependence on any individual player, the side missed his presence in midfield as Mercedes dominated the early exchanges.
Brad Bateman, in goal, was tested a number of times but the back four, Tully Challen, David Grant, Billy Hyder and Andrew Hampel, stood fast. At the other end of the park it was Woodside, quite against the run of play, that opened the scoring after 15 minutes. Matt Thoday deceived his opponent on the far right before sending a cross to the feet of teammate, Diederik Polman. Polman made no mistake from close range, giving the ‘Woodies’ a 1-0 lead.
However, Mercedes struck back shortly after, to level the tie at 1-1. The visitors were the stronger of the two sides in a game that lack finesse but brimmed with grit. Indeed, a couple of terrific saves by Batemen was all that kept Mercedes from pulling away.
Woodside’s midfield - Liam Bucco, Harvey Watson, Tom Yeardley and Thomas Morgan were kept busy by the Mercedes offensives but soaked up the pressure to get to the interval level at 1-1.
Coach Neil Williams had some stern words of warning in his half-time address. Mercedes were a strong side and a draw would not suffice if Woodside was to maintain a challenge to league leader, Pembroke, some five points distant.
With his words ringing in their ears, Woodside’s players returned to the field for the second half but, on 60 minutes, conceded again as Mercedes went into a 2-1 lead which they held until the 80th minute. At that point, with 10 minutes remaining, Woodside lifted intensity.
The hosts had lost Andrew Hampel to the blood rule, although he was ably replaced by Jake Howe, and Bruce Tonkin was also introduced for the last minutes when success struck. Tom Yeardley was alert to the fumbling of the Mercedes ‘keeper and prodded home a dropped ball after a Woodside free-kick to make it 2-2.
Woodside then struck the post and, minutes later, the bar, before finally converting to make it 3-2 when a Tully Challen free-kick was wonderfully glanced into the net off the head of Matt Thoday.
Thoday, his aerial ability a headache for the visiting Mercedes defence, dominated in the air and he, Woodside’s shortest player by a good distance, was unfortunate to have a curling shot to the far post ruled invalid fr off-side when he appeared to be legitimately positioned.
It mattered not a few minutes later when Liam Bucco latched onto a through ball and squeezed his shot past the exposed Mercedes ‘keeper and put Woodside into a 4-2 lead.
Stunned and robbed, Mercedes did not acquiesce and pulled a goal back with the last kick of the game. The final score, 4-3 in Woodside’s favour, perhaps not a fair reflection of play but the home side won’t be caring about the manner in which the three points were secured as they keep the pressure on league leaders Pembroke.
Next Saturday, both Woodside teams are in action, away to Adelaide Uni White in the city. The Reserves kick off at 11am and the First XI play at 1pm.