It’s been a good start to the season for the Albion Park Junior Soccer Club Under 11 Red team, who going in to the weekend were still undefeated after their first five matches. Though not complacent as such, perhaps the fire wasn’t burning so brightly as it has been as they approached their match against the Figtree Amber team at Harry Graham Oval.
Playing without a reserve due to the illness of Ky Van Helden, the Park team was under pressure from the outset as the Figtree team immediately breached the defence and the ball was sent wide of keeper Josh Peters for the home team to take a 1-0 lead. The play was in a bit of disarray, and it took a great piece of play to get them heading back in the right direction. From a stoppage in play for a goal kick, Jack Tate chased the attackers and forced a mistake, from which Belle Kadwell swept in from defence and stole the ball, passing it back up to Jack. Jack then went on one of his signature runs, beating four players before shooting from a fair distance outside the box, and beating the keeper with the ball crashing into the top right corner for a fantastic goal, and the score was level again at 1-1.
The dominant order had been restored, with the Park kids finding their feet once again. There was some excellent work from the forward five who were working hard to find a way through their opponents defence. On the left, Zoe Middleton made a great tackle on her opponents and forced a slick pass forward to Claire Kadwell who beat one player before giving the ball to Indy Middleton who raced diagonally across the field to the right where he found Brock Young. Brock turned and shot at goal only to have it saved, but the ball rebounded all the way back to where Jack was waiting again, and once again from long long range he launched a shot on goal that was too good for the keeper. Jack had his second goal, and the score was now in Park’s favour at 2-1.
With their tails up, the Park forward line was looking to capitalise. There were some great attacking moves from Indy, Claire and Brock, and Zoe only narrowly missed getting a goal of her own when just failing to get on to a great cross past the goal by Brock. The pressure told, and when Jack again attacked his opponents from a goal kick, he stole the ball and slotted home his third goal of the half to take the score to 3-1 when the half time whistle blew.
The second half proved to be one of frustration and jangling nerves as one team attacked for no result and the other took their opportunities and forced their way back into the game. Jack moved into goals, noticeably exhausted from having run himself off his feet, which gave others the chance to make the running. Up front Noah Black and Claire combined well, with Noah twice able to find Claire in space, but she was just not quite able to make it count. From one of these plays the Figtree team took advantage of a Park defence that had gone to sleep and were taken unawares, leaving Jack stranded and unable to prevent the goal being scored. Despite being the dominant attacking team, the score was now only 3-2 to Albion Park.
There was now a period of ten minutes where Albion Park had multiple shots on goal for little reward. Both Indy and Noah had three shots on goal, and though a couple went well wide the others were superbly saved by the Figtree goal keeper. Jack-Ryan Eberwein also unloaded his big right boot on two shots but couldn’t beat the great defence. Finally, after a lengthy period of sustained attack, Noah managed to get one past the outstretched hand of the keeper, which then hit the post and rebounded into the goal for Albion Park to increase their buffer to two, and the score to 4-2.
With at least six goals saved, the score could have been a blow-out, but in the end the reason Albion Park was able to call themselves winners was because of Belle Kadwell. Through the whole match she has been tireless and never stopped in defence, rushing at her opponents before they could control the ball and kicking it long out of danger. In the second half especially she was magnificent. A further Figtree goal down the left had brought the score back to 4-3, and there was little doubt they were looking to not just draw the match, but win it. But time and time again belle saved the day, appearing when no one else was in sight, keeping the goal box clear, stealing and passing the ball upfield, or just getting it over the sideline. Even for an Energizer Bunny it was quite a display of football.
When the whistle blew full time, there was a mixed feeling on the sideline. With all of the attacking chances, the score could well have been a much bigger victory for the Albion Park team. But the Figtree goal keeper had been terrific, and the few chances created at their end were mostly converted. The right team won, but the feeling was that there is still plenty to work on in all facets.
Player of the Day was a tough choice. Jack Tate, almost a year to the day from when he scored 5 goals against Lakeside, was brilliant in the first half scoring his hat-trick, and on any other day he would have won the award. But it went to Belle Kadwell for her match long amazing effort in defence that really proved to be the difference between winning and losing on the day.