Lions weather storm
By PAUL ISRAEL
ONCE again for a Saturday night game in Coffs Harbour, a sizeable crowd was in attendance for the match up between Coffs City Lions and the Northern Storm at the Lion's Den. Expectations from this match were varied as the Northern Storm were justifiably confident after some recent good showings while the Lions were struggling with a serious run of injuries and were also without some key personnel. Despite this, their own recent form had been solid and all players were ready to continue the push up the table after a slow start to the season proper. Steve Worley was making his first grade debut as a striker although his first game at this level last year was a goalkeeper. His recent reserve grade form has been outstanding and he was primed for a big game in front of his home supporters and to fill the shoes of injured striker Nic Lambert. Everything about this game pointed to a tight struggle with plenty of ball movement and pace to burn and the first 15 minutes gave just that. Coffs Lions were immediately on the offensive and spent long periods in possession and threatening the goal of Richard Zeegers. A succession of corners failed to give the home side any advantage and the Northern Storm began to gain in their own confidence and respond in kind. In their first threat on the Coff's Lions goal Evan Williams was given too much space and his long range shot evaded Steve Keeley's desperate dive and the Northern Storm had taken a surprise 1- 0 lead. Only a few minutes later the game was back on level terms at 1-1 as Sam Mackay coolly converted a penalty given for a hand ball incident by a Northern Storm defender. The midfield supply to Northern Storm striker Kynan Corsi was not as efficient as that being given to Sam MacKay and Steve Worley and it was this that led to Worley's goal late in the half to give Coff's Lions a 2-1 advantage. Sport has a strange way of balancing things out and the Northern Storm were given an unexpected boost just when they needed it when Lion's captain and midfield pivot Dion Ball was forced out of the game with a hamstring injury just before half time. Replacement Adam Woods after a full preliminary game was then given his first opportunity in first division this season after some outstanding performances in reserve grade. He soon settled into the game and was very much at ease in the middle of the park. Not long after the restart Northern Storm were unlucky not to draw level but were denied by a reflex save from Coff's City keeper Steve Keeley who forced a shot from a corner kick onto the cross bar and the ball was then cleared of the goal line by Anthony Wiseman. Another twist came when the Lion's Ryan Turner and James Calagari from Northern Storm were yellow carded for an of the ball offence. For some unknown reason the Northern Storm defender took his protestation too far and he was then sent from field by the central official whom until this incident had really not been an influence on the direction of the game. This may have prompted him into further action and it was soon after that Sam Mackay was given a yellow card as Northern Storm needed to intensify their efforts playing with 10 men, but at this level no favours are given or should they be expected. Kynan Corsi was trying to led by example for Northern Storm and show of his attacking flair but this was all to no avail when Will Bailey capitalised on an error from Richard Zeegers and his defensive players to slot a goal with his right foot to give Coff's Lions a threatening 3-1 advantage. With 20 minutes remaining Zeegers was forced into several goal saving efforts and if not for his ability the final score would have been even more telling. Steve Worley scored his second for the game after concerted Lion's pressure and pin point delivery from midfielders Wiseman and Brent Turner. At 4-1 the game was all but over but all players were desperate to either advance the score or to stop it from becoming a heavier defeat than it was already. Late in the game, Sam Mackay was clearly fouled by Northern Storm sweeper Lee Winkler in a goal-scoring situation and took his second goal from the penalty spot to give Coff's Lions a 5-1 advantage and wrap the game up for the home side. Col Smith replaced Ryan Turner and the final ten minutes saw no further score. In the final analysis this was a decisive victory although the contest had been evenly fought throughout. All spectators appeared to enjoy the skill and commitment evident from both sides and the emphasis on ball movement and attacking football. It is also evident that both coaches still have different areas to develop and improve in their respective teams. For the victors, Coffs Hotel Man-of-the-Match Anthony Wiseman revelled in the contest and had too much pace and skill to be contained while Kynan Corsi was clearly Northern Storm's stand-out player in a well beaten side. The reserve grade fixture was an excellent warm up for the main game and despite a strong 3-0 victory courtesy of goals to Nathan Hansford, Joshua Wiseman and Kurt Daley and a great performance from man of the match Paul Phinn, the struggle for supremacy in this game was obvious for all to see and a good indicator of the intensity levels that would be needed for the main event.