Wolves hunting in pack for semi-finals berth
WOOLGOOLGA Wolves hosted Northern Storm in the NBN North Coast Football League on Sunday in what was a must win game for both sides.
With only four rounds remaining and only three points separating the two teams locked in a tight battle for fourth place almost guaranteed that this was going to be an action packed spectacle.
The game opened at a cracking pace and it was obvious from the early exchanges that the Wolves were on their game.
After only three minutes the Wolves were up 1-0 after some slick lead up work put striker Rick Barnier into space and he made no mistake hammering home the first goal.
This early strike certainly put the Storm on the back foot and the Wolves continued to dominate play and went further ahead after 20 minutes when an uncharacteristic mistake from Storms keeper gifted a second goal to striker Rick Barnier.
The Wolves were up 2-0 much to the delight of the Woopi faithful who were howling for more of the same.
They didn't have to wait long as the Wolves continued to ram home their early dominance and after some precision passing, midfielder Mark Coster slipped a wonderful pass to Anthony Baston who had made a great run from midfield and calmly chipped the advancing Storm keeper to put the Wolves up 3-0 after 25 minutes.
This was almost a fairytale start to what most of the pundits thought would be a very close encounter.
The Storm despite being under enormous pressure continued to fight hard although the Wolves dominance of possession meant they had limited opportunities, one sensed that this would turn around at some stage.
The teams went to the break without addition to the score and the Wolves coaching staff impressed upon the boys that this game was far from over.
They had to continue to play smart precision football if we were to walk off the park with all three precious points.
No doubt the Storm were just as determined to turn the game around in the second half and we were under no illusions that they had both the playing talent and the fortitude to come back.
It was obvious as soon as we got underway with the half time words still ringing in their ears that the Wolves had dropped in intensity and the game diminished as a spectacle as both sides struggled to find the spark to ignite the second half.
The Storm made a couple of intuitive substitutions and this worked the oracle as the momentum of the game started to swing in their favour and the Wolves outfit seemed to visibly tire.
At the 75th minute mark Storm pulled one back after some inept covering allowed a smart break down the left and a neat through ball put striker Josh Tumse in the clear and despite the best efforts of Wolves keeper Naamon Whiteman to push him wide of goal he remained composed and neatly slotted the ball home.
The Storm was back in the game and it was clear from their enthusiasm that they believed they could still win.
Five minutes latter they were on the score sheet again when the Wolves defence was caught flat footed by a smart through ball which put striker Brett Lacey into the clear with only the keeper to beat and he made no mistake.
The score was now 3-2 in favour of the Wolves with 10 minutes to go and all the momentum was with the Visitors.
We were set for a cracking finish.
Would the tiring Wolves hold on or would the Storm escape with a draw or even a miraculous win.
With five minutes left on the clock the Wolves finally shook off their lethargy and after some great lead up work from Mark Coster to release Ryan Zelvis down the right flank, who in turn thundered in a low cross which was parried by the keeper into the path of midfielder Craig Gralton who made no mistake from close range.
The Wolves were home 4-2 in a match that was highly entertaining and vitally important to the Wolves final four aspirations, who have now slipped 6 points clear of the Storm with three rounds to play.
Congratulations to the Wolves who played some inspiring football in the first half and displayed plenty of ticker in the second half when the Storm had them under the pump.
Commiserations to our gallant opponents who showed steely resilience and determination for 90 minutes.
We look forward to our next challenge against the undefeated Urunga Raiders at Urunga next Sunday afternoon with reserves kicking off at 12.00 and firsts at 2.00pm we urge all the Woopi faithful to get there in numbers to support the Wolves in what should be a tremendous game of football.