SOUTH Coast Wolves have turned around a recent run of poor form by posting a dominating 4-1 win over Marconi Stallions at Hooka Creek Park, a match that included a hat-trick to makeshift forward Chris Price.
Heading into the penultimate round of the regular season, and with both sides well and truly out of semi-finals contention, pride was on the line for both clubs who were now left to rue a season that might have been.
Just two weeks back the Wolves were bathing in an unlikely semi-finals charge having been undefeated in six-straight rounds, but recent losses to the lowly placed St. George and Manly United clubs quickly deflated the Wolves play-off hopes. Marconi’s end-of-season aspirations had also been dealt a blow in recent times due to a run of losses, despite an earlier three-game purple patch back in June that had culminated in a 1-0 win over the highly fancied Blacktown City side.
From the opening whistle it looked like the Wolves had the most to prove when they came close to opening the scoring in the 2’ minute when a high looping corner by Peter Simonoski beat everyone in the box and hit the far post and bounced back into the field of play. A low drive off the rebound by Sam Matthews deflected off a Marconi defender and out of harm’s way.
However, it was Marconi who drew first blood through a corner of their own in the 16’ minute. With a strong cross-field breeze ably assisting Marconi, classy midfielder Jared Lum stepped up to take the corner and with the strong wind at his back, delivered a powerful looping cross that sailed perfectly across the goalmouth and straight into the back of the net.
The disbelief on the faces of the Wolves faces after conceding a soft early goal said it all, but rather than wallow at the thought of playing from behind, it was the home side that took the ascendency through livewire left-forward Chris Price who continually created havoc for the Marconi defence throughout the remainder of the first-half.
Marconi keeper James Chronopoulos was called on to make a number of desperate saves for his side, firstly when Price shot low and hard to the Marconi captain’s right who somehow managed to get a hand on the ball and push it wide. The resultant corner tested the keeper yet again when Matt Bailey got up high over the defence and headed the ball on target, only to be denied again by a well-positioned Chronopoulos who caught the ball comfortably.
Price was in the thick of the action again as his pace came to the forefront when he crossed into the box from out on the left. A number of Wolves attackers had lined up in anticipation, but the ball drifted back in the breeze and behind the offensive line.
Perseverance eventually prevailed for the Wolves in the 35’ minute when Simonoski’s footwork dazzled the Marconi defenders as he got in behind the line to find himself one-on-one with Chronopoulos. The classy Wolves forward made no mistake as he guided it past the Marconi keeper to ensure that the score would be locked up at 1-1 at the break.
When the play resumed after the intermission, it was the Wolves who picked up from where they had left off. Joseph Lavelle did all the hard work to get in behind the Marconi defensive line and latch on to a through-ball to set himself up with yet another one-on-one with Chronopoulos in the 49’ minute. The opportunity should have proved to be the go-ahead goal for the home side, instead Lavelle pushed at the ball in front of an advancing Chronopoulos and it sailed over the crossbar.
Price also picked up from where he had left off in the first-half and almost scored too from a set piece in the 53’ minute. A curling free-kick from out on the right by Bailey saw Price again get in behind his defenders where he latched onto a ball that was only negated by the safe hands of Chronopoulos.
A 62’ minute opportunity again to Price would essentially signify his last miss of the day as the final quarter of the game belonged to the brilliant Wolves forward.
The first of Price’s three-goal hat-trick came in the 73’ minute after he latched onto a through-ball down the left side that had him eyeballing Chronopoulos for the umpteenth time of the match. This time though, Price was up to the task and slotted the ball into the back of the net to give his side the lead for the first time in the match.
An 83’ minute break down the right side by Simonoski saw the hard-working Wolves forward cross a beautiful ball to Price where he simply tapped it in to provide an unassailable lead for his side.
Price completed the hat-trick in the dying moments when a shot on goal in the 89’ minute from an acute angle by replacement forward Jordan Murray was saved well by Chronopoulos only to rebound back to Murray who had the maturity to pass to an awaiting Price who eventually slotted it home.
The three-goal haul by Price delivered the Wolves a confidence-building 4-1win as they head into their forthcoming Westfield FFA Cup tie against Central Coast Mariners which will be played out of WIN Stadium on Wednesday, August 20.
“It’s just good to back playing again and to get some form up,” explained Price shortly after the win.
“We’ve got an important game coming up in a few weeks [FFA Cup game] which the whole club is really looking forward to, so with players pushing for positions it was really pleasing to get the three goals out there today and hopefully the momentum goes forward from there.
“James [Chronopoulos] has certainly saved many of my shots over the years. We’re great mates and he’s one of the best keepers in the competition and he’s never easy to score against so get three past him today was pleasing.”
Chronopoulos, although disappointed with his side’s result was complimentary of Price’s effort.
“To lose 4-1 today was a bit of a disaster, but unfortunately it’s not a great time of year for us right now,” claimed the Marconi skipper.
“We lost Ali [Haydar] in the opening minutes and we have at least six other players either injured or suspended at the moment and the worse thing is that they are all defenders which throws the young boys in at the deep end.”
“Pricey played great for them out there today, he deserved those three goals. I’m happy for him in a way, but really disappointed that they came against my team.
The final round of the regular season sees the Wolves return to their more luxurious confines of WIN Stadium in Wollongong as they close out their 2014 campaign against APIA Leichhardt Tigers next Sunday afternoon. The two sides were unable to be split back in their Round 11 clash at Lambert Park as they played out a scoreless draw, so both teams will be looking to gain the ascendency on each other as they strive for a morale-boosting season-ending win.
The Stallions are again on the road next Sunday afternoon as they travel east and deep into the heart of Kogarah territory to take on a luckless St. George FC outfit, who despite having already secured the dreaded wooden spoon for 2014, will be determined to finish their season on a high note.
South Coast Wolves 4 (Peter Simonoski 35’, Chris Price 73’, 83’ 89’)
Marconi Stallions 1 (Jared Lum 16’)
Sunday August 10, 2014
Hooka Creek Park, Berkeley
Referee: Stephen Lucas
Assistant Referees: Nicholas Backo and Joon Park
Fourth Official: Adam Vainuskas
South Coast Wolves: 1.Daniel Collison; 2.Jack Keating, 3.Chris Nathaniel, 4.Michael Robinson, 6.Zach Mackenzie, 7.Chris Price, 8.Matt Bailey (C), 9.Peter Simonoski (11.Mitchell Del Turco 83’), 15.Darcy Madden, 20.Joseph Lavelle (25.Jordan Murray 63’), 22.Samuel Matthews (16.Lochlan Reus 77’)
Substitutes Not Used: 23.Sam Chapple 30.David Hamilton
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
Marconi Stallions: 22.James Chronopoulos (C); 2.Mitchell Thompson, 3.Ali Haydar (21.Zakeriya El-Rich 12’), 4.Trent Barton, 6.Jared Lum, 9.Marco Sama, 10.Milorad Simonovic, 18.Jake Mcging, 20.Shu Sasaki, 23.Christopher Nunes, 31.Raymond Coletta (11.Harrison Brown 46’)
Substitutes Not Used: 1.Nathan Campbell, 14.Bruno Antelmi, 16.Claudio Fabiano
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
-By Gary McDonald, National Premier Leagues NSW Mens 1 Reporter, at Hooka Creek Park