The home game against South Melbourne was being played at the impressive Regional Soccer Facility in Ballarat. With such perfect playing conditions and surface there was to be no excuse for the Gully youngsters as they attempted to comeback from last week’s defeat against a top of the table Avondale.
Another Under 18 product in Brayden Portelli received the call-up and after a few impressive cameos off the bench, he was now rewarded with his first senior start. This now made it three 16-year-olds in the starting line-up with the future certainly rosy at Green Gully. Thomas Simic was again in goal and the ever-reliable Justin Spiteri, who is an ever-present this season, started at right back.
Gully appeared to be showing too much respect to South Melbourne in the first half, allowing them to dictate play and knock the ball around with ease. For the second week in a row, the Gully youngsters were second to the ball and losing the 50-50 contests. South Melbourne, meanwhile, were strong physically and imposing themselves on the contest. They deservedly took the lead after a mistake at the back and thanks to Simic the lead was minimal at the break.
HALF TIME 0 – 1
Stern words were had at half time from coach Ted Latomanski and an immediate response was required. Gully was forced into a change at half time, with another under-18 player Jai Balestra coming in at the back. South Melbourne still looked to dominate possession, however, Gully were now able to dictate which areas of the pitch they did it in.
Gully themselves were making more of the contest and were now battling for the ball with more vigour. After some coaching intervention from the side, Portelli was moved central, swapping with captain Stafan Stojcevski, as Gully went searching for an equaliser. Stojcevski was finding more space out wide and beginning to ask questions of the South Melbourne full back. The introduction of under 18 player Julian Sandoval on the opposite wing saw Gully with a renewed attacking intent.
After a mazy dribble, Stojcevski made room for the shot and was able to drill a shot into the bottom corner at the goalkeeper’s near post to equalise. It was nothing more than Gully deserved and the effort of those on the pitch was now being rewarded. There was far more pressure on the ball carrier and Gully were able to transition much higher up the pitch than in the first half. Unfortunately, and with all the substitutes used, Stojcevski appeared to receive a bad ankle injury shortly after. This left Gully with 10 men for the final 10 minutes of the match, but with the odd scare, the youngsters in green and white were able to hold on for a worthy point.
FINAL SCORE 1 – 1
Report by: Asst. Coach Ian Burke
Photo by: Mark Avellino Photography