Round 1 is always one where hopes are high and everyone is keen to get into the swing of things and The Paddocks at Para Hills gave us perfect weather and a mouth-watering season opener.
The Croydon starting line-up was as expected and only the unlucky Peter Mercurio the noticeable absentee through injury and knew it would be a tough against a Para outfit that has caused us problems in recent seasons.
South Adelaide recruit Sam Carmichael started in midfield, his first “proper” game for Croydon Kings after showing some promising pre-season form. Same for Jared Clark debuting in defence following his move from AU youth
The opening exchanges saw Para happy to soak up pressure with a strong line of defence, something they no doubt worked on in pre-season, in which they have played an incredible 17 trial games!
Croydon tried to play the possession game and break the game open mainly through the flanks, but various efforts were often thwarted by interceptions and strong defence.
But just as you sensed we were on top and just a matter of time before we would breach the Para fortress, a dispossession in the 33rd minute resulted in a goal out of the blue from Para via a 40 yard lob from near the touch-line when ‘keeper John Hall was caught out high on the edge of the penalty area.
He scrambled back in a gallant attempt to save, but the ball fell perfectly into the net and it was 1-0 to the home side.
Half time came and some tweaking was required and Harouka was sacrificed on the right wing for sub Antoni Trimboli in the hope the physicality of Para could be better overcome.
The second half opened much the same as the first with Croydon enjoying the lion share of possession and looking to break through, but often it was an overhit pass or cross, or a slightly ill-timed run into the box which made it hard to create clear opportunities.
Then almost inexplicably, in the 56th minute it was a case of déjà vu and another blast from nowhere saw a virtual repeat of Para’s first goal and suddenly it was 2-0 much to the joy of the home crowd who otherwise rarely saw much penetration from the Para attack and were counting their blessings.
Croydon had no option but to go for it, and Para’s desperation saw many poor tackles flying in, and it was disappointing to note the lack of consequences by the referee and linesman on the culprits. Was it the Gary Mooney curse again? Who knows, although its eerie how games often go against us when he is in the middle.
The game fired up and Croydon began throwing everything they could in an attempt to get back into the contest and eventually it was the hard-working Nathan Munro who bagged a cracker after the ball was pinging around like a pinball in the Para penalty area and his shot rocketing into the net via the post with still 15 minutes left on the clock.
Para to their credit still managed some forays of their own on the counter attack, but John Hall mopped up any shots or crosses that threatened.
Alas, even some further substitutions looking for fresh legs didn’t work and although Croydon’s best opportunity came with a couple minutes left when a cross found Munro’s head only to sail over the bar from close range and you sensed it was game over, and within a couple more minutes, it was.
Overall, it was a fair performance, and you see that it was probably only a bit of rustiness early season matches can bring up, and one we’ll just have to learn from and look toward next week’s clash against Adelaide United youth, who had a resounding 3-0 win against Raiders.
The Reserves opened their season with a hard fought but deserved 1-0 win where the defence and goalkeeping were notably impenetrable.
The same couldn’t be said for the U/18’s who gifted Para a swag of goals and the 5-3 loss was much different to recent trial games where they have looked quite solid in all aspects of the game. Let’s put this down to “one of those games” as clearly the boys are better than what the result may have showed and they still showed glimpses of great football, especially in the first half when they were 2-1 up.
This Friday night kicking off at 8.15pm we host Adelaide United at Jack Smith Park – a historical game as it will be the first “home game” not played at Polonia Reserve (RIP) in many years. The Reserves and 18’s will play at John Hart Reserve on Saturday.
We really need some voice and encouragement as any intimidation the young AU boys cop, might be that edge our lads need. No doubt the young Reds will be well-structured, disciplined etc but we have the passion and drive to get back into it and look to snag our first points for season 2020.