Sutherland carried over its fine form in the second half of their game on Sunday into this re-match against the U13 Skillaroos and the players produced by far their best performance of the season beating an older and stronger team comprehensively 3-1 to successfully reverse their only defeat of the season in the first match between the teams.
It was no more than Sutherland deserved as they were the best team from start to finish almost opening the scoring in the first minute when after a sharp exchange of passes Callum Talbot found himself in space just inside the area and was desperately unlucky to see his right-footed shot cannon down off the underside of the bar before being scrambled away to safety. With the pace of Talbot and Jett Cavanagh out wide – Sutherland continued to ask questions of the Skillaroos defence but the Sharks always had to be aware of the lightning fast counter attacks the Skillaroos were capable of mounting.
Somewhat against the run of play it was the Skillaroos who opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a break that began on the edge of their own box as Sutherland surrendered possession and could not regroup quick enough to prevent an incisive counter from the Skillaroos who through a combination of speed across the ground and a smart through ball they opened up the heart of the Sutherland defence to create the opening which the centre forward finished smartly lifting the ball over the on-rushing Thomas Horne in the Sutherland goal.
To their credit, the Sutherland team did not drop their heads and immediately set about getting back on level terms and on the stroke of half time they did just that. Having just moved inside to the central striking position, Jett Cavanagh was released by an exquisite through ball from Callum Talbot and Cavanagh’s electric pace took him clear of the Skillaroos defence before he unleashed an unstoppable right foot shot across the keeper.
One-all at half time and in what proved a telling sign Sutherland took the field and lined up ready to begin the second half whilst the Skillaroos were still sitting down on the receiving end of some extended half time instructions. It set the tone for the second half as Sutherland set about their task from the first whistle whereas the Skillaroos seemed to have let their intensity drop. Every time a Skillaroos player received the ball – there was a Sharks player snapping at her heels, every time Sutherland won the ball they attempted to play the patient, progressive football they’ve been working towards all season. It didn’t always work but the Sharks were always brave in possession, always showing for the ball and when they lost it they worked hard to get it back.
It was this combination that turned the tide in Sutherland’s favour and unlike the first game where the Skillaroos proved too strong for the Sharks in the closing stages – this time it was Sutherland who were finishing the stronger and exhibiting the greater desire to find a winner.
The breakthrough came with 6 minutes remaining following an enterprising move down the right hand side where Sam Amey fed Max Sidney whose cross found Aidan Dennis bursting into the box from midfield and despite the keeper saving the first effort Dennis followed up and nudged the rebound home to give Sutherland a deserved lead.
Just two minutes later and the game was put beyond the Skillaroos reach by the move of the match and the best goal of Sutherland’s season so far. Centre-back Luke Sauer began the move in his own half with an interception and instead of panicking calmly stepped forward and played the ball into midfield to find Aidan Dennis who swivelled to create space before playing a delightful ball inside the Skillaroos left back to find Max Sidney flying down the wing who then delivered the ball cut back from the goal line low and hard towards the near post where the on-rushing Jett Cavanagh did not break his stride, striking the ball first time beating the keeper low down at her near post. It was a simply devastating move that the Skillaroos had no answer to and it deservedly killed off the contest.
Sutherland has now set the bar very high for the rest of the season – they’ve shown just what they are capable of against the toughest of opponents.
This win was even more notable for the fact that Sutherland was missing three of their squad and played with only one substitute. It would be unfair to single out any player for special praise as this was a stunning team effort so the man of the match award goes to Thomas Horne, Luke Allen, Luke Sauer, Jack Mitsoulas, Ben Raatz, Aidan Dennis, Tristan Maher, Sam Amey, Alex O’Connor, Jett Cavanagh, Callum Talbot and Max Sidney.