Following the tradition of derby games, it was a nail-biting battle between the Goulburn Strikers and the Goulburn Stags at the Workers Arena on Wednesday night.
As the two teams grew accustomed to the difficult terrain due to the frosty, slippery field, Stags’ Jarrod Twaddell scored a header within the first few minutes. But it didn’t stop there, with the strong force of the Stags offensive reaffirmed by a second goal from Aaron Swanson, who, trailed by Strikers’ players, quickly lifted the momentum of the team soon after.
It was a play of pressure instead of a play of skills on the field between the two locals. For the Stags, there were glimpses of wider plays, a style adopted more strongly this season.
By the end of the first half it appeared the Strikers defense was reflexive, as opposed to coordinated, however a goal saw a needed creep forward.
Striker Eric Noheli’s minor shin injury saw him off but he quickly returned to the field, and proved beneficial in the remainder of the game. The young player has returned from a trial in England with the Doncaster Rovers Football Club.
His skillful footwork assisted the following goal, putting Strikers in the lead, but a free kick in the penalty box saw Swanson safely lock in a goal, tying the game 3-3.
As the game was called into extra time, an unexpected addition was seen in the small yet vocal crowd yelling joking insults to the linesmen.
However the unnecessary commentary fell on deaf ears as the tension was at a boiling point and the two equally dedicated, but slightly exhausted teams, attempted to break into the opponent’s defense.
Among the backdrop of some rough play by a number of Stags players, Noheli broke through and scored another goal, putting the Strikers in front and ending the game at 4-3.
Stags coach Robert Dorsett says an intense local rivalry adds an “extra spice” to the games, but is adamant all the players remain friendly off the field.
“The spirit of the team is great, we’re moving in the same direction, that’s the best thing about it. A loss only in points shows the things we need to work on,” Dorsett said.
In a bid to move the club’s play into a more technical cohesion he hopes the two teams will face each other again this year.
“I was worried,” Strikers coach Robin Caulfield said in reference to the first half of the game. "But I think we have something, that bit of quality that sees us through. It was a good game and in terms of enthusiasm and effort Stags matched as equal.”