A game full of commitment at Jensen

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

PS4 NPL2 – POOL 1 – Round 5

7:30pm, Sunday 1st March 2015 – Jensen Park, Sefton

lost to
BANKSTOWN BERRIES 2 (Ouffoue, Lekoski)


After a blazing hot morning, a storm brought driving rain and swirling winds to Sydney on this first day of March, bringing temperatures crashing down from the mid-thirties to only 19 or 20, ensuring a surreal atmosphere for the start of Sunday’s Pool 1, Round 5 fixture at Jensen Park.

Pool 1 leaders, the unbeaten Mounties Wanderers, had an apparently simple task of beating luckless (and winless) Mount Druitt Town Rangers at Cook Park, Mount Pritchard, to preserve their place at the top of the ladder.

Bankstown Berries, on the other hand, playing away at Jensen Park against neighbours Bankstown City Lions, not only had to win to stand a chance of making the Final, but then were relying on Mount Druitt to damage the Mounties’ own solid record of three wins and a draw and boasting a clean sheet in each of their first four fixtures.

But the Berries, under second-season coach, Wally Savor, knew what they had to do and stuck to their task, against a dogged opponent, in a game that looked likely to end scoreless for a long time.

Instead, with Mounties held scoreless by the visiting Town Rangers, The Berries were able to secure top-spot with two second-half goals, the last in the dying minutes, to give themselves a great chance of an early title success, albeit a pre-season one, in next weekend’s Final against Pool 2 winners, Spirit FC.

The game began in driving rain, which lashed the field and lent a surreal atmosphere to the opening stages of play, with referee, James Lewis, having the whistle at the ready, as the heavy rain arrived right on cue. As Lewis blew for the start, the rain appeared to intensify immediately.

Swirling wind and the heavy rain drove spectators to the refuge of the lone covered stand, which instantly filled to near-capacity, leaving the larger, open stand on the main side totally empty, which is how it remained for the rest of the match, though, thankfully, the rain gave way to milder, less trying conditions after a short while.

Huddled together in the stand, the 150-odd fans engaged in boisterous banter as the game wore on, good-natured opinions offered to players and match officials alike, with fans of both teams happily sitting together and enjoying a Saturday night’s football, played in a good spirit.

Bankstown City Lions, coached by Leo Carle, had the likes of former A League stars Michael Beauchamp and Dean Heffernan, as well as other proven performer like Dominic Hudap, Stefan de Jesus and Billy Darwich to add class to their team, while the Berries, who languished in the lower reaches of the table last term, after Wally Savor had come in to save them from the threat of relegation in mid-season, had strengthened the squad during the off-season and were looking to make a much better impression in 2015.

This was a game full of commitment by both teams, played at high intensity and with both defences mostly on top, until the deadlock was eventually broken in the 67th minute.

There were plenty of corners won by either side in the opening period, with one of the best chances during open play falling to the Lions’ Brima Kamara in the 20th minute, after a good move down the right that led to the Bankstown City number seven firing just wide.

The former Canterbury, now re-branded as the Bankstown Berries, these days, and who play just down the road at The Crest Athletic Centre in Yagoona, had an excellent chance themselves in the 33rd minute.

The Berries’ new recruit, the strapping number 9, Gerard Ouffoue, fed the ball through into the path of Nicholas Paras, but just as Kamara had done moments earlier, Paras steered his shot wide.

The same player broke through the heart of the Lions’ defence and raced to the edges of the penalty area in the 38th, to fire off a surprise shot, that caught everyone napping, but rattled the crossbar and re-bounded well back into play.

That close call, though, may have lifted the Berries’ confidence to try more in an attacking sense, having been more conservative to that point.

Bankstown City’s nippy winger, Jason Park, had proven quite a handful in the first-half, with his speed and trickery, operating mostly on the right flank and winning some free-kicks and delivering a few worthwhile crosses, which mostly went begging, it must be said.

He had a good chance himself in the 49th as the Lions continued to take the game to the Berries after the break.

But he, too, fired wide and it was beginning to look as if we might not see any goals; just a lot of effort without reward.

The Berries, however, began to step things up a little and the man who had missed one sitter and struck the bar in the first-half, Paras, turned provider in the 58th, with a low cross from the right that eluded two of his team-mates converging on the ball inside the six-yard box, one of them the impressive Ouffoue, whose strength on the ball and tactical awareness makes him look a huge asset to Savor’s attack.

Kyle Ewart’s cross in the 62nd presented Ouffoue with another good close-range opportunity, but this time, while on target with his low shot, the big striker found Lions’ keeper, Dion Shaw, too good as he smothered the effort.

Ewart fancied his chances himself, but after bursting through in the 65th his own effort was merely to blaze the ball over the bar, from the near post.

Finally the deadlock was broken in the 67th.

A clever flick on from Brad Robertson, for Ouffoue, saw the latter run into space and finish superbly past Shaw with an angled shot.

A solid run down the right by The Berries’ right back, Andrew Vitucci, provided Joel Anscomb with the chance to make it two in the 85th, but the ball fired off powerfully at goal, by Anscomb, swerved away at the last minute after it had appeared headed for the top left corner of the net.

Then, in the 90th, Vitucci again was the instigator of a determined move to break through the Bankstown City defence, holding off several tackles before delivering a cross to the far post from the right by-line.

Mitchell Davidson, who had instigated the move from deep that had led to the opening goal for the Berries, nodded the ball back across goal and there was Aleks Lekoski to nod home at point- blank range.

There was barely time to celebrate as stoppage-time loomed.

But Bankstown City, who had been more than competitive throughout the contest, deserved something from it and it came seconds before the final-whistle blew.

Down the left flank strode Stefan de Jesus, who had looked to get in behind the Berries’ defence repeatedly, this time eluding his marker and whipping the ball over, where it was tucked away by substitute, Steven Veleski, at the far-post with a slashing finish.

“I think we played alright,” concluded Lions’ coach Leo Carle at the finish.

“We’ve won two and lost three in the Group and I think we were the better side here for much of the time. I’m satisfied with how we’re going. I don’t think we need to do much more to be ready for the new season, other than playing a couple more friendlies.

“I think we tried to play football tonight, while the Berries were more direct. We’re happy with where we are and we are looking forward to a good season.

Certainly, given the weather and the fact that it was a pre-season game on a Sunday night, the crowd that gathered was quite a decent one and they enjoyed some good football, as well as the welcome offerings from the bar and the BBQ stall.

Bankstown Berries’ coach, former Socceroo and Sydney Croatia stalwart, Wally Savor, was delighted with the win by his side.

“It’s a good blend of youth and experience that we have now,” he observed.

“We lost one game in the group, but we won when it mattered tonight.

“I think both teams tonight will be up there, once the season gets under way. We were missing a couple of players through suspension, but we’re on track and we’ve recruited well I think.

“I just heard that Mounties only managed a draw so we’re in the Final and we will play Spirit next week.

“The boy who scored the first goal for us has been around a while,” Savor explained.

“He was at Macarthur last season and before that he was at APIA for a while, I think.

“He’s not that young, but he’s still got some improvement in him.

“We played well, with everyone contributing to the win.

It’s looking like we’ll have to get used to the confusion of having two Bankstown teams playing in the same division now, as the former Canterbury-Marrickville Olympic are well and truly the Bankstown Berries now and this could herald a new era of derbies in the Yagoona area, where both teams play, albeit more likely located closer to Georges Hall and Sefton, respectively, if being quite precise.

For a game that had begun in driving rain and chilly winds, the warmth in the air at the finish was enough to send everyone home happy, as most had managed to dry themselves out by then.

Both Bankstown clubs will renew rivalries as the winter season gets under way towards the end of the month,

Winners here, The Berries, begin their campaign with a Sunday afternoon match at Mills Park, Asquith, against Northern Tigers, while The Lions also have to travel, though only as far as Christie Park, Marsfield, to face Spirit FC on the Saturday night, meeting their opponents in next weekend’s Pre-season Final, a second time a mere two weeks after the first showdown.

The Lions will play their home games at Jensen Park this coming season on Sunday afternoons, a move that one official told Back of the Net would certainly help attendances, as the Saturday night games last season proved somewhat unpopular with patrons.

Match details

Crowd: 150 approx

Bankstown City Lions: GK 22 Dion Shaw; 2 Todd Halloran, 5 Michael Beauchamp (C), 20 Alvaro Malmierca, 3 Grant Lynch;  8 Dean Heffernan, 10 Dominic Hudap, 11 Huseyin Jasli; 16 Jason Park, 7 Brima Kamara, 9 Chris Gomez
Subs  (interchange): RGK 71 Nicholas Carosi, 15 Billy Darwich, 18 Stefan de Jesus, 6 Reuben Lagos, 12 Steven Veleski
Coach: Leo Carle
Yellow cards: Nil; Red cards: Nil

Bankstown Berries: GK 1 Michael Frost; 2 Andrew Vitucci, 21 Peter Dimtropoulos, 4 Omar Saadi (C), 5 Joseph Savor; 16 Milan Zoric, 8 Thomas Taylor, 7 Kyle Ewart, 12 Mitchell Davidson, 14 Nicholas Paras; 9 Gerard Ouffoue
Subs (interchange): 13 Brad Robertson, 18 Matthew Trotter, 22 Aleksandar Lekoski, 11 Joel Anscomb, 10 Jun Kato,
Coach: Wally Savor
Yellow cards: Joseph Savor 14, Andrew Vitucci 38, Mitchell Davidson 69; Red Cards: Nil

Referee: James Lewis
Assistants: Robbie Mattei and Alex Long

Ratings and points
Match 7/10
Pitch: 8/10
Weather: Cold with driving rain to start, giving way to milder, dry conditions later.