“They may have more players in their squad, but they can still only use eleven of them at once” – Michael Alim shows that his resemblance to Confucius is more than just superficial.
Herston’s proud Hatchets turned in arguably their best performance of the season to date in defeating a talented QUT side 3-0 on an action-packed Friday night in Taringa. The match was billed as ‘an old-fashioned six-pointer’, ‘a preview of the semi-finals’, and ‘would somebody please come and watch us play?’ and the skills on show certainly did not disappoint those fans who braved the early spring chill.
Most media previews had focused on the 5-1 victory Herston recorded over QUT when these two teams met just last Sunday, and the psychological impacts inflicted by said victory. Designated team ice-man Bjǿrn ‘the Big Cheese’ Bǚrghɇr had been forced to detain the majority of the QUT squad for urgent treatment under the Mental Health Act (2009) in his capacity as Brisbane’s pre-eminent PTSD-specialising psychiatrist. Unfortunately for QUT, this meant they were forced to hurriedly assemble a rag-tag bunch of loveable ruffians for the game. The classifieds ad their coach had hastily placed had returned some skilful players, but the challenge would be to assemble them into an effective unit on the night.
The Hatchets, meanwhile, have become notorious throughout QIF Sunday Premier Division for their organisation and physicality, proving very difficult to break down on pitches both small and large. They went into this game as short favourites, with their confidence also boosted by the return of talismanic striker Kregg Laundon from his week-long sabbatical. Watching on from the stands was a scout from Canadian side Montreal Mooses FC, who are rumoured to be interested in signing Hatchets leading goal-scorer Jenya Demidenok on a short-term loan deal. Pundits have speculated that Demidenok would be better off remaining in Australia, given the extreme culture shock the volatile Ukrainian would be likely to experience in a country like Canada.
The early exchanges were tense and heated. QUT looked to have recognised that their inability to compete physically last game had cost them dearly, and were out to prove a point, much to the delight of Hatchets’ hatchet man Steven “I didn’t touch him, sir”
Gattuso Cecchi, who managed to connect early on with several of his WidowMakers™. QUT’s debutants were dominating possession, but the typically well-organised Herston back four were able to restrict them to only a few shots from long distance, which elicited a genial chuckle from goalkeeper and family man Drew Williams as he bent slowly to collect them.
The turning point of the first half came ten minutes before half-time, when a seemingly innocuous move from the home side saw Adam Irelandes, who is altogether the wrong body type for his position as winger, deftly nutmeg the debutant opposition centre-back and lay off a pass for Demidenok. The salty Eastern European found himself with a yard of space thirty metres from goal – colloquially known in the media as ‘Jenya Zone’ – and seeing that the debutant goalkeeper had inched forward off his line, Demidenok needed no second invitation to unleash his right foot.
The word ‘chip’ tends to conjure in the mind of the reader a kind of straight-up-straight-down shot that takes advantage of a poorly-positioned goalkeeper or an error by the defence. It’s what you might see in a dour game between Stoke and Hull City, or in a match of FIFA. This shot was neither of those, and instead brought to mind the precision of a Roger Federer forehand lob shot, mesmerising the hapless opposition player stranded at the net and landing perfectly on the baseline. Such was the three-dimensional swerve and dip on the shot, that Drew Williams himself may have struggled to make a save. As it was, the inexperienced QUT goalkeeper was so demoralised by the experience that he asked to be replaced at half-time, and watched the remained of the game from the bench. The score was 1-0, and he had failed his debutant brothers.
Meanwhile in the ‘home’ dressing room, an uncharacteristically moderate Laundon was playing a slideshow of his travel photos, while Demidenok waited for George Kerin to return from the toilet so he could finish telling the loose-laced right-back about the goal he had just scored (Kerin was to remain locked inside the stall until Demidenok finally drove home, 45 minutes past the final whistle). The lack of concentration amongst the boys forced le Pierre-Nicholas Boyer to cancel his “season-ending injury” (Boyer, 2/9/2014) and strap the boots on himself for a galvanising second-half appearance.
Boyer showed little of the hamstring soreness which has recently become his trademark, but more than enough of the shrieky anger which has long been his trademark. A number (three) of key interventions helped to break up some promising play from a QUT side that had clearly received a good old-fashioned bollocking at half-time from the debutant gaffer. But they were unable to produce any clear-cut chances, and Herston made them pay for it.
Some good work down the right-hand side from Tom Souchen, Irelandes and Laundon created confusion in the box, which led to a protracted goal-mouth scramble. Both Irelandes and Souchen had shots blocked, before Souchen finally forced the ball across the line (debutant QUT players initially complained that the ball had never crossed the line, but goal-line technology showed otherwise). It was the fourth-year’s first goal this season, and one that he will surely treasure for life.
The (extremely rough) heads of the QUT players began to drop, as memories were provoked of their previous thrashing. The coach began to sweat noticeably in the away dugout, and the keener-eyed amongst the crowd will have noticed him quietly swallowing three citalopram tablets.
The humiliation was not complete, however. A speculative long ball from defence should’ve been dealt with comfortably by the debutant QUT centre-back, however his clearance was miscued and ever-present striker Laundon was able to collect the ball and saunter towards goal. Laundon had previously missed two shots this match, and was therefore due to put one on target. He finished neatly into the bottom corner, and the game was surely over.
With another three points collected, and a cumulative 8-1 result against QUT over two legs, the Hatchets march with chest thrust proudly forward into second place on the ladder. A game on Sunday against first-placed Naita Phoenix will test their resolve, however, as it remains to be seen how well-prepared psychologically the team will be with games of such magnitude within two days of each other.