This year South East Queensland Football is mixing up their league. Part of this is the mid-season shuffle that has occurred after a two-week mid-season break. The result of this shuffle is the top of division one and two being put into a high stakes round-robin in the run up to the finals. All points have been reset and all expectations have been removed.
Round one of the new league for the Herston Hatchets saw them facing the team they had yet to beat, albeit under a different name. The opposition was previously known as Acacia Ridge Elite, then Acacia Ridge SYL and now South East Stars FC. The Stars have always played a high possession, low scoring, ticky-tack type of football that had time and time again been the undoing of the larger power and speed based Hatchets side. This game, however, would be different.
Starting late in the night at Logan, the air temperature dropping to 10 degrees on a dew-covered pitch, the Hatchet’s fielded a somewhat weakened side. Lacking several key defensive players, though strengthened by a cameo from 2017 all-star defender Tim Thorne, the Stars were quickly able to control the midfield of the pitch. Despite this, the ongoing weakness of the Stars side in front of the goal was still present. Even with the majority of possession in the Hatchet’s half for the first 10 minutes, the Stars could not convert.
With the ongoing play in the Hatchet’s half, the Stars defensive line was caught too far forward several times. The first of which found a fit Nathan Sayer beating the right defender and carrying the ball to the Stars box. A rushing Stars keeper, along with a covering sweeper, managed to shut down Sayer on this run. But Sayer made up for this only a minute later with the same play, this time beating the keeper with a shot to the far corner putting the Hatchet’s in the lead at 12 minutes.
Not to be defeated, the talented Stars side re-took possession of the ball in the Hatchet’s half. After a sequence of control in front of the Hatchet’s box, pushing all ten of their players into the Hatchet’s half to maintain a dominant position, they managed to get on the board. A low shot from the Stars attacking-mid slipped through the defensive line and under keeper Grave’s grasp. One all.
This, however, did not last long. Taking notes from his teammate, Dan Edey found space to make another run into the Star’s half. With a sharp pass from Moonie Singh through the centre, Edey pushed the Star’s back line. Unfazed by the Star’s keeper charging the edge of the 20-yard box, he pushed a shot into the far corner, beating the keeper in height and putting the Hatchets back into the lead.
With half time looming, the Stars again went on the attack. Following several brilliant saves from Alex Graves – the first fully stretched to his left side, collecting the ball inches from the bottom corner of the goal after a short-range shot; another with him deflecting the ball aggressively in a one-on-one with the Star’s striker – the Hatchet’s went into half time with the lead.
The start of the second half saw the floodgates open for Herston. Off the back of a sequence of play from centres Moonie Singh and Sam Grace, Edey found himself again on the edge of the box with possession. Moving to the right, he snuck a shot that glided into to the top left corner, beating a fully stretched Star’s keeper. Three-one.
Not to be outdone, Sayer again found his way to the scoreboard. A melee in the centre off a Hatchet’s goal-kick ended with Hatchet’s possession and a cross to Andrew Welch in the Star’s half. Beating his defender, Welch played a ball forward for a well-positioned Nathan Sayer. Sayer made no mistake in front of the net and pushed an accurate shot to the left of the keeper, well out of his reach. Four-one.
It was then, in the 60th minute, that the game fell apart for both sides. Beginning with a questionable tackle in the Star’s box that saw Moonie Singh brought down by a shoulder to the chest by a Star’s defender – and the ball scattered – the referee called ‘play on’. Then the Stars began their conniving play: rushing free kicks without stopping the ball and moving the ball forward from the mark. Later, slide tackles in the Star’s box went un-penalized and bad tackles leading to Andrew Welch and Austin Jabbour being brought down from behind and attacked on the ground to ‘play on’ calls from the referee.
These incidents came to a head when Moonie was yet again brought to ground in the Star’s half. Singh, with possession, was brought down by an opposition player grabbing his neck from behind. This was responded to by the Hatchets side appealing to the referee to start making calls and punishing players for dangerous play. The response from the Stars was to complain that Singh was wearing a necklace in play, which had been broken by the attack. The referee, clearly distraught with the dissent on both sides, began to pull yellow cards in response. By this point, though, the game was well out of his control and had degraded severely.
Play was stopped consistently for the last 20 minutes to a chorus from both sides appealing for punishments from the referee. Now with very little possession, the Stars made one uncharacteristic break and gained position deep in the Hatchet’s territory. After a messy sequence in front of the goal, a wayward shot managed to find its way past Graves, giving the Stars a glimmer of hope at a comeback.
This hope was destroyed shortly after. Off a possession on the wing from Andrew Welch, Edey again found himself deep in the Star’s half. Beating the defender to the end of the pitch, he put a grounded cross to the feet of Austin in the box. Austin coolly disposed of the ball into the far corner of the goal, making no mistake to bury the Stars. The score was now 5-2 to the Hatchets.
With this, full time was called. The Hatchets had managed to avoid losing their composure when play become difficult and clinically played their best football. This score puts the Hatchet’s at the top of the new ladder and positions them well for the short run-in to finals.