Match report by Alan Clark
MELBOURNE 13 February 2002 - EDO WERE ELIMINATED at the Semi-Final stage of the Albert Park (relocated to Building D of the Brunswick Secondary College) Fourth Division B Tuesday evening Championship last night in controversial circumstances.
The referee insisted that the game go into sudden-death extra time after ruling that several EDO shots which went narrowly wide in regulation time could not be added together to make one shot that went into the goal.
EDO goalkeeper Rico gave a man-of-the-match performance denying every effort of opponents Athletico Large, and drawing howls of frustrated outrage from Athletico players and travelling fans as he snubbed out each.
"They just kept hitting them into where I was," said the modest custodian fulfilling media obligations in the packed after-match media conference. But this was surely an understatement of proportions so large that they made even a very large thing look small by comparison. Time after time, and often vice versa, Rico not only stopped or blocked the shot, he held the ball as well, denying the predacious Athletico players a chance of a follow-up.
Rico had only assumed the keeper's job late in the season after EDO's season-starting keeper Graham Loosmore had a ball hit his face. But Loosmore was to find that his opponents could still find him even as an outfielder, making him see stars when a high ball crashed into his face. Loosmore brushed off the incident with the stoicism that those who knew him knew he would stoically brush off. "It happens. It's a man's game. Sometimes you can get hurt. That's just the way it is. I had my people in the grandstand and they have that player's number and I expect he won't be quite so happy when the lawyer's letter arrives later today."
EDO had its best chances within seconds of the game's start, and with spooky symmetry, seconds from the end.
Shortly after the kick-off, Alan Clark insisted a loose ball was his, and running onto it, smashed a driving shot from 15 metres inches over the bar.
And just before the referee was to end regulation time with the score at nil-nil - although no-one was to know that just yet because the game hadn't ended, far less ended nil-nil - Paul Holland sent an inch-perfect Clark diagonal pass centimetres wide.
"We're still getting used to each other's game," said a disappointed Holland after the game. "He sent in an inch-perfect cross, but I was expecting it in centimetres, so the communication wasn't quite right."
Wes Black and Cameron Senn-Sanger, although arriving late, were both pressed into early duty, and gave their all, which - because there were two of them - was twice as much as they could have given if only one had turned up.
Matt Curtis - once again a key part of the EDO line-up - was at the start, middle, or end of many moves, and broke up Athletico attacks by the score. Not that Athletico did score - that's the reason the game ended nil-nil. Or at least it did until extra-time when it had an entirely different result because Athletico did score.
EDO missed the influential influence of star midfielder Luis Rojas through sad personal reasons. Rojas had plundered four goals against Athletico in their regular-season encounter just a few short weeks before, but was unavailable for selection this time. "We missed Luis tonight, but we understand why he couldn't be here," said Holland.
"We hope he'll be able to play with us next season," said Loosmore on behalf of EDO.
With regulation time concluding at the end of the match after the forty minutes had been played and the referee blew full-time to signal that time was up, players of both teams were advised that the game would go into a golden-goal.
"I was puzzled by this," said Rico. "All the way through the game there had been these quite nice green goals with dark nets, and I couldn't understand why they'd want to change to golden goals."
It was then that the omen of playing in Building D became apparent. Like omens everywhere, this omen wasn't divined until after the event, so no-one could have remarked on it being ominous if what it was an omen for didn't occur. But that's the very nature of omens, otherwise they'd be a bit more obvious and so people wouldn't call them omens.
Building D was named after the letter D. It also happens to be the most common letter except for the letter E in the phrase "sudden death extra time". But because the letter E is often hidden in words like "time", you can discount its influence, omen-wise.
"If we'd known the game was going to be decided in extra-time, we'd have turned up forty-minutes later and been fresh for the extra-time period," said Curtis.
EDO had worked out its extra-time tactics, but none of them had factored in Athletico winning the ball from the kick-off and scoring the winner seconds later.
Oddly enough, that's exactly what happened, which meant that EDO's planning - if it had thought that that might occur - was slightly deficient in either the planning side of things, or the execution of the plan, or maybe in the bit in between the planning and the execution.
EDO now has next week off before commencing its Autumn season.
"Now we can go to Bacchus Marsh", said Loosmore.
Played at Building D, Brunswick Secondary College, Tuesday 12 February 2002,
Line-up: Rico, Loosmore, W. Black, Senn-Sanger, Holland, Curtis, Clark.
EDO 1776 FC: 0
Athletico Large: 1
HT: 0-0, FT: 0-0