The opposition of the first game was a Rowville Eagles team yet to earn a point in the league thus far. Coming off a 7-0 win at home the previous week and so far unbeaten, at the very minimum the objective of the day for the Reserves was to take the three points.
The game started with some initial pressure from Rowville, with Collingwood initially struggling to find their feet. Due to the dusty degraded pitch with a dishonest bounce, it was evident Collingwood would struggle to play with their usual composure from early on in the game. In front of young goalkeeper Justin Sutcliffe, the back four of Brandon Wong, Jamie Shek, Ben Mensink and Mark Hanly worked hard enough to ensure no surprise early advantage to Rowville as the rest of the team were dragged back into the defensive half in a bid to slow the game and help soak up the pressure. The first incident of the game came when the young shot stopper bravely rushed out to clear an over-hit Rowville pass, where unfortunately he was collided by the significant mass of the Rowville striker. Multi skilled Harrison Vanya Emmens came back from midfield to don the gloves as Cris Ugur Tumkaya made his return after weeks of a forced sidelining to replace the injured ‘keeper. The Turkish player had a delightful impact from the get go as he pushed a ball over the line from a Collingwood corner to make it 1-0. Collingwood’s Reserves gained some composure from this point, with midfield holding duo Gared Matheson and Jason Minglis beginning to find some space, started to dictate the day’s proceedings. Spearheaded by Lee Hayward and wingers Tom Snaith and Mike Mackenzie, the Reserves went 2-0 up shortly after the first courtesy to a back post header from Tumkaya.
In the second half Collingwood were controlling as a tough back formed the basis of stability, whilst the midfield and forwards surged forward in a bid to find a third. Collingwood pushed however lacked the assurance in decision making in the final third of the ground, and despite having all the possession and play, the game was not at rest. The long awaited return of Marc Perez eventuated with his substitution into left back, whilst Ciaran McGettican swapped for Wong at the other fullback slot. Collingwood’s pressure without substance was summed up with two disallowed second half goals, flagged by the linesman who’s attention seemed to fluctuate between the game at hand and getting gleeful with a girly glamour. Finally, the match was put to rest when the Citizen’s third came subsequently from Tumkaya heading in off a corner, completing his hat-trick on the day of his immediate impact and return to action. A late consolation goal came for Rowville, as the Reserves came off the pitch with the points.
It was not the best display of ability from the Reserves, and given Rowville’s dismal season record and goal difference, one may of expected more goals from the Citizens. However the team did enough to take the points, as eyes turned focus to the seniors.
The Seniors took on Rowville Eagles SC with an ambition of adding another three points to the previous week’s 5-0 home drubbing of Waverly AEK. Collingwood City FC started the day in equal first position, whilst Rowville were six points behind in 6th place yet unbeaten since match day two of the season.
The match could not have started worse for the Seniors, where Rowville found the net three times in the first 20 minutes to create a seemingly healthy early advantage for the rest of the game ahead. Some lackluster play in a slow start saw the Citizens succumb to precise finishing from Rowville, with the games result looking all but over from such an early stage. A formation change from saw the introduction of Tom Kent into a three man backline alongside Adam Gallo and Jamie Braddock, whilst Mike Maddocks and captain David Kilcommons were pushed onto the breadths of the touchline in a five man midfield. The change gave dividends immediately, when a high looping ball from Kilcommons connected with a Maddocks header before an onrushing keeper could get there, giving Collingwood an opening back into the game. The cool finish catalyzed Collingwoods’ charge, sparking into life an intense demeanor that Collingwood have begun to come known for. Some spiky tackles from midfielders Billy Carter Jones and Craig Tweedy exemplified the accelerated heart rate and desire in the team. Collingwood’s urgency soon paid dividends with Nick Tsevakos slotting Mike Maddocks through before the Canadian sent the ball into the back of the net. The Canadian wheeled away in laughter before the ball had even crossed the line, exhibiting his current confidence and form off the back of a hat-trick the previous week. 3-2 down but with the momentum coloured Black and White, Collingwood pushed for hard for an equalizer for the remainder of the half, but ultimately went into the sheds with everything to play for and nothing to lose.
The second half was a damp affair, with both sides struggling to play any neat football given the treacherous conditions of the pitch. Tawanda Madzi and Dan Quinn did not see much of the ball as factors beyond City's control saw Collingwood throw their incisive passing style away for a more kick and run approach. The bouncing ball brought uncertain touches, and usually sure footed players began tumbling over their own feet. The goal that sealed the fate of Collingwood was one of the highlights of the game from a neutral perspective, where after some nice passing and forward play by Rowville saw a bobbling ball at the edge of the box expertly driven into the top corner, giving Collingwood keeper Christoph Achsenick all but no hope. Collingwood lifted the ante once more, as Coach Bates threw Jason Minglis into the fray to add an extra element in attack. Some good chances came Collingwood’s’ way as Rowville sat back, but unfortunately for the Citizens, no tangible outcome could be achieved. As the game neared its conclusion goalkeeper Achsenick committed a seemingly innocuous challenge on a Rowville forward which the referee deemed to have been a foul. The incident that followed was both disgusting and shambolic as the Rowville striker began throwing punches and elbows onto the keeper, completely unprovoked and without a hint of shame. The same player had already been caught throwing dirt into the eyes of Collingwood players on several occasions during the match, yet had only been shown a yellow card for his misdemeanors thus far. Collingwood players rushed to the aid of ‘The Hoff’ Achsenick, as the pitch descended into frenzy. The Collingwood players displayed their mateship and team spirit in defending each other, as both fists and even spit continued to fly from the Rowville forward. The repulsive behaviour was both cowardly and shameful, the forwards emotional instability apparent as he sulked away in tears following his eventual dismissal from the referee, with no doubt a lengthy ban to follow.
Maddocks continued his hot vein of form in day that will be better remembered for an ugly incident that mirrored an ugly pitch in which Collingwood could not gain a comfortable foothold in. A nervy start undoubtedly made the rest of the battle a near impossible journey, yet Collingwood can come away with the knowledge of the power of the fighting spirit they possess within. The courage displayed at the end of the first half and mateship and bravery toward the end will strengthen the tight bonds of this team further, with hopefully the teeth and claws coming out earlier in the game next week. Overall the game should serve to motivate Collingwood to fight hard for their promotion aspirations, in order to escape this league as to play against more respectable opposition in a footballing pitch actually suited to playing football.