|2021 U12||7th August 9:00am||League Round 16||WWSC Main Pitch 1|
The atmosphere at the Warrior’s Fortress early on Saturday morning was a strange one – thick with anticipation for this top of the table clash – but melded with a hint of the surreal, as players and fans emerged from a two week Covid restriction-induced hiatus. Strange it was to look upon a crowd of socially distanced, mask-wearing fanatics. But these thin cloth coverings, designed to withstand viral invasion, were unable to muffle the voices of eager fans who hailed their teams with vigour and vim.
Stirling kicked off proceedings and were quick to demonstrate the prowess that has seen their season flushed with success. They attacked down the wings, wanting to cross into the area to create their chances. But each electrifying run was met with stoic, disciplined defense from the often diminutive, but ever-effective Woodside backs. The poise and courage of the Woodside back four, aided and abetted by their hard-running mates in the midfield was beholdable and immaculate in its effectiveness at keeping the talent of Stirling at bay. And when the Blue and Red appropriated possession of the ball, they valued it – always looking for a teammate to transition the ball forward and maintain possession. Where Stirling were using the flanks to find passage, Woodside were coming wide out of defense before centering the ball as they crossed the halfway. The wing forwards were dynamic, sending their striker through at the woodwork and running-on to provide support. And before long, each of the front three was afforded a genuine chance to stretch the net. These shots sailed just wide or were saved by a keeper in a golden shirt, who’s golden day would become something of an epic. Like Woodside, the White and Blue were also a force in defense. Although Woodside were getting several shots at the onion bag, most raids were being snuffed out by a never-say-die mentality before the Stirling gates. By half-time, Woodside had created more real chances, but the scorers nib was still yet to be dipped in ink.
The status quo remained after the break as both sides fought to gain the ascendancy. Again, Woodside were perhaps edging their opponents on a split decision, but a single strike from either side had the potential to deliver the knockout blow. And after 12 minutes of the second half, the blow came from Woodside. After saving every clean shot on target – there were 11 in total, including a flurry of three in the space of 0.6 seconds – a chipped ball looped tantalisingly out of reach of the full-stretch jump of Stirling’s gloveman. His effort was immense, his execution precise, but he couldn’t force his legs to grow the extra foot that would have been required to save this one. Woodside were up by a goal, but with 18 minutes left on the clock Stirling were backing themselves to come from behind… They’d done it before! Despite being up by a goal, the Warriors continued to attack, searching for a 2 goal buffer. But Stirling Would. Not. Yield! The White and Blue wall redoubled its efforts, while their forwards lifted in intensity to create a frenetic final fifteen minutes. With five to go, Woodside found themselves under unbearable pressure to defend their nest. It was relentless. As Red and Blue clad bodies pushed back to block up the danger zone, they were left without a viable option to clear to, and so Stirling were able to set camp in front of goal and repeatedly send the ball into the penalty area. Time and again Woodside hacked it clear. Time and again it came back with interest. Would Stirling find a gap… Would the ref find an infringement. With two minutes to go, a Stirling win looked off the cards, but a draw was looking more and more likely. Another surge… another clearance… And finally, with one telling kick, another Woodside defender sent the ball into touch and the ref blew his whistle to draw the curtain on proceedings. This final strike on the ball demonstrated with poetic effect that a game of football is decided by each and every member of the team – at both ends of the pitch!