That was a crazy little game to be sure. Thunder cane flying out of the blocks, and were pretty much all over us for the first 10 to 15 minutes - former South player Hamlet Armenian showing the kind of form that was missing for nearly every game he played for us last season. Then the game slowed down a bit, we worked our way into it, and were it not for some poor crossing and poor finishing, who knows what could have happened - and then Dandenong scored their first goal, and they took over again - and somehow only went in 1-0 up at the break.
They scored early in the 2nd, pressed for a bit, then sat back. Michael Michalakopoulos rang the changes, threw on some of the young lads, such as Torrens and Stella, and while we pressed forward, we didn't ever look much like scoring - especially from Fernando's corners, which were either short, underhit, or floaty things way beyond use. And then Webster intervened. That was the kind of brain explosion you see once in a lifetime. It got us back into the game, and from there on, amazingly, we probably should have won it. Webster partly made amends by pulling out a great save low to his left off a De Nittis turn and shot, but the internal damage done to Thunder remains to be seen.
Because one could blame Webster for literally letting South back in the game - but it would only disguise another Stuart Munro coaching choke - sitting back so early echoing South's sitting back on a 1-0 lead at Hindmarsh in our last NSL game - even more bizarre considering Dandy were dominating the game. And it usually this season being Thunder who've scored wins and draws when they perhaps shouldn't have, digging themselves out of myriad holes - now that the shoe is on the other foot, it will be interesting to see how they respond. I don't think it will do too much damage, but it opens up a window of doubt that may not have existed before, as well as hope to other clubs as well.
And it's getting awfully messy around the finals places now. Thunder clear at the top, and Preston and Whittlesea being so far away at the bottom means that the other nine teams have been sharing the remaining points pool rather fairly. Another away game next round, to the Bergers. before the Queens Birthday long weekend break. I suspect there hasn't been that much anticipation for this game for quite awhile.
And now a word on the visitors facilities and hospitality of the Thunder. Lovely grandstand though I didn't use it myself - I liked how it had seating... please note Oakleigh. There are no hills though which, like Jack Edwards Reserve, makes viewing difficult when it's even one deep around the fenceline, and very hard to get a spot, too. The lights were good, better than most, though could be a little brighter. The pitch was in very good nick, praise Demeter. The gate organisation was a bit haphazard, but hey, I've got a media pass, so I get in easily enough. The food was good... and they had gazoza! Very classy! A proper European soft drink... you don't get that pretty much anywhere else in these leagues except the Bisleri chinotto at the Veneto Club.
But perhaps the best thing about it was the lack of police... and the lack of tension. Reportedly some Thunder supporters threw their drinks on the South players as they went through the tunnel... but apart from that, there was chanting form both sides, no segregation, fans mingling freely, and a great football buzz that was refreshing on so many levels. It proved to a lot of people - even restoring some of my lost faith in humanity - that there could be big games at this level without trouble, that tension can explode in positive ways and the buzz of a big game not be killed by idiocy. It's only one game, sure... but more of it please, and soon.