It was a game of two halves at English Park as Canterbury United welcomed Eastern Suburbs to town in the ISPS Handa Premiership. The hosts came from 2 goals down to grab their first win of the season with a 3-2 victory.
Canterbury United lined up in a structured 3421 formation. Knight was in goal with 3 central defenders of Schwarz, Terris and Liddicoat. They had two wing backs of King on the left and Spain on the right (however early injury meant Wilson played majority of right wing back) both of which played rather cautiously and did not push forward. Two hard working holding midfielders of tough tackling Pendrigh on debut and Ogilvie who had licence to push forward. Nakamura and Spain (Clark until early injury) played as two ‘10’s’ behind Hoyle who spearheaded the attack.
Eastern Suburbs were in a 4132/442 diamond. Speedy was in goal with Nash and Pratley in central defence. Fullbacks of Murati on the right and Elder on the left both got forward and supplied the team with its width. Payne sat deep in the midfield and dictated the tempo spraying multiple long passes. Vale sat on the right and de Jong on the left operated in the half spaces while James played centrally and would attack through the centre. Two forwards were Mata who held his position while his strike partner Tieku would drift wide on either side giving width.
The Canterbury United Dragons headed into their first game since inspirational midfielder, Aaron Clapman, had withdrawn from the squad. But early signs suggested they definitely were going to struggle without him. No desire, no motivation and showed no pace to their game. Pinned inside their own half, they desperately struggled for possession, not helped by Nakamura and Spain’s attempts of dribbling out of their own half. On attack, King and Wilson were not comfortable venturing forward to support attacks which led to the Dragons lacking width. Poor marking and tracking allowed Eastern Suburbs to grab to goals from inside the penalty box. Often looked like a lack of cohesion between the central back 3.
Tim Payne was outstanding in the deep lying midfield playmaking role. In what looked like a side built around him, he was able to dictate tempo of the game as all the play came through him. Whether this just be recycling possession, switching the ball to the opposite flank or hitting key passes behind Canterbury’s defence for Tieku to run onto. His all-round play was on another level, as he did not compromise his defensive duties. Tracking back to stop midfielder runners, never being outmuscled off the ball and keeping Canterbury’s two ‘10’s’ at bay with some crunching tackles. If it was not for Hoyle’s brace late on in the match, Payne would have been Man of the Match.
Lily Whites’ Tactical Win but Mental Loss
Tactically Eastern Suburbs were astute, overloading the central areas and had attacking variation. A slight favoured left flank where they could use the trio of de Jong, Tieku and Elder to overload and single out Wilson was a common feat. Big signing of Chris James had a good game and would often see both Pendrigh and Ogilvie to mark him, pushing Nakumura and Spain right back to deal with Eastern Suburbs wide central midfielders of Vale and de Jong. This allowed Payne to be a free man and gave him all the time in the world to dictate the game. Payne sitting deep allowed the fullbacks to push up higher and create those wide overloads as said before. Two great team worked goals came from attacking the byline with some neat passing before cutting back to a unmarked player to finish in the goal. But things were different in the 2nd half, once Canterbury started to look livelier. Once Eastern Suburbs conceded their first goal their heads dropped and soon silly fouls and mistakes were occurring. Perhaps at 2-1 they needed to drop off a little bit and not sit so high up the pitch, but they instead were very attacking minded. They still played out from defence but Nash and Pratley both looked uncomfortable in doing this. Once it was 2-2 the mistakes and mental lapses were more frequently and straight from kick off they almost conceded a 3rd. The belief was high at English Park at this point and Eastern Suburbs struggled to play in the manner that was so dominate in the 1st half. A breakaway goal in the 93rd minute of Canterbury took all 3 points from the Lily Whites after they looked a class above in the 1st 45 minutes.
Canterbury’s 2nd Half Resurgence
Canterbury came out in the 2nd half looking like a completely different side. Lifting the tempo, playing with hunger and motivation. Ogilvie ran tirelessly everywhere, definitely giving it 100% as they pushed for some sort of way back in the game. This came when Payne pulled down Ogilvie making a late run into the box resulting in a free kick nicely placed around the wall by Pendrigh – on debut. Canterbury’s spirits were lifted and charged forward to grab an equalizer. Ball-playing centre half Schwarz brought the ball out of the back and sprayed multiple dangerous balls for Ogilvie and Nakamura, pinning Eastern Suburbs back. Canterbury United’s substitute Nicklaw came on for Spain position’s (Spain going back to wing back – Wilson off) saw him play up higher, in line with Holye with Nakamura sitting behind them. This allowed Canterbury to press high with either striker marking a center back which disrupted Eastern Suburbs’ build-up from the back. Nicklaw showed his powerful long-range shooting which not often went close to scoring but helped generate a buzz around the park and finally test Speedy with some shots. Then in the 83rd minute a low powerful shot driven in from Nicklaw was excellently laid off from Nakamura to be driven home by Hoyle for the equalizer. Canterbury did not stop here and continued to look for a winner, King pushed up and showed some great crossing ability before some great work from Nakamura on the right wing sent the ball into Holye to turn and smash home the winner for the first time this season.