After months of pre-season training it was finally time to kick off our centenary season with our opening game against Western Suburbs.
With the Ole Academy based at Wests we knew they would bring a possession based brand of football to Wakefield Park.
Wests dominated the early exchanges, keeping the ball for long periods as they tried to break down our defense. We kept the game in front of us with any chances coming from outside of the box.
Wests took the lead in unfortunate circumstances in the 12th minute. A cross came in from the right hand side and centre back Nick Grice misjudged his angles and managed to smash the ball into the back of his own net. 1-0 Wests.
The goal brought us to life in possession and right from the kick off you could see the change of intent. Our tempo was brisk and our off the ball movement was sharper.
We were rewarded 90 seconds later with a wonderful goal. Initial work from George Frost found Luciano Colucci in the area. Colucci shaped to shoot with his left foot, committing the defender, only to unselfishly lay the ball off to Paul Clune who finished with great composure into the bottom corner. 1-1 and parity restored.
Wests, who enjoyed the bulk of possession during the 1st half just couldn't find a way through our defense. The only genuine chance they had was saved acrobatically by standout goalkeeper Sam Martin, who would go on to have a day to remember.
As the half-time whistle blew, 1-1 was a fair reflection of how the half had unfolded. Wests were tidy without doing enough with the ball in our final third, while we had defended well and created more genuine chances.
We were calm at half-time, happy with our discipline and application of the game plan. We talked about offering more in possession and altered put pressing triggers as the game wore on.
Our minds were still in the changing room as Wests regained the lead, 98 seconds after the restart. Some poor defensive decisions inside the area allowed the Wests player to weave his way towards goal and slip the ball past goalkeeper Martin. 2-1 Wests and we were forced to come from behind again.
We introduced the industry of Elliot Riley for the impressive Ben Purser as we looked to take a firmer grip of midfield. George Frost was causing havoc on the right hand side of midfield and the attacking partnership of Clune and Colucci was causing the Wests back 3 plenty of problems.
It was that man Clune who popped up in the Wests box to grab another equaliser, bouncing in off the inside of the left hand post.
With 28 minutes to play, there was plenty of time for both teams to try and find a winning goal. As the game became stretched, we had more space to dominate in midfield and our 2nd half pressing was exceptional. Terry O'Donnell who had battled a knee complaint all afternoon finally gave way for Rohan Boyle and Tom Graham entered the game, giving us another dose of energy in attacking areas.
With 8 minutes left on the clock, Wests were awarded a penalty after Harry-Tod Smith was judged to have fouled the Wests striker inside the area. Despite Sam Martin's best efforts, he couldn't prevent the ball bursting the back of the net. 3-2 Wests and surely we couldn't come from behind again...could we?
With time up on the clock, we managed to earn ourselves a corner. With nothing to lose we sent up the big goalkeeper. John O'Driscoll whipped in a wonderful corner, putting it right on the head of the big man. Martin showed aerial prowess as he headed the ball back across goal. Time almost stood still as the ball looped towards the far post.
The Wests goalkeeper back pedaled but could only watch as the ball found the top right hand corner. 3-3 and cue absolute scenes. The celebration from this 92nd minute equaliser will live long in the memory.
The full time whistle presented different emotions from both sides. Wests looked deflated while our lads couldn't hide their smiles from this gutsy performance.
We have been involved in football for a long, long time but this was one of our most favourite footballing memories, in any game, in any league.
While we are under no illusions of how much work we have to do to play the brand of football we are trying to achieve, this performance was full of character, discipline, and sheer determination. All values we expect from our players. Not once did heads drop. I could not be prouder of this group of players.
We enjoyed the after match in our "pop up" clubrooms at the Island Bay Tennis & Squash Club. Thanks to all involved for making this happen. Here's hoping we can make this arrangement more permanent.
Strong performances from Colucci, Clune, Martin and man of the match George Frost who, after an injury ravaged 2015 can be really proud of this opening day performance.
Thanks to all those who came to support us. While we didn't manage the 3 points, this was a fantastic game of entertaining football, full of drama, quality football and genuine theatre.
Congratulations to the Men's Reserves who beat University 2-1 (Goals to Prasad and Goodwin) and the 3rd team who beat Naenae 4-3. An unbeaten start to 2016 for the competitive men's sides.
We hope to see you next week as we travel to the other side of Wakefield Park to take on Olympic.