By Tom Campbell
The Raiders family fun day, face painting, half-time football from junior little people, soccer golf and a thousand yards of sunshine – oh yeah the Cabbage Patch, that’s where you needed to be last weekend.
It was first vs second and in any code it brings a flavor that’s hard to deny. The Raiders in second place looking to usurp the Lions seemingly eternal position atop the Premier league table and few rounds left to make that happen. Last time they met it was a 1-1 heartbreak for the Raiders at Maclean street, the Lions a tad lucky to get out of that one, an Aaron Allsop goal from a free kick angling in and out of the sun deep in the second half the equalizer.
At the Cabbage Patch though it’s not so easy, head coach Paul Pomroy looking at a fresh lineup for the Raiders no Hopper, Gale, Mac Daddy or Dooley for this one, some would say we were a tad thin and this scribe would agree.
Dave Connor the man in charge and the Lions sliding around the Cabbage Patch like it was their own in the early stages. Dut Garang testing the Raiders keeper Lee Kennedy on 12 minutes with Kennedy parrying the shot for a corner. The Raiders stretched on more than one occasion in this half and Kennedy the hero as the visitors looked for an early lead but it would be the Raiders via a bulldozing Lockie Indian Manning run that set up the first goal. Lockie scrapped for the ball midfield and with no apparent plan herded by Lions defenders speared upfield. Lions main defender Ike Turner managed to get a foot onto the ball and end the run but the ball spilled to Tim Ruprecth. He’s had a great year for the Raiders has Ruprecth, a striker with the qualities of an assassin and with the Coffs goal in his sights put the Raiders 1 up on 22 minutes.
The strike well received by the large parochial home crowd I can tell you and I’m not talking about polite applause either but the lead short lived, the Lions straight back onto the attack testing the cohesiveness of a Raider defensive line that at times looked somewhat ragged. The equalizer a piece of practiced play that would put a smile on any coaches face certainly Coffs coach Glenn Williams delighted as the free kick move delivered just outside the Raiders area found the inside post and this time too good for a diving Lee Kennedy to give a 1-1 scoreline. The break 15 minutes away and the Lions in top gear now, Everrett, McCormick, Leslie and Heward working hard for the Raiders to blunt the constant attacks and no doubt Pomroy wishing they were in the sheds for plan B, but fasten your seat belts the next 15 m produced two goals.
The first via a quick thinking Craig ‘turtle’ Simpson free kick delivered outside the Lions penalty area and before the Lions could organize their defensive line the turtle slipped the ball to Ruprecth who was already in forward motion, he chipped the ball to Indian Manning who converted for 2-1 on 41 minutes. If that wasn’t enough and in the shadows of half time perhaps the next goal was. The goal engineered by the Lions dismal defending caught askew by a pressing Raider side that could scent another opportunity. The Lions defenders not accurate enough or clear enough in what they should do, anyhow Fabrice Wamara knew what he should do, plunder the indecision and so a careless back pass not hit with enough weight intercepted by an alert Wamara who was simply too good for the Coffs keeper. So 3-1 at the break and perhaps plan B back in the folder for coach Pomroy.
The Lions without Ike Turner (hamstring) for the second 45, he’d saved them a few times in the first half once literally off the line and the Raiders began like spring chickens (spring chickens run really quick). Sharp attack and pressing the Lions whenever the ball was turned over, the turtle orchestrating more than one forward foray linking nicely with Waddick on the Raiders right flank. Wamara picked up his brace 11 minutes into the half catching Aaron Allsop off-balance and skating toward the Coffs goal delivering the coup de grace and collecting his brace for the afternoon. So 4-1 and we’re getting into embarrassing territory now for the pride and they were under a barrage of Urunga attack that was as unrelenting as it was enthusiastic. The Lions gathered somewhat though and defended well in those last 25 minutes.
4-1 to the Raiders the final score and coach Pomroy lauding the efforts of his adjusted side positive signs indeed for the upcoming final series where it will be likely the sides will meet again and what a match that will be!
In other results a Nick O’Mullane goal enough to get the Raiders reserve grade home in a tight curtain raiser 1-0 in that one, the women travelled to Maclean for a 2-2 draw still eying off a finals berth as well. Go you Raiders!