Such a feeling I cannot stop

Saturday night at Kogarah, where else would you want to be? There was something special about this week’s game against the much-fancied Brisbane Roar. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but on reflection this was probably the closest to the pre-Covid football experience that we have come. In fact no, it was better.

We’ve now got a bit of a routine going – make an early start at Michelle‘s, miss all the traffic and parking woe, meet Siobhan and enjoy a bite to eat, a chinwag and a pre-match pint. This time we decided to give St George Leagues Club a go after jagging a prime parking spot just as the roads were being blocked off.

It was great to see so many blue shirts in there. It truly had the feel of a home venue, and there was plenty of sport playing on the TVs around the place, Western United dismantling Macarthur and the women’s Indigenous game offering an eye-opening spectacle. Lots of familiar faces, good selection of beers (extra-refreshing ale anyone?) and a nod to Ulises Davila with my choice of chicken quesadillas. Paddy Wood’s family was in getting ready to see their boy’s first start, it was a proper Sky Blue family atmosphere.

The beautiful arvo had given way to the perfect evening, the sight of fans walking up the steps after the turnstiles gave the old-fashioned wow factor when entering the stadium, the sun just about to go down behind the main stand. The hill was busy. The Cove were out in force. This time it was the home team’s goalkeeper, Andrew Redmayne, whose dodgy playlist was being aired on the big screen.

The Cove was looking the busiest we’ve seen it this season, and Aurelia was adamant she wanted to be amongst it. We negotiated and grabbed a spot in the adjacent bay, not quite out of beer shower range and definitely not out of earshot of the odd naughty word or twenty. A stray Macarthur fan was ushered out of the Cove before the game, the stewards not keen of a repeat of the Mariners buffoon from a couple of weeks ago who caused considerable fury amongst the boys in black.

The two big fellas with the flags were doing their thing at the front, the 4 Pines and Balters were making their way to the fans in fours, the scene was set for a cracker of an evening.

The first half gave plenty of optimism for the home fans. They had a lot of the play and it looked like it would be smash and grab from the visitors if they were to get anything out of it. Ryan McGowan went in on Jamie Young up the other end and unsurprisingly came off second best, the Roar keeper pushed one away from Milos Ninkovic, and the Sydney man seemed to turn his back on a chance soon after. The danger was always there though and the lively Dylan Wenzel-Halls ran from his own half to go down theatrically in front of the Cove which earned some deserved heckling. The usual pretty football from Sydney gave the usual end result and 0-0 was the half-time score. An appearance from the subs in front of us gave us a chance to sing the old Bobo, Bobo Bobo chant, and there was genuine excitement amongst the fans that we’d see the maestro in the second half.

And we did. An attacking move saw Bobo thrust into action with 25 minutes on the clock alongside Luke Bratten and Alex Baumjohann, and despite his first touch being a weak goalbound header, his introduction changed the game completely. It was a siege now. Kosta Barbarouses should have scored earlier, but showed a moment of magic to blast past his man into the box. The ball somehow fell to the freshly-shorn Rhyan Grant whose unorthodox toe-punt smashed off the bar. Grant then hit the post from a similar position. The home end was a frenzy. It was thrilling. Next up, a fantastic move from Bobo, who picked out Baumjohann and raced for the return ball to the far post and his diving header was touched away by Young.

Smash and grab was still on everyone’s mind, and when Ninkovic sloppily gave the ball away with the defence not prepared, a shot almost sneaked in at the near post. There was plenty of time-wasting by now. Somehow a free-kick into the wall from Bratten led to the referee stopping play for the pretend-to-be-injured defender and gifting the drop-ball back to Roar. It wasn’t our night, and despite willing the winner to come, a goalless draw was possibly the right result. Not since watching Newcastle United 0 Swindon 0 in 1990 as the Toon made a late push for promotion, has there been such an entertaining goalless draw with so many chances created and spurned.

There was time to get a photo with Sydney FC’s new look mini-John Hartson before we had to vacate the area. We’d parked about fifty metres from Gate C and were in the car and sitting in the snaking traffic within minutes. The heady days of continuing on to Cheers Bar for a night of Premier League action are long gone, with football back on at 8am, and we were back home not long after 10pm.

This was a fantastic evening out. Football is definitely back. The tension and thrill of the second half was electric, the Sydney FC song book delivered tonight and despite not coming away with the three points, the Sky Blues gave their fans a great spectacle. This is the best A-League season there has ever been, and it is a privilege to be amongst it.

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