If I were to tell you that Bev, the kit lady, had to wash the strips three times following the Thirds 2-2 draw with Gisborne, you may have an appreciation for the conditions in which the game was played.  Following a seamless journey on the V-Line the match was to prove a little more eventful for Ben Cooksey’s men.

Following the Round 6 win on the carpet-like surface of Albert Park synthetics the boys took their time to find their touch and judge the run of the ball on a less than perfect surface.  From the kick off Gisborne, who adjusted to the condition much more quickly, began to push back the Parkers.    At times, the midfield trio of Tortorici, Morley and Hernandez Merjia resembled ‘Bambi on Ice’ as they changed direction to close down the dominant Gisborne midfield.  A disjointed opening 20 minutes culminated in the awarding of the first of 3 (three) penalties for the home side.  Vinnie Costello was adjudged to have prevented a goal bound shot with his hand.  Step up stand-in keeper Cooksey.  The Coach pounced to his left and diverted the penalty.  This act was seemingly more inspiring than any motivational words the Coach could have conjured.

Almost instantly the Parkers began to find their balance.  Tortorici slipped a pass beyond the Gisborne back line and Richards, in what transpired to be his final appearance, finished with aplomb.  With the lead gained the Parkers went from strength to strength.  Battersby controlled a lobbed through ball with his shoulder and finished clinically.  The Parkers would have doubled their lead had it not been for referee stopping play for a ‘hand ball’.  Shortly afterwards, Richards was clean through on the goalkeeper again.  Before he had time to dispatch a shot on goal the referee made his second incorrect decision in as many minutes by whistling for offside.  A deserved second goal did arrive from a Frenchman; however it was Richards’ compatriot Gregoire Dorel who bundled a cross in with his thigh.

The Parkers had control of the game throughout the second half.  Without a doubt, Vinnie Costello, now in midfield, was the star man.  For 90 minutes the Irishman kept his balance and possession whilst others floundered.  Costello, who seemed to find inspiration from Andrea Pirlo’s destruction of England that morning, kept the visitors ticking over with exquisite positioning and simply executed passes.

However, the Parkers control of the game was almost put in jeopardy after Cooksey was adjudged to have fouled a Gisborne striker whilst attempting to claim a cross ball.  Cooksey more than made up for his indiscretion by saving not one but two penalties in less than a minute.  Having just diverted his second spot kick for the match the referee penalised Cooksey’s teammate Tortorici for encroaching on the penalty area during the penalty.  Again, the retake was expertly saved.

The penalties were only a brief blip in Parkers domination.  Tortorici almost claimed a spectacular third goal for the visitors when he struck the bar from 25 yards.  The three points seemed almost guaranteed when the Gisborne striker, who had been booked previously for an altercation with Cooksey and Dorel, was sent off for lashing out towards the peerless Costello.

And then, with the clock ticking over to the 86th minute, Cooksey came for a through ball only to find the ball in the back of the net after being beaten to the ball and then rounded by a Gisborne striker.  With only 5 minutes remaining the visitors should have seen the game out.  However, with the final whistle only seconds away, a mistimed clearance by Hoey fell to an opposition striker who finished with power and precision into the top left corner via the inside of the post.

The visiting changing room resembled a morgue at full time.  Players struggled to understand how they had not won a game they were completely in control of.  However, on reflection, given the conditions and the fact three penalties were awarded against them, a draw was not a terrible result.  Coach Cooksey will have been pleased with the performance of several players following the strong victory over South Yarra a week earlier.  The Thirds must look to cement their position in the top 4 with a win over Harrisfield Hurricanes in Round 8 before they have two weeks off.  Bev will be delighted to hear the game is on the plush synthetics of Albert Park.

MPFC Team: B. Cooksey, D. Houghton, M. Helleborg, V. Costello, G. Dorel, M. Morley, S. Tortorici, C. Hernandez Merjia, C.  Renouf, J. Battersby, W. Richards.  Subs: A. Bell, R. Lativy, M. Hoey, M. Tompkins

Yellow: G. Dorel

Goals: W. Richards 28’, G. Dorel 40’