The City curse

Smithton’s Alexander Poke defends against City Marians player and former teammate Rhys Burgess on Saturday. Pictures: Bodey Dittloff.

GNL Men. For the third time this season, the Rocky Cape Tavern Smithton Saints suffered an agonisingly close one-goal loss to Burnie’s City Marians on Saturday.

In a must-win match for the Marians to keep their finals hopes alive, warm Smithton conditions were in store and both sides began the match at their trademark high tempo.

Smithton were determined to end the finals hopes of City but the Marians, realising the importance of the match, took the fight right to the Saints’ defenders.

Relentless pressure from the midfield and into defence had Smithton struggling to hold on early.

City shifted the ball quickly and picked holes in the Saints’ defence to attack.

Moments of heated physicality ensued as the Marians continued their attack.

Nigel Kingston and Joe Coombs were rock-solid in defence and made it almost impossible for City to enter the circle.

Kingston and Coombs were supported by Dan Cramer and Alexander Poke at half back.

Once again, the young Saints used their strength to bully their way out of defence and provide Smithton with many attacking opportunities.

City was well prepared in defence with the trio of Daniel Thorp, Richard Cornish and Ben Revell made to work overtime and earn every shot taken on goal.

Smithton were unlucky not to score numerous times as the ball either narrowly missed the net, or was deflected away by the City keeper.

City again swung the ball back into their attacking half and were rewarded for their perseverance when a mistimed pass out of Smithton’s defence was intercepted and quickly converted, putting City ahead by a goal heading into the half-time break.

Both teams began the second half desperate to take control of the game.

City took the ball early and went back on the offence as their control of the ball and accurate passing frustrated the Saints’ defence.

City actively looked to earn penalty corners, believing this to be the best way to beat the Saints’ defenders, however Smithton were resolute in keeping the ball out of the net.

Led by keeper Dylan Jago, Smithton shut down every attacking play and were able to push back into attack after weathering the storm.

Jason House’s stellar season continued as he covered countless kilometres across the ground, defending deep in the Saints’ circle one moment and taking a sneaky shot on goal the next.

House was joined by Kade Wooldrage who battled hard all game, keeping his City opponent quiet.

Smithton’s desperation to get back on the scoreboard overflowed late in the half, forcing the Saints to play periods of the game a man down as the umpires battled to keep the players’ tempers under control.

Smithton battered the City keeper to no avail as the time fell away and the game ended with the Saints 1-0 down.

Another devastatingly narrow defeat for the Saints will mean some re-evaluating this week, as they prepare for their final game of the season against Queechy Pengiuns this Saturday.

Smithton have not beaten the Penguins in more than five years, however their performances this year have shown promising signs and the Saints fancy their chances at home.

A win will pull Smithton from the bottom of the ladder and jump them two places to finish sixth.

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