Honours Even in Battle of Collingwood
by Tom Kelly and Joe Nagle
Having each recorded emphatic 4-1 victories on the Premiership’s opening day, Collingwood’s top two sides were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw, after playing out a typically intense and full blooded encounter. The scoreline will no doubt frustrate the A’s and delight the B’s, who performed valiantly against their supposed superiors.
The B’s started strongly, harrying the A’s in possession, closing them down at every opportunity and showing purpose in attack. Central midfielder Jack Shiel fired their first shot in anger inside 5 minutes, his well struck low volley from 20 yards narrowly missing the target. In the midst of some feisty tackling, both sides were unable to create coherent passages of play, a litany of misplaced passes punctuating the play.
After a disjointed opening quarter of an hour, the game burst into life with two goals in the space of five minutes. Following a mistimed challenge in midfield, Jack Shiel’s free kick from near halfway found its way directly into the net. Keeper Paul Shearer slipped and was unable to prevent the ball crossing the line.
The A’s response was swift. Chris Musgrave’s in swinging corner from the right was met by centre back Tom Haley, whose towering downward header bounced into the top right hand corner of the goal.
Prior to notching their equaliser, the A’s had shown little creative spark but, once on the scoresheet, they played with greater fluency and showed glimpses of attacking quality. First, a sharp break down the left forced the tireless Adam Jennings into a fine goal line clearance and, just seconds later, Will Bates’s measured reverse ball found the dynamic Brown, whose goal bound effort was again cleared.
The A’s channelled their earlier frustration into a blend of tough tackling and increasingly measured possession football with Nate Janks and central midfield partner Brown putting in a number of strong challenges. Shortly after challenging recklessly in midfield, the latter crafted an opening for himself. Sidestepping his man neatly, his low side foot shot beat the keeper, only to cannon off the upright.
The A’s had established a modicum of superiority, moving the ball around neatly, but in the ten minutes between striking the woodwork and the half time whistle, they were unable to fashion another clear opportunity.
The second half began with a comic moment to lighten a palpably tense atmosphere, when the good humoured referee observed that Jennings’ trickery on the left resembled watching Brazil, drawing chuckles from players and spectators alike. The A’s had less to smile about shortly afterwards when left-back Adam White received the only card of the game for a dubious deliberate handball decision.
An hour in, both sides made changes and substitute Adam Conant quickly made an impact, his ball down the left finding James Tyrer whose early cross was well attacked by Williams. With the A’s frustrated at their failure to establish a lead and the B’s determined to protect what they had, the match lapsed into a disjointed phase. The next key moment came from a route one source. A team skipper Billy Phillips hurled his throw long into the box and Tyrer headed forcefully beyond Thompson, only for the referee to halt the celebrations, ruling that Tyrer had pushed his opponent in the process.
Phillips’ throw ins were proving an increasingly potent weapon and just two minutes later another of his speared deliveries led to a goalmouth scramble that, when only partially cleared, was fired back towards goal by Musgrave, who saw his effort flash just wide. At the other end, a threaded ball from substitute Vincent Snell put the energetic Alex Macpherson through on goal only for his effort to roll agonisingly wide of Shearer’s far post.
The B’s efforts on the day were epitomised by their all action skipper, Jezza Talbot, who tracked back selflessly on the right whilst also featuring heavily in much of the B’s’ forward play. As the game ticked into stoppage time he was still full of running, helping to ensure that the A’s could not force a late winner.
At full time, there was evidence of grudging mutual respect between the sides. The A’s had shaded chances and possession but few would begrudge the battling B’s a share of the spoils in a game that preserved both sides’ unbeaten starts to their respective Premiership campaigns.