Daniel Walker is a happy man. On Saturday he saw his Men's State League 6 team take apart an in-form Weston Molonglo outfit, and all but guarantee themselves a place in the semi-finals.
Nijong Oval, bathed in sunshine and picture-perfect, was back to its best. Having played on the smaller field in their previous two home fixtures, the boys were glad to be back on the main field. With the attacking flair of the Bogatek twins on each wing, Cooma thrives on a wide pitch and plenty of space.
As this was Cooma's last home game of the season, they were determined to put on a good show for the large and vocal crowd; and it only took a minute or two for the show to begin. From the kick-off Cooma were on the front foot, and the ball was quickly worked towards the Weston goal and out for a corner. 'The Mauritian Munition' Gerard Rampal floated in a testing delivery that had the Weston keeper flapping, and the ball could only be deflected out to Roman Bogatek, who's goal-bound effort was thought to have been blocked on the line, but was adjudged to have crossed it by the linesman. One-nil to the Tigers.
With the one goal cushion established so early in the match, Cooma were confident enough to keep possession and patiently work for a second goal. Twenty minutes of intense running had Nick Phillips ready for a rest spell, so Daniel Walker strutted onto the field to partner the energetic Brendan Bogatek; and the effect was immediate. Walker is a specialist at set-pieces, and it was another corner kick that was to prove Weston's Achilles heel. Spotting the terrific run of all-action Ben Woodhouse, Walker smashed the ball to the front post where Woodhouse expertly volleyed past a static keeper, to the delight of the home supporters.
The cheering and applause had barely died down, when Cooma immediately stole the ball from Weston's kick-off and launched another raid on their beleaguered defence. Rampal, thriving in his role behind the strikers, weaved his way through the packed midfield and, riding tackle after tackle, worked his way into the box to slot another 'wonder' goal home and deliver the death knell for Weston. It was a fine way to cap a truly impressive half of football by the home side.
The push for more goals described the second half, and Weston's desperation opened up increasing amounts of space for Cooma to exploit. Dominic Bogatek, Mitch Hope, and Dave D'Amico were buzzing all over the pitch in their midfield roles, and the visitors had a hard time keeping track of the runs and interchanges taking place. The solid backline, led by the redoubtable Brendan Wall, were standing fast. Tim Gotts' work down the left was admired by many in the crowd.
As the game drew to a close, Weston had enough energy for one last surge. A few minutes of pressure led to a flurry of corners to the visitors, one of which produced a remarkable reflex save from evergreen stopper John Gargett. The Weston striker had got his head to the ball and was virtually celebrating his goal before Gargett threw himself to his right and clawed it away; the striker pounced on the rebound but Woodhouse was on hand to block that shot too. With the last kick of the game, Weston's star striker managed to steal behind the Tigers' defence and lob a header over the furious Gargett, but it was too little too late.
A fine 3-1 victory was the perfect way to bid farewell to Nijong for another year. This week will see the Tigers travel to Garran to take on the White Eagles in the final game of the season.
Man-of-the-Match: Brendan Bogatek, Ben Woodhouse, Gerard Rampal.