LITTLE SKILL SHOWN IN THE BIG MATCHES
WA's reputation as a forward-looking State, with excitement and initiative in International matches, took a hammering in 1973. It was a year that West Australians would prefer to forget. In three matches, two against English clubs and one against South Australia, WA demonstrated a lack of confidence and skill. The big match of the year was against the English first division side Stoke City, followed quickly by a clash against the English third division team Bournemouth.
Since 1967, West Australians have become used to State sides either winning in Asia or pulling off surprises against highly reputable overseas teams by forcing draws at home. But with the decreased activity at State level, it was obvious that there was a drop in standards. However, against Stoke City, with their World Cup stars Geoff Hurst, Gordon Banks and George Eastham, WA showed a willingness to attack and at times displayed flashes of skill. Generally, though, it was a frustrating afternoon.
WA held territorial advantage for long periods, but one always had the feeling that Stoke, tired after a strenuous season in England, were prepared to let WA do the running. Right from the start the home side forced the first of their seven corners, but as usual it came to nothing. In the first half John O'Connell gave one of his better State performances, while Dave Brady, playing almost as a defender at times, earned high praise from the Stoke players, as did winger Ray Ilott.
However, it was defender Gary Mateljan who once again attracted attention for a solid performance which never dropped below an excellent level. Unfortunately those who watched gradually got the feeling that WA would never score, while Stoke appeared content to settle for the goals that came along. After a brilliant goal by Eastham was disallowed by referee John Allen in the opening minutes, Geoff Hurst cracked a 25-metre ground shot against a retreating WA defence just inside the post midway through the half.
Four minutes later he added to the score by taking a clever Mike Pejic shot round the back of the WA defence, tapping his shot in from close range with goalkeeper Mike Palmer helpless to prevent the goal. Stoke did not score again till the 76th minute when Palmer found himself shunted off balance when Hurst outjumped his grasp and headed the ball back for substitute Stewart Jump to score easily. More than 15,000 people left the ground wondering how WA will ever get to win a home match and a bitter taste that Stoke had played only enough to win without exerting themselves.
Three weeks later Bournemouth arrived in Perth and everyone was waiting to see whether WA would give a better effort. But it was not to be as Bournemouth outscored Stoke to beat WA 4-0. Bournemouth didn't score three of their goals till the last 15 minutes of play. Bournemouth took the lead in the 43rd minute when striker Phil Boyer beat an attempted offisde trap to score the opener, much to the obvious relief of his teammates.
WA at times were enterprising, forcing Bournemouth's goalkeeper Fred Davies to make four tremendous saves to shots that had goal written all over them. But for much of the game WA's attack lacked ideas and support from the midfield, with only Ray Ilott causing trouble with his usual speed and subtle skills. The second-half saw Bournemouth gradually assert their professional superiority with Brian Clarke, who was in Perth with Cardiff City in 1968, add to the score with a back-header in the 75th minute.
Five minutes later, Micky Cave elegantly headed a cross from Phil Boyer into the corner of the net. Former Everton super-star Jimmy Gabrial ended the scoring spree six minutes later when he converted a penalty. A poor crowd who had braved wet, wintry conditions left more convinced than ever that WA. has talent, but are no match for any professional side.
WA proved no match for South Australia either at the end of the season, when both States fought for the inaugural Cancer Crusade Shield, which it is hoped will become an Australia-wide contest. In what must rank as the worst performance by a W.A. side since the 14-1 thrashing by Everton in 1965, WA were eclipsed 1-0 by our interstate visitors. But for terrible finishing by SA and superb goalkeeping by WA's Peter Mitchell the score would have been much higher. Billy Birch and former Australian squad player John Perin had a field day in midfield.
WA resorted to hopeless long kicks down the field seeking a favourable bounce for their forwards, a miracle that never came. Because of poor tactics, unbelievable bad form by most players, it was left to the defence to once again bring a modicum of dignity to the proceedings. As he had been against Stoke City and Bournemouth, Gary Mateljan was outstanding and fully deserved the Cathay Pacific award as the State's best player in 1973.
While SA held command for much of the match, they too must have been far from happy with their performance. Even the winning goal they scored was laced with luck and added little to the game. Barrie King making a run down the right wing in the 84th minute against a thinly spread WA defence sent a low cross that just eluded WA defenders. Mitchell managed to get his hand to the ball, but all it did was bounce away for John Nyskohus to score into an empty net from point blank range.
After the match State coach John Adshead said that Perin had made the difference between the two sides. "It is a better result than against SA. last time and it could have been better had we got support from our own supporters who booed WA. instead of trying to encourage them," said Adshead. "It is difficult to play a good side, but it is almost impossible when you have to play against the crowd as well." True words, but those at the SA game were, in the majority, those that have followed WA for years in the hope of that moment of success at home. Their reaction was probably the pent-up frustrations of WA's international year. WA has shown improvement in many areas of the game, but somehow it is rarely put together to provide the home supporter with a feeling of satisfaction when he walks away from the ground at the end.
WA can rise to the occasion as was proven in a 3-3 draw with Moscow Dynamo and a 1-1 draw with Manchester City. But it needs to be done more often for the game to progress outside the club level.
TEAM verses Stoke City: Mike Palmer, Dave Brady, Jim sambrook, Gary Mateljan, Hugh Miller (Capt), John O'Connell, Bill Hicks, Eric Marocchi, Bobby Hynd, Jeff Williams, Ray Ilott. Substitutes: Peter Mitchell, Chris Lovatsis, Jeff Ruellan, Alex Genovese, Mike McKinlay
TEAM verses Bournemouth: Peter Mitchell, Jim Sambrook, Gary Mateljan, Hugh Miller (Capt), Mike McKinlay, Dave Brady, John O'Connell, John Lovell, Alex Genovese, Bobby Hynd, Ray Ilott. Substitutes: Eric Marocchi, Chris Lovatsis, Mike Palmer, Bill Hicks, Jeff Williams
TEAM verses SA: Peter Mitchell, Tommy Carruthers, Jim sambrook, Mike saunt, Gary Mateljan, Hugh Miller (Capt), Dave Brady, John O'Connell, Alf Blackmore, Bobby Hynd, John Van Oosten. Substitutes: Mike Palmer, Mike Quayle, Denis Barstow, Geoff Cole, Mike Katris, Eric Marocchi
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