The top-placed team played the last-placed one, and there would be no fairy tale for the latter, with CC Strikers recording a comfortable 4-1 win over Manly Vale on Sunday at Cromer Park 2.
Yet Vale coach Michael Yarnold, his squad decimated by injury, took plenty of positives from the result.
“We’ve now got several guys who aren’t regular first graders who’ve made statements to be included in that first XI,” Yarnold said. “[Despite the loss] I was actually pretty happy given our walking wounded. There were long patches of play that we controlled the match, kept possession and out-played them.
“But we weren’t clinical up front and the Strikers were. The chances they created they finished. They scored three quick goals. Their front-three was very good, particularly Luke Curnow.”
Yet goal of the match came from Brazilian import Gustavo Anacleto who left CC Strikers keeper Matt Smith stranded with a volley out of nothing. Elsewhere Anacleto’s countryman Jadson impressed on his flank, drawing several fouls as defenders struggled to contain him.
CC Strikers coach Ryan Butcher declared himself “really happy with the performance for the most part”.
“We were much sharper in the final third. We created a heap of chances and probably could’ve had a couple more goals. We had the right level of movement and kept busy all game.”
The Strikers roared out of the blocks to be 3-nil up after 35 minutes with goals to Rhys Vorillas (15th minute) and Curnow (20th and 35th).
If Butcher could be critical of a 4-1 win, he’d say that his team “relaxed a little bit”, with Anacleto’s volley late in the first half making the score 3-1.
Yet the Strikers took control again and came up with a big play in the 80th minute when multiple players were involved in a build-up before Curnow notched his hat-trick with a surgical strike into the top corner of the net.
Best for CC Strikers were Curnow who combined well with up-front partner Michael Morrison, while midfielders Brody Strachan and Ryan Berry were busy all game, securing clean ball and dictating the tempo of the match.
Butcher said his squad had set themselves the goal to win all three games leading up to Easter, which they’ve achieved, with maximum points in both grades.
On Vale Butcher said: “At 3-nil down they dug in and took it to us. They got the goal and had a good passage heading into the second half. They made us work hard to stay in control and will cause problems for teams going forward, I’ve got no doubt.”
By Matt Cleary.