The 2013/14 season kicked off in identical fashion to the previous campaign, with a 1-0 defeat of AC Campobasso.
The new pre-game handshake and photo-op added a sense of professionalism to the occasion, however Campo’s first few touches quickly dispelled any delusions of grandeur.
Campo, having lost the jewel in their crown (last years MVP Paraic Phelan) to Div 1 rivals Ajyal Tigers for an undisclosed fee, were flattered by the 1-0 scoreline. They produced no shots on target during the contest, whereas Rino’s were guilty of missing some gilt edged chances.
The Rino’s side had a familiar look to it, but as with the start of every Rino’s season opener, there were a handful of debutantes on display. David Moore, Jamie O’Sullivan, and Aussie keeper Patrick Hayward, donned the Rino’s Blue for their first competitive match, while Summer League signings Mark Norton and Ash Southern (who take our English contingent far too high) took their VMSL bow for Rino’s. All 5 are great additions to the squad, and provide us strength in every position.
The game got off to a great start, with Rino’s holding the ball for decent spells, and 10 minutes in produced what proved to be the only goal of the affair, from the unlikely source of Ali Pickett. Some possession atop the Campo box was broken up, but a poor clearance fell to Pickett who made space for a shot from 25yards. The strike squeaked through, and despite the keeper getting hands to it, crept into the corner of the net. Pickett looked as surprised as anyone that he was celebrating a goal at this level.
Rino’s looked dangerous down the wings after that, with Hauk, Duff, and later O’Sullivan and Kook getting in behind the Campo full backs, but were unable to find anyone in the middle to double the lead. To Campo’s credit they defended well in the final third and Rino’s were left with few clear-cut opportunities by half.
As the second half got underway though cracks bean to appear, and the humidity seemed to get the better of Campo, with only the post, some rusty finishing, and last ditch defending keeping the game alive. A delicate chip to the back post found Billingham alone for a free header, but the tight angle left a difficult finish, and the shot came back off the post, with Campo quickest to react and get the ball clear. A corner shortly after produced another header at goal, this time from Bligh, which flashed (slowly) just past the post.
Some strong wing play was now paying dividends, and a couple of balls found Greenall and Norton in the box, but the former was unable to keep a zippy ball down, and the latter unable to make the space for a shot before being closed down.
As chance after chance went begging Campo were buoyed by the slim margin holding firm, and indeed nearly stole a point late on when a deflected free kick wrong footed Thom in goal, but sailed just over the bar. Some late pressure from Campo resulted in consecutive corners, but nothing was to come of them, and Rino’s walked away with all 3 points.
Man of the Match went to Brent Petersen for his role in limiting the Campo attack to just a few speculative shots.
Rino’s move on to Serbia next, for their home opener, while Campobasso have another tough tie away to newly relegated Vancouver Olympics.
Team: Thom, Atleo, Petersen, Bligh, O’Genski(Southern), Billingham, Hauk(Kook), Norton, Pickett(Carr), Duff(O’Sullivan), Moore(Greenall)