On Monday night the Douglas United Dragons hosted the League leaders and unbeaten James Cook University (JCU) side. Dragons who are now sitting second in the League wanted to prove a point to the high-flyers and bounce back from several disappointing results. The Dragons were without experienced midfielders, Dan Tiffin who broke his leg in the match last Friday, and Billy Pycroft who is still suspended. A good crowd turned out for a game on a slick playing surface which had just been watered.
JCU player/coach Jamie Gosling took the reins early in the match trying to make inroads into the Douglas defence. The inexperienced referee was taking the flow from the game stopping play regularly, sometimes for no apparent reason, this was frustrating both teams and no one could really gain the upper hand.
The Dragons finally managed to string a few passes together and push into JCU territory which resulted in an early goal to Jamie Quinn who struck a low accurate shot from the edge of the goal box into the left side of the goal, the keeper stretching but the shot too well placed.
JCU were fired up and immediately went on the attack, a powerful shot towards the Dragons goal, the ball deflected off a Dragons defender and looped over the diving keeper Heath Melton.
Now half-way through the first half and the game was end-to-end, with two quality sides both looking dangerous. It was the Dragons who struck next, Adriano Gualtieri with a long range left foot power drive which smashed into the corner of the net, a magnificent strike.
Shortly after another attack from the Dragons putting pressure on the young JCU keeper, and striker Rodrigo Navarro was on hand to neatly slot the ball home.
JCU again lifting their game, pushing forward with more venom, they shot from the edge of the Dragons goal box, Melton with a good save palmed the ball wide towards the sideline, the loose ball chased down by a Dragons defender and JCU attacker who slipped and the referee who was 35 metres away surprisingly blew for a penalty to the astonishment of both sides. Penalty converted. Halftime after a sensational 45 minutes.
The second half started with the referee trying to gain control, blowing the whistle for every tackle and now issuing yellow cards repeatedly, the game suffering as a result, the match was played in good spirits with both sides just wanting to play quality football, players and spectators astounded at some of the decisions. The Dragons were playing confidently starting to outplay the League leaders, Gary Cunningham having a blinding game in the midfield. Dragons defenders were like a brick wall at the back, JCU were starting to run out of time. However, in the 75th minute, a slip by a Dragons defender allowed JCU’s Gosling through on goal and he slotted the ball into the corner of the net.
The Dragons weren’t done, they were outplaying JCU, clearly the better side. The referee issuing at least half a dozen yellow cards in the second continued to influence the game, shortly after sending a Dragons player off for descent. Dragons now down to ten players, but still playing well and it didn’t take long for the pressure to pay off with Rodrigo Navarro scoring his second from close range after pouncing on a loose ball.
Dragons clinching the win after an epic game ending the JCU dominance, the crowd were on the edge of their seats for 90 minutes, congratulations to both teams for showing great sportsmanship in testing times with an inexperienced referee.
Dragons will travel to Cairns this Friday to play Edge Hill Tigers hoping to continue their good form.