It was a troublesome time in the penalty area for the Merensky First XI on Saturday evening when they suffered a 7-0 loss at the hands of the mighty Pietersburg High.
In an ironic twist the final score would appear to be retribution for the massive victory the Blues claimed over their neighbours from Ben Vorster just the evening before when they sent the Reds home with a 6-0 defeat.
It was always going to be a tough game for any squad matching up against the legendary skill of the Polokwane side which ranked 66th in the 2019 Top 100 Schools Boys First team standings just behind Dale College.
From the onset it was clear that the PHS boys were very well versed in the speed and accuracy of the aqua-turf upon which they would face off against their hosts, who only started training on this new pitch, less than a year prior.
Communication between the visiting forwards was exceptional. Passes were kept short, quick and accurate with the first goal scored in the opening four minutes of the first chukka off the stick of Jan Grobler who caught the keeper off balance and sent the ball top centre. This quick goal visibly rattled the Blues defensive line who allowed for another goal two minutes later after a forced foot fault in the D.
The PHS boys had mastered the art of the shorty and this would become the Achilles heel of their hosts as the match progressed. It almost appeared as though PHS was purposefully playing for short corners. In the final minute of the first chukka PHS were awarded another shorty and this time it was Eduan Gobey who deflected a drag flick off Merensky goal herder, Kellen Gutteridge’s pads, and into the backboard to end the first quarter with a 3-0 lead.
The second chukka started with a shorty for Merensky which was dragged too high to bother PHS Keeper, Franco van Dyk, who watched the dimple sail over his box into the catch net behind it.
This was answered by a short corner for PHS after a foot fault which was botched by the striker and cleared out of the danger zone by Merensky’s backs. Moments later PHS was awarded another shorty off a backstick infringement which was sent into the top right corner to extend the visitors’ lead by 5 goals to zero.
The hosts were offered a chance at retaliation after an offside call by the umpire which resulted in a short corner. With some miscommunication attributed to nerves however, the Merensky strikers botched the opportunity and headed to the stands for the start of the third chukka.
The penultimate quarter was a rather uneventful back and forth between the two sides as PHS eventually scored off another short corner moments after a Merensky shorty sailed wide of the box. The last quarter saw PHS score twice more off short corners to end the match with a seven-goal victory.
“It was down to silly mistakes such as foot faults and backstick play by the Merensky boys which ultimately led to their opponents having the upper hand,” said umpire Mynhardt Bouwer after the match.
“It was very clear that PHS spent a lot of time focusing on perfecting their penalties and their communication between the backs and their front four. Merensky is a good team, they will do well if they can iron out the basics.”