THE New Norfolk Panthers suffered their first loss of the season against the University Wanderers at Olinda Grove on Sunday. An intense 90 minutes against a very physical University team saw the Panthers lose 2-3 in a match marred by controversy and a rarely-seen struggle down the wings and in the midfield.
Having beaten the Wanderers 2-1 at Tynwald Park earlier in the season, the Panthers knew it would be a fight. The slippery, muddy conditions at University’s home ground was a far cry from the well-kept grounds of New Norfolk and greatly hindered the Panthers’ speedsters throughout the field, favouring the Wanderers’ slower style of ground-level plays.
New Norfolk managed to pick up the first goal early on thanks to a brilliantly placed shot by Paul Cairns fed by an incisive midfield play that tore through the heavy University defence. Unfortunately, as the team is so used to one goal being followed by many, an air of confidence led the Panthers to forget the ferocity of the Wanderers and a goal was soon found by a University striker before the half-time whistle blew.
The second half saw University score a controversial goal early to make it 2 goals to 1 – unfortunately, VAR is yet to make its debut in local social soccer. The Panthers’ answer was the highly skilled dynamo Christopher Driver who let the opposition know of his arrival to the match with an excellent goal from outside the box making the scores level.
Relentlessly physical play from the opposition in the closing minutes of the match rendered the usually nimble Panthers side out of stamina and unable to answer to a Wanderers goal that sealed the deal and made University the first team to beat New Norfolk in the regulation season.
The New Norfolk Panthers are eager to make up for Sunday’s loss in their next match away at Wentworth Park this Thursday at 7pm against the Phoenix Rovers. Let’s see how hungry the Panthers are for a win!