The winds of change have blown across Stead Park this week, with noticeable absences of key striker Alberto Lopez and the injured goalie Rhett Joy. It also introduces on debut the impressive 16yo keeper, Shaun Finn. But the biggest absence was that of coach Rob Hodkinson who heads back to England after a short yet successful stint at the club. It was a complacent U/17’s squad that were given a fair spray on Tuesday night by new coach, Dean Brown after taking the reins officially also making several changes at training with a focus on discipline and teamwork.
Similar to Bell Park last week, a much improved Geelong Rangers were given a cold reception at Stead Park not only by the icy wind, but by a better prepared Geelong side responding well after last week’s shock loss with a determined 2-0 win.
In an entertaining first half Geelong were unable to take advantage of the stiff breeze blowing to the refinery end with both teams creating a number of chances but no one able to upset the balance. A more patient Geelong finally broke the deadlock ten minutes into the second half when frantic scramble inside the box saw the ball fall to in-form striker Jordan Rendevski whose venomous volley left the Rangers keeper a gasp.
An undeterred Ranger created a few chances, one strike hitting the upright with a couple more easily tidied up by keeper Finn, determined to keep a clean sheet. A tantalizing cross from Dylan Stojanovski saw a well set Jimmy Vo unfortunately head wide of the mark. Danny Gray was given a run in midfield with Shiva taking up the sweeper’s role. Hard man Michael Ilioski gave yet another solid performance in defence but Ranger’s fate was sealed when possibly best on ground Stefan Luong fed stand in skipper Billy Fanraatree whose full-stretch finish was met with a roar from the Geelong faithful.
The result sees Geelong in second place with a game in-hand and a superior goal difference, hot on the heels of fellow title contenders Lara. Next week’s game against Barwon Red hopefully sees the return of Lopez (if Real Madrid releases him) and is the first of five weeks away from Stead Park.