On a wonderful Chicago day with the mercury in the mid 70’s, the Windy City lived up to it’s name with a cross ground breeze that made scoring difficult and concise ball movement tough. A very good looking crowd of 50 had turned up to see United in their home opener against their old foe, the blue boys of St Louis who had come to the shores of Lake Michigan many a time only to return to the Mississippi with the 4 points. Chicago went into the game favorites despite St Louis’s massive win over the Minessotta Freeze and the butt kicking Nashville had given the United lads in Tennessee and it was an angry Chicago team that took the field, looking for redemption for that loss.
From the outset Chicago looked the better team as they peppered the forward line but to no avail as the strong St Louis defence repeatedly kept them out. Brian Hoyt was busy at full forward but a combination of St Louis’s midfield pressure and the wind had the Chicago midfield spraying their kicks. It was left to winger Ryan Hayes to get the United boys going with a great goal on the run. This seemed to wake St Louis up and their midfielders, through Sarbacker and especially Brown started to get a lot more of the Sherrin but the Chicago backline led by first gamer (for United anyway) BJ Gambaro was too strong. Funky Miller was full of run and didn’t show any signs of the hammy that went kablammy a month ago and kept him out of the Nashville game and he was well supported by a determined Poncho Bradley who took several telling grabs to have the better of D 1 at the important CHB position. St Louis were finally rewarded for their constant pressure as Jaime Wilson ran on to a loose ball and kicked a lovely goal from 30 out on the run.
Chicago took Panek off and brought on big, bad Drew Ehlers to see if the prez could get something going up front and the move was instantly rewarded as he took a great mark in traffic and as if to stick it up his more fancied Australian forwards that couldn’t hit the side of a barn, went back and slotted through Chicago’s second to send them into quarter time a goal up, 2.2: 14 v 1.2: 8
The second quarter was similar to the first with both teams having trouble making inroads on the scoreboard as both defences took control of the game. Coultas was all over Hoyt and MacGlashan was being well held by Jagger and at the other end Drake, Bradley, BJ, Fresh and Miller were to big for the smaller Blue forwards and were able to shut out the Blues for the whole quarter. From the backline, Chicago went to the top side with Burgmann on the wing to see whether they could snag that ellusive goal and they found it through Jezza Morgan who, with the impending nuptials mere days away, is in some of his best form since returning from his stint with Labrador in Australia. Brian Hoyt, after having a mark disallowed on the goal line by a smiling Justin Biggs (who did a fantastic job it must be said), finally got a step on Coultas and goaled to send Chicago’s female hearts racing and send the lads into the long break a disappointing 4.10: 34 to St louis 1.2: 8.
Sarbacker had to roll the dice to get a win and he did just that. The Chicago midfield, led by Dave ‘Dangerous’ Allen and first gamer Graham ‘Crackers’ Brennan was starting to look dangerous but Brown had had plenty of the ball and St Louis had not been rewarded with goals for the excellent work in the middle so Sars put himself to center half forward and moved D1 into the middle and went to work. His first goal came a minute into the third quarter as his pace and skill shone through. His second came after a huge grab on the goal line and put the lads from Missouri a mere two kicks down. The Blues continued to attack as their forward line got a new lease of life. One bad miss that could have been telling was converted into a Chicago forward thrust where big Al, very well held by Jagger until now was able to pick up a loose ball on the boundary and snap goal of the day to settle the activity that was happening on the Chicago bench. Betty Palmer was bought into the backline to supply the pace that was needed to stop Sarbacker and slowly but surely Chicago started to wrestle control of the game away from a tiring St Louis but extremely poor kicking for goal frustrated the home team as they went into the orange break 5.11: 41 to St Lou 3.5: 23.
Chicago coach, ‘Hector’ Drake took a leaf from Sarbacker and pulled himself out of full back and went to full forward to see if a backman could start kicking goals and the move worked instantly as he was able to haul in a lovely pass from ‘Oscar’ Meyer and kickstart the goal spree that was Chicago’s last quarter. The very next play Drake collected a loose ball and hit a full running Billy Uhlmann who slotted through his first and all of a sudden it was all Chicago. B.O.G Ryan Hayes got amongst it with a beautiful goal on the run from 50 out and when Burgmann popped one over a stranded Jaggers head for his coach to kick his second, it was all over for the Blues who continued to battle hard against the momentum which had completely swung Chicago’s way. Hayes added another and Drake pulled down a big grab in the square to kick his third for the quarter to send United further in front. Uhlmann, fed by a lovely handball in traffic by Dougie Fresh kicked his second and Oscar Meyer booted two lovely goals from 40 out to seal victory with a 9 goal last quarter that went aways to vanquish the ghosts that had haunted Chicago since their big loss in Nashville and had kept tongues wagging throughout the MAAFL.
St Louis were gallant in defeat. The undersized forward line was well held by the Chicago backs but the Blue midfielders led by Brown and Sarbacker were extremely busy and worked tirelessly all day. The backline, with big games by Coultas, Jagger and Schomaker were able to keep the highly fancied Chicago forwards at bay for three quarters until the pressure became overwhelming in the last quarter. They head back to Bud town disappointed but bouyed by their first 3 quarters against reigning MAAFL premier Chicago. Their next game will be an absolute classic at home against a supremely confident Nashville team on June 7 and the match up of Sarbacker on Vstecka will be worth the price of admission alone.
For Chicago, it was a dominant performance that was not reflected on the scoreboard until the last quarter and they will feel that they could have put this game away by half time. They allowed St Louis to fight their way back into it in the 3rd but Drake and his coaching staff will be happy with the way they absorbed the pressure after half time and were able to kick away with a marvellous last term. The form and health of Burgmann is a worry but big games out of Hayes and Meyer on the wings was terrific. First gamers Crackers Brennan and BJ Gambaro were outstanding and the backline of Chicago was impenetrable for much of the game with great games out of Poncho Bradley and Funky Miller. Dougie Fresh showed the selectors that he is a legitimate backman with a suffocating game in the pocket.
With Cincinnatti/ Louisville visiting next week, Chicago have plenty to think about. The forward line has fired in only 1 of it’s last 8 quarters of football but the efforts of Hoyt, Uhlmann and Ehlers were heartening. Jeremy Morgan has carved himself a niche up front after years spent taking on the oppositions best backmen but we’ve seen what marriage can do to a man (Drake, MacGlashan, Ward, Miller, Gambaro, Hayes, DeJong etc etc). The form of Roofy in the ruck was very pleasing though as he was one of Chicagos best with a dominant performance on Revo ruckman Dan Sergott.
|Goals||United: Drake (3), Hayes (3), Meyer (2), Uhlmann (2), Hoyt B, MacGlashan, Ehlers
St Louis: None
|Best||United: Hayes, Gambaro, Bradley, Morgan J, Ward
St Louis: None
BURGMANN MEDAL VOTES:
3- R. Ward 3- R. Hayes
2- BJ Gambaro 2- BJ Gambaro
1- R. Hayse 1- F. Bradley