In hard: Maclean’s Travis Armstrong sliding in to keep the ball away from Kodjo Afran.
In hard: Maclean’s Travis Armstrong sliding in to keep the ball away from Kodjo Afran.

Premiers start with a victory

THE Maclean Bobcats started the season in the best possible fashion on Saturday, notching a hard fought 3-2 victory away to the Coffs Coast Tigers. In what turned out to be a seesawing encounter, the home side twice came from a goal down to draw level before the premiers were finally able to despatch their challenge.

First team coach Grant Neilson was wrapped with the way his new look side stepped up on the difficult away trip.

“It was never going to be any easy game,” he said.

“It’s just really pleasing to see the hard work the boys put in during the pre-season pay dividends in their performance.”

Neilson was also glowing in his praise of their first round opponents.

“They’ve recruited extremely well and are now genuine premiership contenders,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they don’t lose another game at home all season.”

The game started with both sides feeling each other out but it was Maclean that took the early advantage.

On the 20 minute mark Dan Usher produced a cross come shot which was tipped onto the cross bar and in his first start since returning to the club, Broden Hurst knocked in the rebound to give the Bobcats a 1-0 lead.

Maclean managed to defend their advantage until the stoke of half-time when the Tigers made the most of an opportunistic chance to send the teams to the sheds locked at 1-1.

The Bobcats found themselves under the pump for the first 15 minutes of the second stanza but their defence held strong and absorbed the pressure before the game swung again.

After putting together a crisp passing movement, the ball was flicked on to Jarrad Doyle at the far post who neatly tucked the ball away to restore Maclean’s lead.

Then with twenty minutes remaining came a moment of controversy which threatened to derail the Bobcats surge for victory.

After making a snappy run into the box, Fraser Robinson was brought down in what appeared to be a clear cut foul, but Maclean’s shouts for a penalty were waived away and in the ensuing confusion the Tigers countered quickly to net an equaliser within 30 seconds to make the score 2-2.

At this point the Bobcats could have been forgiven for dropping their heads but Neilson’s chargers showed tremendous spirit to get their game back on track.

Then with 10 minutes to go the Tigers failed to deal with another quality Usher cross and in the havoc which ensued, last season’s golden boot winner Robinson, bobbed up to poach a classic strikers goal and give Maclean back the advantage at 3-2.

This proved to be a winning lead as despite numerous raids from the Tigers in the dying stages of the game, the Bobcats defence held firm and they were able to make the trip home with three points in the bag.

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