Gambier Centrals has kicked off its 2021 Steeline Cup Limestone Coast Football Association campaign in ominous style by smashing Blue Lake United in the second round of the competition.
After the Lions’ original season opener at home against Millicent was not possible due to the latter forfeiting, players were forced to wait an extra week to return to the pitch, but they showed no signs of rust.
Despite possessing the home-ground advantage, Blue Lake United had no answers for the new-look Centrals side.
The 2020 grand finalists bombarded the Blue Lake goalkeeper to open the new year in style with a 10-1 win.
Gambier Centrals coach Chris Fleetwood said it could not have been a better performance first up.
“I cannot be anything, but proud of the how the players went about their business,” he said.
“We started a little bit slow and took a while to find our rhythm, but once we started to do the things we do well we dominated the game.
“The longer the game went on, the better we got and now we have the cob- webs out of our system.
“It was very professional and they performed brilliantly.” It took 15 minutes for the Lions to find the back of the net, but once the deadlock was broken, the goals flowed.
Three more strikes followed before half time to put the home side effectively out of contention.
Although Blue Lake United managed to score through Luke Cooper, nothing could stop the Lions as Broc Linden and Sam Shoemark both collected hat-tricks.
Lewis March also managed to find the back of the net after attacking from the wing.
Gambier Centrals went on to score six goals between half and full time with Shoemark and Linden the chief destroyers kicking five and four respectively.
Fleetwood said the goal-scoring feats would give the pair plenty of confidence for what was to come.
“It was great, especially for Broc because he is still young and took a while to adjust to the tempo, but I have given him a different position this year,” he said.
“He is enjoying it and is able to exploit people a bit quicker and easier, so he was on the end of some good movements.
“Sam is a good goal poacher and is in the right spot every time.” Unfortunately, Fleetwood said the pitch offered the biggest challenge on the day as Blue Lake struggled to adapt to Centrals’ speed.
“The pitch was not in good Knick, so to play that well on that surface was a testament to the players’ discipline and focus,” he said.
“We needed to go wide and kick it to the wings because that is where the better surface was and once we started to do that we opened things up.” Fleetwood was particularly pleased with the win considering the interrupted preseason which hampered preparations.
Having first hit the track at the start of February, he said all was in readiness for kick off on the original date at the start of April, but all plans were thrown out the window when the opening round was pushed back to later in the month after Portland pulled out.
“We have had a hit and miss preseason,” Fleetwood said.
“We started with four-week blocks to be organised around the start on April 11, but then the fixtures changed and we had to rethink what we were trying to do.
“A couple of preseason matches were postponed, so things have not gone to plan, but we have developed a new system and it came together against Blue Lake.
As a result of the first-round forfeit against Millicent and the huge win over Blue Lake, the Lions ease straight into the Steeline Cup semi-finals having played just one game.
They will meet the winner of this Sunday’s clash between Apollo and Naracoorte.
Fleetwood said he was a touch nervous heading into a big game with limited game time, but expected the squad to be boosted by more arrivals.
“We did not play the best 11 because we still had three players missing due to suspension and injury,” he said.
“We will have to dig deep playing the semi-final after another week off, but I imagine the players will do the same because the final is at home, so it is in their hands.” In the other Senior men’s game, Inter ensured it navigated through the group stage untroubled by completing a successful road trip to Naracoorte.
Two weeks after beating Apollo, the reigning premier overcame Naracoorte 5-1, but needed a fast finish to do so.
Inter only led 1-0 at half time and was kept honest by a Andrew Munro goal for the home side.
But a pair of strikes from Samuel Bueti allowed the black and blue to break free and keep their unbeaten streak alive.
Inter will meet the winner of Sunday’s sudden-death game between Millicent and Blue Lake Untied in the semi-final.
Gambier Central’s senior women also enjoyed a golden start to the season, but had to hold off a more spirited Blue Lake United in doing so.
The home side opened the scoring through Pip Crewe and held the lead until half time.
However, débutante Erin Horsnell made an immediate impact by scoring two crucial goals to push the Lions in front.
Another strike from Olivia Gwilym ensured Centrals wrapped up come from behind 3-1 win.
In the other women’s match, Inter showed its might by thumping Naracoorte 16-0.
The black and blue had already scored nine goals before half time and Ella Doody’s five led the long list of eight scorers.