Dubbo Bulls coach Jason Schink hailed the efforts of his defence after seeing his side kick off the Western Premier League (WPL) with a 1-1 draw with Panorama FC on Saturday.
The Bulls went into the match missing a number of key players, most notably midfield maestro Scott Fox, and things were made a whole lot harder when Thomas Busch dislocated his knee inside the first two minutes of the clash at Lady Cutler 6.
After a lengthy delay and wait for the ambulance the hosts still managed to take the lead midway through the first half when the lively Gareth Williams poked the ball home.
The lead didn't last long though as powerful Panorama striker Ryan Peacock levelled things up from the penalty spot soon after and while he and the Bathurst outfit finished the stronger the tiring Bulls held firm to kick off the relaunched competition with a share of the points.
"They're a really good side," an impressed Schink said at full-time.
"That striker [Peacock], he's an absolute gun and we controlled him really well. I think James Leonard and Cory Roberts did a hell of a job keeping up with him because he's quality.
Much like his Bulls counterpart, Panorama manager Brent Osborne was also delighted with the result.
The fitness levels of his side showed late and the Bathurst club almost stole it at the death but a looping header following a well-delivered free-kick went narrowly over the bar.
To only concede a penalty against that side in the first hit-out, I'm very happy.Jason Schink
"We didn't know what to expect so when you come to Dubbo and play the best team for the last decade in the region, let's call it what it is and that's what it is, I couldn't be more proud of the boys who came here," Osborne said post-match.
"I thought we were probably the better team for a lot of the game and had some good chances so I think in five, six, seven weeks those chances will be there for us a little more readily.
"I'm super proud of tonight, it was awesome."
The match began in lively fashion and the Bulls had the first shot in target inside the first minute but the match was brought to a halt just seconds later.
Busch slipped and fell in the middle of the park and it was immediately clear he was in real pain.
The dislocated knee saw the match stopped but once the ambulance arrive the positive sign was Busch, albeit gingerly, back on his feet and early reports later in the evening were positive and his time out may not be as long as first feared.
The teenager had been singled out by Schink as a player to watch and one with "a bright future" pre-game but rather than be hampered by his progress, the Bulls restarted the better and were duly rewarded.
Williams managed to dart forward into the area between the Panorama defence and poke the ball home from an inviting cross to open the scoring.
Brody Austin then had a big chance to extend the lead only to see his shot save but Panorama wasn't rattled though and when a player was brought down in the area Peacock sent Bulls' keeper Hayden Williams the wrong way to make it 1-1.
Bulls' captain Kobe Rapley came into the match in a big way late in the first half, producing a well-worked free-kick for Austin which was well saved before putting a shot just over while he also had a shot from distance comfortably saved just before the break.
The Bulls, most notably Nelson Flick, battled cramp in the second half as Panorama lifted and while Peacock's strength and ability to hold-up play kept the visitors in with a chance, the defence marshalled by Leonard kept the visitors at bay.
The experienced Leonard was one of his side's best all game and came to the rescue time and time again when Panorama was through on goal while a number of players from the Bulls' local competition side also stepped up in the absence of a number of WPL regulars.
"The big positive is the boys who filled in from the local comp," Schink said.
"We had three start tonight form the local comp and a bench full of local first grade boys and I think every single one of them did their job, came in and contributed to what we did tonight."
Aside from Peacock, Mitch Cooper and Nathan Davis were standouts for Panorama as numerous attacking raids were made along the left wing.
The Bulls next travel to Parkes to take on the Cobras.
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