IT'S been a difficult couple of years for Jaiden Culbert, but on Saturday he put his woes behind him, scoring a hat-trick in Panorama's 5-1 Western Premier League (WPL) win.
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Culbert suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in pre-season for Western NSW FC's back in 2020, resulting in him being sidelined for that entire year.
He made his return from injury for Panorama in WPL last season but struggled at times to get back to his best.
But on Saturday, Culbert was on fire in front of goal, scoring three goals in the opening half against Parkes Cobras.
"It's been a long time coming, since I've come back from the injury," he said.
"It's been a hard slog, so I'm glad to be back. It's been the best game I've played since the injury.
"It's a crap injury. It was a long, hard slog. It's all behind me, which is the main thing.
"I probably stole a goal off [Matt] Hobby but the other two were decent goals. The want and desire is back there for me.
"The guys have been playing well, feeding us guys up the front and it's clearly working. We've scored a few and we haven't conceded many."
Culbert opened the scoring in the 20th minute, before Steven Long double the host's lead just before the half hour mark, scoring off a lovely cross from his brother Paul Long.
Culbert had his double on the 38th minute mark and then sealed his hat-trick just before half-time to have Panorama cruising at 4-0 at half-time.
Parkes came out a much improved outfit in the second half, but were unable to mount any considerable chances, with Thomas Dale stretching the Goats' lead to 5-0 in the 72nd minute.
Brent Morgan would ultimately pull one back for the visitors minutes following Panorama's fifth goal and it looked as if Parkes would score a second when the Cobras won a penalty in the 90th minute.
Unfortunately, Lachlan Hando summed up the visitor's afternoon, sending a poor effort well wide of the goal.
The win for Panorama now puts them three puts clear of Bathurst '75 in second, with a game in hand.
"These points are vital right now, so we've got to keep going," Culbert said.
"Ricky has been talking to us about complacency. We've struggled with it for many, many years, since we started in WPL.
"Ricky doesn't want complacency and he wants us to play the full 90 minutes."
A key to Panorama's success in defence - the Goats have only conceded five goals in eight matches - is the five they've been playing at the back.
"It's been very effective," Culbert said.
"It's funny because you hear in the games from the other team, 'You're just parking the bus'. Realistically, we're not. Our wide backs are attacking as well.
"One thing that has become apparent in this league is the amount of goals each team scores. Our backline has been amazing, they've been working really, really well."
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