Match of the Round
Singleton Strikers 0 def. by West Wallsend Bluebells SFC 3 (Jarrod Olivieri, Bailey Jensen, Brad Andrews)
Sunday 3rd June, 2:30 pm, Howe Park
West Wallsend has shot back up the table after showcasing a dominant display against Singleton to end their four-game losing streak in style.
The opening plays saw both teams struggle for control of the ball and of the game, but the defences of each team were holding strong and frustrating their opposition’s forwards.
The breakthrough was finally found just before halftime when Jarrod Olivieri pounced onto a defensive mistake from the Strikers and sent through Bailey Jensen who successfully found the back of the net.
A Hayden Nicol missed opportunity minutes before the halftime break meant the Bluebells would retain their well-earned lead at halftime, and it was more good news early on in the second when they were awarded a penalty.
Brad Andrews stepped up to the plate and slotted it past Singleton’s Corey Cleaver to double the away team’s lead, but only minutes later it seemed the Strikers would equalise when Zane Hand latched onto a Jae Dawes cross, but his shot knocked into the crossbar.
As the second half played on, Singleton continued to struggle to keep West Wallsend’s attack out and all hope of a comeback were dashed when Kyle Clarke delivered a fantastic long-ball to teammate Olivieri who then blasted into the goal and sealed the three points for his side and his club’s first victory at Howe Park since 2013.
Singleton Strikers coach David Willoughby admitted his side just weren’t good enough and that although they sit in a great spot on the ladder, there’s still much to improve on.
“We were just unable to match West Wallsend today,” said Willoughby.
“We have a lot of work to do.”
Bluebells’ coach Gary Rowe said he was pleased with how his team adapted to the game.
“The lads started very ordinarily but warmed into the game,” Rowe said.
“I think we did well in the end though. It was a tough game against a very good team.”
Belmont-Swansea United 2 (Klaudon Ahmataj, Joel Shearer) drew with Cooks Hill United 2 (Jarryd Johnson, Alex Gillespie)
Saturday 2nd June, 2:30 pm, Blacksmiths Oval
In the second Grand Final rematch of the season, Belswans let a two-goal lead go to waste as they were forced to share the points with Cooks Hill following a second-half comeback.
Despite playing in terrible footballing conditions, the match began in electric fashion and the home side was lucky to not be behind early after two early chances for the Cookers went begging.
This new rivalry has often witnessed very physical and tense encounters, and this match would be no different as both teams tug-of-warred for control with multiple yellow cards being handed out.
With the match sitting on a knife’s edge, Belswans would finally receive a clear-cut chance after being awarded a penalty for a Cooks Hill handball in the box and one of their mid-season signings Klaudon Ahmataj made no mistakes from the spot to make the score 1-0.
Just minutes later, right on the stroke of half-time, things went from bad to worse for Cooks Hill when Joel Shearer bended in the ball from a corner kick straight into the goal, using the high wind to his advantage and doubling Belswans’ lead.
Finding themselves behind at halftime for one of the first times this year, Cooks Hill were quick to make amends when both Jarryd Johnson and Alex Gillespie headed home goals past Belswans keeper Ben Parmenter just minutes into the second half.
With the score level, a frantic end to the match ensued, however, neither team could find a winner.
Belswans now move into sixth while Cooks Hill’s lead at the top of the table has decreased to five points.
Thornton Redbacks FC 3 (Jye MacKellar, Jake Millstead, Wade Attewell) def. Cessnock City Hornets 2 (Isaac Peek, Brodie Williams)
After a thrilling comeback finish, the Redbacks retained their spot in second place after beating their local rivals Cessnock and extending their winning-drought at Thornton Park to seven consecutive years.
Both teams’ defences had been the highlight of their season and it once again proved to be that way as neither side could find a breakthrough in the first half following some clinical saves from both goalkeepers.
The second half saw a completely different story though as both teams came out looking to score.
The Redbacks would be the first to do so through Jake Millstead from the penalty spot but the Hornets wouldn’t lie down and a goal to Brodie Williams with fifteen minutes to go spurred the match into a late frenzy.
With just five minutes to go, Cessnock’s Isaac Peek seemed to have found the match winner and he celebrated likewise running to the corner flag with his shirt being waved madly above his head but there would soon be a twist in the tale.
Just two minutes later, former Cessnock man Wade Attewell popped up to find an equaliser before Jye MacKellar nailed home a headed goal right on the stroke of full time to give his new club a famous derby victory.
Thornton’s coach Gary Wand highlighted his happiness for his side somehow finding a way to grab all three points.
“It’s obviously a bit of heartbreak for a very brave Cessnock side, but it was great to finally win a close one for a chance,” Wand said.
“We started off quite well, but we slowly became our own enemies and were just giving away possession.
“When we scored that last one, we still had two agonising minutes to play, which is plenty of time for us to have given up the lead, but we managed to hang on.”
New Lambton 1 (Nic Pepper) def. by South Cardiff 4 (Josh Higgins, Nathan McCallister, Troy Runge, Daniel Wells)
South Cardiff has leaped into third place after defeating New Lambton away from home giving the home side their first loss in four weeks.
Despite coming into the match as the complete underdogs, the Eagles kicked off the game with an early lead courtesy of captain Nic Pepper, scoring against the run of play.
The Gunners didn’t let their surprise deficit get to them. Ten minutes later, Josh Higgins completed a lovely practised set play move and then shortly after, 2018 golden boot leader Nathan McCallister showed up to grab the second goal, giving his side the lead.
Troy Runge seemed as though he had doubled the lead just before halftime, but the referee’s decision to disallow the goal due to a foul allowed New Lambton to breathe a sigh of relief and stay in the match.
With the wind blowing a gale, both sides struggled to produce their best football, but the Eagles kept on throwing everything at South Cardiff in the hope of finding an equaliser.
South Cardiff held strong though, and a goal to both Daniel Wells and Runge capped off a tidy performance to win 4-1 much to the pleasure of coach Denis Fajkovic who was especially delighted with his defence.
“They [New Lambton] have a couple of very dangerous players and if you don’t give them the respect they’ll punish you. But luckily for us, we did and nullified their danger,” Fajkovic said.
“I’m extremely happy with the team’s unity and it’s great to see some of the boys really starting to hit their straps.
“It’s always hard to play in those kind of conditions, but I thought we did well.”
New Lambton coach Jim Foley agreed with the difficulty to play football in the harsh conditions but confessed that his team’s defence just wasn’t up to the level it needed to be.
“It was very disappointing to concede four goals in the manner that we did,” Foley said.
“Both sides battled in a game that had very poor weather conditions.”
“For our part, losing Luke Jocevski early in the match adds to an already large injury list that now stretches our resources to the limit.”
Wallsend FC vs. Toronto Awaba Stags FC was postponed due to wet weather.
Kahibah FC had the bye.