By Isaac McIntyre
Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United SC 0 def. by Cooks Hill United FC 1
2.30pm, Sunday 10th May
The NEWFM 1st Division Match of the Round was played at Blacksmiths Oval this weekend, after two weekends off with the Newcastle storms. Cooks Hill travelled to take on Belmont Swansea, with both teams needing all three points to step further up the table.
The winds were high across the Oval as the game kicked off, with Cooks Hill threatening with their usual attacking presence down the wings.
A notable absence from their attack however was Peter Pryce, who had been ruled out with injury before the weekend, and Cooks Hill boss Warren Spink had lined the side up to compensate for the lack of their top scorer in the league this season. Star talent Doug West had also been left out of the squad due to injury and fitness.
The gusts of wind made it hard for both teams to employ their long, sweeping crosses that they would often use to create chance in front of goal, and instead had to rely on tight passing as they moved in on the box.
This tactic was also hampered by the quality of the grounds after the two weeks of storms, with the game quickly turning scrappy as both styles of attacks were cramped in the conditions.
Although chances came for both sides, the first half ended goalless, and the team sheds were a hive of activity as the coaches looked to make changes to their sides that could help them overcome the difficult of the weather.
Possession plays reigned in the second half, but Belswans weren’t able to push past the away side’s defence as they tested the back line, and a counter from Cooks Hill gave the boys in black and white control of the game as the second half rolled on.
With just over 20 minutes to go, however, Cooks Hill’s John Mitchinson brought the ball down at his feet, and attacked the goals, taking the ball the ten metres to the box and beating two defenders.
Leaving the defenders behind, Mitchinson faced off against Belmont Swansea’s keeper, and a tight lob over the top sent it tumbling into the back of the net, giving Cooks Hill the lead with just over a quarter of the game left to play.
Belswans were desperate to equalise the score once more, but their attacks came to nothing as they couldn’t make it past Cooks Hill’s close-knit defence, and the weather continued to play havoc with their long balls forward, forcing them to keep it at their defenders’ feet.
Another chance didn’t come for the home team, and Cooks Hill left Blacksmiths Oval with all three points and a leap up the table with the win.
Belmont Swansea’s coach Paul Matthews was unimpressed with the final score, but had to commend his team for their overall performance.
‘It was a hard to take defeat, especially with how we’re playing,” Matthews said.
“Our general football has been good, and there was no way that I could have ranted and raved, or blown up at the team because we’re at a good standard and we’re producing good chances, but we can’t get the ball into the net and the chances are coming to nothing.”
“We can’t keep being unlucky this much, we’ve been trying to correct this situation and for whatever reason it’s still not coming off in the game. We’re making the chances and then they go to waste.”
United’s Spink knew that the game was going to be tight from the offset, and describe the contest as “scrappy and hard”.
“It was like playing in a wind tunnel for a lot of the game,” he said. “The pitch was bumpy and hard and with the gale it was hard to play properly, but the boys did really well to take all three points considering what they were playing against.”
“We were also looking good considering that we were missing Peter [Pryce] and Doug [West] with the injuries that they’d picked up. It was a gutsy win with everything against the squad and I’m proud of them.”
“We were tight in our structure, strong and solid at the back, and when we could play around the win we were dangerous going forward as well, which is as much as you can ask for from your team if you want them to win. We owe the saves to Kia Ross as well, he was great in goals and I hope that his run of form continues.”
The tight win over Belmont Swansea puts Cooks Hill only two points behind Lake Macquarie and the fourth place on the table and after the mid-week clash with Kahibah, Cooks Hill will be assessing their performance with the bye over the weekend.
Belmont Swansea look to turn another defeat around quickly, as they face off against the Thornton Redbacks next weekend away from home, with the squad needing the three points if they are to regain their form from the 2014 season.
Lake Macquarie City FC 1 def. by Singleton SC 3
2.30pm, Saturday 9th May
The first game of the weekend kicked off at Macquarie Field, after two weekends off from storms in the city, and Lake Macquarie looked to take another win against Singleton Strikers.
It became apparent very quickly that Singleton had other plans on their mind, forcing Lakes onto the back foot with an early goal, and the first half looked dire for the home side.
Two more goals came for the travelling Strikers, leaving Lakes trailing by three as they trudged into the sheds for half time, and the situation looked like it would be impossible to turn around for the top four side.
A chance to come back came from an own goal off one of Singleton’s defenders, giving Lake Macquarie their first notch on the board, but the goal eventually came to nothing, with the scoreline finishing at 3-1 and giving Singleton a vital win over the home team.
Lake Macquarie’s Barry Ross was extremely disappointed with the way his squad played, and was quick to make it known.
“Terrible is a good way to describe our game,” he said. “After two weeks of washouts we’ve come back and I thought that we trained alright, but I was proved wrong. It was our worst performance – in the first half – that I’ve seen, and to go down by three so early on is disgraceful.”
“We didn’t respond fast enough to the changes in the game and Singleton just wanted it more, so we weren’t able to claw it back and by the time we looked better it was already too late.”
“We let in two soft goals and the defence weren’t operating. It was almost unbelievable because we know that we’re better than this, and then our defensive frailties were exposed and we just couldn’t find the back of the net.”
The loss for Lake Macquarie halts their climb back to first place on the ladder, and gives Valentine a chance at furthering their lead next weekend, while the win brings Singleton within one point of seventh place, and a chance to launch themselves even higher.
Next weekend sees Lake Macquarie take on Kahibah away from home, where Ross’ outfit will be eager to turn around their poor performance and notch three points once more, while Singleton will be hoping to string two wins together when they come up against West Wallsend at Howe Park.
West Wallsend SFC 3 drew. Thornton Redbacks FC 3
2.30pm, Sunday 10th May
Johnston Park played host to the second game on 10th May, with West Wallsend welcoming the Thornton Redbacks in both teams’ first game in almost two weeks.
West Wallsend began the game in total control, quickly netting two goals and looking to be the stronger team in the contest, using the home field advantage and the cheers of the crowd to push them on.
A chance came for the away side as the goal found the back of the net, but the strike was ruled off side and the Redbacks were denied a chance back into the game early on.
A slip-up from West Wallsend saw Kyle Duncan take one back for the Redbacks as half time drew near however, and the first half of the game closed out with the travelling team only one goal away from equalising.
The Redbacks were not going to let the disallowed goal slow them down in their attack however, and another chance came and was put away by Jesse Smith, levelling out the score and putting the away side back on level pegging with West Wallsend
Holt made sure that the fourth placed team were in the lead again soon after, smashing it into the back of the net and giving Gary Rowe’s team a glimmer of hope for the three points at home once more, but the Thornton side were not going to go down without a fight.
The fight came in the form of Steve Cummings, who beat West Wallsend’s keeper for the first time to put the score all squared up once again, and both teams watched as the clocked counted down and the chances began to run out.
One final chance came for the Redbacks in the dying seconds of injury time, with Cummings looking for his second goal, but they had their second disallowed goal of the game and the score remained locked, delivering one point for each side.
“We petered off and after 20 minutes of good football we lost it,” Rowe commented on his side’s performance.
“We were kept in it by our keeper. Our shape is struggling and we need to defend better as a unit, because if we look at the chances the game could have been against us at 5-3. Our form is causing troubles for us at the moment and we have to look to overcome that.”
“Our priority isn’t top four at the moment, we just want to improve on last season and once we’re back playing how we should be, and staying all together and keeping our play tight we’ll look good. The ability is there but we’re playing like a low table team. We need to right the ship.”
Darrel Mcallister was disappointed that the goals had been discounted against his side, and thought that his team was better in the game.
“We deserved the win,” Mcallister said. “It’s a shame that we missed out on those goals, because the team and I felt that we could have walked away with all three points and taken the win at Johnston Park.”
The draw keeps both teams around the same place on the ladder with no significant shifts, but the Redbacks will be hoping to take their strong performance back to Thornton Park where they’ll duel Belswans for all three points and a chance to change their poor form into a solid streak of undefeated games.
West Wallsend also look to change their tactics and outlook in the game against Singleton away from home, where the three points will be vital for them if they look to maintain their fourth place position.
Toronto Awaba FC 1 def. by Kahibah FC 2
Lyall Peacock Field
2.30pm, Sunday 10th May
Toronto Awaba took on in-form Kahibah at Lyall Peacock Field, with both teams looking to return to form after the weekends that had been called off with the heavy storms.
Although Kahibah started strongly, their defensive structure was pressured by the Stags early on, and it looked like Toronto Awaba were going to be able to take control of the game and stop Gumprecht’s side from continuing their run of form.
The early game changed swiftly however, and although the Stags were able to net one goal in the game, Kahibah’s attack forces were more dangerous once again.
Matt Lee and Skii Webster both found the back of the net, putting Kahibah a goal up over the home side and making sure that they came away with three points in the match once again, proving that Kahibah’s decisive run so far has been more than form – two weeks off and the team remained strong.
Kahibah continue to climb the table with the win, threatening to push for a top four position after another three points collected.
Next week will see Kahibah take on Lake Macquarie City, with Gumprecht’s side looking to take advantage of the defeat that Lakes suffered and a chance to put a win over the relegated National Premier Leagues side could put Kahibah in good stead as they continue their run of form.
The Stags continue their push to find wins and struggle out of the last place on the table, with their next match taking them up against Wallsend at the Gardens, with Jovcevski’s squad desperate for their second win.
Cessnock City FC 0 def. by Wallsend FC 3
Turner Park 1
2.30pm, Sunday 10th May
The final game of the round was played between Cessnock City and the travelling Wallsend at Cessnock’s Turner Park.
After almost two rounds off for the teams, both squads started sluggishly, testing out the waters and getting back into the flow of facing off against an opposing team.
Wallsend stepped up first, showing Cessnock that they meant distance after they had travelled to the park, and it wasn’t long before Wallsend’s lethal Dave Hodgson found the back of the net, putting the away side up one and looking strong in the first half.
The dominant performances continued, with the second placed team creating chances in front of the Hornet’s goal mouth, but the ball couldn’t make it through a second time and the one goal lead stood at 45 minutes.
The scored changed again off the boot of a Cessnock player, but it was a glanced shot that had started from Wallsend’s Winston Oku and the own goal was called, putting the away side strongly in control with a two goal buffer.
A third goal came for the side ten minutes out from the final whistle, once more from Hodgson, and the three goal difference saw Wallsend out comfortably, seeing them climb to the top place in the competition over Valentine.
Wallsend’s Josh Rufo was pleased that the competition had returned after a series of cancelled fixtures due to the storms, and was happy with the way his team returned.
“It was good to be back, and it was great that the football we played today was top notch,” he said.
“It was a really good team performance from everyone and we can’t single anyone in the squad out – we were balanced and structured and we’re just going to be looking to maintaining this form and keeping the top spot. We want to be competitive in every fixture and we’re on course to meet that objective and go beyond it.”
With Valentine holding a game in hand however, Wallsend will need to continue their streak of wins if they want to fight for the promotion position, and their fixture against Toronto Awaba next weekend could prove vital as they approach the second half of the season.
Cessnock City take on Valentine next weekend as well, and if the Hornets can hold back Valentine’s attack then both Cessnock and Wallsend will benefit from the three dropped points, with Cessnock looking to climb higher than their eighth placed position on the ladder.