PHOTO: VALENTINE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Match of the Round
South Cardiff FC 1 (Cowling 47’) def. Belmont Swansea United FC 0
Sunday 21 May, 2:30pm at Ulinga Oval
South Cardiff tightened their grip on the fourth spot on the ladder with a close 1-0 win over fellow finals hopefuls Belmont Swansea at Ulinga Oval on Sunday afternoon.
It was an afternoon of long balls at Ulinga, and a first half devoid of any real clear cut chances.
The only goal of the match came during a goalmouth scramble following a corner in the 47th minute, and after a handful of South Cardiff players had tried their luck, Brett Cowling stepped up and rocketed home a shot to give the Gunners the lead.
There was a bit of a shocking moment in the 70th minute when Josh Rufo substituted himself on for Steele Harvey, however, he wasn’t able to impact the game as much as he’d have liked, and the Gunners held on for their sixth win of the campaign.
South Cardiff coach Denis Fajkovic was pleased to get the win.
“Definitely happy with that, it was a big game especially given how the results went on the weekend with Wallsend winning,” Fajkovic said.
“It was a pretty tight match… both teams ended up kicking the ball long, we scored early in the second half but other than that the game was pretty tight.
“They caught us a little off-guard with the long ball, and that brought the quality of the game down and we couldn’t really look to play… we adapted, played it back, and battled.
Belmont Swansea coach Josh Rufo was disappointed not to take anything from the match.
“That’s probably the best we’ve played for a little while, the work rate was high, the attitude was spot on but we just didn’t execute,” Rufo said.
“It was a really competitive game, both teams were even and I think a draw probably would have been a fair result… besides the goal, I don’t think I remember them having a shot but that’s football.”
Toronto Awaba FC 0 def. by New Lambton FC 3 (Casey 27’, McLure 59’, Ihlow 90+2’)
Saturday 20 May, 2:30pm at Lyall Peacock Oval
New Lambton bounced back from two losses on the trot to claim a confident 3-0 win over the Stags, who slipped into tenth on the ladder on Saturday afternoon.
A left-footed cross from Amon Curry found Josh Casey at the far post, who was able to turn it in to give his side a 1-0 lead 27th minute which allowed New Lambton to enter the sheds a goal up.
The Eagles earned a penalty in the 59th minute after some reckless goalkeeping from Toronto keeper Blake Redman, which Matt McLure stepped up to take and converted to hand his side a 2-0 lead.
Alex Ihlow was the beneficiary of a good corner in the second minute of stoppage time and finished well to hand New Lambton their third goal and secure their fourth win of the season.
New Lambton coach Andrew Packer was pleased to take the three points after their last two tough assignments against Cooks Hill and Broadmeadow Magic.
“Pretty solid from the boys, they were a bit fatigued in the first half but it’s a sign of maturity that the boys were able to grind out a solid win,” Packer said.
“It would have been nice to have a couple more wins… but I only ever get disappointed when we don’t perform well and I think we have performed well lately.
“If we can get the defensive side of things right then I’m confident we’ll keep scoring a lot of goals, and that’s our target for the rest of the season.”
Cooks Hill United 2 (Lewis 42’, Ashton 86’) drew Singleton Strikers 2 (Millar 25’, 90’)
Saturday 20 May, 2:30pm at Newcastle Athletics Field
Singleton grabbed their seventh point of the season in shocking circumstances as they grabbed a big upset win over Cooks Hill on Saturday afternoon.
The Strikers were widely expected to struggle badly in this one, and having six regular first graders out due to the Lovedale Long Lunch didn’t appear to help their chances – Cooks Hill nearly went ahead early, but Lee Ashton fired a gilt-edged opportunity high and wide in the 10th minute.
Singleton would take the lead in the 25th minute through some good work from youngster Brad Millar; who found Gael Basana, got the ball back at the top of the box and finished well across Jake Hamilton in goal to give the Strikers an unlikely early lead.
Cooks Hill almost snatched a goal back immediately after Stuart Plant was adjudged to have fouled Nick Russell in the box. Russell stepped up to convert the penalty he’d won, but could only fire high and wide.
The Strikers almost made it two in the 36th minute, but Basana couldn’t get on the end of a flat cross from Nathan Hall. It’d prove a costly miss just eight minutes later, Cal Lewis linking well with Hakan Canli to fire a shot across Plant and in the far corner to put the two sides level at the break.
The home side piled on the pressure in the second half, but struggled to find a way through – Daniel Yaxley steered a header wide early in the half, and Nick Russell was denied by the woodwork.
It was apparent heartbreak for the Strikers in the 86th minute when a lofted Yaxley ball over the top found Lee Ashton in behind the defence, who slotted his chance past Plant to give his side a 2-1 lead.
A 35-metre free kick in the early minutes of injury time looked unlikely to produce anything for Singleton – but an absolute bomb from Brad Millar bamboozled Jake Hamilton in the Cooks Hill goal and went in to make the scores 2-all, which is how it finished.
Singleton coach David Willoughby was delighted with the performance from his side, who boasted only two players over the age of 20.
“For the effort that was put in, we deserved a point,” Willoughby said.
“We changed our shape and played a 4-4-2 and tried to minimise their passing game, which we did quite well… they did generate a couple of opportunities with long balls over the top, but they didn’t take their chances.
“If you want to say that we parked the bus, that’s what we did… we did it well enough to prevent them from executing.”
Kahibah FC 5 (Parkinson 10’, Hadlow 23’, 90’, Leyland 66’, 81’) def. Cessnock City FC 1 (Lee OG 28’)
Sunday 21 May, 2:30pm at Kahibah Oval
Cessnock slumped to their seventh loss of the season as they were run over by a rampant Kahibah on Sunday afternoon.
Kahibah were missing a number of players through injury and suspension but took only ten minutes to open the scoring through Tom Parkinson who handed his side a 1-0 lead early on.
Jamie Hadlow made it two for Kahibah in the 23rd minute, before an unfortunate own goal through the Green and Black’s Matt Lee five minutes later tightened it up at 2-1, which is how it was at the break.
Cessnock managed to hold on for the first twenty minutes of the second half, but defender Murray Leyland beat a number of players to score an unlikely goal to give his side a commanding 3-1 lead in the 66th minute.
Leyland went on a similar run in the 81st minute to score his second and Kahibah’s fourth, before a second Jamie Hadlow goal in the early minutes of stoppage time emphatically secured the three points for Kahibah, who move up to second on the ladder.
Kahibah coach Andre Gumprecht was pleased with the result and the performance.
“A one-sided game I thought, Cessnock didn’t really threaten us,” Gumprecht said.
“The own goal gave Cessnock a bit of confidence for a couple of minutes just before half time… just reinforced at halftime we had to keep doing what we were doing, which we did and we scored a couple of more.
“Overall a good performance, but I think we still need to improve the front third and be more composed in finishing our chances… we’re creating a lot but not converting them.”
Thornton Redbacks FC 1 (Martin 90+1’) def. by Wallsend FC 2 (Williams 30’, Milton 31’)
Sunday 21 May, 2:45pm at Thornton Park
The chance to go within a point of first place went begging for Thornton as they couldn’t find a way through a resolute Wallsend defence on Sunday afternoon.
It was a tightly contested first half hour of this one as neither side carved out any real chances – Tallan Martin’s header in the 13th minute hit the post in what was the closest chance of either side.
The half-hour mark brought the breakthrough, and it was for the away side – some strong play from Wallsend’s Trent Milton won him the ball from Josh Benaquista. Milton made his way inside and had his shot deflect clear – but Matt Williams was on hand to make sure of it and give his side a 1-0 lead.
Wallsend wasted no time and doubled their advantage in the 31st minute through Trent Milton. The forward latched on to a delightful ball from Ty Cousins and finished well around Drew Olsen in the Thornton goal to make it 2-0.
Three minutes later a kick-and-hope nearly secured Wallsend a third goal, as Winstone Oku went close.
The home side had a couple of opportunities at the back end of the half – Jacob Bartlett had a chance at the near post which was dealt with by James Wand, and the winger nearly set up his captain Nathan McAllister but the league-leading goal scorer could only turn his shot wide.
Thornton came out strong for the second half and straight away piled the pressure on a solid Wallsend defence. Tyson Fletcher was doing his best to play provider, putting McAllister and Martin in on goal but both weren’t able to finish their chances.
The Redbacks had a huge chance in the 67th minute when Matt Williams brought Jack Halverson down in the box with a clumsy challenge and handed Thornton a penalty. McAllister stepped up and fired his penalty at Wand in the Wallsend goal, and wasn’t able to turn in the rebound.
Isaac Reeves and Ash Watts were marshalling the Wallsend defence well as Thornton tried desperately to work their way through. The introduction of Jamie Subat and Wade Atwell brought some much-needed experience to the field and eventually paid dividends for the Redbacks.
It took until the first minute of stoppage time to find a way through – Tallan Martin pounced on a loose ball in the area to make the score 2-1 but it was too little too late for the Redbacks, who slipped to third on the ladder.
While Wallsend coach Chris Gallagher said he was ‘filthy’ to concede a late goal, he was happy with the performance.
“Boys are starting to really dig in, our defensive shape is starting to work well and plenty of desperation in defence,” Gallagher said.
“Ecstatic, because our defensive structure is all we really work on… I’d rather not concede, keep a good goal difference and work as a unit.
“Anyone can break and score goals, pile numbers forward and do the pressing that everybody does now… the team does pride themselves on their defensive effort.”
Thornton’s Darrel McAllister said he was ‘very disappointed’ following the result.
“After the result midweek (1-0 loss to Kahibah) we hoped to bounce back here but at the end of the day, we’ve come off the back of a hectic schedule,” McAllister said.
“We were pretty happy with our second half, the boys came out and responded well, we missed a penalty, a couple of great saves by the keeper… we could have had ten in the second half.
“The boys were a bit flat, we’ve been trying to rotate them and we haven’t been picking our best side… we’re using a bigger squad than we’d like to, if we’re playing one game a week then we’re picking our best side every week.”