PHOTO: VALENTINE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United FC 2 (Marcus x 2) def. Kahibah FC 1 (Parker)
Sunday 23rd July, 2:30pm at Blacksmiths Oval
An horrific leg break marred what was set to be a brilliant clash between two title hopefuls – but make no mistake, Belswans put on a show and did enough to knock Kahibah off top spot thanks to a Tega Marcus double on Sunday afternoon.
Already atop the goal scoring charts, Marcus stepped up to score from the penalty spot just four minutes in to give the home side the early advantage. They’d demonstrated they were good value for their early lead, having played some enterprising football without reward.
Then, disaster. A solid challenge between Joel Shearer and Tom Parkinson left the latter writhing on the floor, with a visibly broken leg – now known to be broken in two places. The game was delayed for more than twenty minutes while he was tended to and an ambulance arrived.
Upon resumption of play, Belswans doubled their lead almost instantly as Marcus popped up to head home a Steele Harvey cross at the back post to make it 2-0. Kahibah grabbed one back in the 60th minute of play, Matt Parker turning in the ball after it had been floated in from the corner.
Jamie Hadlow fired a golden opportunity over the bar, missing the net which was left unoccupied by Ben Parmenter. Belswan Josh Hall reached for a chance which just went by his foot, while Cameron Lodge forced a good save out of Kahibah ‘keeper Simon Frary. Neither side could add to the tally, and it finished 2-1 Belswans.
Belswans coach Josh Rufo was pleased with his side’s performance in a mammoth game of football.
“I thought it was a competitive fixture, we dominated the first half and scored two goals, Kahibah had some good spells in the second half but I think overall we played the better football,” Rufo said.
“It’s in our hands now, we’ll keep plugging away and mathematically it can still go either way, so there’s still a lot to play for.”
The main talking point from the match was that injury to Tom Parkinson, and Rufo believed it had an impact on his men.
“I didn’t see the incident because of the angle of the dugout and the sun, but a lot of the players on both sides were quite upset and I know Joel Shearer in particular, we ended up taking him off at half time because he wasn’t right,” Rufo said.
“I’ve sent text messages to Tom last night and today, but yeah it put a few players off their game.
Kahibah’s loss means they’ve slipped to second, and the title is now Cooks Hill’s to lose. Belmont-Swansea are now level on points with Kahibah on 35, and they’ll be looking to pounce on any potential mistake from either side across the next two weeks – but have a tough run home, with Southy and Thornton in the offing.
Cessnock City FC 1 (Gillis) def. by Toronto Awaba FC 2 (Roberts x2)
Saturday 22nd July, 2:30pm at Turner Park
The battle of the cellar dwellers certainly lived up to its name in Saturday’s only fixture, with Toronto using up all of their luck to ensure they got the job done against the Hornets.
Kyle Gillis opened the scoring for the Hornets in the 12th minute from a set piece, but a calamity at the back just five minutes later would level the scores. A fairly routine ball over the top was misjudged by young Cessnock ‘keeper Dylan Cheetham, and Toronto captain Nick Roberts was on hand to turn it in for his tenth of the season.
A Caleb Prebble run and cut found Nick Roberts in the 35th minute, who made no mistake in doubling his and Toronto’s tally for the day.
Prebble turned villain with just minutes left in the first half when he gave away a penalty. Travas McCabe stepped up to take the penalty, but wasn’t able to make it two penalties from two against Toronto this year – he fired wide and Toronto went to the sheds with their 2-1 lead intact.
Both sides had their chances throughout the second half – Tim Stone blew a golden opportunity for the Stags in the 50th minute, and despite a red card to Caleb Prebble for a second bookable offence, Cessnock weren’t able to find a way through.
The result takes Cessnock to 14 losses for the season. For Toronto, they’re getting closer to the rest of the pack. They’re two points from Singleton, although the Strikers do have a game in hand. A win for Toronto next weekend may be enough for them to jump into ninth.
Wallsend FC 2 (Coker, Williams) def. West Wallsend SFC 1 (Andrews)
Sunday 23rd July, 2:30pm at The Gardens
Revenge was on the table, and a ten-man Wallsend seized it in front of the Old Boys as they squeezed out a narrow 2-1 win, their eighth of the season on Sunday afternoon.
It was a goalless first half, despite Wallsend’s best efforts as they pushed hard to create opportunities for themselves. They lacked a finishing touch, and a Westy shot off the cross bar just before half time nearly made them pay.
However just moments into the second half, the Red Devils went ahead through Ethan Coker. He went to the by-line and in, and rather than cutting it back snuck a narrow finish past Jesse Cook to give the home side the advantage.
Then, disaster for Wallsend as Kyle Macorig was sent off after he was deemed to be the last man following a challenge on the edge of the box. Westy capitalised shortly after, Brad Andrews pouncing on a loose ball from a free kick to make it 1-all.
West Wallsend were pushing hard, but Wallsend keeper James Wand was up to the challenge. The former Weston man was huge for the Red Devils, saving a penalty and making a string of vital saves to keep the ten men in it.
A young substitute would help turn the game though, and lock in the three points for Wallsend. Ty Cousins was able to head a ball into the path of Matt Williams, who finished with a deft back heel over the ‘keeper to make it 2-1.
Wallsend coach Chris Gallagher was happy with the win, which he says ‘tells the story of the season’.
“I’m very happy with the effort and commitment the boys put in, we always trying to get the three points, we didn’t sit back and try to defend,” Gallagher said.
“It was a pretty decent, hard fought game. Couple of big hits, but plenty of clean challenges which were pretty fair and solid challenges, and the referee let most things flow which was good.”
The result has propelled the Red Devils closer to their cross-town rivals. They’re seventh with 25 points, one point behind the sixth place West Wallsend. Given Westy have the bye next weekend, Wallsend will be keen to get the win over Thornton next weekend and do their best to move up the ladder.
Singleton Strikers 0 def. by Thornton Redbacks FC 3 Sunday 23rd July, 2:30pm at Howe Park
There was a lot on the line for the Redbacks on Sunday, and they stepped up to the plate and delivered for outgoing coach Darrel McAllister with a 3-0 win over Singleton on Sunday afternoon.
All the goals came in the first half, the first of them through Liam Penglaze who made the best of a chance that fell his way. Jesse Smith was the provider for the second, who found Jack Halverson through the middle and the youngster finished well.
The third came via the boot of right-back Tyson Fletcher, who found himself unusually high up the park. He was put through, and finished his chance 1v1 past Stuart Plant to give Thornton a three-goal buffer at halftime.
Thornton coach Darrel McAllister was pleased with the result and the performance.
“We were pretty comfortable, it was a performance where we didn’t put our foot down and go on with it,” McAllister said.
“We spoke at half time just trying to keep a clean sheet and control the game, we had a few chances in the second half to score but the keeper made a few good saves and we weren’t coming up with the final pass or the finish.
“The second half was a bit more of a walk in the park, we were a bit conscious of the fact we have to play Wednesday [against New Lambton], a few boys have a couple of bumps and bruises so it’s nice to be able to cruise to that final window.”
One of Dave Willoughby’s goals for the season was to match last season’s points tally – and they now need four points from their last two matches to do so.
Things are happier for Thornton though – they move into fourth as a result of the victory, and can go as high as second with a win over New Lambton on Wednesday night.
“The boys know, it’s not something we’re talking about but all the boys are conscious about the fact we’ve had those couple of games in hand and conscious of the fact we came through our hard run where we had to play Kahibah, Cooks Hill and Southy in a row,” McAllister said.
“We’ve come through that without too many losses, and now we go through a period where we have four of the bottom sides to play in a row, two gone and two to go, if we can pick up maximum points in those two games then we make semis.”
South Cardiff FC 1 (Runge 57’) def. by Cooks Hill United FC 3 (Lewis 4’, Ashton 33’, Gallagher 60’)
Sunday 23rd July, 2:30pm at Ulinga Oval
Graham Law declared his men play their best football under pressure, and the Cookers certainly showed it with a dominant win over South Cardiff to shoot them back into first place.
Cooks Hill took the lead early in the 4th minute when Cal Lewis seized on a loose ball around the box, and rifled in a goal bound shot which gave his side an early lead.
The goal signalled the start of a lengthy period of dominance for the visitors, but they were proving their own worst enemies as wayward passing and a lack of imagination in attack halted their advance.
Nick Russell had a good chance with a deep shot from the left, but it was a long ball over the top which would double his side’s lead.
It fell to Lee Ashton, who fought off some close attention from Southy centre backs Corey Nicholas and Dylan Simone to bury his chance in the 34th minute and make it 2-0.
South Cardiff’s best chance of the half came not long after, when Ben McCabe played a nice 1-2 in the middle of the park and got a shot off, but it was high and wide. They managed to create some pressure toward the back end of the half, but couldn’t carve out anything clear cut.
It was via the hand of captain Cal Gallagher that the Gunners found a way back into the match. He appeared to handle the ball inside the box, and was penalised for it. Troy Runge stepped up, and confidently sent Jake Hamilton the wrong way to halve the deficit in the 57th minute.
If Gallagher had been the villain, then three minutes later he’d prove himself the hero. He pounced on the afters of a Daniel Johnson corner to fire home in the 60th minute which would take Cooks’ lead to 3-1.
Lee Ashton squandered a golden chance to wrap it up in the 64th minute, after Cal Lewis pinched it from Corey Nicholas and played him in. With only the ‘keeper to beat, Dominic Fox made himself big and made the save.
South Cardiff made their first real chance of the match on the counter in the 82nd minute. Brett Cowling broke down the right, and lofted the ball over to an unmarked Joey Grujevski inside the penalty box. With only the keeper to beat, his side-footed volley went flying over the bar and down the infamous Ulinga hill, condemning the Gunners to a 3-1 defeat.
Cooks Hill coach Graham Law was pleased with a dominant performance.
“I thought we played really well, apart from that penalty, I thought we were pretty comfortable,” Law said.
“I think the first twenty minutes we played really well, then the middle part of the first half we went back to a way where… you can’t play through teams who play with two deep lines, and it was just about making the boys understand that.
“I didn’t see much that they troubled us with, they had one in the second half (Grujevski’s miss) but other than that… a penalty isn’t a chance.”
Law was also confident his side had what it takes to see out their lead at the top of the ladder.
“I think it’s ours to lose, it’s that late in the season that if we’re top of the league it’s ours to lose, and if Kahibah are it’s theirs to lose,” Law said.
“Our boys play better under pressure, look at the games we’ve lost this year… we’ve turned up for every big game, and I’ll be using that [first place] to put pressure on my team, because they react better to pressure.”