PHOTO: SPROULE SPORTS FOCUS
Lambton Jaffas 2 (Sessions 80’, Brown 87’) defeated Hamilton Olympic (A.Swan 64’) 1 at Darling Street Oval. Lambton won 4-2 on aggregate.
Former Hamilton striker Pat Brown came back to haunt his former side, as Lambton Jaffas were the first side to book their place in the 2017 PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues (NPL) NNSW decider.
Brown struck the fatal blow for the Jaffas late in the second half, as Lambton qualified for their first Grand Final since 2014.
The Jaffas took a slender 2-1 advantage into the second leg and immediately began looking to extend their lead. Assistant coach Scott McCarter was calling the shots from the sideline, with Lambton coach James Pascoe bedridden with the illness.
Joel Griffiths forced Olympic keeper Tyler Warren down sharply to his left as Griffiths broke free down the right edge of the box, and minutes later Ben Hay fired off a couple of warning shots which Hamilton’s defence did well to block.
Olympic weren’t without chances of their own in the first half with the experienced duo of Kane Goodchild and Scott Smith linking up superbly. 2017 Golden Boot Goodchild just couldn’t get his radar on in the first half as the sides headed to half-time locked at 0-0.
However, in the second half, the match started to heat up. Just 60 seconds into the half and Olympic received a penalty when Scott Smith was adjudged to have been fouled in the box by Nathan Morris, in what looked to be a tough call against the Jaffas defender.
Goodchild stepped up and thumped his spot-kick into the top of the cross-bar and it sailed over as Lambton breathed a sigh of relief.
Although, the real drama was yet to come.
In the 64th minute after a lovely interplay of passing Kane Goodchild played Andrew Swan in on goal and he made no mistake from the right edge of the box, chipping over Brad Swancott in the Lambton goal to give Olympic the lead in the match and on aggregate.
But, after the goal was scored Olympic midfielder Daniel Bird allegedly made an obscene gesture to Jaffas defender Luke O’Dell – the two had been at each other all afternoon – and was subsequently given a straight red card by referee James Cleal.
Down to ten men, it was always going to be tough for Hamilton and in the 80th minute Michael Sessions put Lambton but in front on aggregate. Nathan Morris swung in a pinpoint corner and the Jaffas vice-captain broke free of his marker and powered his header past Warren.
And like they have done already this season against Olympic, Lambton backed up one goal with another as Pat Brown put the nail in Hamilton’s coffin.
In the 87th minute, Luke Remington darted along the byline for Lambton, cut back a pass for Michael Kantarovski who squared to Brown. The striker turned and slid his shot perfectly inside the far post as Lambton sealed their spot in the Grand Final.
While admitting to having “a little bit of nerves” after James Pascoe told him he wouldn’t be at the game, Lambton Jaffas Assistant Scott McCarter enjoyed his afternoon.
He simply said post-match, “the big moments probably went in our favour today”.
“We haven’t had too many of them all year so we’ll take them.”
McCarter was also full of praise for Jaffas skipper Jobe Wheelhouse.
“[Jobe] has been massive,” McCarter said. “We’ve won two games of football since he has been back. He knows how to control the tempo in big games. He was good today and he will be an important player next week.”
“[Reaching the] Grand Final is most important, that was one of our goals at the start of the year to make that game. It’ll be a good occasion.”
Olympic coach Michael Bolch felt his side had enough chances to win the match.
“Realistically, they took their chances and we didn’t take ours. We’ve played them four times this year and they have beaten us four times. Over two legs they have beaten us 4-2, so they were the better side over the two legs.”
However, Bolch said the send-off changed the match.
“The turning point is the send-off. In hindsight, after rewatching it the referee probably got it right. It was just dumb play really.”
With his eight years wrapping up at Hamilton after the match Bolch reflected briefly about his time at the club.
“As a coach, you always want to think that you leave a club in a better position than when you came there.
“We’ve won the club championship three of the last four years, we’ve got a lot of good young kids coming through. We got one game from the Grand Final, so you’d like to think the club is in a good position moving forward.”
PHOTO: SPROULE SPORTS FOCUS
Edgeworth 1 (3) (McBreen 96’) defeated Broadmeadow Magic 2 (1) (Pettit 32’, Dowse 101’) in a penalty shoot-out at Jack McLaughlan Oval.
In a titanic struggle at Jack McLaughlan Oval, Edgeworth triumphed in a penalty-shootout as they kept alive their quest for a third straight double.
The Eagles didn’t have it all their own way though, as a sole Scott Pettit strike ensured the match would head into extra-time before a goal each in the final half-hour pushed the match into a penalty shootout.
It simply was a special night for football in Northern NSW.
It was the Eagles who started on fire causing plenty of problems for Magic’s defence. Aaron McLoughlin whipped in a cross to an unmarked Keanu Moore in the middle of the box, but Moore was unable to put away the golden opportunity.
Minutes later and it was Daniel McBreen’s chance to open the scoring, but his shot was wonderfully smothered by Broadmeadow keeper Niko Giantsopoulos.
Magic didn’t have many chances in the first 45, but when they received one of their first Scott Pettit took full toll, as he curled a stunning free kick from just outside the box into the top left corner as the Broadmeadow faithful erupted.
But, the biggest moment of the half was yet to come.
Pat Wheeler turned the ball over at the back for the Eagles and Dino Fajkovic pounced going one on one with Edgeworth keeper Nate Cavaliere who dived in and blocked the shot with a terrific save, denying a goal which would have made it very difficult for the Eagles.
Magic took their 1-0 lead into the sheds, and the second half was immensely tight with neither side able to create many chances of note.
Josh Evans had the best chance for the Eagles ten minutes from time, as he received a free header in the box, however, couldn’t put it on target.
Then, deep in stoppage time, Magic striker James Virgili broke free down the right. But, Cavaliere was up to the task once more keeping his feet and blocking the shot.
So, into extra-time, the match went and as he has in the big moments for Edgeworth in the past, their evergreen striker stood tall. In the 96th minute, Keanu Moore raced down the right edge and cut a low cross centrally.
The ball bobbled and hit Jon Griffiths on the shin, and deflected to McBreen who rounded Giantsopoulos to level it up on the night and put Edgeworth in front on aggregate.
But, if the Eagles thought they were on their way, that was a mistake as Jacob Dowse came off the bench and slid home a James Virgili cross at the back post to lock the tie up on aggregate.
With no away goals in extra-time under Northern NSW rules, the match was headed for a penalty shoot-out, and it started brilliantly for the Eagles.
Cavaliere made a superb save to deny Kale Bradbury’s penalty before Matt Hoole missed the target and James Virgili’s spot-kick was denied by the Eagles keeper.
After Keigo Moriyasu and McBreen had already converted for Edgeworth it was left to Dom Bizzarri to seal the Eagles place in yet another Grand Final and he made no mistake.
A semi final showdown for the ages as the Eagles soared on the Grand Final.
Edgeworth coach Damian Zane heaped praise on keeper Cavaliere post-match.
“This boy, he is just going to get better. Every day we train, him and Josh Low, and our 18s keeper, they are there an hour before every session.
“I’d give him a roasting and then I’d see him at training early practising his kicking, and I just went ‘what a good kid’. I think he is above this level, I think he is talented and he is so athletic.”
Magic coach Ruben Zadkovich described the contest as a “cracking game”.
“It was an awesome football night, and a great show for what Northern NSW Football has got to offer in this league and I thought it was the best game of the year to be honest, just in terms of atmosphere and everything, it was great.”
“My boys can be extremely proud of the effort that they put out and the performance was nothing short of fantastic and I think we’ve proven a point to a lot of people.”