Match of the Round
Thornton Redbacks 6 (Luke Lambert x2, Jye McKeller x2, Joel Redden, own goal) def. West Wallsend Bluebells SFC 1 (Jarrod Olivieri)
Saturday 31st March, 2:30 pm, Thornton Park
Thornton scored their first win of the competition this weekend and did it in dominant fashion in their first home fixture against a poor West Wallsend outfit.
It had been almost four years since the Bluebells had beaten the Redbacks and following a terrible start to the game, that trend seemed as though it would continue.
New signing Luke Lambert, got himself and his side off to a dream start to 2018 at Thornton Park as he scored two impressive goals, combined with a West Wallsend own goal to have an incredible 3-0 lead at the break.
With the match being played in scorching conditions, drinks-breaks occurred once again, and it seemed the Bluebells took that time in the second half to regroup after Jarrod Olivieri found a way through the Thornton defence just after the second half drinks-break.
With the game in the balance midway through the second half, another new signing Jye McKeller, also stamped his Thornton Park debut as a success, sealing the win for the Redbacks with a double, as did another youngster Joel Redden to give their team a resounding victory and retain a good start to the season.
Thornton coach Gary Wand said he was pleased with the fact that his side was able to capitalise on their opportunities – something they struggled with in their Round One fixture against Cessnock.
“I’m reasonably happy with how things went, but we’re going to need to improve for next week that’s for sure,” Wand said.
“That had been an issue for us in the trials. We’d been creating chances but hadn’t been able to put them away.
“The good news for us from a team perspective was that the goal-scoring was shared around, not just by one player.”
Wand admitted though, that despite their big triumph and ultimately being happy with his side’s performance, that there were still some things they needed to work on to get to the level they want to be.
“You don’t win competitions playing well this time of year.”
“It’s about consistency, that’s what we’re aiming for.”
Singleton Strikers 1 (Joe Civello) drew with Toronto Awaba Stags FC 1 (Jarrod Penfold)
Friday 30th March, 6:30 pm, Howe Park
After kicking off the season with slow starts, both clubs were desperately looking for three points from their Good Friday night clash but instead had to share the points following an intense, thrilling draw.
Singleton again were missing multiple names from their line-up, including goalkeeper Corey Cleaver and midfielder Jackson Cox, but did welcome back star forward Joe Civello. Civello had an instant impact on his return and may have put the Strikers into the lead had it not been for some terrific saves by Toronto goalkeeper and captain Blake Redman.
For the Stags, Jarrod Penfold was proving to be a constant threat and just after a goalless first half, found the back of the net after a top run and a low strike into the goal past veteran keeper Ryan Guihot.
Singleton refused to give up in their first home match though and continued to hound the Toronto goal, and with just over ten minutes remaining, it was the returning Civello who was the man to find the breakthrough and equalise the game.
With the game level, and all the momentum in their favour, the home team kept attacking to find the lead and it seemed certain to eventuate when Jordan Phelan gave it to Tristan Muir in front of the goal, only to see it somehow miss the goal.
With only minutes to go in the match, young Toronto star Will Cinello seemed like he had stolen the victory with a long-range effort that cannoned into the crossbar, but in the end, the referee’s final whistle sounded with the two sides still locked up.
Singleton coach David Willoughby admitted he felt his side was the better of the two and if they converted their chances, the score-line would have been a lot different.
“We were better than I hoped,” Willoughby said.
“We got the ball nine times out of ten from our defensive third into our attacking third.”
“We were fantastic. The game should have been over at halftime, we just didn’t take our chances.”
Willoughby added that although his team struggled in front of goal, he wasn’t worried.
“The bigger issue would be not creating goal-scoring opportunities.”
“We just didn’t take our chances, but the good thing is we created them.”
Cooks Hill United 2 (Hakan Canli, Jack Wilkinson) def. Kahibah FC 0
Saturday 31st March, 2:30 pm, Newcastle Athletics Field
It was a tough start to the season for Kahibah who lost their first game of their season after taking on Cooks Hill away from home and finishing the match with a large number of injury concerns.
After just twelve minutes into the match, Heath Kepreotes needed to leave the field following an ankle issue and only moments later, star goalkeeper Nick Hartnett did the same with many believing an ACL tear may have been the problem.
Newly signed goalkeeper Ben Corling was thrust in as Hartnett’s replacement and was tested quickly by Nick Russell who threatened with a couple of chances and ultimately controlled a 0-0 half-time result, although Cooks Hill looked the stronger side.
Both teams started the second half with close efforts; Kahibah’s Riley Ferguson sliding a long-range shot just past the post, and Cooks Hill’s Daniel Johnson and Jarryd Johnson both being denied by the woodwork.
Despite some strong moments from Corling, he was unable to stop the Cookers’ pressure as Hakan Canli slipped in behind the defence to find the goal and give his side the lead, and then only a few minutes later, Jack Wilkinson fired a long shot for a brace and the eventual victory.
South Cardiff 0 def. by Cessnock City Hornets 3 (Kane Rodgers, Brad York, Jake Thompson)
Saturday 31st March, 2:30 pm, Ulinga Oval
After achieving their first win of the season during the week against New Lambton in a catch-up game, 4-3, the Gunners, who would have been considered the favourites going into this match, were stunned by a quality Cessnock team.
It was an extraordinary match for the Hornets, who won their back-to-back games for the first time since the opening fixtures back in 2013.
The first half started out as a tough tussle between the two teams, and neither side were able to gain the momentum and create any decent chances until Josh Benacquista was shown a red card just before halftime, for an alleged stamp to Kyle Williams to leave the Gunners with only ten men.
In the second half, Cessnock waited for their chance to strike against their fatigued opposition, and the breakthrough finally came from substitute Kane Rodgers and from there the Hornets took control of the game.
Moments after their first goal, their mid-week signing Brad York (Lake Macquarie City) showed some fancy footwork to beat a defender and grab the brace for his new side, before a late goal to Tamworth-native Jake Thompson, sealed the result and the three points for an exciting and promising Cessnock team.
Brendan Slade, the Cessnock City coach, suggested that the reason for his team winning was due to just doing the simple things right and sticking to their game-plan.
“South Cardiff came out hard, but we just stuck to our guns,” Slade said.
“We just tried to keep the ball and run them round.
“We like to play patient football and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
After already achieved more than much of the coaches before him, Slade said that there was a real positive vibe around the whole club and that his first-grade team had the tools to continue improving.
“They’re really good listeners. You give them a game plan and they go and do it.
“I think there’s a sense of self-belief at the club at the moment, right across all three grades.”
Wallsend FC 3 (Matt Williams, Sam Bradshaw, Wez Pryce) def. Belmont-Swansea United 2 (Mitch Harper x2)
Sunday 1st April, 4:00 pm, Blacksmiths Oval
For the second week in a row, Wallsend would play a ‘home’ match at their opponent’s home ground, but again, it didn’t seem to faze them as they ran out as impressive victors against last year’s Grand Finalists, Belswans.
After receiving a 9-0 drubbing at the same ground last season, the Red Devils kicked on this match in extremely different fashion as Matt Williams scored very early on to give his team the lead and all the momentum.
Wallsend were making all the early chances with last week’s scorers Sam Bradshaw and Ty Goldsmith, both coming very close to finding another as it seemed Belswans just weren’t able to match the intensity displayed from the ‘home team.’
Wallsend’s gusto would eventually pay off though as Bradshaw eventually got his goal after a crazy, scrambling effort inside the box which was followed by a stunning strike from new-man Wez Pryce, to give the Red Devils a commanding 3-0 lead.
Young forward Cameron Lodge tried to propel Belswans back into the contest in the second half with a scintillating run past multiple Wallsend defenders and low cross to Sean Matthews who just missed the goal, and it seemed that energy began to spark the rest of the team as Mitch Harper finally got one back for his team and the momentum in their favour.
With only minutes remaining, Harper again found the back of the net, but it was an unfortunate case of ‘too little, too late’ for the boys from Blacksmiths and Wallsend continued their impressive, undefeated start to the year.
Wallsend coach Ben Edwards, stated that his side hadn’t contemplated the huge loss they suffered at the hands of Belswans last season and he was just focusing on their own game.
“We didn’t think about it at all,” Edwards admitted.
“There was only about two of the eleven from that game.”
“We’re better off than we were last year.”
Edwards praised his team all across the park for their “high-tempo football” and said he was very impressed and happy with the win.
“It was a game of two halves really.
“Our first half was incredible.“We were just trying to match it with them.”