Match of the Round
Thornton Redbacks 2 (Will Maher, Jye MacKellar) def. New Lambton FC 1 (Harry Benbow)
Saturday 4th August, 2:30 pm, Thornton Park
Thornton grabbed their first win in five weeks beating New Lambton at home and making sure that they are now in the drivers’ seat when they come up against South Cardiff in the finals-deciding match next weekend.
Following a run of disappointing results, and a spray during the week from their coach Gary Wand, the Redbacks came out firing, and although they missed a few early chances, it was just a matter of time before they found the first goal.
That goal came after twenty minutes when Will Maher found himself on the end of a pass from Trent Partridge, finishing the move off well to give his team the lead.
Thornton continued their pressure, and their lead would have doubled had it not been for a goal-line clearance by Luke Rogers, however, there was nothing he could do to stop the hosts minutes later.
Tallan Martin knocked a driven cross into the box, Partridge ‘dummied’ and stepped over the ball and it fell for Jye MacKellar who expertly curled it home.
It would take a big effort from New Lambton if they were to work their way back into it in the second half, but luck seemed to be on their side. The ball popped itself up into a Thornton defenders’ hand inside the box, leading to Harry Benbow to score from the spot and get his team back to within one.
Luke Jovcevski was brought on for the Eagles and seemed to liven up the side, almost grabbing a goal from an Alex Ihlow cross midway through the second half.
As the match neared its final minutes, Thornton looked to manage the game and made sure that New Lambton didn’t penetrate their defence resulting in a crucial victory.
Wand said he was pleased with the way his team took on his advice and resurged from their recent poor performances.
“Across the board, we were improved from last weekend,” Wand said.
“Defensively we were much better.
“The attitudes of the players were much better as well.”
Thornton will now face South Cardiff next weekend and will only need a draw to qualify for finals, but Wand said his team were ready for the challenge.
“Our focus is very much so on winning next weekend.
“Although there was a sense of relief for finally getting a win on board, the boys are very fixed on next week.
Singleton Strikers 1 (Tom Hume) def. Cessnock City Hornets 0
Saturday 4th August, 2:30 pm, Howe Park
It was a match that didn’t possess any sort of impact on finals position, but there was still plenty of pride on the line and potential to still finish in a commendable position on the table, and it was the home side that found victory booking the seventh spot in their last match of the year.
Singleton were slow to get out of the gates early on in the match and Cessnock attempted to strangle control, but it was the Strikers who troubled the Hornets’ defence first and it resulted in an ugly collision.
Cessnock goalkeeper Jed Horder came running out to clear the ball away from Lachlan Nicol, but he arrived too late as Nicol’s got his head to the ball, while Horder’s fists landed into the face of Nicol, leaving him with a broken nose and quickly on his way to hospital.
Joe Civello made his return as his replacement but wasn’t able to make a great impact as the two teams went into the sheds level at the break.
In the second half though, a substitute for Singleton proved to be the difference as Tom Hume headed a crossed set-piece into the back of the net for the only goal of the match.
Singleton coach David Willoughby admitted his side weren’t good enough to start the match, but he was pleased with the way they recovered.
“Cessnock were better at the start,” Willoughby said.
“We started again very slowly.
“Once we got into the game, I believe we dominated field position and a little bit of possession. We were able to stifle their passing game and they started playing some long balls.
“For whatever reason, the Singleton boys were very motivated to take on Cessnock regardless of what was going on.
“They don’t like to lose to Cessnock.”
Willoughby stated that although a seventh-placed finish is unfortunate considering where they sat at the half-way point of the season, that their season can still be considered a success.
“At Day One, everyone had us tipped to come last.
“If you were to tell me that we would be seventh with 27 points at the start of the season, I would have taken it.
“It was a good season. It’s a little disappointing with not making the semi-finals, but at the end of the day it was just a lack of depth.”
Kahibah FC 2 (Rhys Tippett, Andre Gumprecht) def. by South Cardiff 4 (Troy Runge x4)
Sunday 5th August, 2:30 pm, Kahibah Oval
It was a close call for South Cardiff, but the visitors managed to hold on for victory at Kahibah and keep their finals hopes alive thanks to a quartet of goals from Troy Runge.
The Green and Blacks grabbed a surprising early lead through Rhys Tippett, however, it was short-lived as South Cardiff managed to completely turn the game around in the space of eight minutes.
Incredibly, Troy Runge scored a hat-trick in speedy succession to turn a one-goal deficit into a two-goal lead, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Gunners from there.
Andre Gumprecht grabbed one back for the hosts before the break by catching the South Cardiff defence napping with a quick free-kick nestling in the goal past a standstill Keegan Pulik in goals to result in a back-and-forth 3-2 scoreline at half-time.
Needing a victory to keep their season alive, South Cardiff managed to find another goal when Troy Runge headed home his fourth and from there the control laid to rest in their hands despite Kahibah’s Tippett troubling the Gunners defence.
South Cardiff will now play Thornton next weekend in a final-round blockbuster and will need to attain victory to qualify for the finals.
Toronto Awaba Stags FC 0 def. by West Wallsend 3 (Joseph Holt, Bailey Jensen, Adam Cooper)
Sunday 5th August, 2:30 pm, Lyall Peacock Field
West Wallsend needed to win to retain their fourth spot and remain in a strong position for finals qualification, and they made no mistakes in their visit to Toronto.
The Bluebells were quick to get going against the wooden spooners and showcased their dominance right from the word go.
Joseph Holt, Bailey Jensen and Adam Cooper all bagged goals in the first half to give the visitors a strong lead as the two sides headed into the second half.
Toronto wasn’t able to find any goals in the second half but did manage to keep the Bluebells scoreless – something they’ve struggled to do all season.
That loss now sees Toronto holding the unwanted statistic of losing ten games in a row, while for West Wallsend, their match next week against Belswans will decide their season and a victory might be the only thing that will see them make the finals for the first time since 2014.
Wallsend FC 2 (Wez Pryce, Ty Goldsmith) def. by Cooks Hill United 3 (Nick Russell, Daniel Yaxley, Lee Ashton)
It was a close and tense match as Wallsend faced the premiers in a bid to keep their season alive, but unfortunately for the Red Devils, they weren’t able to put an end to Cooks Hill’s unbeaten streak.
It was a battle between the two best attacking teams in the competition, and that trend was shown early as both teams looked to get on the front-foot straight from the kickoff.
As they so often do, Cooks Hill looked to control the pace with the majority of possession, but it was Wallsend who nabbed the first goal when a crossed free-kick ran past the head of Ty Goldsmith but landed well for Wez Pryce at the back post who smashed it in from close range.
It didn’t take long for the visitors to bounce back though when a bouncing through ball was played in behind the Wallsend defence, lead to a miscommunication between goalkeeper Joel Magnee and his defender. Magnee rushed out in an attempt to clear it, but instead, Lee Ashton was able to sneak a header in over his two opponents and into the back of the net to equalise.
Cooks Hill looked to ramp up the pressure, and a great Hakan Canli cross found it’s way through the Red Devils’ defence and onto the head of Daniel Yaxley as they grabbed the lead.
Wallsend and Pryce look to have found a second just before half-time, but his volley knocked into the woodwork and although the follow-up landed for Matt Williams, his shot went well wide.
The Red Devils needed to start the second half well, and that’s exactly what they did as their top goal-scorer Goldsmith finished off a great move from Pryce with a fantastic low shot not even a minute after the kick-off.
Both teams had chances to capture the lead, but the best chance that came was when Brodie Richardson was deemed to have been brought down in the box leading to a Nick Russell penalty. He made no mistakes from the spot and gave the premiers the lead as the match neared its end.
Wallsend was looking desperate to save their season and began pushing multiple bodies forward to create some chances and just seconds before the full-time whistle sounded, Goldsmith looked to go on a solo run to try and be Wallsend’s hero once again, but his shot just went wide after a deflection.
Ben Edwards, Wallsend coach, expressed his disappointment that their season had come to an end following a great battle with the top team in the league.
“It’s disappointing to play so well for pretty much the entire game, and then not to get anything out of it, especially due to a pretty soft penalty,” said Edwards.
“We probably created enough chances to get something out of that game.
“It was frustrating and disappointing to go out of the competition that way too.”
Edwards confessed that although their goal of qualifying for finals hasn’t come to fruition, he was still pleased and proud of the way his team performed this year.
“It’s been a very successful season.”
“Last year we struggled to score goals, struggled to defend and do anything really, so it’s been a major improvement.
“Our defence is something we need to fix up for next year.”