Match of the Round
South Cardiff FC 1 (Troy Runge) def. by Thornton Redbacks FC 2 (Jye MacKellar x2)
Sunday 12th August, 2:30pm, Ulinga Oval
The last round of the competition threw up some mouth-watering matchups and this was certainly one of them as Thornton came from behind away from home to defeat South Cardiff and seal their spot in this year’s semi-finals.
The dry, hard pitch of Ulinga Oval created an extra challenge throughout the match, and it took its toll early on as both midfield’s struggled to keep possession and gain control.
The field didn’t have an impact on the first chance of the game though, as a Thornton free-kick taken by Jake Millstead landed on the head of Joel Redden. His header made it past Keegan Pulik in goals for the Gunners but was cleared off the line by one of his defenders.
The defence down the other end shone as well, as Redbacks goalkeeper James Wand made two important saves. The first was palmed away when Nathan McCallister latched onto a Denis Fajkovic cross, and the second saw him jump onto a through ball, going through his defending teammate in the process.
His defence left him high and dry though midway through the first half and it lead to the opening goal. Jock Thompson made a superb run, beating players inside his own half, before launching a long ball in the direction of Troy Runge. Runge did well to get a hold of it and sped away from the defence before toeing it past Wand in goals.
Knowing that only a victory would see them qualify for finals, the large home crowd rejoiced, but their smiles were quickly wiped away when Thornton forward Tallan Martin was taken down in the box just a minute after conceding.
Up stepped Jye MacKellar who, although placed it in the same direction a Pulik’s dive, managed to find the back of the net to level the game and give his side the overall advantage.
The second half saw the Gunners push forward in the attempt to find a needed goal, and Daniel Wells came close, as did Runge on multiple occasions.
The defining moment came with around twenty minutes remaining, as a poor Trent Partridge corner that didn’t even land inside the box somehow ended in a goal. His corner was headed back in the danger area and subtle flick-on saw the ball lob over the Gunners defence onto a running MacKellar’s head, knocking it past Pulik and grabbing his second for the game.
South Cardiff pushed desperately in their search for salvation, but it seemed that they were their own worst enemy. A scrambling effort fell nicely for Jock Thompson, but he blasted it over the bar, and a Fajkovic cross that nicely found Wells inside the box looked as though it may have troubled Wand had it not been for Runge’s back.
All in all, a second goal could not be found for South Cardiff, and it meant that Thornton not only qualified for finals, but also grabbed second spot, booking their semi-final fixtures with West Wallsend in the coming weeks.
Thornton coach Gary Wand admitted that after being down on numbers for the match, he was extremely impressed with way his team fought.
“I was really happy with our intensity. We were ready for a battle,” said Wand.
“I was really happy with how we defended. We worked on that during the week. We were compact and really numbered up.
“We had Nick Thompson out and Sam Rossi in midfield, so I had two fullbacks playing as centre backs today.”
Wand said that the side practised different game-plans in preparation for the match and was pleased to see them work.
“Southy did really well today. It was always going to come down to the bounce of the ball,” Wand said.
“We practiced getting the ball down the field quickly and try and turn Southy’s defence around.
“We now have an opportunity to not play one of the so-called ‘big-guns’ in Cooks Hill or Belswans in the semis, we need to take it.”
West Wallsend Bluebells 3 (Bailey Maxton x2, Brendan Frost) def. Belmont-Swansea United 1 (Mark Finlayson)
Saturday 11th August, 2:30pm, Johnston Park
It was the other finals-defining match from the weekend and with the pressure on, it would be West Wallsend who pulled out a fantastic victory, ending Belswans 13-game unbeaten streak and booking a spot in the finals for the first time since 2013.
There was a big crowd of blue on the Bluebells’ ‘Old Boys’ Day and all were hoping to see West Wallsend grab at least a point to qualify, and right from the word go the home side were pushing and troubling their opposition’s defence. Tye Jones almost scored in the first minute and fifteen minutes later Bailey Jensen’s header went within a whisker.
The pressure was mounting for the visitors, and it would finally boilover when Brendan Frost’s free-kick swirled in the wind and landed over Ben Parmenter for the first goal of the game.
West Wallsend’s attack kept firing into the second half as captain Jarrod Olivieri went close on two occasions, and their missed opportunities came back to bite them. Substitute Clayton Poole, took a free-kick that was met by defender Mark Finlayson all too easily, and he made no mistakes levelling up the score.
Belswans looked to have a spring in their step, but it would quickly disappear when goalkeeper Parmenter dropped the ball following a mad scramble and Bailey Maxton poked it home.
The Bluebells survived some late scares from the vistors, but late into stoppage time the result would be sealed by some clever play by Bailey Maxton, chipping Parmenter and scoring his brace.
That result, and Sunday’s between South Cardiff and Thornton, now sees West Wallsend finish in third, while Belswans drop down to fourth and will be up against the premiers in next week’s semi-finals.
Cooks Hill United 13 (Nick Russell x5, Lee Ashton x4, Jarryd Johnson x2, Alex Gillespie x2) def. Toronto Awaba Stags FC 0
Saturday 11th August, 2:30pm, Newcastle Athletics Field
It was ‘Legends Day’ at the AthField for Cooks Hill and they certainly put on a show for their former players after banging home an incredible 13 goals and leaving Toronto with their eleventh consecutive loss to finish off the season and the biggest in the NEWFM Northern League One since 2012.
Heading into this match, the Golden Boot leader was jointly held by four players. Two of those men were Lee Ashton and Nick Russell, but the latter took a commanding lead in the race by incredibly securing himself a first-half hat-trick, along with a double to both Alex Gillespie and Jarryd Johnson which took the premiers to a 7-0 lead at the break.
Russell’s strike partner Ashton quickly jumped in on the action in the second half through scoring four goals, but an added double from Russell saw him edge out the Golden Boot honour with 21 goals, but more importantly, give his side an emphatic 13-0 victory.
The result signals the first time since 1997 that a team has ever conceded double digits three times in a single season and accentuates Toronto’s highly disappointing year.
New Lambton FC 2 (Dan Luther x2) drew with Wallsend FC 2 (Travas McCabe, Ty Goldsmith)
Sunday 12th August, 2:30pm, Alder Park
Wallsend’s season came to a disappointing end last week against the premiers, and they were once again halted as they couldn’t find victory for the third game in a row following a frustrating draw with New Lambton to end the year.
The Red Devils grabbed a fantastic early lead as Travas McCabe scored in under a minute, and star forward Ty Goldsmith also worked his way onto the scoresheet just twenty minutes later, doubling the lead.
But midfielder Dan Luther made sure that his side didn’t end their season on a low, equalising the game with two great goals just before half-time.
Both teams’ defence cancelled each other out in the second half, ending in a 2-2 draw and both would stay in their respective positions on the table.
Cessnock City Hornets 2 (Blake Roy, Zac Kronholm) def. Kahibah FC 1 (Asher Beasley)
Sunday 12th August, 2:30pm, Turner Park
Both these teams were merely playing for pride this weekend in the final round as their positions on the table had been set prior to kick-off, but it would be Cessnock who would be awarded the chance to sing their song to cap off a much-improved season.
At the beginning of the year, Kahibah had been tipped as one of the teams to finish inside the top four, but often their first-half performances have been their downfall, and that would once again be the case as the Hornets entertained a two-goal lead at half-time.
Blake Roy knocked in his first goal of the year, while Zac Kronholm scored in his first grade debut at the club.
Kahibah bounced back in the second, but just couldn’t manage a goal. That was until Asher Beasley breathed some life into his side with a goal just five minutes before full-time.
The Hornets were able to hold on though, grabbing their seventh of the year and ending their year on a positive note.
Singleton Strikers had the bye.