Match of the Round
South Cardiff 1 (Nathan McCallister) drew with Singleton Strikers 1 (Hayden Nicol)
Sunday 29th July, 2:30 pm, Ulinga Oval
It was a must-win game for both these competitors, but after playing out an evenly fought draw, it might mean that neither side will feature in this year’s semi-finals.
Before this match, the Strikers’ season was hanging on by the thinnest of threads, and although their finals hopes are now officially dead, they did put a significant dent in the hopes of the Gunners.
Needing a victory, Singleton began the match controlling the possession and South Cardiff were happy to sit back and wait for their opportunity to present themselves, and soon enough they did.
A nice worked play down the left-hand side of the field saw a pass sit up nicely for Troy Runge but shot was saved well by Singleton’s goalkeeper Corey Cleaver.
Minutes later, Cleaver could only stand and hope as he watched a fantastic Daniel Wells volley dip over his head, but fortunately, cannon into the crossbar.
South Cardiff continued their pressure and they seemed destined to score when the Golden Boot leader Nathan McCallister, found himself in on goal behind the defence, but he blasted it over the top of the goal.
Singleton had their only real chance of the half when a cross successfully found the head of Dylan Bentley, but his header sprayed across the face of the goal, leaving the scores level at 0-0 to end the first half.
The second half opened in South Cardiff’s favour, but this time they were able to convert as Wells’ backheel was perfectly converted by McCallister to give the home team the lead.
Hayden Nicol looked to bring his team back into the game, but Gunners’ goalkeeper Keegan Pulik made the save, but moments later, it was a different story.
A poor pass-back to Pulik forced him to make a dodgy clearance that fell for Nicol. He then attempted a chip kick for goal, and although the shot seemed to initially not contain enough power, a miscommunication between Pulik and his fellow defender saw the ball bounce over the goal-line.
Desperate to capture the lead, both teams pushed forward in the search for a winner, but after squandered chances at either end, the scoreline ended in a disappointing draw.
South Cardiff now sit in sixth but are just two points outside the top four, while Singleton remains in seventh but will just be playing for pride in their final two matches.
West Wallsend 3 (Sam Holt, Ryan Cole, Tye Jones) def. by Cooks Hill United 5 (Daniel Yaxley x2, Lee Ashton x2, Nick Russell)
Saturday 28th July, 2:30 pm, Johnston Park
Despite scoring the most goals a team has managed in 17 weeks against the premiers, Cooks Hill; West Wallsend fell short in what was a high-scoring fixture, and one we may just see in the finals.
Although the Cookers were the heavy favourites heading into this match, it was the Bluebells who grabbed the early lead after just three minutes when Sam Holt scored.
The back-to-back premiers didn’t let that early goal hinder them though and were able to find the lead before the break by scoring three goals.
Daniel Yaxley, Lee Ashton and Nick Russell all jumped on the score sheet, and the second half opened in the same fashion that the first ended.
Yaxley nabbed a brace, but a Ryan Cole goal for West Wallsend kept the home side in the fixture.
With just over ten minutes remaining though, Ashton popped up for Cooks Hill, scoring his second to push the lead out to three goals once again and seal the result.
Tye Jones scored with just a minute remaining to decrease the loss, but his side still finished with the loss.
Cooks Hill leads by eleven points at the top of the table now, while West Wallsend is sitting fourth and right in the middle of the top four dogfight that will be at the forefront of the league’s attention coming into the final two weeks.
Thornton Redbacks 4 (Jake Millstead x2, Trent Partridge, Jye MacKellar) def. by Wallsend FC 5 (Ty Goldsmith x2, Wez Pryce, x2, Travas McCabe)
Saturday 28th July, 2:30 pm, Thornton Park
It was a match that could have potentially locked Thornton inside the top four and permanently exiled Wallsend, but instead, a win for the Red Devils in a thrilling match sees the race for the top four heat up immensely.
It took more than twenty minutes for the game to see its first goal, and it was the visitors who jumped in the drivers’ seat early.
Wallsend’s gun forward Ty Goldsmith scored to give his side the lead, and midfielder Wez Pryce grabbed another, only minutes later.
In the final few minutes before half-time, Jake Millstead scored for the home side, but so too did Pryce who nabbed his second and give the Red Devils a 3-1 lead at the break.
The second half was less than ten minutes old when Travas McCabe extended their lead to three goals in style, and it seemed as though it’d prove to be game over, however, the Redbacks were far from done.
Millstead added a double to give Thornton hope, and with twenty minutes remaining, Trent Partridge scored to bring them back to within one.
With five minutes left in the match, the unthinkable looked to have taken place as Jye MacKellar knocked the ball home to equal the scores at 4-4, but moments later in the stoppage time, after a defensive error saw the comeback completely unravel.
Goldsmith latched onto the mistake and belted home a brilliant finish to regain the lead and win the match in stunning fashion.
The Red Devils now sit just one point off the top four, and coach Ben Edwards admitted that confidence around his team was sitting quite high following their late victory.
“The feeling around the team is positive,” Edwards said.
“At training, I said I wouldn’t care if we won 6-5. Three points is three points at the end of the day.
“It was very frustrating to see the boys switch off, but it was a good relief when the whistle blew.”
Edwards confessed that his team were fixed on making every game here on out their ‘Grand Final’ to put themselves in a position to potentially win it all.
“If we had lost it was all over, red rover, so we understand that it’s basically sudden death football from now on.
“The boys feel like they deserve a crack at the title, at least.”
New Lambton FC 3 (Dan Luther x2, Alex Ihlow) def. Kahibah FC 2 (Rhys Tippett, Preston Cunningham)
Saturday 28th July, 4:30 pm, Alder Park
This match was the only fixture that didn’t impact the race to the finals but regardless, Kahibah and New Lambton entertained and battled like there was everything to play.
It only took the Eagles two minutes to strike when skipper Dan Luther jumped onto a corner and made no mistakes from the head to give the home team a very early lead.
The Green and Blacks looked as though they’d hit back when New Lambton goalkeeper Josh Cox slipped over in a nervous position, however, Rhys Tippett’s shot was knocked straight at Cox.
It was midway through the first half when New Lambton doubled their lead following a Kahibah defensive error. Joseph Hadden attempted a clearance but air-swinged instead, and Luther pounced on the error and slotted it away with ease and the Eagles weren’t done there.
Ten minutes later, Centre back Hayden Pearce did well with the ball at his feet before playing a long ball to Alex Ihlow, leaving him one-on-one against the opposition goalkeeper and finishing it home to hold an impressive 3-0 lead at half-time.
The second half saw the Eagles produce multiple chances, but Kahibah goalkeeper Ben Corling kept his team in the game with some great saves, as did Josh Cox down the other end for the hosts.
With just under twenty minutes to go, the game turned on its head when Rhys Tippett was awarded a controversial penalty decision that was excellently converted by the man who won it, and minutes later, they grabbed another.
Young fullback Preston Cunningham was able to jump on the end of a cross and head it past Josh Cox and send the final minutes of the game into an all-out frenzy.
It was all too little, too late for Kahibah though, and the Eagles held on for a 3-2 victory – their third in four matches – and sit on 21 points with the potential of finishing as high as sixth place.
For the Green and Blacks, that loss now means they’re winless in their past five games and anchored to the bottom two – a position many wouldn’t have predicted at the start of the season.
Cessnock City Hornets 0 drew with Belmont-Swansea United 0
Sunday 29th July, 2:30 pm, Turner Park
Cessnock needed three victories from their last two matches for any chance of featuring in the semi-finals but have fallen at the first hurdle as Belswans escaped Turner Park with a point and their fourth clean sheet in five games.
The visiting side looked as though they’d have their star man Josh Sutton returning this weekend, but after suffering a mid-week snowboarding injury, unfortunately, had to be missing from the teamsheet for another week.
Belswans’ attack looked to suffer because of it, and Cessnock would have taken the lead had it not Brad York not hit his free-kick just a couple of inches too high as it cannoned into the crossbar and over the goal.
Belswans captain Joel Shearer had a shout for a penalty that ultimately waved away, but minutes later attacking fullback Corey Wilson had a chance but skewed his shot wide of the goal.
Cessnock goalkeeper Jed Horder kept the game level with a solid, scrambling save midway through the second half, and he again kept out the visitors by denying league veteran Chris Gazzard with just ten minutes remaining.
As the clock ticked over into stoppage time, the deadlock looked as though it was finally broken when a free-kick fell into the box and landed for defender Tom Stewart just outside the six-yard box. His shot went well over the bar though, and disappointment reigned across Turner Park at the realisation that their season was officially over.
Cessnock coach Brendan Slade said it was a lack of execution that costed them in the end.
“We missed chances that could have won us the game,” Slade.
“It was a pretty tight sort of tussle and both sides were quite even I think.”
Slade admitted that although it was a disappointing end to the year, that he was still proud of the work his team showed in an attempt to salvage their season.
“There’s definitely disappointment around the squad. We were here to win this year, not just make up the numbers…we just had a bit of a hard period in the middle of the year.”
“The effort was definitely there, so I have to give them that.”
Toronto Awaba Stags FC had the bye.