Edgeworth Eagles 3 (Rose 90’, Bizzarri 113’, Atayde 120+1’) def. Lambton Jaffas 2 (Hammel 55’, Wheelhouse 104’) (Edgeworth win 4-3 on aggregate)
Saturday 1st September, 3:30pm at Jack McLaughlan Oval
Across more than 210 minutes of what was a pulsating two-legged semi-final tie, Edgeworth were only in the lead for little more than a single minute.
It was, however, the single minute that counted. On the brink of defeat, more than once, Edgeworth puffed and puffed and eventually blew the house down.
Saturday afternoon turned into Saturday evening, and by the time the final whistle blew and Jose Atayde had made himself an Edgeworth hero, and we were left with the first team through to the grand final and one of the all-time great NPL Northern NSW matches.
It was Lambton who thought they’d scored first, when Braedyn Crowley tapped in from close range but the flag was up for offside in the 9th minute of play.
Dom Bizzarri had a good chance at glancing the ball home on the half hour mark, but he wasn’t able to get anything on it. The game began to even out, as both sides continued to feel their way into things without risking too much in behind.
It took until after half-time for the stalemate to be broken, and it was a former Edgeworth man who did the damage for Lambton.
The chance came from a Braedyn Crowley corner, which bounced clear of the pack thanks to a deflection. Unfortunately for the home side though, it fell to Lambton man Bren Hammel. His shot wasn’t great, but a deflection bamboozled the defence and put Lambton up a goal.
As the half wore on and Lambton’s 2-1 aggregate advantage loomed larger and larger. Edgeworth increasingly took control of the match but weren’t able to break down a deep and resolute Jaffas defence.
It took until the 90th minute for Edgeworth to find a breakthrough, and before last weekend it would have been considered the most unlikely of sources.
For Josh Rose though, it was his second goal in as many weekends and one reminiscent of his last. It started with an attempt to burrow through a mass of players in the penalty box, and finished with Rose finishing into a clear net after a deflection had sent Brad Swancott diving after shadows.
Cue celebrations at Edgeworth: but there was still half an hour to go. Bailey Garland nearly made those thirty minutes unnecessary, however he was unable to steer a header past Swancott.
At the beginning of extra-time, Jobe Wheelhouse entered the pitch in place of an injured Bren Hammel. He was a marked man, and brought about one of the game’s first yellow cards in the 103rd minute after he was rugby tackled by Dom Bizzarri and Wheelhouse made them pay.
The ensuing free-kick found Joel Griffiths, who headed it back into the mixer. A charging Wheelhouse came through, and finished to restore Lambton’s lead at 2-1 and 3-2 on aggregate.
This meant, that with little under twenty minutes to go that Edgeworth really needed to get back on the front foot. Joel Griffiths had a good chance shortly after half-time in extra-time, but he wasn’t able to get a shot off.
A chance would prevent itself for Edgeworth in the 113th minute, after a pair of fouls from Lambton had Josh Evans floored as he was collected by Marcus Duncan in a challenge which had some in the grandstand wincing.
Evans walked away gingerly and Josh Rose sent in the ensuing free-kick. It came back nicely to Dom Bizzarri in the middle of the box, and his looping header went into the back of the net and the two sides were level once more.
Edgeworth thought they’d scored a third in the 117th minute when Aaron Oppedisano hit the post but it bounced agonisingly clear. Had there been an Edgeworth player following it in, it could have been cleaned up. Josh Rose almost had a goal off the resulting corner, but it too bounced away from goal.
This match was now almost at the two-hour mark, and many around the ground were beginning to wonder which end the penalty shootout would be at and where would be best to watch it from.
Those wandering thoughts were slightly premature, as there was still more late drama to come. It was a move started by the hero of the first 90 minutes, Josh Rose, having played all 120 minutes, who came bounding down the left-hand side of the field.
Making the overlapping run was centre-back Josh Evans, who was displaying an incredibly high amount of endurance. His ball in was dangerous, and it pinged around the area.
It fell out to young midfielder Jose Atayde, a man who made his debut for the first team in Round 17 and had played all 120 minutes in this huge semi-final clash.
He made no mistake. The ball found its way through a sea of players, sent Swancott the wrong way and rippled the back of the net. With 120:15 on the clock, Edgeworth were ahead for the first time in the tie and into the NPL Northern NSW Grand Final for a fourth straight occasion.
Broadmeadow Magic 0 def. by Maitland Magpies 1 (Thompson 28’) (Broadmeadow win 3-2 on aggregate)
Sunday 2nd September, 2:30pm at Magic Park
With three away goals and a two-goal buffer, it was going to take a magnificent effort for Maitland to work their way back into this tie.
They won Sunday’s battle, but Broadmeadow won the war and it’s the men in red who’ll now contest Edgeworth for the NPL Northern NSW championship next weekend.
Maitland received two penalties throughout the course of the match, and a man advantage for more than half an hour, but still weren’t able to get the job done.
The first of those penalties came in the 28th minute of play, when John Majurovski knocked Carl Thornton off the ball inside the penalty area.
Matt Thompson stepped up to take the penalty and went to his left, but Paul Bitz went to his right and made the save.
Luckily for Maitland though, the ball bounced clear and in the path of Thompson who followed in and headed home to put Maitland ahead in the second leg.
There wasn’t much to write home about in the first half and Maitland coach Michael Bolch knew he needed to mix things up and he brought on youngster Tom Duggan.
He had an instant impact. In the 47th minute of play, Duggan sent a ball over into the box which found Matt Thompson at the back posts.
Jon Griffiths went charging in and attempted to dispossess Thompson, but instead gave away the second penalty of the match.
It was Thompson who again stepped up to take it. This time he went to his right, but Bitz again made the save and this time, hung onto it and denied Maitland aggregate parity.
Maitland had another good chance moments later when Alex Read found himself in behind, but his shot was blazed over the top.
Read was in the middle of the match’s biggest flash point minutes later. He was fed a ball in behind the defence, to which a desperate Jon Griffiths lunged after and collected the Maitland attacker.
The referee awarded the foul straight away, and shortly after showed Griffiths a straight red card. Both he and Broadmeadow couldn’t believe it, but he was off and Magic were down to ten men.
With everything going on, a quick meeting of the Broadmeadow brains-trust had coach Ruben Zadkovich yelling at his troops to reorganise into a 4-4-1. That they did, and begun the difficult task of digging in defence for more than 40 minutes.
The next chance of note didn’t come for some time, but in that ensuing period there was plenty of niggle and a number of yellow cards shown to players on either side.
Captain Josh Piddington should have made himself the Broadmeadow hero on the 75-minute mark when he free at the back post with a virtually empty net to aim at but his half-volley went agonisingly wide.
This, and the clock drawing ominously closer to 90 minutes, seemed to spark the game back into life and there were chances at either end.
Maitland thought they may have had a goal in the 80th minute, when a Tom Duggan shot took a wicked deflection off the head of Luke Virgili and went just past the post.
There was an exchange of chances at either end, with James Virgili going close and then Justin Micallef doing his best to give Maitland a shot at victory.
The clock ticked on, and Carl Thornton went close with a header from a set piece but it was well-saved by Paul Bitz.
Kale Bradbury had a brilliant chance of his own in injury time, but perhaps snatched at it and sent it over the bar. Alex Read and Matt Thompson had a good chance of their own at the other end, but couldn’t put the ball away leaving their side still 1-0 up, but down in the semi-finals score and out of the competition.
The win for Broadmeadow now sees them qualify for their second Grand Final in three years next Saturday night at McDonald Jones Stadium.