Match of the Round
Wallsend FC 2-1 West Wallsend SFC
Cheers of elation thundered throughout The Gardens at full-time as Wallsend downed West Wallsend 2-1 on Sunday.
Wallsend saved their best performance for the most important game of the season, the home Wallsend Derby. The Wallsend-West Wallsend fixture did not disappoint as both sides switched their passion, determination and grit into overdrive throughout the full 90 minutes as per the requisite for any given derby.
It was wide man Brad York who initiated the scoring. A feathered touch from attacking midfielder Pocho Barrera into the path of his teammate gave York the first clear-cut chance of the game. York calmly finished it across the West Wallsend goalkeeper giving the Red Devils a much-needed lead.
The cherished lead would not last long as West Wallsend winger Matthew Paul scored a goal in a similar fashion. His low shot into the far corner slipped through Jakeb Keating’s hands and rolled into the back of the net, levelling the score at half-time.
Six yellow cards were shown during the first 45 minutes, including two to the West Wallsend bench as tensions rose and the game threatened to boil over early on.
But the 15-minute break cooled many heads, especially the Bluebells, as they started to string many more thought out, adapted attacks together, pressuring the Wallsend defence. But a stronger display in the second half from the back three and Keating kept the boys in blue at bay.
Wallsend kicked it up a gear when substitute Rudnei Sheldon came on. Stringing some incisive final third football together on a trying pitch, it was Sheldon who found the winner with five minutes to spare. The Wallsend support sang out the scorer’s name as the restart commenced with the Red Devils holding on to secure a memorable victory.
Wallsend coach Mick Gatt had very few but highly appreciative words for his team.
“They dug deep, wanted it from the whistle and that’s what it’s all about,” Gatt said.
“You saw the passion, the heart, the soul that they’re building on and it’s been coming for weeks and they finally got the result they deserved.
“We’re all one squad and you saw how close they all are.”
When asked about the final goal, Gatt showed admiration but reiterated the tribalistic aspect of the Red Devils.
“Sheldon is a class player. Ninety per cent of it’s [luck], the other 10 per cent of it is class,” Gatt said.
“But no, they deserve the win and it’s for them, that’s what I do it for, it’s for the Reds, so they deserve every minute of it.
“Time to celebrate.”
It was a much more reserved feeling in the away sheds. With West Wallsend narrowly losing to Cessnock midweek 3-2, it was imperative they took a win from this game. But to everyone’s surprise, the Bluebells could not finish no matter how many chances were created and ended the game on the losing side again.
West Wallsend coach Darren Sills said his side needed to be much more clinical in the final third if they want to stay in this season’s incredibly tight final’s race.
“The pitch didn’t lend itself to playing quality football, so we had to change and we probably didn’t execute as good as we did,” Sills said.
“We probably should have went direct more often and I said to the guys at half-time we scored the goal from being more direct and trying to play tik-tak football on that pitch is not the go.
“As far as the football side of things go, we created that many chances it wasn’t funny and we just didn’t put them away.
“It’s the same as the Cessnock game. We’re creating chances, not putting them away and losing twice in a week to Cessnock and Wallsend and with all due respect we should have beaten them. But we haven’t and now we’re making it hard for ourselves.
“We just need to regroup and train hard this week and prepare for next week.”
Thornton Redbacks 1-0 South Cardiff FC
Thornton Redbacks were lucky to escape a tight contest on the winning end as they downed South Cardiff 1-0 thanks to another set piece goal on Saturday.
With end-to-end action ensuing throughout the entire game, neither side could hold the ball well in the midfield, leading to the crazy and at times scrappy display.
Thornton’s danger man on set pieces Pat Wand was the player that split the sides at Thornton Park. From about 35 metres out, Wand played an impeccable ball into the feet of fullback James Tassell. He half-volleyed the ball straight past goalkeeper Izaac Terry to give Thornton the lead and only goal of the game.
The ball movement only got more direct as the game progressed. A late injection of the most youthful and seasoned players at the Redback’s disposal, being young debutant Coby Jenkinson and Hayden Watson and the experienced Steven Cummings, aided Redback’s potential breakaways but constant off-sides kept the home side to a single goal.
The most likely opportunity for South Cardiff came in the last minute of the game but with no one able to follow through the dangerous ball in, Thornton walked into the sheds relieved of a win.
“It was competitive,” Thornton co-coach Scott Winslade said.
“Both sides left everything out there but we deserved to win. We were aggressive when we needed to be, we moved the ball quickly and for the first 20 minutes, we were much the better side.
“We missed some really good chances in the first half, where it has cost us in previous games. We hit the post and Trent [Partridge] missed a header. But the defence was just massive today. They didn’t leave anything on the field and it was good.”
Thornton were once again left short in numbers. With only 17 players available the club forfeited the reserve grade match, turning their focus to the first grade match.
“We were fortunate enough to get a decent starting 11 and I said to the boys, yes, there are 17 players out but it’s 11 against 11,” Winslade said.
“[Considering] all the players we had out, the front four were a decent front four, so we said let’s not play with the ball in the back half of the field, let’s play with the ball up top, try and move the ball quickly, get the boys up top on the ball and hopefully we can produce something from there.
“We had some big performances. Oli [Mather] in goals was huge and when Steve Cummings came on, he’s like 37, 38 and won everything. Coby Jenkinson came on, trying to get behind the backline and Hayden Watson. All these young kids that haven’t really had an opportunity in first grade and hopefully that’s something that they can build on.”
South Cardiff coach Scott Taylor was blunt at full-time and already focusing on next week.
“[It was a] scrappy game,” Taylor said.
“Scrappy first half, scrappy second half. [Thornton] probably won more second balls than we did and it was about who takes their chances, simple. They took one and that’s what it came down to. That’s football.
“We created a couple of [chances] that flashed across the box and so did they. At the end of the day, it was the usual free-kick goal and that was it. We were hoping we could do the same thing but it was not to be.
“[Corey] Fletcher and Riley [Holohan] did well and Tommy Walker tried to kick it into gear for us but apart from that, not much to report on that one.”
Cessnock City Hornets 0-1 Belmont Swansea United
Belmont Swansea United avoided a forgettable draw, doing just enough to edge out Cessnock City Hornets and securing a top two spot with two games remaining on Saturday.
Belswans picked up the only action of the game through golden boot contender Kane Woolston within the first 15 minutes.
There were few notable events throughout the game apart from goalkeeper Darren Gledhill, called up from the club’s All Age team, keeping a clean sheet on his debut for Belswans.
While Cessnock played an outstanding game against one of the top Northern League One sides the overarching question from the weekend was about Belswan’s consistency as they enter the last two rounds.
The rotation of players at Belswans week in and week out has been unnoticeable throughout most of the season, mainly due to the immense overall depth in quality of the Belswans senior squad.
This has mainly been down to the strength of their reserve grade side, which secured the premiership with a 3-1 win over Cessnock.
But it is a factor Belswans coach Mick Stafford has been and will continue to work on.
“To be honest, today wasn’t our greatest footballing performance but credit to the players,” Stafford said.
“They dug in, got in the grind and did enough to get three points against a very tough and good Cessnock side.
“We controlled the first 20 minutes of the game and got a goal through Kane Woolston. From then on Cessnock, for their part, played a lot better football than us.
“We found it hard to adapt to the pitch and changing personnel but they know how to manage games. We did enough to win the game and create enough chances that we should have put away but we didn’t again.”
Belswans have enjoyed one of their most successful and memorable stints as a club to date, thanks to the hard work of the players, volunteers and coaching staff over the last seven years.
“I’m super proud of the club as a whole,” Stafford said.
“We set goals at the start of the year to be in the top two. We are still fighting for first place in first grade at this stage which is good. A lot of hard work has gone into the position we’re in at the moment and it’s great for the club moving forward.
“Just look forward to the next few rounds where we can work on our football. I can settle down a bit, stop having heart attacks which I’m looking forward to and enjoy what we’ve earned as a squad this year.”
Besides the Belswans victory, Cessnock can be proud of the effort they put in as a club to hold the side with arguably the best striker in the league to one goal.
“I thought our effort was really good,” Cessnock coach Brad Miles said.
“Unlucky not to at least take a point from it. The goal was an error at the back on our part that caused the goal, which was disappointing but our effort overall was really good.
“We had a couple of chances that we didn’t take, which has been a bit of a thorn in our side over the last few weeks but we played a very good side. It was a very good game to watch, quite physical and I think we deserved a point.
“There are lots of positives. We seem to be finishing the season off really well. I’m really proud of them and hopefully, with the two games left, we finish on a good note and we’ll be looking to next year.”