HIT106.9 Northern League One Round 13 Review: Hextell goal seals crucial win for Rams

June 27th, 2022

 Jacob Briers

Singleton Strikers 0-1 Kahibah FC

The finals race has further tightened after Kahibah’s narrow 1-0 win over Singleton at Civic Park on Sunday.

The victory sees the Rams leapfrog Singleton into sixth place, with a finals spot only out of reach via goal difference.

Centre back Lewis Hextell opened the scoring for Kahibah in the eighth minute, scoring a well-placed, venomous header past sun-struck goalkeeper Corey Cleaver.

The contest was a fiery affair with emotions bound to rise considering the importance of the match.

The game involved many fouls but surprisingly none in dangerous areas as the sides kept their defensive composure in and around the penalty area.

Singleton hit a groove towards the end of the game, with many chances to steal a draw. But the closest they came was Ethan Garrington’s first-time rocket that whistled over the crossbar from 25 yards out.

Singleton started the match with an uncharacteristic change of formation, straying from their traditional 4-3-3 that won them the Northern League One championship two years ago. While Singleton’s attacking tactics are similar, long-time club man Lachie Nicol now drops between the centre backs in defence, creating a back five.

“We changed the way we played today for the first time in two and a half years and I thought the boys did a really good job of it,” Singleton Strikers coach Mick Jarvis said.

“The change of formation was to stop leaking goals and after leaking four goals against Toronto, it was enough. We need to evolve our brand of football if we want to move forward.

“We were very difficult to break down through the middle and I don’t think Kahibah did a lot through that area against us. I’m proud of the boys and the way they played, being the first time they’ve changed shape. A win or draw would’ve given more belief in changing old habits but I’m hoping they’re happy with the football they played because I am.”

Kahibah’s win now places Mat Moncrieff’s side in real contention for a finals place as the Rams also secured their first clean sheet of the season. New goalkeeper signing Scott Carter shone in goals, nullifying many of Singleton’s attacks purely from his excellent vision and reading of the game.

“I’m really happy with the performance as well as the result,” Moncrieff said.

“We worked hard during the week on keeping a clean sheet and it was our first all year, so that’s the most pleasing aspect. Getting the win at Singleton [is also massive]. It’s a big three points and keeps us in the hunt.”

Moncrieff also made a tactical change from intel he heard along the grapevine. But the situation was not as bad as first thought.

“It was a comfortable 1-0 win and we were pretty good across the park. I don’t think we had a single bad player. We did play more direct than we would normally, mainly because everyone told me how bad the pitch was. But to be honest, I think [Singleton] has done a pretty good job with the situation they have out there. [Singleton] has done the best they can in a bad situation and I think the field isn’t as bad as everyone made it out to be,” Moncrieff said.

“I’m over the moon with the clean sheet. We have a big challenge next week against New Lambton and defensively we want to be as sound as we can. Up front we need to be more clinical, jag a few more goals and really put a stamp on this competition.”

Toronto Awaba FC 1-0 Belmont Swansea United

Toronto Awaba took another mammoth stride towards locking in a finals spot after a gritty 1-0 win over Belmont Swansea United on Saturday.

It was an even contest at Lyall Peacock Field with Belswans holding the upper hand in the first half as the visitors produced a few chances. But they could not convert thanks to a lack of composure in the final third and a couple of outstanding saves by Toronto goalkeeper Shayne Van As.

As Toronto warmed into the game playing some quality football a string of combinations caught Belswans out and forward Steven Kapotas gave Toronto the lead midway through the second half.

But Belswans’ bombarding attacks could not break a solid Toronto defence and the game ended 1-0.

The Stags have rebounded brilliantly after their 2-0 loss to West Wallsend. Toronto Awaba have now built on the emphatic 4-1 win over Singleton midweek with the 1-0 scrape over Belswans placing the Stags comfortably in third place with six games remaining.

Due to head coach Jarrad Hiles and assistant coach Grahame Jones being unable to attend the game, Toronto’s second assistant coach Darren Green was forced to lead proceedings alone. But it did not matter as the players’ grit and determination pushed the Stags over the line.

Green was modest in his reaction to the game, believing it was an even contest.

“It was a pretty even game. [Belswans] had a couple of good chances and Shayne Van As pulled off two good saves,” Green said.

“We probably only had one other really great chance to score but we had a lot of possession. It was one of those games where it was pretty even all day.

“When we got the ball we were able to keep it for longer periods than they did. The game could’ve gone either way and we were just good enough to get one on the break.”

Belswans coach Mick Stafford’s view on the game did not stray far from his counterparts. He labelled the difference coming down to the work rate of the two sides.

“We had enough chances in the first half to get something out of the game,” Stafford said.

“We didn’t take those chances and the effort and enthusiasm of Toronto ended up getting them the win with a well-taken chance.

“The game was very back and forth. The pitch made it hard to play any quality football but we still created some good goalscoring opportunities.

“You always have to take your chances in those key moments and today we didn’t. Whereas in other games in the past we did and that was the difference. But I’ll credit Toronto, they worked a lot harder in parts than us. We need to get back on the training ground, get that work rate back up, complete more passes and take our chances.”

Stafford and his men are staying positive despite the narrow defeat and slipping from the top of the table. Belswans’ strong start to the competition, which saw them take the lead to as high as nine points, has gifted them a nice buffer to the chasing pack.

“The difference was today that Toronto wanted it more than us. But with five games left, we’re in a great position,” Stafford said.

“A position that the eight teams below us would love to be in, so we have to take some pride in that and get back to work like we always do.”

Thornton Redbacks 0-2 West Wallsend SFC

West Wallsend capitalised upon a wounded Thornton on Saturday with the Bluebells’ 2-0 victory the product of a dictating display of football which further improves the Westy’s finals aspirations.

In a game that started reasonably even with each side testing the waters, a short flurry of attacks midway through the first half at Thornton Park paid off for West Wallsend. Josh Carroll pounced on a deflected shot and slotted away the opening goal.

The Bluebell’s persistently penetrated Thornton’s defence throughout the first half but could only muster a single goal.

West Wallsend shifted up a gear in the second half, with Matthew Paul rocketing the ball into the net after turning the Thornton defence inside-out.

Some enthralling combination play late in the game from Tyler Rankmore, Josh Carroll, Wade Ciappara, Matt Paul and Josh Maguire caught out the Redbacks on multiple occasions. Still, they could not convert, and the game ended 2-0.

The creative attacking play was no coincidence. It took a while but West Wallsend coach Darren Sill’s attacking brand of football is finally clicking with the side and has so over the last few games. The defence is also on a high. The Bluebells have three clean sheets in their previous four games.

“It was the best performance we’ve had all year,” West Wallsend coach Darren Sills said.

“We moved the ball around very well on a dry, hard pitch. It’s not what we are used to but we did well on it. And we’ve come off injury-free for the first time in a long time.

“I love attacking football, that’s the way I coach. We’ve got some really good attackers. But in recent times, we haven’t really had well-educated defenders. But by having Brock Oakley and in particular Benny Higgins, it’s been great, especially for guys like Josh Knight. It’s great for him to play with those guys. He will learn so much from them, more than you’ll learn from the coach.

“Josh had a really good game himself today as well. I’m very happy with the way it’s going. But as far as the attack goes, it was pretty good. We could’ve got a couple more, actually.

“My man of the match by far was Tyler Rankmore. I thought he was outstanding and he was everywhere today.”

Thornton also had several chances throughout the contest, mainly from set pieces. But their tall timber could not get behind the ball enough to put any venomous headers on target.

“[West Wallsend] were just the better side today,” Thornton co-coach Scott Winslade said.

“Their movement was much better. Their second ball pickup was good. Just across the park, they were better than us today. Sometimes when other teams do it, you have to hold your hands up and say it wasn’t our day today and fair play to them. [West Wallsend] performed on the day.”

Thornton are one of many teams affected by the tumultuous rain early in the season as they catch up with all the rescheduled fixtures. Six players from Saturday’s squad are unavailable for Wednesday night’s rescheduled round eight clash against New Lambton.

To add injury to insult, two of Thornton’s star performers this year were forced off against West Wallsend with defenders Zac Skippen (hip) and Sam Rossi (groin) substituted.

South Cardiff FC 1-6 New Lambton FC

South Cardiff were victims of an embarrassing second-half display of football, going down 6-1 at the hands of new table-toppers New Lambton on Sunday.

The Gunners opened the scoring through an unconventional defensive lapse from New Lambton. Not playing to the whistle, the Eagles allowed South Cardiff to steal a goal and take a crucial lead.

The lead was short-lived, though. Joel Caldwell managed to find himself on the end of a Jeremy Judge free kick and head the ball into the back of the net, leaving the game 1-1 at half-time.

A pinpoint Fletcher Davis free kick in the second half gave New Lambton the confidence and boost to tear apart South Cardiff’s defence.

Davis moved from fullback to wing and scored another two to complete his hat-trick. Chase Lattimore scored two in the second half to cap off another five-goal margin win, the Eagles’ second for the season. New Lambton also went top of the table for the first time this season, knocking off the long-standing Belswans on goal difference. The Eagles also have two games in hand.

“It’s positive to get the three points in the end. We gave away a weird goal first up but then we worked our way to get one back before half-time and really ran away with it in the second half,” New Lambton coach Tom Davies said.

“It was disappointing to concede early but the boys plugged away, reacted and scored our first one off Jeremy Judge’s free kick to Joel Caldwell, who scored with a header. In the second half, Fletch scored a free kick to take it to 2-1. Then Chase got two and Fletch got two more for a hat-trick.

“We had to keep playing. We knew the spaces would open up and we would run over the top of them. That was the plan. We kept to our processes for the majority of the game and eventually the game opened up and we were able to create more chances in the final third.

“We did a lot better in the second half as the midfield started to get on top. For the majority of the game the defence also played pretty well apart from the lapse to concede but it was mostly positive.

“We’ll focus on one game at a time. We’ll be making sure the boys’ performances are up to the standard we expect.

“We won’t look into finals much now as it’s a matter of us doing the principles that we’ve worked on in the last month well and really take them into Thornton midweek and Kahibah on Sunday.

“It’s a matter of us sticking close, working hard and ensuring that we’re ready to go.”

South Cardiff remain winless at Ulinga Oval, only managing one point from six games. And with five of their seven remaining games at home, the Gunners will need to change form swiftly while they are still an outside chance of a top five spot.

Cessnock City Hornets 1-0 Wallsend FC

Cessnock survived a gritty battle against Wallsend coming out 1-0 victors on Sunday to mould a healthy seven-point buffer between the two sides.

The game started passionately as the Hornets and Red Devils contested for ball possession and were equally eager to snag a goal.

A Zac Kronholm goal in the 30th minute settled the high tempo of the game and gave the home side a rare lead at Turner Park

Cessnock miraculously managed to hold out for the rest of the game, something they have been unable to do recently. The Hornets held out a persistent Wallsend who continued their final third woes, not being able to capitalise on many created opportunities.

Cessnock coach Brad Miles was over the moon after their victory. Miles was also optimistic about a fairy tale run home, similar to how the Hornets started the season.

“We were much better today. We started really good, were composed on the ball and played well as a team,” Miles said.

“To start it was a pretty fast tempo. There was a lot of long ball stuff, which we don’t like playing but I guess when you’re in Rome, do what the Romans do. Zac Kronholm got a runaway and slotted it home nicely. But it was just a grind. Everyone got behind the ball, defended hard and we came away with the win.”

“The boys are very upbeat and we’d love to go a run now into the finals. It’ll be fantastic. I hope that we can keep as composed as we were today. We had a couple of big standouts.

“Our captain Blake Roy had a real captain’s knock today and he was everywhere. Lewis Howells is someone else that had a really good game at centre back. And Zac Kronholm, he’s as wired as ever, quick and finishes most chances he gets.

“Winning form is good form and I expect much of the same going forward. I was very happy with them today and they put in a massive effort. We have to keep it up.”

It was a glass half-empty feeling in the Wallsend camp after the lamentable defeat on Sunday. Wallsend coach Mick Gatt labelled the side’s final third composure as the root of the problem for a once aspiring side.

“It’s the same old story for us every week. We get into good positions but cannot take advantage of what we build up to,” Gatt said.

“But we’ve got to take it as the game it was. [Cessnock] got one break away and they scored from it. It was just one of those days in the office again for us unfortunately.

“Our build-up play and control of games are positive. It’s just unfortunately our finishing that’s hurting us.

“When you’re at the bottom of the table and low on confidence, we’re not taking the opportunities we’re creating. It’s about getting back to basics and getting some points on the board.”

Related Topics:
Northern League One Round 13 Review

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