BY ISAAC MCINTYRE
Match of the Round
Thornton Redbacks FC 2 drew. Cessnock City FC 2
6.30pm, Saturday 30th May
The Match of the Round saw the Thornton Redbacks come up against Cessnock City at Thornton Park, where both teams looked to climb out of the lower half of the table and begin their climb to the finals.
The first chance came less than 16 seconds into the match, with the Redbacks pushing forward with a one-on-one chance that forced Cessnock’s keeper to rely on his fast reflexes to push the shot away and keep the side from losing confidence by dropping behind too quickly.
Although the Redbacks remained on the offensive, their efforts couldn’t come as close as the first attack and City held them out well, as Thornton’s counter attacks were either caught on the fly or stopped by off-sides called by the linesman.
The second half started with more action, as Cessnock quickly hit the Redbacks with a sharp attack that saw Wade Atwell smash the goal home and put City in the lead at Thornton Park.
Thornton equalised less than ten minutes later however, as a corner saw Jock Thompson chip the ball into the back of the net and set both teams onto the same level once again.
The game changed with a mixed tackle in Thornton’s box that resulted in both Atwell and Nathan Mcallister sent off, dropping both teams down to ten men and giving Cessnock a penalty in the box, which William Stevenson put away to give City the lead.
The game seemed to tick on with the Redbacks struggling to find their way back into the match, but the one goal that they needed seemed out of reach as they continued to attack the travelling team.
Extra time crawled on however, and another corner gave another chance for the Redbacks. A long cross in scrabbled inside the box for a few moments before it was cleared to the midfield, landing at the feet of Jason Walton.
Taking only a single touch, Walton cracked the ball, sending it into the top right corner of the net from 30 yards out and putting the Redbacks back on equal footing just as the whistle blew for full time – they had claimed one point.
“The team did so well,” Darrel Mcallister stated after the victory. “The last few matches we’ve been in it from start to finish, to the extent that we could have even won the matches if we’d pushed a little harder.”
“We just need some luck to come our way with chances and the officiating, so there’s been a few occasions where that’s been the tipping point between a draw and a win. This has been the first season I’ve coached where it’s been so close, and if we have the luck this could become a great season in the second round of fixtures.”
“The equaliser in extra time kind of showed that the football gods probably decided that we didn’t deserve to loss, so I’m elated that we got a point out of the match. Jason [Walton]’s shot was absolutely cracking, and I think that it’s going to be the goal of the season – 30 yards out and perfectly placed, it was a top, top goal.”
Cessnock’s Stephen Thomson on the other hand was disappointed that they lost their lead to the late goal, even if it had been a wonder-shot.
“The team was really gutted about the final result, we had the football and we looked good, but losing Wade Atwell at the same time as them losing Mcallister’s son made it difficult for us, we both had ten players but Atwell is a great goalscorer so we lost that.”
“It feels like we lost the three points because we couldn’t take enough of our chances, we looked good when we had the ball but off the ball we struggled a lot and that made it pretty hard.”
“All the teams are on equal footing in the season so it means that the lapses that we’ve had have cost us, and we need to right that before we can start taking dominant wins. They’ll come; we just have to perform in all aspects of the game.”
The draw leaves both Thornton and Cessnock below Toronto Awaba on the table with eight points, and Cessnock in last place on goal difference.
Cessnock City now look to right the wrongs of this week with a win over Singleton next weekend away from home, with three more points being vital to Thomson’s side if they are to keep confidence in their performances.
The Redbacks meanwhile face Lake Macquarie mid-week before taking on Valentine on the weekend, and Thornton’s week will be challenge after challenge – if they can take six points from the two games then they may change the whole table for every team involved.
Valentine FC 1 def. Cooks Hill United FC 0
3.30pm, Saturday 30th May;
The first game of the weekend kicked off with Valentine playing against Cooks Hill United, with the travelling side looking to deliver Valentine their first defeat of the season at Cahill Oval.
Both sides were not eager to back down as the first half played out, with Cooks Hill’s dominance on the wings ;2matched by Valentine’s strengths in the centre of the field, but both side’s defences created a wall against attacks and neither side could crack the opposition and score the vital first goal.
Valentine were further forward in the attack however, with chances beginning to come for the home side as the first half dragged on, with most chances coming from Scott McGinley’s marauding runs into Cooks Hill’s box, but nothing could come of the attempts before the half time whistle blew.
The second half started much the same, but the game changed when one of McGinley’s attacks into the box saw him brought down, with the referee pointing to the spot before McGinley had even made it to his feet.
The deadly striker calmly slotted the chance away, putting Cooks Hill’s keeper the wrong way and putting the home team in control with their tenuous lead.
United’s attack ramped up as they saw the three points slipping away from them, but their chances failed to push Valentine’s defence enough to give them clear-cut chances, and the home side were able to make their single goal count towards the win as the second half played out similarly to the first – low chances and tight play.
Valentine’s Alan Hackett was pleased with the win after he noted that Cooks Hill had given his side a real run for their money in the game.
“They’re good on the break and if we hadn’t really put in effort to nullify their attack then we could have got hit badly, because it was a very close game,” Hackett stated.
“Cooks Hill have been well coached and they’ve played some very good football, and it was just the penalty for us that clinched the win at the end of the day, after both sides were really close.”
“We need to be more clinical now, other teams are locking down and we need to find a way to get past the better sides and make sure that we can finish our chances.”
Hackett believes that newcomers Cooks Hill can take the second round of fixtures by storm now that they have settled into the league, and tips them as a side to watch as the season goes on.
“They’re a top side, they’re going to be one of the better teams at the end of the competition and I’d keep my eye on them. If we hadn’t turned up when we needed to I think we would have lost to [Warren] Spink’s side and that could have hurt our chance for promotion.”
The win puts Valentine five points clear at the top of the table, but both Wallsend and Kahibah sit below them with a game in hand, so the leading team will need to continue their undefeated streak if they are to remain in control of the season.
Cooks Hill remain in fifth place after the loss, only two points below fourth placed Lake Macquarie, but the fourth placed side has three games on the boys in black and white, and once the delayed fixtures have been played Cooks Hill could risk being eleven points away from the finals that they have been pushing for.
Next weekend sees Cooks Hill welcome Wallsend to the Newcastle Athletics Field, where three points could help United remain on track for their objectives.
Valentine meanwhile will take on the Redbacks away from home, with both teams needing three points to keep on track with their recent weeks. Thornton have been putting in strong performances and collecting points, and will be the next team eager to deliver Valentine their first loss. Thornton Park will play host to a clash that could decide positions on the tables for weeks to come.
Kahibah FC 2 drew. Belmont Swansea United SC 2
2.30pm, Sunday 31st May
The first game on Sunday afternoon saw Kahibah Oval playing host to the Belmont Swansea side travelling to try and stop Kahibah’s run of form – undefeated since the first round of the competition.
The game began tense, but Belmont Swansea were the first team to find the back of the net, with Shane Paul creating a chance for Jamie Hadlow to put the away side up by a goal.
Matt Lee was able to bring one back for Kahibah and level out the score again, but it was only a matter of time before the Belswans would find the back of the net again, with their attacks pushing Kahibah’s possession back into the home side’s final third.
The second goal came for Belmont Swansea from Luke Shearer, but once again Kahibah were not going to go down easily and give up their undefeated streak.
Max Eschner managed to equal the score off of a penalty in the box, putting it away in the opposite end to the keeper and securing a single point, and the longevity of the undefeated run, for his side.
Belmont Swansea’s Paul Matthews was disappointed that the team lost the lead twice to finish with a draw, but was happy with his team’s performance overall.
“We were pretty solid and it was a great effort all round,” Matthews commented.
“Shane Paul stood out on his return; he played three-quarters of the match and showed that we’d definitely been missing him.”
“It was a shame that we threw away the lead twice, that is always a disappointment, but there’s not a whole lot we can do against the penalty and we couldn’t finish our chances at the end. I thought that we did enough in the game to get the three points so it was a bit disappointing overall.”
The win gives Kahibah hope that they can continue their undefeated run and use the slow and steady collection of points could see them remain in the top four as the second round of fixtures looms over them.
Belmont Swansea have a congested series of games ahead of them now, and needs to turn the loss around to change the second half of the season into a good run of form and valuable points, especially with the Belswans taking on the Toronto Awaba Stags next weekend, a side that has recently found their shooting boots.
West Wallsend SFC 1 def. by Toronto Awaba FC 2
2.30pm, Sunday 31st May
The final match of the 13th round saw West Wallsend play against Toronto Awaba, with the Stags travelling to try and secure their third win of the season and move off the bottom of the table for the first time in the 2015 season.
West Wallsend had been in a good position as the first half of the season began to draw to a close, but the Stags were the dominant side as the game opened and Liam Watson opened up West Wallsend’s defence to give Toronto Awaba the much needed lead.
Another goal came for the Stags before half time, with Blake Redmond bagging another goal, and the Stags entered the half time team talks with a two goal margin putting a bounce in their step.
The second half played out similarly, with Toronto Awaba focusing on defence, and although Gary Wilson was able to score once for the home side it just wasn’t enough, and Gary Rowe’s team fell to a defeat once again.
Rowe himself was unhappy with the way his side had played, and focused on Wilson as a shining light in the performance.
“We couldn’t have been much worse I don’t think,” Rowe stated bluntly. “We were terrible.”
“It’s a continuation on from last week, and the stop-start nature of this season is finally catching up to us I think. We had a great run when we could play every weekend and train properly, but the constant changes of schedule and shifted games make it really hard for application.”
“Gary Wilson stood out in our attack, and we need to focus on what he brings if we are to secure a win again. We have to make sure that our games aren’t getting shifted, just getting out onto the park helps the team immensely and we have to stop drifting away from the games.”
Their third win has put coach Tony Jovcevski into good spirits, even as he has to take to the field himself to fill gaps in the squad from injuries and suspensions.
“It’s always great to string to wins together in a row, and the whole team effort, to fight through injuries, has been great,” he said.
“We’ve got players stepping up, and even I had to get into the fray with how many we’ve got out, but I think that it has helped to have me there more than it’s hindered. There’s only so much I can do from the sideline and some of the boys have told me that now I’m there to kind of direct traffic and show them exactly what they need to be doing, it’s all clicking for them.”
“The morale’s great, the click that we needed is happening and now we’re finding the back of the net with this confidence, so the brand new team that I started with at the beginning of the season is now coming together, and the wins are going to keep coming.”
“We’ve turned that corner in the season, the guidance and training is paying off and it’s making all the difference in the world. The boys are doing what they need to do now.”
The Stags now climb out of last place for the first time in the season, sitting in ninth after this round, and their battle against Belmont Swansea next weekend could see them leapfrog the combined fixture and finish as high as seventh if other fixtures go their way.
West Wallsend have slipped to two points outside the finals with this defeat, but Lake Macquarie failed to play due to weather this weekend and West Wallsend’s hopes for the finals spot that they had once thought secure now looks to be in trouble.
When Lake Macquarie and West Wallsend clash at Macquarie Field next weekend the travelling side will need to pick up all three points or risk being locked out of a finals spot in the second round of the competition – something Rowe’s side will be eager to avoid.
Wallsend FC v Lake Macquarie City FC
2.30pm, Sunday 31st May
Fixture postponed due to weather.