By Isaac McIntyre
Match of the Round
Wallsend FC 5 def. West Wallsend SFC 0
2.30pm, Sunday 14th June
In Match of the Round Wallsend took on West Wallsend at The Gardens in the derby clash that saw Wallsend continue to fight to defend their top place position on the ladder.
Wallsend’s form has been amazing in recent weeks, and their dominance showed through once again in the opening stages of the matches at The Gardens. Although the first half closed out without the ball finding the back of the net, the home side looked dangerous and they knew it was only a matter of time.
Five minutes into the second half the first goal came, with Marcus curling a long range free kick into the back of the net to get Wallsend off the blocks, and soon after Dave Hodgson made it 2-0 with a great build up play which he buried into the back of the net.
Two more goals came for Hodgson as he claimed his hat-trick for the match and put his stamp on the game which West Wallsend were quickly being forced out of.
Marcus came back for his brace with a final goal just near the end whistle that solidified Wallsend’s five star performance, and kept them firmly on top of the table for another week.
Wallsend’s Josh Rufo has been happy with his team’s performances in their recent match outings as well, and was quick to point out how well the team has been doing.
“Ten wins in a row,” Rufo stated. “That’s something that is really pleasing to hear, ten in a row.”
“I think it comes down to the fact that we’re starting to show an understanding of the shape and the structure that we put in place at the start of the season and even though we got off to a bit of a rocky start we’ve come good.”
“We also have a lot of good players that have served the club for a long time, and then some of the new recruits have stood out, with their knowledge of the game going a long way to changing the game in our favour.”
“There are still obviously a lot of games to go in the season but we’re confident that we can keep up this level of performance and if we can remain injury free and not have anything go against us then I think we can meet the expectations that the club put on us at the start of the season.”
“We’ve been competitive since the season kicked off and that’s what we want. We avoid the pitfalls that could trip us up and I could see us in for a shot at promotion at the end of the season.”
Wallsend take on Valentine on Thursday evening before the Westfield FFA Cup round, where a win is vital. If they lose to their title competitors they’ll slip outside first place once more and have to fight their way back in, but if they can take a victory in the catch-up game they’ll go four points clear – a position that might not be shaken come season end.
West Wallsend must now take a win after the Westfield FFA Cup round break as well, or risk falling even further into the bottom half of the table. With defeats piling up, Gary Rowe’s side must focus on cohesion and with the Westfield FFA Cup round coming right before their bye weekend it will be a chance for them to clear their heads for two weeks and come back stronger than ever.
Cooks Hill United FC 3 def. Thornton Redbacks FC 1
Newcastle Athletics Field
2.30pm, Saturday 13th June
The first game played in Round 15 saw Thornton Redbacks travel to Newcastle Athletics Field to play against Cooks Hill United, a team that is on the hunt for a top four position in the second half of the season.
Cooks Hill proved why they are in the running for a finals position with strong possession to start the game, and their classic attacks down the wings gave Bowen Bagnall his first goal for the club, something that he’ll be happy to celebrate.
United doubled their lead after a long period of possession off the boot of forward Peter Pryce, who had been looking lethal all game, and was happy to finally get his name onto the scorecard.
The Redbacks refused to go down without a fight however, and Grant Knight managed to bring the game back within one goal with a strike that sent the Cooks Hill players shaking their heads all the way back to the kick off.
Anthony Stead put the game away for the home team with a third goal in the second half to make sure that the boys in white and black collected all three points and remained steady in their efforts to reach a top four place before the last few games of the season.
“We made it harder for ourselves than we really had to, I think,” Head Coach Warren Spink commented on his side’s performance.
“We played alright, and of course I’m quite happy with the win in the end. We needed the three points to stay in the hunt for top four so that is incredibly important.”
“All our boys were on top of their game, and Bagnall’s first goal for us was great, as well as our midfield doing their job perfectly.”
“We’re going to carry this win into arguably our most important game of the season on Thursday – the match against Kahibah. If we can beat them in that match then we stand a chance to replace them in the finals, which is exactly where we wanted to be at this point in our first season.”
The match against Kahibah is played after the Westfield FFA Cup break, and both sides have everything to play for as they battle it out for a chance at the finals in their inaugural seasons, while the Redbacks face off against Singleton with both teams looking to make it out of the bottom of the table battle.
Valentine FC 5 def. Singleton SC 2
2.30pm, Saturday 13th June
The second Saturday game saw title-competitors Valentine return home to Cahill Oval to play against Singleton Strikers, with the travelling team needing three points to begin a climb up the ladder and away from the last placed positions.
Singleton couldn’t catch a break in the opening plays of the game, with Valentine scoring two rapid fire goals, and the game looked set to continue under those conditions for the near future, until Singleton came back on a counter.
The Strikers put a goal past Valentine to halve the goal difference, and soon another goal meant that the teams were level, with Valentine on the back foot after the quick attacks that left them dragging their feet.
Changes at half time from boss Alan Hackett saw Valentine come out renewed however, and brothers Paul and Scott McGinley managed to give the home side the lead once more, with Corey Atkinson scoring his brace to finalise the score at 5-2.
Hackett pointed out that the performances from Brad Attcock and new Under 23s player Mark Finlayson may have handed them the game.
“I need to make a special mention of Mark Finlayson, he’s come up from the Under 23s and in the game he got the Player’s Player award and the coach’s award and he was just everywhere on the field when we needed him.”
“Brad Attcock had another great game too, and it’s great to see players excelling when given the chance.”
“We were under the pump for a while there so it was good to be able to make some changes and get those extra goals for the win. If we’d slipped up here it would have made returning to first place a lot harder, but now we’re in with a chance.”
“If we can take the top spot from Wallsend again this Thursday than that’d give us the confidence to go and play in the FFA Cup round as well, and make sure that we’re excelling at both of the competitions.”
Hackett’s side have a busy schedule, playing against top-rivals Wallsend, then challenging in the Westfield FFA Cup Qualification Weekend, before Toronto Awaba the weekend after, with those six points vital for their promotion campaign.
Singleton play against Thornton Redbacks away from home however, and will need all three points if they are to gain anything from this season, and with their second round of fixtures beginning to be played out they need to make sure that they can leave their mark on this season’s standings.
Belmont Swansea SC 3 def. by Lake Macquarie City FC 4
2.30pm, Sunday 14th June
Blacksmiths Oval played host to a seven-goal stunner between home side Belmont Swansea United and the travelling Lake Macquarie City, with both sides’ spectators looking on with wonder.
Lake Macquarie got the game off to a start with the scoring, with Sam Walker living up to his deadly striking ability, and another goal came for Brad Tait off a set-piece goal to give Lake Macquarie a buffer in the match.
Luke Shearer opened the Belswans’ account just before half time, leaving only a single goal between them as the talks went on in the sheds, and the teams returned to the field with determination in their eyes.
Shane Paul was the next player to break away from the pack, equalising for home side and making sure that Belmont Swansea were on equal footing once more.
Sam Walker was quick to return the lead to the travelling Lakes however, and for a while City were the dominant side one again, defending everything that Belswans could throw at them.
Joel Shearer brought the game close once more with another stunning goal, joining his brother on the scorecard, and Lake Macquarie had to break away from their defence to attack again, still hunting for the three points that they needed to keep in the title race.
A late injury-time goal from Brad York made sure that the travelling side went home with the three points under their belt however, and Belmont Swansea remained disappointed for another week.
Belswans coach, Paul Matthews, was disappointed in the amount of games that the side had had to play in the last few weeks, stating that it was taking a toll on his players.
“We played some good football but we just ran out of legs, which is what happens when you play five games in 14 days,” Matthews stated.
“It’s a bit disappointing to be losing games, making crucial mistakes and picking up injuries that kind of threw the game away for us. It’s incredibly hard on the boys having to play so much and player welfare completely goes out the window at this rate.”
“We need time to recover now, every player has an injury or a niggle or is just plain exhausted, so we barely even have time to train because of all the games, but now we’ve survived the onslaught and we’re just going to make sure over the next week we look at all the problems that we’ve picked up.”
“We need every win that we can get now that we’re out of that rough patch, and we just need some consistency in the last games if we want to challenge for top four again last like year. If we don’t get anymore patches of games then we’ll be right, we can recuperate and go again.”
Lake Macquarie’s Barry Ross was happy to win over a strong Belmont Swansea side away from home, and praised the other team for their determination and skill.
“I’m happy that we got the win in a physically hard game against a great Belmont Swansea team, we shaped up to their physicality and made sure that we came away with the win.”
“It was a good game that showed the team’s performance as outstanding, we haven’t been as great in the last few games we’ve played but the Belswans are one of the better teams in the competition and so we expected a lot from them to start with, and they delivered.”
“Their defence is great, if a little desperate once the Walker brothers got close to them, but they did well.”
“Sam Walker is also averaging two goals a game now, which is great for him and great for us because it means we can rely on that threat when it comes to scoring goals and taking the lead.”
Now Lake Macquarie go to play against Kahibah in a wash-out match on Thursday evening, before facing off against Cessnock City after the Westfield FFA Cup break this weekend.
Belmont Swansea meanwhile will play against top-placed Wallsend away from home, where they have a chance to stop the team’s burst of wins and take three points for themselves, which could put them in a great position for challenging for a finals spot.
Cessnock City FC 1 drew. Kahibah FC 1
Turner Park 1
2.30pm, Sunday 14th June
The final match of the NEWFM 1st Division saw Cessnock City welcome Kahibah to Turner Park in a close match with both teams playing for the three points.
Although Cessnock were in control for much of the first half of the game, with a goal from Sam Garaty putting them in the lead, a sending off in injury time for a double yellow card meant that the second half would be played with ten men, and Cessnock positioned themselves to hold their tenuous lead.
Kahibah were able to capitalise on the man-advantage however and put one into the back of the net off Cessnock’s keeper, and the goal was recorded as an own-goal.
Cessnock weren’t able to take the lead once more even with their control with ten men, and Kahibah couldn’t come close to another clear cut chance that could have seen them take the lead away from home, and the game delivered both teams a single point.
Cessnock’s Stephen Thomson was disappointed that they fell to ten men again, having played the last few men through suspensions.
“We squandered a lot of opportunities when we had eleven men on the field and then it cost us to lose someone in the first half.”
“If we hadn’t made a lot of those difficult mistakes then I think we could have taken the win, because we definitely deserved it overall.”
“We’re always taking wins and draws against teams that we lost to in the first round of fixtures, so that’s a positive that we’re taking away from all of this, and if we can keep a full squad on the field for 90 minutes then I think we can start collecting three points.”
“Matthew Zechel stepped up from the Under 23s and showed us that he deserved a spot at the top, as well as Sam Garaty starting when he was using a sub player, and he proved that he should be on the team sheet every week as well.”
“When we went down to ten men veteran player Wade Atwell stood up and made his presence known, which is exactly what we needed or the game could have gotten a little ugly.”
“We’ve actually only conceded seven goals in the first round of fixtures so we need to keep that up and couple it with some more goals for our side, and that could mean that we’re winning a lot more games than we did in the first half.”
“We pick up points in these reverse fixtures that we dropped in the first round and we’re happy, and that’s a positive we can focus on in the season.”
While the Westfield FFA Cup gives both teams a break for a weekend, Cessnock returns to play Lake Macquarie the weekend after, while Kahibah clash with top-four rival Cooks Hill United in a game that could determine who sits in the finals spot come the end of Round 16.
Toronto Awaba FC