Match of the Round
Kahibah FC 3 def. Toronto Awaba FC 0
2.30pm, Sunday 26th July
The Match of the Round in Round 20 saw Toronto Awaba travel to Kahibah Oval to take on Kahibah as both teams look to continue their streak of strong performances in the last games of the year.
Kahibah opened the game with a strong attack, holding Toronto Awaba away from the ball as Andre Gumprecht’s tactical football continued to shine through as a key part of their strategy.
Max Eschner was the end of the build-up play, as Kahibah took the lead against the Stags and Eschner seemed eager to put another into the back of the net, but Toronto Awaba were able to hold steady and keep the first half score down to the single goal.
The second half saw Kahibah come out stronger in their attack however, and the Stags couldn’t stop their plays as Jarrod Penfold took another goal for the home team midway through the second half.
The Stags looked like they could fight their way back into the match as the second half dragged on, but Gumprecht’s side were sure to put the game into their back pocket as the last goal came from Matt Lee less than five minutes from the end of the match, taking the three points off the back of the three converted goals.
Gumprecht knew that the game was always going to be tough, but was happy that his side could come out on top of a Stags side that put up a strong challenge.
“It was surprisingly tough to come up against Toronto Awaba, considering they have nothing left to play for and still came out strong,” he stated.
“It was a really windy match as well, and paired with the difficult surface it made us hard to play the technical football that we normally rely on, but we did the best with what we were playing with.”
“Overall I think that we controlled the game with enough chances early to put the game to bed, but we just couldn’t convert them into goals and so that left the game very open until well into the second half.”
“Looking at it, it was a great result for us, as a team and as a squad, and with the clean sheet as well it’s a great step for us in the end of the season. We’re matching what we wanted to do to be successful and it’s great to see it all come together properly.”
The win puts Kahibah one point above Belmont Swansea, still holding in top four and battling for the finals. A game in hand gives Kahibah the lead in the race however, and may mean that they will be the final time in the playoff matches at the end of the season.
Toronto Awaba have had a mixed season overall, but will now be looking for more wins as the games draw to a close. Although the finals are out of reach, more games still remain for the players to show their talent to Tony Jovcevski, and the next match will be against the Singleton Strikers.
Kahibah plays against Wallsend next weekend away from home as they hunt for the final spot in the top four, and Wallsend may be their testing ground to prove if they are ready for the finals in their first season in the 1st Division.
Singleton SC 6 def. Lake Macquarie City FC 3
2.30pm, Saturday 25th July
The second big clash of the round came first up on Saturday afternoon, with Howe Park playing host to the battle between Singleton and Lake Macquarie City.
With Valentine fixed with the bye this weekend, Lake Macquarie needed a win to keep momentum going with match fitness and playing time in what could have been a tight run in to the top spot in the league.
The game looked set to go the way of the favourites, with the travelling team coming out firing on all cylinders and Sam Walker returning to form with a rapid-fire goal to put Lakes in the lead.
Things looked to be spiralling out of the Strikers’ hands as Walker put another ball into the back of the net moments later, extending City’s lead to two goals, but Singleton weren’t going to go down without a fight.
Three goals in three minutes saw Singleton take back the lead, with the home side taking control and shocking Lake Macquarie – their momentum gone, the travelling side flagged after the first eight minutes of the game, with the five goals slipping against them.
Another goal came for Singleton just before half time, with the Strikers leading 4-2 and Lake Macquarie struggling to get back into the game.
A penalty chance put Singleton even further ahead, taking them to a total of three goals in front, but Lake Macquarie were able to answer back with another goal from Sam Walker, but it didn’t seem like it would be enough for the trailing side.
A disastrous deflection into the back of the net put the game out of reach for Barry Ross’s side, and Lake Macquarie dropped further away from first place as Singleton claimed all three points.
Notably, Jackson Cox claimed a hat trick for the Strikers in the match, with Lloyd Wakewood, Kieran Delaney and Steve Bramley all putting their name on the scoresheet beside him for the home side.
Ross was disappointed that his side let it slip in the match, and knew that it could almost cost them the second place that they currently have.
“It was a very poor performance,” he stated. “We had four of our first team regulars out but we should really have been able to cope with that anyway and from the looks of things we couldn’t.”
“We need to win our next two games and if we can do that then we’re going to be able to get second place, but it looks like that’s where we’ll be finishing at the end of the season.”
The first of these crucial matches comes against the Thornton Redbacks, with the Redbacks threatening as the giant-killers of the season, and Lakes will need to take all three points if they want to still try for the top spot.
This loss has taken the chances that City had out of their hands however, and now need Valentine to slip up in the run-in to the last games of the season if there is any hope for Ross’s side to return to the Premier League after only a single year in the 1st Division.
Singleton continue to climb for a strong finish in the season, and now hold firm three points outside the finals. If they can take the form they’ve held in the last few weeks with them into the clash with Toronto Awaba next weekend, and see Kahibah or Belmont Swansea defeated, they could stand a chance of making it in as the fourth team for the finals.
Cooks Hill United FC 1 def. by Belmont Swansea United SC 2
Newcastle Athletics Field
2.30pm, Saturday 25th July
The second match from Saturday afternoon was played at the Newcastle Athletics Field, as Cooks Hill United looked to return to winning form against top four competitors Belmont Swansea United.
In recent weeks Cooks Hill have slipped in their performances, going from a challenger for the finals to fighting to stay in the middle of the table, while Belmont Swansea have climbed high enough to threaten Kahibah’s place as the fourth team in the end of season playoffs.
Although both sides were able to take a goal in the first half, with Shane Paul putting one away for the travelling side, it seemed like both United sides were equally matched when it came to the battle at the Newcastle Athletics Field.
It was the second half that defined the game for both sides however, with Belmont Swansea coming out on top in the scrap with another goal, this time from Josh Sutton, to give them a tenuous lead away from home.
The lead held however, and Belmont Swansea were able to claim the win over their rivals, putting them within a single point of the top four spot.
Paul Matthews commented that “it was a solid game but scrappy game.”
“With a few of our players missing from the first team it was a good result for us to get, they’re strong and so we’re happy that we got the win.”
Cooks Hill are now only six points off the bottom of the table, and nine points away from the finals, leaving them with no way of finishing last and no way of participating in the finals after the main games of the season end.
Warren Spink has been focusing on the training of his side now and will be looking to playing youths as well as his core team so that they can continue to develop for the next season – the focus for next season is important to Cooks Hill now, with their objectives changing to build on their debut season.
Next weekend Belmont Swansea come up against possibly their biggest game of the season – a home clash with Valentine in a bid for three points and the finals.
Cooks Hill will take their chances against West Wallsend at Johnston Park, where the home side will be desperate for a win to break away from the bottom of the table, while United will simply be looking for three more points to extend their final season finish – the chance to break more players into the first team will also be there for Spink, who will be taking the game like any other, as competitively as possible.
Wallsend FC 3 def. Cessnock City FC 2
2.30pm, Sunday 26th July
The mid-Sunday match was played between Wallsend and Cessnock City, with both teams needing three points desperately to keep on their path in the end of the season.
Wallsend were the first off the block in the match, with an early goal from Brendan Nichols putting them in the lead, and it looked like Cessnock City were unable to string together a series of attacks that could give them a chance.
Mistakes from Wallsend and a click from Cessnock changed all that however, putting two goals past the Wallsend keeper to give the away side the lead at the break.
Chris Gazzard proved once more that he was a key part of the Wallsend outfit all season long, equalising the match with a goal in the second half.
The change in the match came from an own goal off Cessnock’s defenders, giving Wallsend a late lead and the three points with the win, and sending City back home disappointed with the chance to hold the third-placed team to at least a draw.
Josh Rufo was pleased that his side managed to take the win at the end of the day, but was disappointed overall that his side lost their lead and had to fight their way back into the game.
“Our football was disappointing on the day, that’s plain and simple,” Rufo stated.
“We could have improved a lot, but the fact that we still managed to get the win is a great show of character for the side, and that’s important.”
“The win means that we’ve locked in a top four spot, which means in turn that we’ve achieved the objective that we set out at the beginning of the competition, so we’ve raised the profile of the team. That was important for us and now we’ve achieved it which is great.”
The win brings Wallsend eleven points outside the first place spot, with three games left to go, and now the side cannot gain promotion in the season. Regardless, second place is still left to play for between the team and Lake Macquarie City, and with a game in hand over Lakes Rufo’s side may still have a strong push left in them.
The match against Kahibah will be a defining clash as four points divide them and Wallsend will need the win to make sure that they don’t have a chance to slip all the way down to fourth place and miss out on a better finals fixture.
Cessnock City meanwhile will have a bye next weekend before they play their final match in a fortnight’s time, looking to stay away from the bottom of the table with a three point win in their last game of 2015.
Thornton Redbacks FC 4 def. West Wallsend SFC 0
2.30pm, Sunday 26th July
The final match of the round saw West Wallsend travelling to Thornton Park as they looked to break away from their rut, playing against the Thornton Redbacks and looking for all three points in the battle.
It looked like West Wallsend could turn around the problems that they’d had in recent weeks, but Thornton were not going to back down and allow the Wests side to take over at Thornton Park.
Jesse Smith was the first to find the back of the net, with Darrel Mcallister’s side showing that they still had a few goals left in them for the last matches in the season. Even though Smith had put one past the West Wallsend keeper, the travelling side looked lethal, pushing for an equaliser before the half time whistle blew.
The Redbacks led by a single goal as they entered the second half however, but Callen Baxter put another goal onto the scoresheet and from there West Wallsend seemed to slip out of the game.
Baxter scored again and Nathan Mcallister managed to extend the Redbacks’ lead to four goals and put the game away for good, with three goals in the second half keeping West Wallsend from fighting back into the game.
Mcallister was pleased with the win for the Redbacks, and focused on the defence that they managed to bring to the match.
“We controlled the game and I’m happy with the defensive effort that we put in as a team today,” he stated.
“We scored just after the break and that’s when we were too far ahead to win. It’s a shame we missed three or four easy chances because that was the only negative that I could really take away from the match.”
“In other games those missed chances might have cost us the three points, and it has cost us a few times in the year, but the defence put together with the chances meant that we were the best team in the park.”
The win puts the Thornton Redbacks on twenty points and five points clear in eighth place. While this may be a disappointing finish for the side overall, with a few results going against them early in the season the wins in the second round of fixtures steadied their ship and meant that they weren’t in danger of the last place position.
West Wallsend are still stuck in the wooden spoon spot on the ladder however, and are now desperate for a win. While Cessnock City are also on fourteen points, Wests needs to overtake them on the ladder or risk the bottom place on the coat-tails of their poor goal differential.
Next weekend sees them play against Cooks Hill United, while their wooden spoon competitors Cessnock City have their bye in the round, giving Wests a chance to make it over the line and into tenth place.
The Redbacks battle Lake Macquarie City next weekend, with City needing three points if they are to stay in the fight for the top spot, but with Thornton proving that they have been lethal giant-killers in the league it may be another chance for three points for Darrel Mcallister’s side.