Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United SC 0 def. Valentine FC 1
2.45pm, Sunday 2nd August
The last game of the weekend just happened to be the match that could have seen Valentine secure the promotion in the Premier League, and the Match of the Round was played at Blacksmiths Oval against Belmont Swansea United.
Both sides set out to prove their worth in the match, but it looked like Valentine were going to be able to break past the BelSwans’ defence with ease, the chance of making it into the Premier League with a weekend in hand spurring them on.
Although Scott McGinley looked like a looming threat in front of the home side’s goals, neither team could actually find the back of the net and the first half of the match closed out without a goal to either team’s name – it was going to come down to the second forty five minutes for Valentine to claim the title.
The second half dragged out similarly, with Belmont Swansea looking more secure on the ball, and Valentine began to worry that they may not claim the top spot in the league until the last weekend of the season.
With less than five minutes to go however, Valentine’s attack finally came to fruition, with Scott McGinley putting the ball into the back of Belmont Swansea’s net and putting them a goal in the lead – more than enough to claim the win in the last four minutes of the match.
With the win, Alan Hackett and his side claimed the title in the 1st Division and secured the top spot as they head into the finals. With only one more game to play in the season, the strong side will now look to face either Kahibah or Singleton.
The loss drops Belmont Swansea out of the running for the finals with only one more match left to play and four points needed to make the objective.
Although their late surge pushed them so close to their targets for the season, Paul Matthews and the United side will be disappointed that they couldn’t push their run a little further against Valentine and take the fourth place off Kahibah.
Valentine’s coach Hackett was pleased that they were able to take the win over a strong opponent in what proved to be a difficult game for both sides.
“It ended up being a very close game that could have gone either way for the sides but we were able to claim the win in the end,” he stated.
“We’ve made it to the top of the league and that’s exactly what we set out to do at the start of the season. Our objective was promotion and now we’ve achieved that.”
The last match day of the year sees Valentine play against Cessnock City as they prepare for the battle in the playoff finals, with Cessnock still fighting to keep away from the last place spot – it’s not going to be an easy win for Valentine at all.
Belmont Swansea meanwhile will be playing against the Thornton Redbacks as they look to bring themselves within a single point of the finals, the best result that they could get without making it into the playoffs themselves.
West Wallsend SFC 1 def. by Cooks Hill United FC 2
2.30pm, Sunday 2nd August
Johnston Park was the home of the first match of the weekend as Cooks Hill United and West Wallsend play off against each other in their second last games of the season.
With their spot on the bottom of the table totally undesirable, West Wallsend set out in the match looking for an early lead so that they could push for the three points and a spot away from the wooden spoon.
Wests looked set to achieve that objective of a decisive victory as they scored their first goal within half an hour of the match, but getting past Cooks Hill’s chink in their armour was going to prove a lot harder than Gary Rowe’s side first thought.
The first goal proved to be the only goal in the first half, with United’s defence closing down after the mistake, and kept the away side in the game for the second half of the match.
Ten minutes was all Cooks Hill needed in the second forty-five minutes for Peter Pryce to equalise the game, giving West Wallsend reason for concern as the battle continued at Johnston Park.
Pryce scored against with less than ten minutes to go to claim the win for the travelling team, disappointing West Wallsend and leaving them stuck on the bottom of the table with the loss.
Cooks Hill’s Warren Spink was especially pleased with Pryce’s lethal finishing when given the chance, singling him out for praise in the match.
“Peter [Pryce]’s second finish from outside the box was more than tidy and I’m really happy with the way that he’s developed and the way that he has played.”
“We were very average in the first half but when we went back in for half time we changed our plan and shape and so when we came back out again we were able to claim the win, which is exactly what we needed.”
The win puts Cooks Hill on twenty-three points after their final match of the season, with the bye next weekend meaning that they will be hoping that the teams below them can claim no points in their match – a seventh place finish in their first season is a great position for United to build on as they continue in the 1st Division next season.
West Wallsend will need a win desperately against Singleton next weekend, but that could prove easier said than done as the Strikers look to collect three points and fight for the finals in the last league match of the year – regardless, Rowe and his side will be fighting for their life to avoid the wooden spoon and take the win.
Kahibah FC 1 def. by Wallsend FC 2
2.30pm, Sunday 2nd August
With their top four spot in danger from Belmont Swansea and Singleton, Kahibah now take on Wallsend at Kahibah Oval as Wallsend look to battle their way into the second place on the ladder.
The match started slow, with Kahibah and Wallsend both knowing that they needed the win and knowing that this clash could be a preview of a finals battle to come in the next few weeks.
Kahibah’s trademark possession based football kept Wallsend from too many chances, but controlling the ball didn’t mean that they could find the back of the net and both sides couldn’t break down the opposition’s defence in the first half.
Wallsend were the first to break the deadlock, with their playmaker Marcus finding the back of the net twenty minutes into the second half to give Wallsend a boost of confidence.
Kevin Orr followed suit five minutes later, putting the lead up to two goals for the travelling team and giving them a good chance to take the win if they could keep up their defensive capabilities.
Kahibah looked like they may be able to fight their way back into the match with a goal from Max Eschner but it wasn’t enough, and Wallsend were able to shut down any chances Kahibah had at collecting another goal to equalise.
The loss came as a disappointment for Andre Gumprecht, who knew that the lack of finishing cost them the three points.
“We didn’t capitalise on the chances that we were able to create,” Gumprecht commented.
“The difference between Wallsend and us was that they showed their experience when it counted and with the two chances that they were able to create they scored two goals, that was the difference right there.”
Rufo meanwhile was happy with Wallsend’s improvement over recent weeks, pointing out the recent weeks.
“We took an upswing from our recent weeks and we dominated the game,” he stated.
“It was a really solid display all round for our team and will help us build momentum as we roll towards the finals and prepare for the knockout rounds.”
The win for Wallsend keeps them within two points of Lake Macquarie, and a chance at the second place finish on the ladder, but regardless of the finish both sides will be battling each other in the playoff finals in the second and third place positions.
Kahibah meanwhile still has the looming threat of Singleton behind them after the loss, with the Strikers three points behind them and gaining traction for their final match. It’ll be a must win match for Kahibah against Lake Macquarie City next weekend if they want to secure the finals finish.
Toronto Awaba FC 1 def. by Singleton SC 4
Lyall Peacock Field
2.30pm, Sunday 2nd August
Toronto Awaba played against the Singleton Strikers at Lyall Peacock Field in the second last match of Sunday afternoon as the Strikers pushed towards the finals.
Although the Stags were able to score a goal against the fifth placed side, the Strikers were the dominant side in the match, with four goals getting past Toronto Awaba and securing the win for the away team.
Jackson Cox was able to claim a brace for Scott Bailie’s side in the match to bring them over the top for the win.
Lloyd Wakewood and James Bates were both able to put the ball into the back of the net as well in a series of movements that showed Singleton’s skills on the pitch, and it was apparent that the Strikers would be fully deserving of the finals finish after four wins in five weeks.
The win for Singleton brings them within three points of Kahibah in fourth place, and with Kahibah playing against Lake Macquarie City next weekend there could be a chance that Bailie’s side makes it into the finals to play against Valentine in two weeks time.
The Stags meanwhile will battle against Wallsend next weekend as the away side looks to bring themselves into the second place spot over Lakes.
Toronto Awaba needs the win over Wallsend if they are to secure the distance between them and the wooden spoon in the last week of the season.
Lake Macquarie City FC 2 def. Thornton Redbacks FC 0
2.30pm, Sunday 2nd August
The final match of the weekend in the NewFM 1st Division saw Lake Macquarie City play against Thornton Redbacks at Macquarie Field as the away side tried to continue their streak of giant-killing in the league.
Thornton’s main focus at the beginning of the game was to shut down Sam Walker as the league’s leading goalscorer looked to extend his streak of clinical finishing in front of goals.
For the first half an hour they succeeded in their objective, keeping the game level at zero goals apiece, but Walker was unstoppable, putting a goal past the Redbacks on the thirty minute mark and giving City their lead.
The rest of the half saw a lack of goals, but it was sixteen minutes into the second half that Joey Cacic joined Walker on the scoresheet, putting Lakes’ lead to two and locking Thornton out of the game without their chances improving.
The win fell to Lake Macquarie at home and delivered them all three points, while the Redbacks travelled home with zero points.
Barry Ross’ side played well and he was quick to point out how well both Walker and Cacic played in front of goals.
“Sam [Walker] made sure that he got another goal and Joey [Cacic] joined him, to prove that they’re both great at scoring.”
“We played good football and we were able to dominate for most of the match. It was great to get the win in these late weeks,” he stated.
Darrel Mcallister was disappointed that his side couldn’t finish the chances that they created, looking at the Redback’s scoring record in the league.
“We created plenty of chances, but we just did not take them,” Mcallister stated.
“Lakes took two of their chances and with Sam Walker scoring more goals this year than our whole team it is a good summary of where we need to improve and we’re going to keep looking at that so we can get better and better.”
The win keeps Lake Macquarie two points above Wallsend on the ladder, while Thornton sit in eighth place and cannot slip any further down the ladder, with five points between them and ninth place.
A win next weekend against Belmont Swansea United could even put the Redbacks in seventh place, but for the most part the season is over, and Mcallister will now focus on developing the u23s and other youth in the last week as they battle for their last three points.
Lake Macquarie meanwhile will take on Kahibah in the match that both sides need to win to keep their position. If Kahibah loses they could miss their finals berth that they’ve held for a long time, while Lakes could slip into third place with a loss.
One thing is for sure with this match – it will be a crucial battle for two of the top teams in the league.
Cessnock City FC