Match of the Round
Lake Macquarie City FC 2 drew. Kahibah FC 2
2.30pm, Sunday 9th August
The final Match of the Round for the NewFM 1st Division 2015 season was to be played at Macquarie Field, with Lake Macquarie City playing against Kahibah as both teams look towards the finals.
Lake Macquarie came out strongly, with their eyes turned towards all three points and the security of staying above Wallsend on the ladder. A single point would also see them through in second place however, and their focus changed to defence hand-in-hand with attack.
It was Sam Walker, the leading goal scorer of the season, that opened the accounts for Lake Macquarie in the game and put them in the lead, and their focus switched to a closer game as they played for a safe win over the technically gifted Kahibah side.
The score-line remained the same as the game went into the break, and the second half looked set to keep Kahibah from finding the back of the net.
That changed quickly, as Jarrod Penfold proved that Lakes’ defence wasn’t as steadfast as they were hoping, equalising the score away from home and giving Kahibah hope that they could take the win from City.
The hope grew with another goal from Penfold to put him on a brace, and Lake Macquarie began to look pressured as they switched back onto the front foot, with Wallsend breathing down their necks on the ladder for second place.
Sean Matthews changed the score line again with an answering goal, bringing the score back to two goals apiece for the teams, and for their efforts both squads were given one point at the end of the match – giving both Kahibah and Lake Macquarie solid finishes in their positions.
Lake Macquarie’s Barry Ross was happy that his side was able to put in a good performance as their eyes now turn to the finals, and their preliminary clash with Valentine in the major semi-finals.
“We don’t have anything specific that I think we need to work on,” Ross stated.
“The team overall has been very good, and the performance that we put in at home today was fine. I can’t see any major flaws and now it’s just a matter of going out there and getting the results that we need to remain in the running for the champion’s title.”
“I was disappointed that Kahibah were able to score as well, because I feel like their goals came off fortunate bounces and the really dry and bumpy pitch didn’t help us with our defensive qualities.”
After twenty games in the league, Lake Macquarie has fallen short of the top spot and a return to the National Premier League, but for now both Kahibah and Lake Macquarie must focus on their finals matches.
Kahibah plays against Valentine in the semi-finals play off, with the first match at Kahibah Oval crucial for the fourth placed side, while Lake Macquarie now look to take their attacking force and defensive qualities to bear against the top team in the competition to book a trip straight to the grand final of the league.
Belmont Swansea United SC 1 def. Thornton Redbacks FC 0
2.30pm, Saturday 8th August
The only Saturday match of the final weekend saw the match played between Belmont Swansea United and the Thornton Redbacks at Blacksmiths Oval as Paul Matthew’s side looked to come within a single point of the finals.
Thornton’s goalkeeper shone early on as Belmont Swansea went onto the offensive at Blacksmiths Oval, looking for a goal that could let them sit back on their laurels, but the Redback’s keeper between the sticks wasn’t going to let goals in without a fight.
It took almost forty-five minutes before the BelSwans were able to break down the defence of the away side, with a header glancing in from Shearer to put them in the lead just before half time, giving United the lead in a crucial turning point of the game.
The Redbacks looked like they could fight their way back into the match in the second half, but Belmont Swansea’s defence was too strong to budge, especially with the home field advantage aiding the side.
With the tenuous one goal lead, Belmont Swansea took the win and claimed all three points, keeping their head high in the end of the season, but Paul Matthews was disappointed that they couldn’t make it into the playoffs.
“Of course it’s difficult to know that we could have made it in to the finals with some of the performances we slipped up in having cost us the season,” he stated.
“Overall however I think that it’s a good sign for the league that things have changed up for the better. It might not be great for the club’s final place this season, but with eleven teams now staying close by each other on the ladder and all team’s competing it is great for the whole league.”
“The last few years it’s been us coming in third behind two massive leaders and us just running the ladder. Now it’s a battle and I think that’s a great thing for the Northern NSW leagues – even if it means that we have to put in 110% now.”
With thirty-one points Belmont Swansea ended sixth, two points behind Kahibah in fourth place – although Matthews was disappointed without the finals, after the BelSwans’ rocky start to the campaign a sixth place will be great for a squad that was missing key players for many of their league games.
The Redbacks completed their twenty games with twenty points, claiming those points off six wins and two losses, with twelve defeats leaving them in their eighth place finish.
Darrel Mcallister’s side has had a strong number of games this year, with highlights including taking down both Valentine and Wallsend in their fixtures, taking six points away from finals teams, but they will now be looking for an improvement next season with a higher table finish.
West Wallsend SFC 0 def. by Singleton SC 2
2.30pm, Sunday 9th August
West Wallsend welcomed Singleton to Johnston Park for the final time this season on Sunday afternoon as West Wallsend desperately battled for a spot on the ladder that wouldn’t see them with the wooden spoon for the year.
With their defence their main sticking point in the season so far, Wests were looking to keep a clean sheet as they battled against the travelling Strikers, but it wasn’t to be for Gary Rowe’s outfit, as Singleton took the lead early on with a strike that left West Wallsend shaking their heads.
Although they were able to implement damage control fairly quickly, their inability to find the back of the net in response meant that Singleton were able to control the pace of the game, and the away side found the back of the net again before the ninety minutes were up.
With the loss comes the wooden spoon for West Wallsend, and a season that they’ll be eager to forget quickly. Now that they have finished with their twenty games West Wallsend will be looking to improve on what they failed to do this season – keep out goals.
Having conceded sixty-three goals all season, the leaky backline has been the reason that the Johnston Park-based team struggled to break away from the bottom of the table in the final few weeks of the season.
Singleton will also be disappointed with the season, but for different reasons – a single point outside the finals is where the team has finished in 2015.
Although the push towards the finals in the last rounds of the season was a great effort from the side, it was difficult for them with Kahibah steadily taking points from undefeated streaks and they were left shaking their heads as the season finished for them this weekend.
Their focus must now turn towards building on their fifth place finish in 2016, perhaps with an appearance in the season’s finals when the league returns in March.
Toronto Awaba FC 1 def. by Wallsend FC 2
Lyall Peacock Field
2.30pm, Sunday 9th August
Lyall Peacock Field hosted the last match of the season for Toronto Awaba and Wallsend, with the home side looking to keep above the wooden spoon spot.
With Wallsend already secured in the finals, the match’s focus was the Redbacks fighting to keep above the last place position, a spot that sat only a single point away from them in ninth place.
A disaster start from the home team came two minutes in as Kev Orr smashed a header home to take the lead for the travelling side, taking Wallsend into the lead and giving them the three points if the game continued the same way for the next eighty-eight minutes.
The Stags couldn’t score as the first half dragged on, but they were able to keep Wallsend from capitalising on the lightning fast finished shot that put them in the lead and the score didn’t change for over half an hour.
The home team managed to claim a goal just before the half time, switching the pace of the game for the second half as both teams returned to the field level for the first time in almost the entire match.
A few chances came for Wallsend as they pushed back against the Stags to try and take the lead again, but the second half looked set to be goalless for both sides and a point apiece.
With less than ten minutes to go, Wallsend changed the tables on the defending home side however, building up towards the Stags’ goal mouth before finding the boot of Brendan Nichols, who managed to turn the build-up play into the winning goal in the match.
The great strike collected Wallsend all three points and left Toronto Awaba hoping that Cessnock City and West Wallsend were left defeated in their matches so that the Stags could avoid the wooden spoon.
Although it was more than likely the Stags were going to hold above last place, they spent many of the weeks of the season locked in eleventh place, so to finish above there after a few key wins in the second round of fixtures will be a great improvement over the first ten matches of the year.
Coach Josh Rufo’s focus is now on the finals where they will be playing against Lake Macquarie City, and Rufo knows that form will be a key factor in the knock out matches.
“The win means that we’ll be coming into the finals with a recent win under our belt, and now it’s going to be a matter of making sure that we don’t slip up. A mistake in the knock out matches could cost us everything. There’s no margin for errors.”
The last match of the Stags season was strong, but next season will be a key factor for them – they have to improve on the ninth place finish and take more points to their name as they look to continue improving the status of the club in the NewFM 1st Division.
Cessnock City FC 2 def. by Valentine FC 3
Turner Park 1
2.30pm, Sunday 9th August
The final league match of the 2015 season was played between Cessnock City and Valentine, as the new champions of the NewFM 1st Division look to take a win in their run in to the finals.
Cessnock City meanwhile were trying to keep themselves off the bottom of the table, but with West Wallsend falling to a defeat against the Singleton Strikers the only thing that could have dropped them into the wooden spoon spot was a massive twelve goal overrun that would have dropped their goal differential below West Wallsend’s.
With the lead given to them by a strike from Wade Atwell in the 28th minute, Cessnock looked like they were going to avoid the loss all together, with Attwell’s strike putting them into the lead over the reigning champions.
It wasn’t until just before half time that Valentine answered in kind, with Mark Finlayson giving Valentine the equalising goal before both teams headed into the sheds to recuperate and replan their strategies for the second half.
Stephen Thomson’s comments to the home side worked, because they came back out strong even after conceding only minutes before the break, and it only took them twenty-two minutes to find an opening to allow Jayden Gunther to put them in the lead again.
With Cessnock controlling the lead and Valentine struggling to find the back of the net, it looked like the recent champions were going to fall to a late defeat in the closing match of the regular league, but Damien Lobb had a different plan in mind, equalising the score once again with less than ten minutes to go.
A draw seemed imminent, but Valentine still couldn’t be counted out of the race, and they proved why they finished eight points clear on top of the table, with a dramatic late goal from Brett Adcock giving them the lead in injury time and handing them all three points away from home.
With the champions place all locked up for Valentine and promotion assured, the side now turns their eyes to the finals that they will be battling through in the coming weeks.
While Cessnock City are now finished for the season, Valentine will play against Kahibah away from home for the first of the semi-final fixtures, before heading to Cahill Oval in the second of the two decider matches.
Those finals are just over the horizon, and the whole of the NewFM 1st Division turn their eyes to the two-part semi-finals that could determine the eventual champion of the competition in 2015.
Cooks Hill United FC