Semi Final 1
Kahibah FC 0 def. by Valentine FC 1
2.30pm, Saturday 15th August
The first semi-final match of the 2015 NEWFM 1st Division season was played between Kahibah and Valentine on Saturday afternoon at Kahibah Oval, with both sides coming in off strong season runs to try and take early goals in the two-leg battle.
Kahibah played exactly how they had all season, defensively strong and technically sound, controlling the match with their long periods of possession and forcing Valentine to play off the ball for most of the 90 minutes.
Although they were able to lock Valentine out for sections of the game, Kahibah weren’t able to capitalise on their possession with ease, pushing towards Valentine’s goals but unable to break down their defence and the away side’s strong keeper between the posts.
Alan Hackett’s side were eager to take a lead, but with Kahibah’s lock on the match, their strong attack was unable to get the leg up that they so desperately needed.
The levee broke for Valentine in the final ten minutes, and although Kahibah’s defence had been strong all game, Chris Brown was able to find the back of the net for the travelling team and give them that massively valuable away goal that they needed, as well as the single goal win over the home team.
Andre Gumprecht was impressed with his side’s domination in the 90 minutes, stating that it “was a great feeling, and gives the whole team confidence for the second fixture of the finals.”
“To see our side give the reigning champions a run for their money is always something that gives you a great boost as a coach with the team, and to see the efforts of the season come together is a great feeling.”
“It’s always a team effort with our side, and that’s how we’ve gotten to where we are now, in the spotlight showcasing our talents, and I think we put in another eleven man shift that meant there was only one goal in it by the final whistle.”
“Even the goal gives us confidence for the reverse leg – if we’d been getting dominated all match and leaking goals it could have been a massive worry, but with only one goal, and one lucky goal at that, being the difference then I think we have a chance to upset the odds and put the champions down a peg come the final whistle next weekend.”
“All we need to do is convert our technical domination into completion at the other end of the pitch and we’ll be a force to be reckoned with. There’s a chance that we take the win next weekend and if we can silence Valentine again then our first season could be topped with a grand final showing that will make the whole club proud.”
Valentine’s coach Hackett was pleased that the side could break down Kahibah’s tight technical football and get the much needed goal in the late game.
“The opposition didn’t let us play; they were compact and did very well to stop us completely, and we had a lot of chances but semi-finals football is a completely different beast,” Hackett stated.
“We’re only one-nil up with another hard 90 minutes to go, and we’re going back to Cahill Oval where we are strong, but we have to turn up next Saturday or we’ll get stung by a very strong Kahibah side.”
“The first 20 minutes or so of the match gave us a few chances, but maybe with the finals or with the pressure of being the new champions meant that we had a bad day at the office in front of goals at the start, and Kahibah were able to completely lock us down after that.”
“Kahibah’s coach will be happy that they only let the one goal in, and now will be looking for that single away goal for their own team next weekend. They’re a brilliant side that has made the competition that much stronger and it’s great to see.”
“We’ve going to switch on and we want to take the double to take that momentum in the National Premier Leagues next year, and we want to prove that we’re a club that deserves that top spot in the new league that we’ll be competing in.”
With only a single completed chance separating the two sides, and Kahibah looking to lock down Valentine once more at Cahill Oval next weekend, there still is no clear favourite from the match that could go through to the Grand Final.
While Valentine is tipped as the frontrunners due to their table-topping form, Kahibah have proven that they are not to be underestimated at any stage over the next 90 minutes, and with key changes being made on both sides the battle at Cahill Oval could be another 90 minutes of amazing football that will determine the winner of the first semi-final, and the first name on the Grand Final ticket come closing weekend.
Semi Final 2
Wallsend FC 1 def. by Lake Macquarie City FC 3
2.30pm, Sunday 16th August
The second semi-final of the weekend kicked off on Sunday afternoon, with Wallsend welcoming Lake Macquarie City in the first of their two battles for the grand final.
The game started off very physical, with Wallsend trying to muscle Lake Macquarie off the ball so that they could keep the Walker brothers silenced in front of goals.
It was clear that the physicality of the match was taking its toll on both sides as the match dragged on, with play becoming slightly sluggish and Wallsend looked to take an advantage with the staggered play and set pieces.
Their pushing paid off as they took the lead, with Daniel Rufo putting the ball into the back of the net off a corner kick that broke down Lake Macquarie’s defence, and Wallsend settled back into a defensive structure as they looked for another set piece opening.
With the home side in the lead, Lake Macquarie upped their tempo, pushing back against Wallsend’s strong approach, and Tom Walker broke the deadlock, putting the away side back on equal footing with Lake Macquarie’s first clear cut chance finding the back of the net.
The first half closed out with both teams caught in the battle at a goal a-piece, and the sides clearly took some advice from their coaches in the dressing rooms as they prepared for the second half of the game.
The second clear cut chance came for Lake Macquarie in the form of a penalty call, with Sam Walker stepping up to the box and putting the ball into the back of the net, giving City their second away goal and the lead.
Although Wallsend were able to take more corners and more chances, Lakes had adapted to their set piece attacks and were able to ward the chances away, keeping their tenuous one goal lead.
Trouble struck Lakes with an injury to fullback Chris Walker that meant he had to be taken from the field by ambulance, with an injury that would later be revealed to be a broken wrist – the younger Walker brother would be disappointed that he would be missing the second semi-final match.
Sam Walker proved why he is a lethal threat in front of goals as he finished a brilliant movement from Lake Macquarie with a chip over the Wallsend keeper, putting Lake Macquarie’s lead to two goals and giving them some more confidence in their attack.
A shot from Tom Walker glanced off the post to deny Lake Macquarie a three goal lead, and then a call from the referee denied Lake Macquarie a penalty shout, but gave Wallsend breathing room – if the lead spread to three goals it would be almost impossible to come back from that difference.
There was nothing Wallsend could do about the lead that the Walker brothers had gained for Lakes however, and the game closed out in favour of the travelling City side by two goals, and Josh Rufo’s side began to prepare for the second fixture away from home.
Rufo was pleased with how Wallsend played in the match, regardless of the loss.
“I think that we played really good football and it was just falling asleep for 30 seconds in the first half that kept Lake Macquarie back in the game with Tom Walker’s goal,” he said.
“It wasn’t ideal to concede the away goals, but I think the score could have just as easily been three a piece, and I think that the result was really flattering for the opponent.”
“We almost went over double figures in the corner and had lots of opportunities and we just couldn’t finish them.”
“Regardless of what happened in the match, we’ve had a great season, and even if the next match sees us miss out on the grand final – which would be a massive disappointment – we’ve had a great year and built a great base for our next season in the 1st Division.”
Lake Macquarie’s Barry Ross was happy that the small tweaks he made before the match to face Wallsend’s physical game paid off in the 90 minutes, stating that the team “played very well with the tactics”.
“It was the most physical game we’ve played all year, and certainly the roughest. We decided we’d go more direct and not rotate and keep the ball, and that meant that we had to drop the good football we normally play and just attack.”
“The physical battle meant we lost our left fullback, Chris [Walker], and Brad Tate came off with a cracked knee-cap after the substitution, which is shame because both have been strong players in our defensive structure.”
“I’m not going to say we have one leg in the grand final, because anything can happen and with the injuries we’ll be changed a little bit at the back, but we can’t go negative at home next weekend and defend the lead, we have to keep attacking and make sure that we lock it up.”
With three away goals in their back pocket, Lake Macquarie are now looking the favourites to go through the grand final after the match at home next weekend, with Sam and Tom Walker both looking to further their striking numbers with more goals to lock up the competition.
Regardless of the score-line going into the second match however, Wallsend are not to be underestimated. With nothing to lose in their battle and everything to prove, it’s a match that Wallsend could overturn if they can silence the Walker brothers.
The match at Macquarie Field will be the defining factor for Wallsend’s first season in the NEWFM 1st Division, but Lake Macquarie need it to pass the season off as a great success – a second place finish and a grand final appearance are the level that Lake Macquarie are at and they need to prove it.
Macquarie Field will be host to an unmissable semi-final battle next weekend as both teams fire on all cylinders in great form and playing strong, lethal football.