PHOTO: Valentine Sports Photography
Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United FC 2 defeated Wallsend FC 1
Saturday, July 6, 2.30pm
Belmont Swansea coach Brad Paul was ecstatic with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Wallsend in the NEWFM First Division Match of the Round at Blacksmiths Oval on Saturday which secured second place on the ladder.
Both sides were understrength as they prepared for next week’s semi-finals and rested players with injuries or yellow card trouble.
It was Wallsend who started the stronger and they went ahead with a Jake Kepreotes goal that gave them a 1-0 half-time lead.
Belswans turned it around in the second half when skipper Joel Shearer equalised inside a minute of the restart with a long-range strike.
The hosts then went ahead midway through the second half when 16-year-old Joel Nicholson outpaced the defence and rounded the goalkeeper to score.
Paul was thrilled with the effort of Nicholson on a day Belswans celebrated finishing on 44 points, a point ahead of Kahibah, who they meet in the first leg of the semi-finals at Kahibah Oval on Saturday.
“He has been scoring goals for fun in the 19s and didn’t look out of place in the top grade today against a mature defence,” Paul said of Nicholson.
“He was one of a few under-19s we had backing up after resting four players on cards, and also young Huey Price pulled out during the warm-up.
“So it was a pretty mixed up lineup, but, as usual, the boys got the job done and we finish second.”
It was remarkable finish given Paul, the club secretary, and former coach, and assistant Mick Stafford had to step into the breach in pre-season when new coach Graham Jones resigned.
Paul praised the character of his side, who will have former Wallsend coach Josh Rufo at the helm next year.
“What an outstanding effort by the lads, especially when we were written off by all and sundry at the start of the year,” he said.
“Bring on Kahibah in the semis. We can’t wait.”
Before the match, Wallsend were guaranteed to stay fourth and play Lake Macquarie in the semi-finals. They finished the regular season on 37 points, which was a great result given they lost six points for mistakenly fielding a suspended player twice and had coach Josh Rufo and players, including Daniel Rufo and Cameron Hughes, leave mid-season.
Goalkeeper Luke Jennings, Luke Cook, Heath Kepreotes and Paul Wheeler were among those rested on Saturday.
They are set to return when the Red Devils host the Roosters at The Gardens on Sunday in the first leg of the semi-finals.
Singleton Strikers FC 2 drew with Cooks Hill United FC 2
Saturday, July 6, 2.30pm
Singleton and Cooks Hill capped roller-coaster seasons with a 2-2 draw at Howe Park on Saturday to finish sixth and eighth respectively.
The Strikers led via a Jackson Cox finish from a tight angle in the seventh minute but Cooks Hill made the most of the errors at the back to lead 2-1 at half-time.
After pressure from Tom Sparre forced a failed clearance from a poor back-pass in the 21st minute, Jared Neale won the ball and delivered a volleyed strike from more than 30 metres out that beat goalkeeper Stuart Plant overhead.
Sparre was the instigator for Cooks Hill’s second chance as well, pouncing a loose pass at the back before rounding Plant to score.
Singleton had a chance to draw level just before half-time when Cox stepped up to the penalty spot after a foul on Dan Palozzi. However, Cox’s shot was saved and Nathan Hall missed off the rebound.
Hall, though, gained redemption in the 54th minute when he scored at a goalmouth scramble for the equaliser.
The result left Singleton, who were last after nine rounds, in sixth place with 23 points, while Cooks Hill finished eighth on 20.
The Strikers struggled early in the season after the loss of key players, including imports Alex Clarke and Dylan Schauder to Adamstown, but climbed the ladder with the help of overseas talent Kieron Burrell and Sam Ford.
Coach David Willoughby was disappointed with the two costly back-passes against Cooks Hill and said the game finished with “end to end stuff but with no real opportunities on goal”.
Overall, Willoughby was pleased with his first year at the Strikers.
“It was a good season,” he said.
“From where we were to where we finished in sixth, and into the final round of the FFA Cup in Northern NSW, we’ve done quite well.”
Cooks Hill had their own dramas in 2016 with the departure of first-year coach Blake Glennie with four rounds remaining and the mid-season departures of key players.
Veteran player Mal Hinchliffe, who missed Saturday’s game after injuring his ankle in the warm-up, took on the coaching role after Glennie left. He believed his side had the better of the contest against Singleton.
“That was the story of our season again,” Hinchliffe said.
“We had more chances than the opposition, even though they missed a penalty.
“Tom Sparre had three clear one-on-ones he failed to convert, unfortunately.
“We were without some older guys who have left or are out, but the younger boys stepped up.
“Asher Beasley and Bailey Graham – a young 17-year-old guy at the back, they did really well.
“We definitely didn’t deserve to lose, but we’ll take the point.
“Bring on next season.”
Hinchliffe, who does not want the coaching job next season, said: “it’s been a good finish to the season”.
“When I came in with four games to go, I didn’t want to lose more than two, and we had a win and a draw,” he said.
“The two losses came against Lakes [3-1], and we might have scrambled to a point there, and the game against Thornton [3-0] we could have won as well, but that’s the way our season’s been.
“But onwards and upwards.”
Kahibah FC 4 defeated Toronto Awaba FC 1
Sunday, July 7, 2.30pm
Jarrod Penfold scored twice as Kahibah came from behind to beat a 10-man Toronto Awaba 4-1 on Sunday at Kahibah Oval in a big finish to their regular season.
Kahibah, who finished third with 43 points and will host Belswans on Saturday in the first week of the semi-finals, trailed when Tim Salter scored for the Stags in the third minute.
Jayden Demir put the hosts on level terms when he finished off a Josh Spencer cross for 1-1 at half-time.
Penfold then gave Kahibah the upper hand when he scored on the hour and a few minutes later for 3-1.
An own goal from Corey Brown and second yellow card for Liam Watson spoiled the day late for Toronto Awaba, who were assured of finishing second last after a difficult season but performed well in their final game.
Kahibah rested Ash Illfield, Colvin Williams, Sean Clerke and player-coach Andre Gumprecht in readiness for the semi-finals on an Old Boys’ day where the club raised $6000 for the Breast Cancer Foundation.
“We had a huge crowd and we had something like 150 people singing the song at the end,” assistant coach Matt Moncrieff said.
“It was a great day.”
He added that young defender Bailey Chaplain did well in his second top-grade game, while Riley Ferguson in midfield was his side’s best.
Lake Macquarie FC 5 defeated South Cardiff FC 1
Sunday, July 7, 2.30pm
Lake Macquarie capped celebrations of a clean sweep of minor premierships when they defeated South Cardiff 5-1 on Old Boys’ day at Macquarie Field on Sunday.
The Roosters had already secured top spot in first grade and under 23s and made sure of the under 19s and 17s titles with 2-0 and 5-0 victories respectively over the Gunners.
In the top grade, Lake Macquarie led 3-0 at half-time after a driving left-foot strike from Steve Rospigliosi, a tap-in from Sam Walker off a rebound and a scooped shot from Tom Walker.
In the second half, Mat Grey scored at close range off a corner for 4-0 before South Cardiff were awarded a penalty for a contentious handball. Teenager Josh Iannazzo was given the chance to convert from the spot and he did for his first goal in the top grade.
The Roosters were then given their own penalty chance and Anthony Carter slotted it away for his first goal of the season.
Roosters coach Anthony Richards said it was a memorable finish to the regular season for the club, who hopes to earn a place in next year’s PS4 National Premier League.
“It was a big day,” Richards said.
“The younger teams did really well and for all four grades to win minor premierships, I guess it puts the club in the shop window for when Northern go shopping for teams in the NPL.
“We’re hoping they see and give us a run.”
South Cardiff coach Andrew Packer said his club focused on Sunday on their under 23s side, who needed a result to make the semi-finals. They won 4-3 to finish third but the movement of players hurt the first team.
“We didn’t really look like scoring too much,” Packer said of the Gunners’ top team.
“We needed the 23s to win and a few from the first team put their hand up to play, and they then backed up for first grade.
“Three of four of them did that, which is great for the club, but it obviously sacrificed our first-team performance, and Lakes could have had a couple more goals by the end.”
Packer took over the coaching role at South Cardiff this year after the club lost most of their senior squad following demotion from the PS4 NPL.
The Gunners had the best defensive record of the bottom six sides with 37 goals conceded but they scored only 25 – equal worst in the league – to finish ninth on 19 points.
Despite the record, Packer said “there’s plenty of positives to come out of it for the club” this year.
“We finished better than we started,” he said.
“It was always going to be hard for us after the players we lost.
“There are three or four teams in the comp who have been together for so long and you can see it with teams like Lake Macquarie and Wallsend, that they’ve been together for a few years. They are really fluid and are comfortable with each other.
“You always want to finish better but the turning point for us was the loss to Thornton and the first half there. If we’d won there we could have finished higher and a bit more positive.
“I think the guys have performed to the best they could get out of themselves. The game on the weekend was tough but I think the only other game where we really deserved to get beaten was the Thornton game.
“It wasn’t too bad.”
Thornton Redbacks FC v Cessnock City FC
Sunday, July 7, 2.30pm
West Wallsend SFC – Bye