PHOTO: Valentine Sports Photography
Match of the Round
Kahibah FC 0 defeated by Belmont Swansea United FC 1 (Belmont Swansea win 2-1 on aggregate)
Saturday, August 20
A scrambled goal to Jamie Hadlow and disciplined defensive effort gave Belmont Swansea a 1-0 win over Kahibah at Blacksmiths Oval on Saturday and a place in the NEWFM First Division Grand Final.
After a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the semi-final at Kahibah Oval, Belswans were focused on defending their away-goal advantage at home.
In a scoreless first half, Joel Shearer had a headed goal denied for Belswans and Kahibah striker Sean Clerke failed to convert his side’s best chance just before the break.
Belmont Swansea finally broke through off a corner about 75 minutes in when Kahibah repelled four attacks before the ball fell to Hadlow at the far post and he found the back of the net with his left-foot shot.
Kahibah’s hopes slumped further when Skii Webster, who had been pushed out of defence into midfield, was sent off in the 84th minute for a second yellow card.
Belswans kept the advantage to progress to the grand final and compete for a first major premiership since their state league win in 1986.
Coach Brad Paul said his side “played pretty well” and were rewarded for a solid defensive display.
“It was similar to the last game we played them,” Paul said.
“I was fairly confident and after half-time, they didn’t offer a lot up front I didn’t think.
“I don’t think [Belmont Swansea keeper] Nick Popel had to make a save second half and defensively we were good again.
“We kept a nice tight line all day at the back and it keeps amazing me the discipline those boys have because a few of them are still quite young.”
Paul said Popel was excellent in the first half, midfielders Tim Shultz and Joel Shearer were also strong and Josh Sutton was a standout in attack.
“Josh Sutton had a return to form and started running at players again, which was good to see,” Paul said.
“We swapped him over to the right-hand side and he caused a few headaches for them.”
Paul said he and assistant coach Mick Stafford “couldn’t be prouder” of the players and their efforts this year and Grand Final day at Jack McLaughlan Oval on Sunday was going to be massive for the club, which also qualified their under 19s side.
Kahibah player-coach Andre Gumprecht, who returned from injury to play in the second leg, said Belswans’ defence was too strong in difficult conditions.
Kahibah finished below Belswans on the ladder in third but they had a win and two draws over them heading this year into the decisive match.
“They were obviously very organised in defence and basically capitalised on the defensive strength they had,” Gumprecht said.
“They made it very difficult for us to explore space. That’s how they got on top of us.”
Gumprecht said his side struggled in the second half after missing opportunities in the first to force the hosts out of their defensive strategy.
“First half we had two or three chances, and one big one,” he said.
“If we score that, it changes things because they have to open up a bit. But they didn’t have to because 0-0 was enough for them to go through.
“The game was in their favour and it was hard for us. It was windy, it was a hard surface to play on football-wise so it went against us, with us trying to play football and find space.
“We needed to be quality on the ball to gain an advantage and we weren’t.”
Gumprecht said illness to wingers Matt Lee and Cordell Webb hurt Kahibah’s preparation for the game.
Webb was ruled out on match day. Skipper Lee played on and Gumprecht praised his effort after “a very bad week with sickness”.
The coach said his players were disappointed to miss out on the grand final but he was happy with the progress the team, who were fourth and losing semi-finalists on debut last year, and the club had made on and off the pitch this season.
“It was a very good year,” Gumprecht said.
“We wanted to improve and we certainly did that. We got more points than last year and more wins. We were more dominant.”
Under 23s: South Cardiff defeated Cooks Hill United FC 4-0 (South Cardiff win 6-0 on aggregate)
Under 19s: Kahibah FC defeated by Belmont Swansea United FC 3-2 (Belmont Swansea win 5-2 on aggregate)
Under 17s: Wallsend FC defeated 5-0 West Wallsend SFC (West Wallsend win 8-0 on aggregate)
Wallsend FC 1 defeated Lake Macquarie City FC 0 (Wallsend win 2-1 on aggregate)
Sunday, August 21
Wallsend player-coach Dave Hodgson scored the winner but said it was his side’s defence that put them into consecutive Grand Finals with a 1-0 victory and 2-1 aggregate triumph over Lake Macquarie on Sunday at Macquarie Field.
Hodgson, who had a penalty saved late in the first half, scored about five minutes into the second half for the Red Devils from a goalmouth scramble from a corner.
Minor premiers Lake Macquarie, who scored 80 goals in the regular season, then provided little threat to Wallsend, who finished with 10 men because of a second yellow card to Cameron Tapp for foul tackles in the 84th minute.
Wallsend defeated Lake Macquarie 7-4 in the semi-finals last year, including a 6-1 rout in the second leg, before beating Valentine in the Grand Final.
This year it was their work without the ball that won the day against the Roosters.
“It was a pretty even game and they certainly had the better of the first 20, 30 minutes,” Hodgson said.
“We fought our way back into it and then we came out second half and scored early. They pressured us and then we had a man sent off in the end, which put a bit more pressure on us.
“But I can’t think of any saves our keeper made. He may have had one or two in the whole game.
“Heath Kepreotes was great and Mitch Cook was really good at the back.
“They were two standouts for us. It was a really good defensive display from them, but it was pretty well the same right across the park.
“I thought we were solid. We weren’t great going forward. We probably had four or five good chances but not a lot. We just defended really well.”
The winning goal was a relief for Hodgson, who was denied by Shannon Szmynec from the spot just before half-time after Trent Milton was fouled on the edge of the 18-yard box.
Hodgson was disappointed for Tapp, who will now miss the grand final because of suspension, but said his side had a plan to outmuscle Lake Macquarie.
“I told the boys to be physical,” he said.
“While they have some good players, they are not a physical side.
“I told them, let’s go out and dominate them. We wanted to intimidate them, and we did.”
Lake Macquarie coach Anthony Richards offered no excuses for his side, saying they were simply not good enough and were unable to create clear-cut chances.
“It probably wasn’t the greatest exhibition of football you would see, but they took the chance they had and we didn’t take ours,” Richards said.
“My boys tried hard and I was really pleased with how they went. They continued to play at the end but it just wasn’t their day.
“They’ve got guys who’ve played a decent level of football and they are smart enough to wind the clock down and have people in the right places.
“Full credit to them, they made it difficult.”
Richards praised Szmynec, who had a nasty gash on his forehead stitched up at the hospital after the game. He was injured in a collision just before making the penalty save and Richards said he “showed a massive amount of courage”.
The coach said midfielder Joey Cacic, who travelled from work in the Northern Territory to play, was another standout for his side.
Under 23s: Belmont Swansea United FC defeated by Lake Macquarie City FC 3-0 (Lake Macquarie win 4-1 on aggregate)
Under 19s: West Wallsend SFC defeated Lake Macquarie City FC 3-2 (West Wallsend win 5-2 on aggregate)
Under 17s: Kahibah FC drew with Lake Macquarie City FC 0-0 (Lake Macquarie win 2-0 on aggregate)