New Lambton 2-0 Cooks Hill United
A Josh Cox penalty save late in the second half has helped inspire New Lambton to a 2-0 win over Cooks Hill United and a place in the NEWFM Northern League One grand final.
Premiers New Lambton hosted last season’s premiers Cooks Hill at Arthur Edden Oval in the preliminary final on Saturday, with the winner to advance to the grand final against Singleton.
The Eagles started brightly and took the lead midway through the first half when Riley Taylor flicked home a Jack Wetney freekick.
New Lambton held onto their 1-0 lead despite both sides having chances in the wet conditions in what was an open, entertaining match.
Cooks Hill pushed for an equaliser in the second half and looked as though they would be rewarded for their effort when they were awarded a penalty with 20 minutes to play.
But Cox stood up for New Lambton, making a save to preserve the Eagles’ slender advantage.
The visitors kept pressing only for New Lambton to seal the result in injury time as they hit Cooks Hill on the counter attack, with Wetney tucking the ball home after good work from Taylor to spark wild celebrations at the Eagles’ nest.
New Lambton coach Tom Davies was delighted with the mentality shown by his side which had bounced back from a 4-0 defeat to Singleton in the major semi-final.
“The boys put in a good effort in terms of dealing with finals football much better,” Davies said.
“It’s a good step for the club overall. A big positive after a poor result the week before. The boys reacted well. They showed they were up to it and able to match their intensity and what you need to do to win finals football.
“From a neutral perspective I think it would have been exciting. It was quite stretched at times and end to end. The weather made it a bit slippery and the ball skidded through.
“Both teams had good opportunities and moments through the game. We maybe had the better ones but we took our chances in those moments which we’ve talked about all year, when the key moments happen take the opportunity.
“It was a good finals game and I’m happy to get on to next week.”
Davies was full of praise for his side, in particular Cox whose penalty save helped turn the momentum of the game.
“It was really good for him, bouncing back after last week with a clean sheet and standing up for us in a big moment,” Davies said.
“He made a couple of good saves in the second half as well when Cooks Hill were pushing hard.
“I thought everyone left everything out there. Luke Jovcevski was also back for us who missed the Singleton game with concussion. Having him back in the side for his leadership he gives us a focal point as well, he’s always one player that gets us going in the right direction and leads the group.
New Lambton also lost Jackson O’Sullivan inside the opening 10 minutes to a head clash, with O’Sullivan taken to hospital to treat the injury which required stitches. But Davies said O’Sullivan was not in doubt for Saturday’s grand final at Magic Park after O’Sullivan was cleared of concussion.
New Lambton will now turn their attention to the decider with added motivation following their humbling defeat to Singleton a week ago.
“We spoke about it as a group. We were lucky that we were in a position to have a second chance,” Davies said.
“It was a poor performance overall. We didn’t really turn up on the day [in the major semi-final against Singleton]. We spoke about how we needed to play in finals football, doing the little things right, playing to our key principles.
“We had a really strong response in the end to make sure we were fired up for [the preliminary final against Cooks Hill].
“It was a good reaction but we need to carry the same mentality into the grand final.”