PHOTO: VALENTINE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Match of the Round
Cooks Hill United 1 (Lee Ashton) def. Belmont-Swansea United 0
Sunday 18th March, 2:30 pm
Newcastle Athletics Field
NEWFM Northern League One fans were treated to an exciting, tense first match of the season as Cooks Hill United ran out close victors in a Grand Final rematch.
After losing 4-0 in last year’s Grand Final, Belswans were out to get some vengeance and kick-start their season on the right track. But it was the home side who made the most of their early chances, as Lee Ashton, a scorer in that Grand Final, pounced onto a through ball in behind the opposition defence and tucked it into the back of the net to give his side an early lead and continue his tremendous 2017 goal-scoring form.
Playing in searing 38-degree heat, both sides struggled to get forward, with Belswans seemingly taking a defensive approach getting all their players behind the ball and the Cookers keeping the majority of possession making for a rather slow-paced game.
Young forward Cameron Lodge seemed destined to equalise for his team after making a fantastic run through a couple of defenders and despite being held back by the shirt, was able to get his shot away.
Unfortunately, though, Cooks Hill goalkeeper Jake Hamilton, made short work of it and the referee controversially decided to show a yellow card much to the away team’s dismay.
The second half featured a much more positive Belswans outfit as they looked to get forward more and create chances.
Lodge was able to block a kick from Hamilton that resulted in a free kick just outside the box and if it was just a few inches lower would have nestled in the roof of the goal.
Only a few minutes later, Lodge would again trouble Hamilton with a shot fired from long range forcing the Cooks Hill goalkeeper to make a fine save to his bottom right.
As the match neared its conclusion, tensions began to rise with altercations sprawling right across the field in a matter of minutes which resulted in yellow cards being shown to Belswans’ Luke Lethbridge and Corey Wilson and Cooks Hill’s Alex Gillespie and Luke Muller.
With a Cooks Hill victory seeming imminent, Wilson looked to have made a chance cutting in from the sideline and putting in a dangerous, low cross, but after some bobbles and ricochets, the ball ended up in Hamilton’s hands and the three points went the way of the home side and defending premiers/champions.
Belmont-Swansea coach Josh Rufo suggested that the heat and conditions of the match didn’t result in a clear-cut contest between the two sides, but admitted there are things his side need to work on.
“The weather, in my opinion, ruined the game,” Rufo confessed.
“Today, unfortunately, wasn’t an indicator of football, it was just weather.”
“I thought Cameron Lodge up top showed he has a lot of potential in that role.”
“But as a collective though, we still have a long way to go.”
“We’ll put that down as one of those days and we’ll work on some things at training for the week ahead.”
Toronto-Awaba Stags FC 1 (Nick Mackay) def. by Wallsend FC 3 (Ty Goldsmith, Matt Williams x2)
Sunday 18th March, 2:30 pm
Lyall Peacock Field
After having been unable to score in any match of the Ampcontrol Heritage Cup, Wallsend put that behind them with a decent performance, particularly in front of goal, in their opening match of the 2018 NEWFM Northern League One season.
New signing Ty Goldsmith, scored the first goal of the game, and the first of his Northern League One career, with an early contender for goal of the season after a strike from long range straight into the top corner.
But Goldsmith’s strike wouldn’t be the only memorable goal from the game after fellow frontman Matt Williams, chipped Toronto goalkeeper, Blake Redman, and found the back of the net to double the Red Devil’s lead.
The Stags got themselves back into the game following a nice headed goal from Nick Mackay from a cross just before the half-time break. But soon after coming back onto the field, Williams again found the goal giving his side a brace and one that they would eventually keep for the remainder of the match.
Wallsend coach Ben Edwards labelled new-man Goldsmith, as the key man for them and someone who looked like he belonged playing his first match in the league.
“He [Goldsmith] did not look out of place,” Edwards said.
“He looked like he’d been playing it for years, really.”
Edwards also praised scorer Williams and Wes Price for their efforts in the match.
“Matty Williams had a good game and made a couple of nice finishes.”
“Wes Price was an absolute workhorse for us in the midfield. Considering how hot it was, the amount of running he did was unbelievable.”
“It was a tough one in the heat obviously. It really took it out of the boys towards the end.”
Cessnock City Hornets 0 drew with Thornton Redbacks FC 0
Sunday 18th March, 2:30 pm
Both Cessnock and Thornton starred new, fresh squads in their opening match and the first local derby of the year where neither side could sneak a goal past the other.
Early chances went begging for both sides including a Thornton penalty kick that blasted against the crossbar and a couple of Cessnock one-on-ones that weren’t converted.
Both goalkeepers were the key men for their sides. Hornets’ goalkeeper Jed Horder more than deserved his clean sheet making multiple vital saves to continue the stalemate, as did the man down the other end of the field, James Wand.
As the match and the heat continued on, both coaches admitted the pace of the game began to slow down and tire out and neither side could break past the other’s defence.
Although his team wasn’t able to score, Hornet’s coach Brendan Slade confessed he was ultimately pleased that his side was able to keep a clean sheet to start the season.
“A clean sheet to start is a good way to kick off the season,” Slade said.
“We conceded almost 70 goals last season and no way is that going to happen with this side this year.”
“Jed Horder, our goalkeeper, was outstanding today. He had a blinder.”
“Our back four was solid as a rock.”
West Wallsend Bluebells 1 drew Singleton Strikers 1
Sunday 18th March, 2:30 pm
Singleton and West Wallsend had to share the points in the opening game of their 2018 campaigns.
Throughout the game, the blistering heat rose to 40 degrees and both teams were forced to adapt their tactics and structures to comply.
The Strikers created the chances early with Jackson Cox stirring havoc throughout the midfield and his efforts eventually lead to a classy goal from Joseph Civello midway through the first half.
The Bluebells didn’t let the goal deter their spirits, and after altering their formations came out in the second half with a much more attacking mindset in an attempt to find an equalising goal.
With Singleton holding strong at the back, West Wallsend finally managed to find the back of the net courtesy of Jarrod Oliveri from a corner kick.
After a couple of good, late opportunities for West Wallsend going by the wayside, and a second yellow card for Bailey Jensen leaving the Bluebells with ten men, the match ended in a tight and probably fair draw.
West Wallsend coach Gary Rowe, admitted it was a frustrating day considering the chances that his team had.
“For us, the boys just didn’t execute the chances that they created, and it came back to hurt us in the end, which is a shame.”
“We probably did everything we could not to win it.”
“I feel like we probably should have scored more goals than we did which is pleasing. Obviously not so because we didn’t score them but pleasing because we had the opportunities.”
“It’s a big day of ‘what-if’s.”
Despite only leaving Johnston Park with one point, Singleton Strikers coach David Willoughby praised his side on a solid team effort suggesting that no one player stood out.
“I can’t isolate anybody,” Willoughby said.
“Everybody worked hard and did their job today. They were fantastic.”
“In the first half, we did very well. We scored the first goal and managed the game well.”
“The boys worked really hard and so did West Wallsend.”
Willoughby also agreed with most of the other league’s coaches in suggesting that the day was just too hot to play football and that other alternatives may need to be considered in the future.
“It was flaming hot.”
“If we’re going to continue beginning in March, maybe we need to consider playing twilight games until daylight savings finishes…Maybe the first few rounds we play Friday and Saturday evenings.”
South Cardiff vs. New Lambton was postponed due to heat concerns.
Kahibah FC – Bye.