PHOTO: VALENTINE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United FC 1 (Hall 90+5’) def. by Thornton Redbacks FC 3 (Whitelaw 10’, McAllister 65’, 68’)
Saturday 13 May, 2:30 pm at Blacksmiths Oval
Thornton remained within touching distance of first place on the ladder thanks to a Nathan McAllister brace which downed Belswans 3-1 on Saturday afternoon.
It was a fairly even match in the opening, but some good work from Nathan McAllister put Will Whitelaw in on goal, who finished well to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead which they’d take into the sheds at halftime.
Jack Halverson squandered a chance early in the second half, much to the frustration of his captain McAllister, who was free on his inside and screaming for the ball. Belswans nearly equalised soon after, but Luke Lethbridge couldn’t keep his shot under the bar – twice in as many minutes.
Nathan McAllister doubled Thornton’s advantage in the 65th minute and then doubled his own tally three minutes later after some good work from youngster Jacob Bartlett.
Belmont Swansea clawed one back in the depths of injury time – a dubious penalty won by Tega Marcus was converted by Josh Hall but it was too little too late for the home side, defeated 3-1 by the high-flying Redbacks.
Belswans coach Josh Rufo was disappointed with the result.
“No one likes losing, but there are still plenty more games to be played and points to be won,” Rufo said.
“It was a mixture of us not doing our game right and Thornton being too good on the day, to keep it simple.
Rufo sought to deflect attention away from the controversy surrounding Thornton’s second goal, refusing to blame the officials and said his side had more than enough opportunities to win the match in normal time, and the referees are doing their best.
Thornton boss Darrel McAllister was pleased with their seventh win of the campaign.
“Pretty happy, we started a little flat but we addressed it at halftime,” McAllister said.
“I don’t know whether we deserved our half-time lead, but we took our chance… the second half we were extremely happy, they came out and played the way we wanted them to play.”
“Extremely happy with the result.”
Cessnock City FC 1 (McCabe 15’) def. by West Wallsend 2 (Jones 90+2’, 90+4’)
Saturday 13 May, 2:30 pm at Turner Park
Cessnock watched three points slip from their grasp in heartbreaking fashion as West Wallsend stormed home in the closing minutes to win this pulsating Saturday fixture at Turner Park.
The Bluebells created some early pressure for Cessnock, with Bryson Cox firing a shot over in the fourth minute.
Cessnock were forced into an early substitution after a clash in the middle of the park left Matt Frances bleeding profusely from the head, with Riley Taylor entering in his place in the 13th minute.
The Hornets took a rare lead early in the half after some outstanding counter attacking football. Tendai Chirze broke free with the ball which eventually found its way to Travas McCabe, who nabbed his third goal in two matches through the legs of West Wallsend keeper Zac Park and handed his side a 1-0 lead.
From there, it was all West Wallsend. Jarod Olivieri turned a side-footed volley over the bar in the 27th minute, and Bronson Marshall forced a fantastic low save from the reinstated Matt Zechel in the 33rd – Olivieri directed his header from the resulting corner just over.
Brad Andrews went close from outside the box in first-half stoppage time, but the Bluebells couldn’t make their dominance pay and went into the sheds a goal down.
Cessnock nearly doubled their advantage straight after the halftime break, but Brodie Williams’ shot was turned over at close range; while the Bluebells’ Olivieri headed over another chance from a corner in the 54th minute.
Travas McCabe had a golden opportunity after being released via the head of Williams in the 66th minute, but he blazed his shot over – and again in the 76th minute after a Beau Taylor cross.
The match was drawing to a close and West Wallsend were creating plenty of chances – a free kick on the edge of the area went over, and a penalty shout for handball was waved away in the minutes before the regulation 90.
It took until the second minute of injury time for the Bluebells to finally find a way through – and it was heartbreak for Cessnock, as Tye Jones turned in a cross with his head and made it 1-1.
The Hornets heads were down and the Bluebells’ backs were up – and only two minutes later they crushed the hearts of the home faithful. Jones again, intercepting a back pass from Jordan Willard and finishing past Matt Zechel to make it 2-1 West Wallsend – cue delirium on the Bluebells bench, and a valuable three points.
West Wallsend coach Gary Rowe said he was ‘very’ relieved following the win.
“It was getting really frustrating, and I thought we should have scored plenty before that,” Rowe said.
“We just didn’t finish off the chances we created, the boys played really well and played the way we needed to.
“To their credit, they didn’t stop… the first time in three years they’ve had a crack, and we got the reward for it.”
Singleton Strikers FC 1 (Millar 57’) def. by South Cardiff FC 3 (Nicholas 37’, Grujevski 58’, Atmataj 80’)
Saturday, May 13, 3:30 pm at Howe Park
South Cardiff bounced back from three losses on the trot with a convincing result over the struggling Strikers at Singleton on Saturday afternoon.
The Gunners dominated much of the play in the opening stanza and had just reward for their efforts in the 37th minute after Cory Nicholas was free at the back post, and powered in a header to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Despite their dominance, South Cardiff couldn’t add to their total before halftime and were made to pay for it after the break – a Brad Millar goal in the 57th minute pulling the scores level.
Within a minute, however, South Cardiff were again ahead. A bouncing ball beat the Singleton backline, and Joey Grujevski was on the end of it. His first shot was saved by Stuart Plant, but the ‘keeper could do nothing about the follow up which had the Gunners up 2-1.
With the match winding down, South Cardiff found a third goal to secure the result. Antonio Atmataj was afforded too much space on the edge of the area, took a touch to set himself up and sunk the Gunners’ third goal of the match to give them a 3-1 win.
Singleton boss David Willoughby was disappointed with his side’s seventh loss of the campaign.
“It was a bit of an arm wrestle… we made two very poor defensive errors to concede the first two goals,” Willoughby said.
“We worked really hard to get our goal, but outside of that good chances were limited.
“At the end of the day, I think 3-1 was a fair result… we didn’t put much pressure on them in the front third, and we weren’t clinical.”
South Cardiff coach Denis Fajkovic said it was almost like a case of déjà vu when Singleton levelled the scores.
“We conceded a goal from a mistake not long after the break, having dominated and we could’ve had three or four,” Fajkovic said.
“I thought to myself ‘not again’, but after we conceded we went down the other end and scored again.
“All in all, pretty happy just to put a bad week behind us, move on, get a win and put us back into the top four.”
New Lambton FC 4 (Maddalena 9’, Ihlow 15’, 60’, 84’) def. by Cooks Hill United FC 5 (Yaxley 21’, Russell 36’, Lewis 50’, 61’, Canli 78’)
Sunday 14 May, 2:30 pm at Alder Park
Cooks Hill proved yet again why they’re the team to beat with a stirring come-from-behind victory over New Lambton at Alder Park on Sunday afternoon.
It was a topsy-turvy first half, with New Lambton taking an unlikely early lead in the ninth minute. Alex Ihlow had worked his way in along the byline and fired a cross in. The deflection fell kindly to Justin Maddalena, whose vicious lash at the ball sent it slamming into the back of the net to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
Six minutes later and the Eagles doubled their advantage. A fast counter-attack helped the goal scooter Maddalena find Ihlow up front, who managed to turn his shot in from close range and push New Lambton’s lead to 2-0.
The much-fancied Cookers were in shock but managed a well-worked reply in the 21st minute. An extremely deep Lee Ashton cross found Daniel Yaxley at the back post, who made no mistake with his header and clawed a goal back to make the score 2-1.
Fifteen minutes later and the score was level. Cal Lewis held off some close attention from the New Lambton defence and managed to find Nick Russell in behind, who made no mistake on his favoured left foot and levelled the scores, 2-2 at the break.
Cooks Hill wasted no time after the break, with a goal just four minutes into the second half. Yaxley found Ash Balcombe, whose ball in behind reached Cal Lewis – the young striker finished emphatically to give the away side their first lead of the match, 3-2.
Lachlan Jones fired a chance over for the Eagles in the 57th minute, and Nick Russell fired his chance for a second goal wide just a minute later. Alex Ihlow would score his second in the 60th minute, however, breaking free of the defence and finishing coolly past Jake Hamilton in the Cooks Hill goal to make the score 3-3.
Only a minute later, it was a disaster for New Lambton. A weak shot from outside the area from Cal Lewis looked to be travelling harmlessly into the arms of Eagles’ keeper Josh Cox, but it took a wicked bobble and struck the New Lambton custodian in the head – and bounced into the back of the net, to give Lewis an unlikely second and make the score 4-3.
Ihlow fired his chance of a third over the bar from right in front in the 69th minute before a Cooks Hill goal in the 78th minute seemingly put the game to bed. Nick Russell found substitute Hakan Canli in front of goal; the number 7 took his time and finished casually to make it 5-3 to the away side.
Yaxley had a golden opportunity to make it six in the 83rd minute before the Eagles again scraped their way back in – and it was Ihlow again, who made it three for the day after turning in a deep Luke Jocevski cross to make it 5-4.
The Eagles threw everything forward in search of a late equaliser, and Cooks Hill were content to keep the ball in the corner when they could – but neither side added to their total, and the Cookers took all three points to secure their hold on the top of the table.
New Lambton coach Andrew Packer expected Cooks Hill to score goals, even after conceding two early on.
“It’s disappointing but I knew they were going to score goals, so I wasn’t really expecting to not have to work a little harder from there,” Packer said.
“It was about us continuing on and trying to get a few more… 2-0 is never safe, and you need to keep working and doing the right things.
“Conceding as many as we did is the disappointing part, I think we can always score goals but I’m very much disappointed in conceding as many as we did… and we conceded goals that can be easily fixed and should be dealt with.”
Wallsend FC 1 (Alexander 15’) def. Kahibah FC 0
Sunday 14 May, 2:30 pm at The Gardens
The much-fancied Kahibah were given a rude shock on Sunday afternoon when Wallsend bounced back in style with a 1-0 win at the Gardens.
Luke Alexander scored the solitary goal for Wallsend early in the first half, and from there the Red Devils dug in and defended their lead for the remainder of the match.
Kahibah dominated much of the possession, chances and field position, but a ‘committed’ effort from a young Wallsend backline and a couple of key saves from James Wand in goal kept the Green and Black scoreless for only the second time this season.
Wallsend coach Chris Gallagher was happy his side stood up for their fourth win of the season.
“It was good to get back into the winner’s circle, they have some quality players,” Gallagher said.
“Considering the injuries we have and the players that came in, we did a really good job… they (Kahibah) dominated the match and the chances, the boys just defended really well.
“We broke early and Luke (Alexander) scored, then we dug our heels in and finally showed a bit of character.
“Mind you, we had two or three chances we should have taken but we didn’t… all in all, a good all-round performance from the boys,” Gallagher concluded.