Match of the Round
Cooks Hill United 3 (Nick Russell x2, Alex Gillespie) def. Belmont Swansea United 0
Saturday May 18, Fearnley Dawes Athletic Field
NEWFM Northern League One frontrunners, Cooks Hill United, have scored a triumphant 3-0 victory over rivals, Belmont-Swansea United to move to a commanding seven points clear at the top of the table and bolster their chances of retaining the premiership.
Both teams started lively in the highly anticipated Match of the Round with Belswans keeper Will Reeves forced into action early while Cameron Lodge and Matt Ellis were creating half chances for the away side.
Cooks Hill striker Lee Ashton would have the best chance to open the scoring but put his shot into the path of the keeper.
Belswans continued to pose a threat off set-pieces with Mitch Cook rising above the pack but couldn’t direct his header on target before the deadline was finally broken up the other end with the towering centre-back, Alex Gillespie nodding home off a classy Nick Russell corner to give the Cookers a 1-0 lead.
Gillespie has now struck in two consecutive games and bagged his fourth of the campaign with the opener as the black and white took their lead into half time.
Shortly after, Belswans nearly found the equaliser with a couple of frantic-goal line clearances while forcing some great saves out of Cooks Hill keeper, Jake Hamilton, however, the ladder leaders would provide the sucker-punch and claim their second as Gillespie was brought down in the box off a corner.
Russell stepped up to take the penalty and dispatched it to make it 2-0 to the home side before then also putting the icing on the cake close to full-time, going on a fantastic solo run and slotting it past the keeper to wrap up the three points for the Cookers while also notching his sixth of the campaign so far.
The imposing victory moves Cooks Hill well clear of Belswans on the ladder and keeps them remarkably unbeaten after their opening ten games with a competition-high, 31 goals.
The black and white are also on track to go past their incredible points tally of 50 from 2018 to be now sitting on 26 points so far and coach, Graham Law, said he’s immensely proud of his players.
“I’m really pleased with the start. The competition is getting better every year and we’ve got more points at this stage than what we had last year, so we’re improving along with the league,” Law said.
“The top two sides against each other, they were bound to have chances, but I thought we controlled possession and sometimes you earn a bit of luck.
“We’ve got a great centre half-pairing in Jack Wilkinson and Alex (Gillespie), you can only attack if you got good players at the back and Alex scored a very important goal but my boys all worked exceptionally hard and that’s what comes with experience.”
The convincing scoreline doesn’t reflect the excellent performance from the Belswans players although they failed to convert their chances.
The defending champions now drop to third, however, coach, Mick Stafford, said he was pleased with the effort.
“I think it was our best performance in the last four or five weeks but we didn’t take our chances and they showed why they’re coming first,” Stafford said.
“I worked out that we’ve only been behind in 64 minutes of our 900 minutes played so far this season, obviously this result and we also conceded late against Toronto (in their other loss), but if you look at it like that, I think we’re in a great spot.
“We need to improve in the attacking third, that is letting us down at the moment.”
Singleton Strikers 1 (Jordan Phelan) def. by New Lambton Eagles 2 (Riley Taylor, Josh Williams)
Sunday May 19, Howe Park
New Lambton has moved to within one point of a top-four spot with a stirring 2-1 away win over Singleton while adding to the Strikers’ woes.
The Eagles have now earned their fourth win of the campaign with Riley Taylor bagging his seventh goal of the season while Josh Williams also hit the back of the net to secure the victory.
Defender Jordan Phelan scored for the Strikers, but New Lambton would hold on to claim a confidence-boosting away win while Singleton has now lost four games on the bounce.
New Lambton has now made it two wins from their last two visits to Howe Park and they’re now firmly in the mix, chasing for a finals position with tough games coming up against Cooks Hill and West Wallsend.
The Strikers season is on a knife’s edge with only two wins to their name to leave them sitting in ninth but have four games in a row at Howe Park to try and turn their season around including games against Toronto Awaba and Cessnock City.
West Wallsend 1 (Jarrod Olivieri) def. Kahibah F.C 0
Sunday May 19, Johnston Park
West Wallsend has continued their formidable unbeaten run with a determined 1-0 win over Kahibah at Johnston Park.
Both teams were resolute and chances were few and far between as the two defences held strong while soon after Kahibah would have a goalscoring chance denied after putting an effort into the net before the linesman overruled it.
Minutes later, West Wallsend captain Jarrod Olivieri would step up after a goal-line scramble and put the ball into the net to give the Bluebells the all-important lead.
West Wallsend would hold onto their advantage and claim all three points to strengthen their position in the top four while going five games unbeaten.
The victory was the Bluebells sixth of the campaign and coach, Brendan Slade, said he was delighted with the three points.
“They’re a fit side, it was a scrappy win but one we needed and the most important thing is we defended well,” Slade said.
“We’ve had a few injuries, so we needed to change a few players but everyone’s doing their job and we just pulled through.
“Going to be another big game next week against Belswans so we’ll have to be on our A-game.”
Kahibah has held their own against top-four opposition in recent weeks but remain in eighth spot while coach Andre Gumprecht said he’s looking forward to their huge FFA Cup fixture this week.
“The way the game went, they started well and had the upper hand but we tried to stamp our authority on the game,” Gumprecht said.
“Very disappointing for us, we had a goal overruled by the linesman which was confusing, but we had a few chances and we lacked the final pass from the middle to the final third.
“We’ll turn our attention to the biggest game in club history this week in the FFA Cup, so my job is to get our players focused for that.”
Cessnock City Hornets 1 (Joseph Cacic) def. Thornton Redbacks 0
Sunday May 19, Turner Park
Cessnock City has continued their incredible home-form to stun Thornton Redbacks 1-0 at Turner Park.
The Hornets have rejuvenated themselves under new coach Lino Gatti and have players fit and firing with a number of impressive performances in recent weeks.
Mid-season recruit Joseph Cacic fired in the sole goal of the match to hand the Hornets a massive three points and put them two points away from a top-four position with 12 points.
The Redbacks will be ruing a missed opportunity to climb into the top four while the Hornets are now hot on their tails in 7th spot while Thornton remains in 5th.
The loss isn’t a deterrent for the Redbacks although they have hard games coming up against Cooks Hill and West Wallsend on their home turf.
However, coach Gary Wand said he was disappointed with his side’s showing in the loss.
“They were better, out-enthused us and we were flat,” Wand said.
“We hit the bar twice, but I was most disappointed in the effort and points are always a by-product of performance, but these are the games we need to win and we didn’t.
“Massive game next week (against Cooks Hill), we really need to step up or we’ll get rolled over.
Toronto Awaba Stags 0 drew with Wallsend F.C 0
Sunday May 19, Lyall Peacock Field
The battle of the cellar-dwellers has finished 0-0 with both side’s leaving Lyall Peacock Field with a point after a dramatic affair.
Wallsend had the better of the chances in the opening half, but Toronto’s defence has turned a corner in recent weeks in obtaining another clean sheet.
The Red Devils held onto the point after going down to nine men with Ty Goldsmith and Jackson Manning being sent off in the second half.
Both sides remain in their same ladder position while the Stags will travel away to Singleton next week in a bid to move up the ladder.
Wallsend recorded their first clean sheet of the season in the draw and coach Jesse Pryce said the game was there for the taking for both teams.
“We finished the game with nine men, but up until the end I thought we were in control,” Pryce said.
“It was our first cleans sheet so I was proud about that and we played really well with nine and still managed to create chances.
“The whole club has had a refresh and a look at where we are at, but it was good to see some positive results and it bodes well moving forward.”