PHOTO: VALENTINE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United FC 1 (Rufo 55’) def. Cooks Hill United FC 0
Saturday June 3, 2:30pm at Blacksmiths Oval
Belswans caused a massive upset in their first home win since April, knocking off league leaders Cooks Hill courtesy of a Dan Rufo header on Saturday afternoon.
The first half was a fiery match but had an empty amount of chances. Cameron Lodge had an early chance after entering the pitch in place of injured Belswan Josh Hall, and a trademark Nick Russell free kick rattled the crossbar with five minutes before halftime.
There was a big turn early in the second half as Steele Harvey was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Cooks Hill’s Daniel Johnson, which left Belswans with only ten men. It wouldn’t trouble the home side too much though – just a couple of minutes later, Dan Rufo scored a header at the back post to put his side into a 1-0 lead.
Nick Russell and Emerson Augey missed half chances for the Cookers in the second half and Belswans were denied a half-shout for a penalty toward the back end of the match.
Johnson had a decent strike on goal cleared off the line that could have levelled the scores, and Cooks Hill were kept scoreless for the first time in the league this season.
Cooks Hill retains their lead atop the ladder, but it’s now under serious threat. South Cardiff moved within two points of the league leaders with their win over Cessnock, while Thornton could jump to within a point and Kahibah could overtake the Cookers’ if the two teams win their respective games in hand.
Belswans, on the other hand, took another positive step towards the top four and now sit just three points from fourth place. They’ve streaked out ahead of the chasing pack, but will still be relying on results elsewhere to go their way if a second consecutive finals appearance is realised.
Belmont-Swansea coach Josh Rufo was pleased with the win over the league leaders.
“It’s a fantastic result for the team and full credit needs to go to the players for their hard work,” Rufo said.
“The football we played on the weekend wasn’t too much different to how we’ve set out to play, we just had a bit more luck with a few more things… it’s a massive credit to the team that they players stayed positive the whole time (despite the red card), and they deserve the credit for stepping up and putting in at training over the last couple of weeks.”
Singleton Strikers 4 (Muir 35’, Civello 59’, Bagnall 60’, Basana 67’) def. Wallsend FC 2 (Williams 15’, Reeves 45’)
Saturday June 3, 2:30pm at Howe Park
A nine-man Singleton outfit proved too strong for a usually resolute Wallsend defence as the home side charged to their third win of the season on Saturday afternoon.
Matt Williams opened the scoring for Wallsend in the 15th minute and held their lead for 20 minutes before Tristan Muir levelled the scores in the 35th minute. He’d turn hero to villain just three minutes later, however – sent off after retaliating to what he thought was a poor challenge from a Wallsend defender; Brad Millar earned himself a yellow card for protesting the decision.
The visitors made the most of the man advantage – they scored through Isaac Reeves in the dying minutes of the first half.
It was an eight-minute period in the second half which put the nail in the coffin for the visitors – Joe Civello scored in the 59th minute before Bowen Bagnall put the Strikers in front just a minute later. In the 64th minute, however, disaster struck as Brad Millar was sent from the pitch for a second bookable offence and left Singleton with nine men.
The two-man deficit didn’t worry them too much though – Gael Basana scored in the 67th minute to hand his side a two-goal lead, and they hung on to record their third win of the season.
Singleton coach Dave Willoughby was ‘exceptionally happy’ with the result.
“We played the last thirty minutes with nine men and scored in that time, the players worked exceptionally hard and we’re very happy with the result,” Willoughby said.
“The players were fantastic… we’ve been bullied, some of the older players in the other teams just belt some of our younger boys so we aimed up on Thursday night (at training) and stop being bullied… it was a good game, there were no poor challenges and I don’t think Wallsend’s young blokes took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half.”
Wallsend coach Chris Gallagher was ‘filthy’ following the result.
“I speak a lot about consistency but today we showed very little… for a team down to nine men though, they (Singleton) were outstanding,” Gallagher said.
“I’m not as unhappy as I was on Saturday afternoon, I didn’t really have words to describe exactly how disappointed I was with the result… but we’re going to keep working towards the top four, we’ve got a good group of young boys who will have learned a lot from Saturday’s match and a couple of players coming back from injury next weekend might have a big impact.”
Cessnock City FC 0 def. by South Cardiff FC 2 (Ahmataj 45+1’, 80’)
Saturday June 3, 2:30pm at Turner Park
South Cardiff controlled this match from start to finish but only managed two goals as they solidified their hold on fourth place with a two-goal win over Cessnock on Saturday.
The first half was virtually all Southy – the away side dominated possession and field position, while Cessnock looked like they didn’t want the ball.
Troy Runge had a pair of chances for the visitors within the first fifteen, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
Antonio Ahmataj missed a virtually open net in the 19th minute, and Cessnock’s Matt Francis managed a shot toward goal very much against the run of play two minutes later.
Troy Runge had another two chances as the half wore on – the second gilt-edged in the 41st after he was played in at the back post, but it was saved well by a scrambling Matt Zechel.
South Cardiff would find the breakthrough in the dying seconds of the first half – a free-kick into the box was unfairly contested according to the referee, who awarded the Gunners a penalty. Antonio Ahmataj stepped up and converted, handing his side a 1-0 lead at the break.
The home side started the second half with more positivity, and Jason Zechel missed a half chance header from a corner just a couple of minutes into the half. The second stanza was a fairly drab affair – South Cardiff held a lot of the ball without much penetration, before a chance in the 80th minute seen Ahmataj head past an oncoming Matt Zechel to give South Cardiff a 2-nil lead and their eighth win of the season.
Toronto Awaba FC 4 (McKye 41’, Bruce 57’, Roberts 75’, 90’) def. West Wallsend 1 (OG 83’)
Sunday June 4, 2:30pm at Lyall Peacock Oval
Toronto picked up their fourth point in two weeks as they knocked off a poor West Wallsend outfit at Lyall Peacock Oval on Sunday afternoon.
West Wallsend enjoyed the better of the early possession, but weren’t able to penetrate quite as well as they did last time out against New Lambton, before Blake Redman managed to get an assist next to his name in the 41st minute – a long clearance was misjudged by the Westie defence, and Nick McKye pounced to put the home side into the lead at the break.
The Stags doubled their advantage not long after halftime through Josh Bruce, who had the easiest of finishes after some good lead up work by captain Nick Roberts.
A glancing header from Jarrod Olivieri up the other end nearly clawed a goal back for West Wallsend with more than three-quarters of the match gone, but Blake Redman pulled off a terrific save to deny him.
Josh Bruce turned provider on the other end in the 57th minute to practically win it for Toronto, as he whipped in a ball to Roberts to provide him with his fifth goal of the season and a 3-0 lead for the Stags.
West Wallsend made a bit of trouble for the Stags just minutes later, a delightful Bryson Cox ball was turned in by Toronto defender Hayden Jensen, and given their past heroics against Cessnock and New Lambton, Toronto had every reason to be worried.
However, the Stags proved masters of their own destiny – Jessie Cowie earned his side a penalty and Roberts stepped up to convert, but his effort was saved by West Wallsend keeper Jessie Cook.
However, the linesman flagged West Wallsend goalkeeper for standing off his line, and Roberts had no trouble in converting the penalty on the second attempt to give his side a 4-1 win.
New Lambton v Kahibah was washed out