HUNTER SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United 2 (Ahmataj PEN, Sutton) def. Thornton Redbacks 0
Sunday 8th July, 2:30 pm at Blacksmiths Oval
Belswans and Thornton are beginning to make a habit of playing out matches which wind up being crucially important ones to how things will shape up at the end of the season.
Sunday’s edition was no different – and again, it was Belmont-Swansea who triumphed with a result which keeps things deadly tight in the race for the top four.
The home side opened the scoring from the penalty spot in just the ninth minute of play, with Klaudon Ahmataj stepping up and slotting it from 12-yards out to give Belmont-Swansea a priceless early lead.
Nick Thomson slid in hard and earned himself a yellow card in the 42nd minute, and the two teams went to the sheds with the home side in the lead.
Whatever words of wisdom Josh Rufo imparted on his players at the half-time break worked, as Josh Sutton scored just moments after play resumed in the second half.
2-0 is how this one would end, a huge result which would see Belswans go level on points with Thornton in second. Only goal difference separates the two teams.
Cooks Hill United 2 (Russell PEN x2) drew South Cardiff 2 (McAllister, Wells)
Saturday 7th July, 2:30 pm at Newcastle Athletics Field
With Saturday’s stalemate, South Cardiff did what no other side has managed to do in the Northern League One this season and that is avoiding defeat across two matches against the Cookers.
It’s a bump in Cooks Hill’s inevitable march to a second premiership on the trot, but for South Cardiff, it’s an important point in their quest to finish inside the top four.
Nathan McAllister, as he has done so often this season, opened the scoring for South Cardiff in the opening stages of the match to put the visitors ahead.
They doubled their advantage and shocked Cooks Hill with around half an hour gone when Daniel Wells struck for South Cardiff.
With the scoreline 2-0 at half-time, Cooks Hill needed something to turn it around and it took nearly fifteen minutes for that something to arrive – a spot kick.
Enter Nick Russell, who stepped up and dispatched it from 12-yards out to halve the deficit with more than half an hour to go.
There was controversy just five minutes from half-time when Cooks Hill was awarded a penalty after an innocuous looking challenge between goalkeeper Keegan Pulik and a Cooks Hill attacker.
Pulik was penalised, and Nick Russell stepped up to the spot again. Russell scored to bring Cooks Hill level and ensure they kept their unbeaten run at home intact.
The Cookers ended the match with ten when Jarryd Johnson was sent off in the final stages, but the Gunners couldn’t take advantage and the two teams shared the points.
South Cardiff coach Denis Fajkovic was still fuming about the penalty call late on which cost his side three points.“I felt like we got robbed,” said Fajkovic.
“In big matches like that, for such a penalty to be given, those three points are massive for us in the semis race and we went out and gave it to Cooks Hill.
“We were two up at half-time, we set up defensively in the second half and we talked about them having the ball, shutting them out, and we did that.
“But we’re just talking about it now, the points are gone. It’s hard not to be frustrated, especially because Cooks Hill is the team, they’re doing well, we turned up and the boys performed and to lose two points is hard to take.”
It was a good performance from South Cardiff, which is something Fajkovic was keen to impress.
“Graham [Law] said to me after the game, that it was the hardest game at home they’ve had in the two years he’s been there,” said Fajkovic.
“Like I said to the boys after the game, if we take anything away from this result it’s to go in with the same intensity and play the same way. We’ve done it against Cooks Hill, we’re one of the teams that can match Cooks Hill when it comes to that and that’s the positive out of that game.
“It’s straightforward for us now. We play Belswans, we play Thornton, the top four sides play each other. We have to win our matches, if we want to do anything when we get to the semis then we’ve got to start to win.
“If we can’t win now, then there’s nearly no point being in the semis. That performance has given confidence to the boys, and we’re ready for the fight.”
West Wallsend 4 (Holt, Jones PEN, Andrews, Maxton) def. Cessnock City Hornets 0
Saturday 7th July, 2:30 pm at Johnston Park
Cessnock coach Brendan Slade described this match against a ‘physical’ West Wallsend outfit as ‘crucial’ to their top four ambitions.
On home soil though, West Wallsend were rampant. Four goals in the opening half secured a big win for the Bluebells on both the scoreboard and the ladder.
It was a five-minute blitz which did the damage for Westy and it started in the 32nd minute when Joseph Holt opened the scoring.
Just a minute later, Tye Jones stepped up to take a penalty and slotted it – doubling
the Bluebell’s advantage and making things look very difficult for Cessnock.
The Bluebells stretched their lead even further in the 37th minute when Bailey Maxton stepped up and put a goal away to put the home side 3-0 ahead.
As if things weren’t already dire enough for Cessnock, Blake Roy was sent from the field in the 38th minute after he was shown a second yellow card for a second reckless challenge.
West Wallsend took advantage of their extra man right on the half-time whistle as Brad Andrews scored a goal of his own, to give the home side four goals in the first half.
Despite the man advantage and a big lead at the break, West Wallsend wasn’t able to extend it and the score remained 4-0 at full-time. The Bluebells are now three points clear inside the top four, while Cessnock’s hopes of playing finals football look all but over.
Singleton Strikers 1 (Cox) drew Kahibah FC 1 (Butzmann)
Sunday 8th July, 2:30 pm at Howe Park
An important match for both sides, who harbour different ambitions at opposite ends of the ladder.
A solitary point doesn’t really help either side in the end, but it’s what each had to settle for after a late goal at Howe Park.
It was as windy a day as ever out at Singleton on Sunday, which meant both were fighting the elements as much as they were each other.
Over an hour passed before the first goal went in, and it was an advantage to the home side when Jackson Cox put one away.
Kahibah left it late, but with a little over ten minutes to go they sunk one of their own and levelled things up.
1-1 was how it’d stay, but not ideal for either side. Singleton slips down to sixth after the sides around them picked up points and Kahibah down to tenth after New Lambton’s win at Toronto.
Toronto Awaba 1 (Glennie PEN) def. by New Lambton 2 (Luther, Ihlow)
Sunday 8th July, 2:30 pm at Lyall Peacock Field
It was a battle of the cellar dwellers in Toronto on Sunday, with both sides desperate to grab three points and do what they could to avoid the wooden spoon.
After ninety minutes and three goals though, it looks all but certain to be heading out to Lyall Peacock Field bar a late and miraculous turnaround from Toronto.
It was player-coach Blake Glennie who opened the scoring, with Toronto taking the lead in the tenth minute from the penalty spot. It stayed that way until half-time.
Dan Luther levelled things up in the 58th minute to bring New Lambton back into it, the captain getting in and getting the job done.
New Lambton would take the lead with just over twenty minutes to play when Alex Ihlow slotted a goal of his own in the 67th minute.
Toronto pushed for an equaliser but wasn’t able to find one, as New Lambton secured their second win over Toronto this season.
New Lambton boss Jim Foley was pleased to pick up all three points.
“We came from one goal down after we’d conceded another penalty, which is all too frequent for our side,” said Foley.
“To the boys’ credit, they found a way to come back and it was by no means comfortable at any stage. Toronto and ourselves are both finding the going a bit tough at the moment.
“For a couple of reasons, not the least in our case that injuries have been horrific. In the past week, we’ve had two broken legs and we lost young Riley Taylor, who was injured against Cessnock and will be out for the season.
“It’s taken away our main, leading goal scorer in a side which doesn’t find scoring goals terribly easy. They’re big shoes to fill, and in my time there we’ve not been able to solve some defensive frailties which have a way of rearing up at regular intervals.”
The win put seven points between New Lambton (9th) and Toronto (11th), and all but guarantees the Eagles will avoid the spoon.
“I feel a whole lot better about avoiding bottom spot now than I did before the match,” said Foley.
“I’m not one to start celebrating too early, if not running last is cause for celebration than we won’t be celebrating. I would have been very disappointed and would be if we were to finish bottom of the league.
“Having said that, you’ve got to face reality and at the moment we’re a side that is struggling to compete and so it’s always a possibility. The fact that we’ve been able to put a seven-point break on them gives us some comfort, but we’re certainly not getting carried away.”