PHOTO: Valentine Sports Photography
All of Sunday’s matches were called off this weekend – Thornton v Toronto, Wallsend v Cooks Hill, and Kahibah v West Wallsend.
Belmont Swansea United FC 1 (Hall 49’) drew Cessnock City Hornets (Zechel 2’)
Saturday 1st April 2:30 pm, Blacksmiths Oval
Cessnock got off to a flyer after Jason Zechel seized on a missed Belswans header at the back following a kick from Cessnock’s keeper Matt Zechel. Jason Zechel had only the keeper to beat and did so with composure and put his side ahead 1-0 only two minutes in.
Tega Marcus headed a Belswans corner into the inside of the post just two minutes later, but it bounced clear and the scores remained level.
Jason Zechel nearly scored a goal identical to his first when he snatched a smart free-kick over the top and his shot beat Belswans keeper Mat Redman but went wide. Cessnock striker Max Wallington had a dream opportunity just thirty seconds later, but his shot hit the post.
Tega Marcus unleashed down the right-hand side and made the most of his pace in the 13th minute, his cross found Jayden Nakhoul whose shot was weak and palmed wide by Cessnock keeper Matt Zechel.
Belswans were largely in control in the opening quarter of this one, however, Cessnock looked threatening on the counter. The home side looked to be in on goal again in the 17th minute when Chris Gazzard found Cameron Lodge, however, he was fouled by Matt Zechel ten yards out of the 18-yard box. Despite calls from the Cessnock keeper to be sent off, the referee showed only yellow.
The game continued to yo-yo back and forth, Brodie Williams and Jason Zechel spurring chances as the Hornets began to play like a team in front.
Cessnock should have made it 2-0 in the 39th minute after Jason Zechel pounced on a Dan Rufo mistake at the back and found Max Wallington. Through on goal and 1-on-1 with Belswans ‘keeper Redman, Wallington struck the post much to the dismay of the travelling Cessnock support.
Belswans captain Josh Hall had a golden opportunity to level the scores on the stroke of halftime after a Tega Marcus cut back gave him an eternity to get the ball under control and get a shot away, but he could only fire wide and the score would remain 1-0 Cessnock at the break.
The hairdryer treatment was hauled out by Belswans coach Josh Rufo at halftime and had a near instant impact, as captain Josh Hall headed home from a Cameron Lodge cross to level the scores in the 49th minute.
Jayden Nakhoul continued the charge for Belmont-Swansea, firing a shot over just a minute later and forced a good save out of Matt Zechel in the 59th minute.
Jason Zechel spurred a chance wide after being put through by brother Matt in the 63rd minute, and Max Wallington blazed over in the 70th minute.
Belswans continued to push but weren’t able to make the breakthrough, despite a swag of opportunities in the last fifteen minutes – Tega Marcus miscuing a golden chance in the 89th minute. Neither side could nab a winner even after five minutes added time, the game ended 1-all.
Cessnock coach Lino Gatti was in a positive mood following his side’s first point of the campaign.
“I’m very happy with the result because we’re a work in progress, we’re not expected to win many games this season… I’m very happy with our first half performance, we haven’t been able to do that and today was the first sign we’re actually building into a 90-minute football team,” Gatti said.
“It was definitely two points lost rather than one point gained, with the amount of goal scoring opportunities we missed in that second half, it was very obvious to everyone that we dropped two points today.”
Belswans coach Josh Rufo cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines but had calmed down considerably post-match.
“Being very honest, I think Cessnock deserved to win that,” Rufo said.
“Football’s a funny game if you don’t turn up and show the opposition the respect they deserve that’s what happens. I think we’ve got a strong squad, looked at our team sheet and their team sheet and we switched off before we’d even started.
“Full credit to Cessnock, in my opinion, they were very well set up.”
South Cardiff FC 4 (Runge 3’, Herring 47’, Fajkovic 49’, Ahmataj 58’) defeated New Lambton FC 0
Saturday 1st April, 6 pm
The Gunners came out of the sheds firing and went ahead early. A Denis Fajkovic free kick in the 3rd minute floated across the box and was met by the head of Troy Runge, who buried his chance emphatically.
South Cardiff had the best of the first fifteen minutes, Antonio Atlmatas fired over from just in front and Fajkovic fired a free-kick not too far over the bar.
The match was fairly even throughout the first half, but New Lambton began to find their legs and pushed on to put some pressure on without any end reward. Nick Pepper and Matt McLure fired free kicks straight into the wall and the Eagles were struggling to find the final ball in attack.
New Lambton went close in the 37th minute when Riley Taylor’s pass found Nick Pepper, whose curling shot was turned over by an athletic Mikel Breckenridge in the South Cardiff goal.
South Cardiff’s Cameron Herring tried his luck from long range and Troy Runge headed wide late in the half, but the scores remained locked and South Cardiff headed into the sheds a goal to the good.
Whatever Denis Fajkovic said to his troops in the sheds at halftime inspired them to start the second half as positively as they had the first and it took only two minutes for the Gunners to double their lead after Cameron Herring buried home a corner in the 47th minute and made it 2-0.
The Gunners would extend their lead just two minutes later thanks to their player-manager, who was found well by striker Troy Runge and finished well past Keegan Pulik in the New Lambton goal to make it 3-0 that virtually put the game out of reach for the Eagles.
Josh Casey made a positive run down the right-hand side and fired wide in the 56th minute to give the Eagles some hope of getting back into this one, but it was three minutes later the Gunners made the result well and truly out of reach.
Antonio Ahmataj received the ball inside the box, bullied his way past two defenders and rifled a cross in, which deflected back into his path. Keen not to give up the ball twice, he fired a shot and hit the back of the net despite a hand from Pulik in the Eagles goal to make it 4-0.
New Lambton continued to push for a consolation goal but were only threatening from long range; Nick Pepper and Luke Jovcevski fired high over the bar. The Eagles weren’t able to make anything happen in the last half hour of this one despite some positive possession in the attacking third, and it ended 4-0.
South Cardiff coach Denis Fajkovic was noticeably pleased with his side’s result and performance following the victory.
“Pretty happy, a 4-0 win against a side with a few good results so I’m pretty stoked with how we went,” Fajkovic said.
“It was tough for us (fitness-wise) because we haven’t played in three weeks but because we got the early goal it settled us.
“I went and watched them (New Lambton) play and they knock that long ball, so we set out with three up front, shut them down and try to minimise that threat. We scored off a free kick early, and then after that, it was hard work for them to get back.”
New Lambton coach Andrew Packer was disappointed but not disheartened with the result.
“Very disappointed, we conceded three goals from dead balls… when you do that, it’s very disappointing,” Packer said.
“We had moments when we played really well, it was quite a strange game… when you lose 4-0 and look at your back four and think ‘they didn’t play that bad’, we just, unfortunately, couldn’t defend a set piece on the day.
“We had a few chances, we just didn’t take them and it was just one of those days where everything went against us but credit to South Cardiff… it was tough, the ground was average and they played to the conditions.
“It was good to get on the park and we’ll be better next week,” Packer concluded.