PHOTO: Valentine Sports Photography
Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United 2 (Hall 38’, Marcus 75’) defeated New Lambton FC 1 (Maloney 62’)
Friday 14th April, 2:30 pm at Blacksmiths Oval
Easter weekend’s NEWFM Northern League One Match of the Round set the tone for a good long weekend for Belswans, as they huffed and puffed to a 2-1 victory over New Lambton at Blacksmiths Oval on Friday.
The first half was a fairly even affair, Belswans shaded the possession and field position early on. The first chance of the match and it fell to New Lambton however, Riley Taylor firing his shot from 16 yards out into a defender and out for a corner.
Belmont-Swansea had a golden opportunity to take an early lead in the 22nd minute after Josh Hall put Cameron Lodge through in behind the New Lambton defence. His square ball found Sean Matthews, whose strong shot couldn’t beat Keegan Pulik in the Eagles goal.
A Sean Matthews free kick in the 28th minute was well saved by Pulik in the New Lambton goal, but his parry fell at the feet of Jayden Nakhoul inside the six-yard box. The goal gaping, Nakhoul could only fire over and the match remained scoreless.
Belswans would finally break the deadlock in the 38th minute through the captain, Josh Hall. Picked out delightfully by Steele Harvey, Hall’s shot went across Pulik and into the far corner of the net to give the home side a 1-0 advantage at the break.
New Lambton came out of the sheds looking better than they had in the first half, and in the 62nd minute, they made the most of their good play; substitute Luke Maloney pinched the ball from Belswans centre back Mitch Cook and finished in an almost identical fashion to the first goal to make the score 1-1.
Tega Marcus was introduced out wide in the second half for Belswans and had an instant impact – wreaking havoc with the New Lambton defence. Marcus had a palpable impact on the match in the 75th minute – receiving the ball on the edge of the area after some good interplay between Nathan Stevens and Sean Matthews and firing in a low shot that deceived and beat Pulik and put Belswans in front – 2-1.
Much of the play in the last fifteen minutes went Belswans way, and Marcus was at the centre of most of it – the forward had a penalty waved away and fired two opportunities wide. Despite a late foray forward, the Eagles couldn’t pinch back a goal and it finished 2-1.
Belswans coach Josh Rufo was happy with the Good Friday win.
“I thought the football was pleasing, the most pleasing thing was the hard work and good attitude from our boys,” Rufo said.
The coach also explained why he was so insistent throughout the match on his troops playing a low tempo game.
“In my opinion, we’ve got some very good players and our biggest strength is our technical ability… some teams play better without the ball, whereas I think we’re technically better and that’s our strength.”
New Lambton coach Andrew Packer was happy to get through a busy period without losing any personnel.
“Really good effort from the boys, we’ve had a massive week, 3 games in 6 days and I’m just glad everyone came through safe,” Packer said.
“I was really concerned we might get a couple of injuries out of this one… I think a 1-all would have been fair, but we played some good stuff and were better in the second half.
“We’ve still got to be better, we had some really good chances… I’m more disappointed in conceding a couple, and that’s something we’ve got to fix.”
Singleton Strikers FC 4 (J. Civello 24’, 30’ 33’. T. Muir 74’) defeated Toronto Awaba FC 2 (M. Bru 13’, O.G. 26’)
Saturday 15th April, 2:30 pm at Howe Park
A fairly even battle ended in victory for the home side, Singleton, playing their first match at home this season over a resilient Toronto Awaba side.
The first five minutes saw some extremely tight football, Singleton were insistent in playing out from the back and keeping possession while Toronto were equally as keen to press high and force a turnover. Nick Roberts fired an early chance at Stuart Plant in the Singleton goal, and Nick McKyle had a chance firing a shot however neither could find the back of the net.
Brad Millar had a good chance for the Strikers in the seventh minute as well as Joe Civello who fired straight at Toronto keeper Blake Redman just two minutes later.
With multiple chances being made from Singleton early on, it was Michael Bru who made Singleton pay for their early wastefulness in the 13th minute; a strong run in behind the defence and a stronger shot at Stuart Plant, which the keeper couldn’t hold onto. The deflection fell favourably into Bru’s path, and he made it 1-0 Toronto.
Civello fired a ball straight at the keeper once again in the 20th minute, but he didn’t give up. Just four minutes later, Jackson Skinner came bounding out of the backline to thread the needle for Civello, who made no mistake on his third attempt, placing his shot and making the score 1-1.
Skinner turned hero to villain just two minutes later, dealing with a dangerous ball, he dived to head the ball out but it, unfortunately, found the back of his own net and put Toronto 2-1 ahead.
The Strikers didn’t waste any time in charging back up the other end in search of a second equaliser, and they found it in the 30th minute. A Brad Millar free kick from wide out curled across the face and found Civello, the striker managing to use his short stature well and headed home to make the score 2-all.
Singleton kept causing headaches from then on – in the 33rd minute a Tristan Muir cross found the head once again of Civello, whose headed shot nestled in the back of the net to make the score 3-2 at halftime.
Toronto had their chances early after halftime, Hayden Jensen hit the post from a long way out in the 56th minute and Nick Roberts headed a chance over the bar on the 57th. Blake Glennie headed over eight minutes later from a corner, and Singleton made them pay in the 75th minute.
Brad Millar won a free kick out wide and stepped up to take it once again – he swung the ball in and Tristain Muir rose to the ball and headed towards goal giving the Strikers a dominate lead in the 74th minute, 4-2.
Toronto’s Blake Glennie fired a volley wide and into the inside of a canopy of an unsuspecting ute in the 80th minute much to the amusement of the Howe Park crowd, and what looked like an ankle injury to Toronto’s Jack Cooper soured the mood further for the Stags. Singleton were content to wind down the clock in the opposition corner, and it ended 4-2.
Singleton coach Dave Willoughby was pleased with the result following the match.
“Considering we’ve played three pretty intense games in six days… to take the three points today, our first game at home, I’m pretty happy with that,” Willoughby said.
Willoughby also praised the efforts of two temporary signings from the Latrobe Valley Soccer League.
“The two Victorian boys (Mark and Michael Bruzzese) did well, and Mark provided a bit of an older head at the back there which was handy… he’s been a calming influence.”
Cessnock City FC 1 (J. Zechel 64’) defeated by Cooks Hill United 3 (L. Ashton 11’, C. Lewis 42’, N. Russell 44’)
Sunday 16th April, 2:30 pm at Turner Park
Many were predicting cricket scores at Turner Park on Easter Sunday but Cessnock were determined to ensure the result was anything but a given, fighting hard in eventual defeat to Cooks Hill.
Cooks Hill were moving the ball fluidly and with ease early on, but it was Cessnock who had the opening chance in the fourth minute – Beau Taylor found Jason Zechel in behind, but the winger couldn’t find a way past Jake Hamilton in the Cooks Hill goal.
Tom Liolio headed wide from a Cooks Hill corner just two minutes later, and the Cookers couldn’t capitalise on a mistake at the back in the 7th minute. They’d take the lead on the 11th minute however, Nick Russell found Lee Ashton in the middle of the park, who made no mistake in finishing past Matt Zechel in the Cessnock goal to give his side an early 1-0 advantage.
Despite Cooks Hill control of the ball and dominance in field position, it was again Cessnock who were carving out the lions share of the chances – Beau Taylor fired wide in the 19th minute and forced a save on the 20th.
Oddly, there were first half substitutions for both sides – Cooks Hill’s Emerson Augey replaced Alex Gillespie in the 25th minute, while Johnson Song was replaced by Liam Anderson in the 36th minute.
Cessnock were well in this match throughout the first half, but it was a five minute period at the end of the first half that’d bring them unstuck. A corner in the 42nd minute wasn’t dealt with by the Cessnock defence, and Cal Lewis took full advantage by pouncing on the scraps and turning the ball in to take a 2-0 lead.
Just a minute later, Nick Russell curled in a left-footed shot from out wide that went underneath Zechel in the Cessnock goal and gave Cooks Hill a 3-0 lead at halftime.
The second half wasn’t as explosive as the first was, and the first real flashpoint was a Cessnock lifeline in the 65th minute via Cooks Hill ‘keeper Jake Hamilton. He was victim of a poorly hit back pass, and his poor touch was swooped upon by Jason Zechel who finished into an empty net to make it 3-1.
Emerson Augey fired a chance wide in the 79th minute after doing the hard work and getting one on one with Zechel, and Lee Ashton fired high and wide after doing all the hard work in the 83rd minute.
Jayden Arriguetti fired over for Cessnock in the 89th minute and Daniel Clements had a shot saved in the 92nd, and this one ended in a 3-1 victory to Cooks Hill.
Cessnock coach Lino Gatti was delighted with his side’s efforts despite the result.
“Fantastic effort, probably game of the round performance wise… if you’d spent your $5 at the gate, you would’ve been highly entertained,” Gatti said.
“I was very pleased with our possession, we were much tidier with the ball… there was a bit more creativity going forward, and our defensive effort was a bit more co-ordinated.”
Gatti attempted to explain why he thinks his boys dropped off for five vital minutes towards the end of the first half.
“When they boys get a little tired toward the end of the half they tend to switch off a little bit or rely on other players to pick up the slack… when one drops off, it puts pressure on other players.”
The 6 pm kickoff between Thornton Redbacks FC v Kahibah FC on Friday night was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, while light failure moments before the scheduled 7 pm kick-off meant South Cardiff FC v West Wallsend SFC was abandoned.