Match of the Round
Cessnock City 0-1 Wallsend FC
After the full-time whistle had blown and his team had exhaustedly retreated to the dressing rooms, Craig Tsemblis allowed himself to take a moment.
Weeks of pressure, frustration and stress had been released with Wallsend’s brave 1-0 win over Cessnock City at Turner Park on Sunday.
Jordi Van Kemenade’s long-range free kick after half an hour gave Wallsend the lead in the match. But it was their resolute defensive performance with 10 men for more than half the contest that won them their first three points of the season.
It was enough for Tselembis to allow himself to shed a few tears.
“I don’t cry easily [but I was] so proud,” Tselembis said.
“I shed a few tears. I gave myself five minutes to compose myself before I went in to talk to them. It was probably one of the best wins I’ve ever been involved in. And I’ve been involved with a few good ones.
“But they’re a brilliant bunch of lads. They were exceptional. They dug in and worked so hard for each other and they got what they deserved.
“[At full-time] it was relief for me. I’m just so proud of them like a father. These lads, from the first minute I stepped into this job have just kept turning up and putting in for me, doing the little things.”
Wallsend went into the NEWFM Northern League One match of the round having lost all five matches they had played.
The Red Devils also had a day less to recover than Cessnock after their deflating 6-2 defeat to South Cardiff in their rescheduled round one match at The Gardens on Thursday night.
After Van Kemenade had put Wallsend in front, the Red Devils then lost defender Noah George to a straight red card after he was judged to have been the last defender with Cessnock on the attack.
But Wallsend refused to quit, somehow finding a way to score an unlikely upset against a Hornets side that had been challenging for the competition lead.
“It was a good free kick. Maybe about 30 yards. He hit it sweet but it might go down as a keeping error. He might have been out of position. But we’ll take it,” Tselembis said.
“I thought [the send off] was really poor. It nearly changed the game. They were saying he was the last man but he had two blokes around him, he was running in line and their shoulders bumped and their bloke went down. I thought it was a bit soft.
“But as I always say the referee is always right. In the end it didn’t matter too much. It made the boys work harder. In the end it might have even helped us.
“They are an amazing bunch of lads. It’s a tough feeling to describe. Basically they just looked after each other. At half-time I kind of knew they were going to do something special. They had that determination the way they came into the sheds. They kept their heads high.
“We only had a brief team talk and changed a couple of things but then they just looked at each other Tselembis did it for each other which was the most pleasing thing for me.”
Tsemblis was particularly impressed with his defence which included Jake Sullivan on his return to the side from injury, captain Zac Parkes and goalkeeper Zac Hamilton. Then there was the effort of Ben Scheib, who ran tirelessly up front with his side down to 10 men.
The defeat ended a disappointing week for Cessnock who were held to a 1-1 draw in their rescheduled round five clash with West Wallsend on Wednesday night.
The Hornets have now slipped to fourth and will turn their attention to a home clash with Cooks Hill United on Sunday.
Wallsend remain in last place but will look to take confidence and momentum from the victory into their derby with West Wallsend at Johnston Park on Sunday.
Kahibah 2-1 Belmont Swansea United
Belmont Swansea United missed the chance to take the competition lead as they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Kahibah at Kahibah Oval on Saturday.
Kahibah climbed back into the top five with the win thanks to Jamie Hadlow’s equaliser just past the hour mark and Riley Ferguson’s penalty with 10 minutes to play.
The second half efforts cancelled out Joel Nicholson’s early opener for the visitors.
With fellow leaders New Lambton not in action, Belmont Swansea could have taken advantage with three points. But the defeat leaves them in second place, still level on points with the Eagles but now giving up a match in hand.
For Kahibah, the win halted a slide down the table brought on by back to back defeats.
Kahibah will now turn their attention to a tricky away trip to Singleton on Saturday, while Belmont Swansea will look to bounce back when they host Toronto Awaba on Sunday.
West Wallsend 3-1 Toronto Awaba
West Wallsend kept in touch with the top five with an impressive 3-1 win over Toronto Awaba at Johnston Park on Sunday.
The Bluebells are now sixth, two points outside the finals places having also picked up a valuable point away to Cessnock City in their rescheduled round five match midweek.
The Stags meanwhile missed the chance to consolidate their own place in the top five, instead slipping to seventh with the defeat.
West Wallsend will turn their attention to their derby with Wallsend at Johnston Park on Sunday, while Toronto Awaba face a tough midweek clash with New Lambton in their rescheduled round one match at Lyall Peacock Field on Wednesday night.
The Stags will then take on Belmont Swansea United at Blacksmiths Oval on Sunday.