Match of the Round
New Lambton FC 2-1 Belmont Swansea United
New Lambton coach Tom Davies was thrilled with his side’s stringent 2-1 victory over fellow title hopefuls Belmont Swansea United on Saturday.
Their styles were as contrasting as chalk and cheese with both coaches tasked with producing a tactical ploy to overcome their opponent.
New Lambton played possession football, utilising their technically sound forward play through Jackson O’Sullivan, Riley Taylor and Morgan Okeno as the Eagles attempted to hold possession high up the pitch. The high possession line resulted in drawing Belswans defenders out of position allowing New Lambton to play piercing balls between or over the defensive line.
Contrastingly, Belswans looked to penetrate New Lambton via quick combinations in counter-attacking play to catch the majority of the Eagles out of position.
Davies believed that their brand of football shone brightly at Alder Park and again showed the rest of the league why they are the reigning back-to-back premiers.
“We aim to keep possession as much as we can and try and break teams down that way. We have to be a bit smarter with how we break down defences,” Davies said.
“We struggled a bit to start the game. Everything was going 100 miles an hour with both teams working hard and lots of tackles flying in. We struggled to get control of the game early.
“Then once that midpoint of the [first] half [hit], we started to switch the play a bit more and control the game which was good to see.”
Belswans found an early lead through a penalty, tucked away by veteran midfielder Josh Maguire.
“The first goal [for Belswans] was disappointing just in terms of our ability to recognise where we need to do better in those situations,” Davies said.
“I think the reaction in the second half was really good. We kept trying to play our way and eventually came out with the two goals toward the end of the game.”
A composed Taylor finish and a Joel Caldwell goal from a corner earned the Eagles a much-needed victory after a disappointing midweek where they went down 4-2 to West Wallsend on Tuesday night.
Davies and Belswans coach Mick Stafford have been at the helm for their respective sides long enough to know what to expect when facing one another.
“We talked about [Belswans tactics] and we sort of know the way they like to play and [Belswans] know how we like to play as well. So it’s just a matter of being smart [in the lead up to the game],” Davies said.
“Our defensive transition we worked on a lot at training. We talked about how winning the ball back straight away stops them from being able to play on the counter, so that’s something we emphasised before the game. We always knew it was going to be difficult.
“They brought it to us for the whole game, so we’re really happy to get the three points after a poor result on Tuesday. It’s really good to bounce back [the way we did].
“Overall [it was a] positive result but there are still lots of things to work on.”
Stafford was quick to recognise the mutual quality both teams possess.
“I think it was a tough game for both teams,” Stafford said.
“At the end we went into our shell a bit too much and didn’t get the little things right like completing passes, which bred the pressure onto ourselves, [ultimately] helping [New Lambton] at the end.”
An injury to Belswans in the first half forced a change of formation but by no means was it an excuse for Stafford.
“The injury made us change our shape and I don’t think it helped in the second half with how we played. We just had to deal with it,” Stafford said.
“At the end of the day, we could have competed a little better in the back 5 to 10 minutes [and maybe] could’ve got away with something. That would’ve been good.
“I think it was just a good game between two good sides who were up for it and you can see it by the noise [New Lambton] made when they won and how much it means [to them].”
Toronto Awaba FC 5-2 West Wallsend SFC
West Wallsend fell victim to a vastly improved Toronto Awaba on Saturday night to end their impressive week on a sour note.
With Bluebells coach Darren Sills out due to illness, assistant coach Geoff Blomfield took the reins at Lyall Peacock Field following their stunning victory over New Lambton midweek.
But Westy were brought crashing back to earth with a 5-2 defeat.
“I couldn’t fault the boys’ efforts. They were into it. Just kudos to Toronto, they were very clinical in front of goal. The effort from [West Wallsend] was there. It was just one of those nights,” Blomfield said.
Jumping directly into a midweek game, then a weekend fixture after no football for months was no easy task, especially when faced with a strengthened Toronto Awaba away from home.
“We might have been a little bit flat from Tuesday, it’s hard to say. It was a pretty big effort [against New Lambton,” Blomfield said.
“[Toronto] had their young boys from last year and added to that, so we weren’t surprised [by their quality] at all.
“They are a good side that played good football and were clinical. [Toronto] were up for their first game and kudos to them. They played well.”
Their conflicting first couple of fixtures make it difficult to get a read on West Wallsend and what they might be capable of this season.
“What we had there [against Toronto] was a good enough first grade squad, so we’ll see what happens for the rest of [the season],” Blomfield said.
A Nick Roberts double plus goals to Jacob Dundas, Jarrod Purcell and Reece Green secured the result for the Stags, while Tyler Rankmore and Matthew Paul scored for West Wallsend.
Brock Taylor also made his Northern League One debut for the Bluebells.
“They were just buzzing to get back onto the park,” Toronto Awaba coach Jarrad Hiles said.
After another long hiatus of football with Toronto’s last competitive fixture coming three weeks ago in the Australia Cup, Hiles was pleasantly surprised with Toronto’s victory, played on a heavy pitch.
“[I’m] thankful we could get on. The pitch was pretty heavy but still safe. I’m just thankful that we could get a game in and to get the result, it’s even better,” Hiles said.
Toronto were under the pump in the early stages but a goal from Dundas midway through the first half gave the Stags the lift they needed to run away with all three points.
“[In the] first 15 to 20 minutes, West [Wallsend] were really good and we were under the pump with good movement from Westy. Once we settled into it, got into the game and started to play, we kept the ball well and got a couple of good goals. It was a good game,” Hiles said.
“I enjoyed watching the boys’ efforts and it was great for them to get those little one percenters and be rewarded for it.”
Cessnock City 1-2 Singleton Strikers
Cessnock and Singleton games never seem to disappoint and the clash on Sunday only exemplified the case.
Being the season opener for both sides the Hornets and Strikers were pushing for a positive start to the 2022 campaign at Turner Park.
The game was a constant battle throughout with neither side taking the game by the horns and both teams having an equal number of chances to seal the victory.
Singleton found themselves up 1-0 on the stroke of half-time with Hayden Nicol slotting away a penalty.
End to end action during the entirety of the fixture finally resulted in an open play goal. Around the second half’s midway point, Cessnock substitute Isaac Peek placed a shot toward the bottom right-hand corner from the 18-yard line to level the scores.
But it was not to be for the Hornets, with the away side travelling back home victors thanks to a late Jackson Cox goal.
“It was quite a tight game,” Cessnock City coach Brad Miles said.
“We had our chances and so did they. I thought our first run [this season] wasn’t too bad. We just ran out of legs basically.”
Cessnock are now faced with a few early injuries. Jacob Bartlett and Clayton Williams suffered hamstring injuries while and Kyle Gillis suffered a suspected fractured rib from a challenge with Singleton goalkeeper Corey Cleaver.
“We like to attack fast and use the flanks as well. [The team] is getting used to it. It will take a while as it’s a completely different style to what they played last year, so we are getting there,” Miles said.
Cessnock’s 17-year-old wide midfielder Zac Brown made his debut for the Hornets off the bench.
Singleton Strikers coach Mick Jarvis said it was the little things that his side should have been better at to avoid such a tight affair.
“We wanted to hold the bulk of possession. I thought it was a matter of making sure we fixed the little mistakes. The only reason we put ourselves under a bit of pressure was our passes weren’t finding feet,” Jarvis said.
With Ben Henry, Marlow Court-Kriesch, Joel Barner and Jack Clare all unavailable for selection, it was a makeshift defensive line that Jarvis was forced to put together.
“I think [the defence] did well. They had some experience there. Jackson Skinner is very composed, and Blayden Laverick played Weston reserve grade, so he is used to quality football. Dylan Bentley is taking every opportunity at the moment and his goal is to try and cement his spot [in first grade],” Jarvis said.
It was a day for debuts at Turner Park, with Laverick also making his first grade debut.
“Good sides always find ways to win games and [Singleton] are a good side. We are going to do well,” Jarvis said.