Graham Sport and Nature Photography
Maitland FC 4-2 Newcastle Olympic
Maitland striker Braedyn Crowley extended his lead in the NPL Men’s NNSW NPL golden boot race with a first-half hat trick at the Magpies downed Newcastle Olympic 4-2 on Saturday evening.
Maitland secured the three points despite a nervy final 10 minutes in front of their home fans who braved the wet conditions at Cooks Square Park.
The weather initially held off for the opening exchanges of the match with the home side striking first in the 18th minute.
Crowley bagged his first goal of the match courtesy of a clever header from strike partner James Thompson from the edge of the penalty area, with the Maitland captain on the scene to poke it home to give his side the advantage.
It was a tight tussle for most of the first half but Crowley gave the Magpies a three-goal advantage heading into half-time, despite Olympic arguably performing the better of the two sides.
Thompson was again pivotal for Crowley’s second and third goals, with Thompson finding his in-form striker twice in the closing minutes of the first half as Crowley made no mistake close to goal.
The 3-0 score may not have reflected how tightly contested the opening 45 minutes were but the Magpies immediately asserted their dominance from the second half whistle, with Crowley turning provider for Thompson to make it 4-0.
Refusing to lay down, Olympic pegged one back in the 50th minute with Joey Langlois bizarrely scoring with the back of his head close to goals after Maitland failed to clear their lines.
As the day turned to night for the second half the weather began to turn, with the rain that washed out the other weekend fixtures well and truly arriving at Cooks Square Park in the final quarter.
Olympic continued the fightback and ensured a tense final 10 minutes as Vince Unie headed home from close range to bring the visitors within two goals.
With the rain teeming down in the closing stages, long-range efforts from Ken Harrison and Malik Thom had the goal of the season award beckoning but both shots hit the woodwork.
A straight red card to Olympic goalkeeper Adam Pearce in the closing stages embodied the frantic nature the match had become, as he made a vicious challenge from well outside his penalty area on James Thompson, with the Magpies ending the match victorious 4-2.
Maitland assistant coach Nick Webb made special mention of his strike duo of James Thompson and Braedyn Crowley and also commended the side for taking the three points in tough conditions.
“It just shows you how important having a quality strike partnership is,” Webb said.
“I don’t mind saying, we were awful in that first half. I’m sure the coaching staff of [Newcastle Olympic] were pulling their hair out [with the result], because we were dominated in that first half.
“We ended up scoring goals quickly to finish the half that made it look like we were in control, which we weren’t. It was backs to the wall for the whole game, we weren’t great and it was probably our worst performance for the whole year but we managed to score four goals.
“Playing on Wednesday night [against Lambton Jaffas] probably took that sting out of us, so that first half was pretty ordinary. We were pretty flat and tired [after the mid-week game], but we will walk away with those three points looking back that it was a good [win] to get.”