NPL Men’s NNSW Round 16 Review: Magpies bounce back to share lead in premiership race

June 27th, 2022

 James Paras

Sproule Sports Focus

Match of the Round
Valentine FC 2-3 Maitland FC

Maitland joined Charlestown Azzurri and Broadmeadow Magic at the top of the table after they downed a valiant Valentine outfit at CB Complex on Sunday.

Maitland came into the match looking to erase the memory of their last gasp defeat that saw them knocked out of the Australia Cup to Broadmeadow Magic midweek, while Valentine was looking for back-to-back wins for the second time this season.

It was the home side that fired the first shot of the afternoon, with Harry Lane finding himself alone in Maitland’s penalty area and calmly slotting his shot past goalkeeper Paul Bitz to give the home side an unlikely lead.

Maitland looked sluggish in the early exchanges which could have been attributed to their hard-fought clash against Magic on Wednesday night but when the ball popped up for in-form striker James Thompson in the penalty area, he made no mistake in levelling the scores just after the half-hour mark.

But the lead was short-lived due to a mix up from Magpies defender Alex Reid. In attempting to pass back to Bitz he sprayed his pass and it found the bottom left corner to hand the advantage straight back to Valentine.

Reid would not have to hang his head for long after his mistake, as Valentine goalkeeper Brodie Volkienne spilled the ball from a Braedyn Crowley corner and Reid was there to smash it home to restore parity heading into half-time.

The first half provided plenty of entertainment for the fans and the scores being locked at the half-time whistle was a fair reflection of a competitive half of football.

Maitland emerged for the second half with renewed urgency, seemingly sensing collecting three points could be a massive boost to their premiership credentials as they looked to control possession and build pressure.

A set piece early in the second half gave Valentine their best opportunity to find the lead, as Bitz lost the ball when he hit the ground trying after an attempted catch but Reid was on the scene to clear the ball to safety.

After that it was one-way traffic for Maitland as they set up camp in Valentine’s half. Crowley was unable to find the mark with multiple attempts and an unmarked Adam Blunden also gave away a golden opportunity as he rocketed his shot over the crossbar.

But Maitland’s persistence finally paid dividends as Thompson collected his second of the afternoon when he smashed his shot home from close range after an interchange of passes.

Thompson’s second goal in the 65th minute gave Maitland the lead for the first time in the match and the hill would get steeper for the hosts as Carl Thornton was shown a straight red card after being deemed to have fouled Crowley in a goal scoring situation.

Maitland were able to preserve their lead and close out the match 3-2, with the victory seeing them join Magic and Azzurri at the top of the table with a game in hand.

Maitland assistant coach Gav Wolfe said it was an important win for the Magpies as they continue their hunt for the NPL Men’s NNSW premiership.

“We have had a couple of tough games of football as of late,” Wolfe said.

“We identified that this game could be one where we slip up. Valentine, even though they were missing players like Ryan Clarke, Nick Cowburn and Adam Hughes they are still a decent side. We certainly weren’t going into the match underestimating them.

“We were a bit slow out of the blocks and we needed to be better and smarter but we weren’t. We conceded that early goal, got one back and then gave another one back to them. It was a challenging game for us and we were lucky to get away with the three points at the end of the day.”

Edgeworth FC 1-2 Broadmeadow Magic

Broadmeadow Magic followed up their stunning mid-week Australia Cup victory to down Edgeworth 2-1 at Jack McLaughlan Oval on Saturday.

Magic also moved to the top of the table on goal difference, with Charlestown Azzurri and Maitland equal with them on 26 points.

Magic came into the match after sealing their place in the Australia Cup’s national round of 32 on Wednesday, downing Maitland 2-1 in dramatic fashion with two injury-time goals to steal the result.

Edgeworth had strengthened their claim to fifth spot last weekend with a good win against Weston and were looking to continue their charge to the finals when they welcomed the red-hot Magic side.

Magic was first to strike just after the 20th minute, with in-form striker Jayden Stewardson getting his foot to a lobbed ball in the Edgeworth penalty area and squeezing his shot past keeper Josh Low to make it 1-0.

Magic doubled their lead in the 28th minute when defender Thomas Beecham rose above the pack to get his head to a deep cross from teammate Bailey Wells.

It was always going to be a test of resolve for the visitors if they were to collect three points against Edgeworth, with Broadmeadow on the quick turnaround from what was a fast and brutal match against Maitland midweek.

A corner from the home side almost gave the Eagles their breakthrough in the closing moments of the half, as the ball was whipped in and almost beat Magic keeper Zac Bowling, forcing an acrobatic save.

Magic closed the half with their two-goal lead intact but Edgeworth was warming into the affair.

The beginning of the second half would see both sides jostle for ascendancy but it was the Eagles who found the back of the net back, turning the tension up a notch.

Josh Rose pounced on a brilliantly weighted first-time lobbed Jeremy Brockie pass releasing Rose into the backfield with only Bowling to beat. His strong finish beat Bowling at his near post to make the score 2-1.

Edgeworth created plenty around Magic’s penalty area but were unable to find an equaliser.

Magic coach Damian Zane said it was the ultimate test for his side to take the three points from Jack McLaughlan Oval after their last gasp victory in the Australia Cup midweek.

“The boys were very tired [on Friday],” Zane said.

“We came in to do a recovery session before the match [against Edgeworth]. I had some of my fittest players struggling with cramps and fatigue. If we played another 30 minutes I dare say we wouldn’t have held on today.

“I said to someone earlier that the midweek game [against Maitland] took a lot out of us emotionally, physically and also vocally, it was very draining. Because of that I gave a different team talk today, it was about mentality and putting in a shift for the team.

“I’ve got to take my hat off [to my players]. Our first half today we played football I couldn’t have dreamed of, it was that good. But in the second half Edgeworth really came back into the game and the fact we were able to grind out the win in the end there, it was a really special team effort.”

Charlestown Azzurri 1-1 Cooks Hill United

Cooks Hill United held Charlestown Azzurri to a draw for the second time this season which could cause massive ramifications for this year’s premiership race.

The draw sees Graham Law’s men move to 26 competition points, with Broadmeadow Magic and Maitland now joining Azzurri on the same amount of points after they both collected wins on the weekend.

Cooks Hill were also forced into a late reshuffle due to sickness with Pat Bond, Sam Kitcher and Jamie Burns all being ruled out within 24 hours before the match.

Cooks Hill were looking to make amends after exiting the Australia Cup midweek with a 3-0 loss to Newcastle Olympic and started the match against Azzurri full of running, asking questions of the home side’s defence with an early corner.

Azzurri withstood the early pressure from Dave Tanchevski’s side and looked to impose themselves on the match as they had done so many times previously this season.

Azzurri’s best chance came just after the half hour mark when veteran defender Nigel Boogaard got his head to the ball in the Cooks Hill penalty area but his effort was denied by the crossbar leaving the scores locked at 0-0 heading into the break at Lisle Carr Oval.

Azzurri found their breakthrough from a corner just before the hour mark. The ball was played to an unmarked Jackson Frendo who released a shot that seemingly took a deflection and wound up finding the bottom right corner to give his side the lead.

But the visitors would not be deterred and they found their equaliser through Sam Webb who found himself in open pastures following a sumptuous ball from Bailey Newton over the Azzurri defensive line.

Cooks Hill almost found the lead courtesy of a dangerous run down the touchline from Newton, with the resulting shot forcing a low diving save from Azzurri goalkeeper Nathan Archbold.

But neither side found the breakthrough in the end, with the match ending as a stalemate 1-1. Cooks Hill and Charlestown Azzurri’s earlier meeting this year was also a 3-3 draw.

Tanchevski said his side could have pinched a result but in the end sharing the points with Azzurri was a good reflection of the contest.

“It was similar to our first game [against Azzurri], probably disappointed we didn’t come away with a win,” Tanchevski said.

“We were disappointed with the goal we conceded, it took a deflection. It was similar to how we conceded the equaliser the last time we played.

“We worked hard through the week on defending set pieces. We worked hard on defending corners but we didn’t on the variation where they dropped a man to the top of the box and had a shot that went in.

“Apart from that header from Boogaard that took the crossbar, [Azzurri] didn’t have many chances and we had some really good chances that we should have put away. We probably tired out a bit towards the end there, there were a couple of two v ones we didn’t take advantage of. But across the board, a draw was probably a fair result across the 90 minutes.”

Lake Macquarie City 2-3 Newcastle Olympic

Newcastle Olympic overcame a two-goal deficit to down Lake Macquarie City on Sunday.

Newcastle Olympic was backing up from their midweek triumph 3-0 against Cooks Hill United that saw them progress to the Australia Cup national round of 32, while Lakes were looking to arrest a five-game slide.

It was Lakes who were first to strike just after 10 minutes at Macquarie Field as Cooper Verstegen produced a spectacular first-time volley from a cross that beat Olympic goalkeeper Adam Pearce at his near post to give the home side the lead.

Just two minutes later veteran striker John Majurovski was on the scene to head home a loose ball in the box, giving the home side an unlikely two-goal advantage just before 15 minutes played.

A strong foul on Lakes’ Tapuwanashe Goora gave the home side a free kick just outside Olympic’s penalty area but Tomasz Kowalski was unable to find the mark.

But Olympic were able to peg a goal back through Joey Langlois as he headed home at the far post off the back of a set piece from the visitors.

An own goal forced by a Jared Muller cross restored parity for Olympic just as the first half was coming to a close. Muller danced close to the edge of the penalty area and sent his cross that deflected off Lakes’ Michael Bru and into the back of the net.

With the scores locked at 2-2 heading into the break, Lakes and Olympic emerged in the second half looking to take all three points.

It took until the 75th minute for Olympic to find their winner, with Langlois grabbing his second of the afternoon after a clever cut-back from Muller found Langlois alone in the box.

Olympic secured the three points that now see them move to sixth place on the table and hand Lakes their sixth straight defeat.

Lakes coach Keelan Hamilton said he was proud of his side despite the result.

“Tough result, two weeks in a row but I’m immensely proud of our playing group,” Hamilton said.

“We are under a lot of adversity at the minute, we have a 17-year-old learning his craft as a centre-back and we are bringing a 15-year-old off the bench to make his debut. The players on the pitch are giving everything they have got. We were a bit unlucky today, we started well and we had our chances but our finishing could be better.

“We have had a stretch of games where we were well behind at half-time and we have worked hard to address that. We have some adversity but that’s not an excuse, we are well down on troops and we are going through a tough patch of results but we are still trying to change our football club and keep building forward.”

Weston Workers FC 3-1 Adamstown Rosebud

Weston Workers secured a potentially season-defining victory when they downed Adamstown Rosebud on Sunday.

The victory sees Weston break a five-match winless streak and most importantly keep them in the hunt for a spot in the finals. Rosebud on the other hand remain winless and anchored to the bottom of the table with the loss.

Jakeb Brownlow opened the scoring at Rockwell Automation Park as he latched onto a lobbed cross and headed home past Rosebud keeper Tom Jenkin in the seventh minute.

But Rosebud did not bow to the pressure, finding their equaliser in the 15th minute through Nathan Toby who pounced on a loose ball into the box and found the back of the net.

Weston’s Dutch import Moustafa Mohammad played a ball from the edge of Rosebud’s penalty area that found teammate Sam Kamper, who smashed a low-driven shot from outside the penalty area that was too much for Jenkin to handle making the score 2-1.

The score remained 2-1 until half-time and Weston would have to show patience in the second half to find the killer blow that secured the three points.

That chance came when Mohammad tried his luck from the edge of the penalty area, beating Jenkin at his far post to give Weston a 3-1 advantage after 65 minutes.

Weston preserved their lead to close out the match and collect their fourth win of the season. It also sees Leo Bertos’s men leapfrog Valentine into seventh spot on the table.

Weston assistant coach Anthony Richards said it was good to get that winning feeling back in the dressing room after a tough month of results.

“It was nice to get three points and try and fight our way to the top five,” Richards said.

“I felt we did it pretty comfortably and we scored some good goals as well. Sometimes you can forget what it’s like [to win] when you have a tough couple of games.

“We had a good draw against Jaffas not too long ago but it was certainly good to sing the team song again, some of the boys were starting to forget the words to it.”

Related Topics:
NPL Men's NNSW Round 16 Review

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