Maitland FC 2-3 Weston Workers FC
Weston Workers scored an important win in the latest instalment of the el Clásicoal downing rivals Maitland 3-2 on Saturday.
Weston were hunting their third win in a week to keep building momentum into the back end of the season after collecting 3-1 and 5-2 wins over Adamstown Rosebud and Lake Macquarie City respectively.
Maitland had beaten Weston in their two meetings this season, most recently eliminating the Bears from the Australia Cup with a 5-1 victory, though that result did not reflect the closeness of the match.
Maitland went level on points with top of the table Broadmeadow Magic last weekend with their win against Valentine but faltered against Lambton Jaffas midweek, going down 3-1.
The Magpies also had to do take on Weston without defender Zach Thomas who was suspended due to a red card he received against the Jaffas.
El clásicoal may have been the only Indigenous Round fixture to go ahead for round 17 due to wet weather but it provided plenty of entertainment and intrigue as the race for the finals starts heating up.
Weston produced the first chance of the match at Cooks Square Park, almost scoring the opener in the 17th minute through a corner but Jakeb Brownlow was denied by the crossbar with his header.
Weston defender Chris Hurley found teammate Tommy Dugan just minutes later at the top of the Magpies penalty area and Duggan produced a sublime first touch to shake his defender and unleash a shot that beat Maitland keeper Paul Bitz at his left post, giving the visitors the lead.
The rain that washed out all the other NPL Men’s NNSW fixtures was pleasingly absent for the match, leading to expansive play from both sides. The closing moments in the first half saw corners awarded for both sides but neither could capitalise thanks to saves from Weston keeper Jacob Zissis and Bitz.
Despite the late flurry Weston held onto their 1-0 lead into the break. Duggan extended that lead when he grabbed his second of the afternoon, collecting the ball and beating Bitz with a carefully placed shot in the 52nd minute.
Weston were in a deserved 2-0 lead but casual observers would have been puzzled by the score given Maitland were 5-1 winners over the Bears at Cooks Square Park three weeks ago.
Maitland pegged one back through a Will McFarlane header just moments after Duggan’s second goal, giving the Magpies a much-needed leg up on a tough afternoon.
Maitland now tasted blood in the water and went searching for an equaliser and almost found it through a James Thompson header moments later but he could not find a way past Zissis, much to his bemusement.
Mercurial midfielder Aaron Niyonkuru restored the Bears’ two goal buffer in the 73rd minute as he fashioned a shot from the edge of the box that beat Bitz at his near post, putting Weston on the brink of an important win in the context of their season.
Tempers flared between the two sides but Weston maintained their control on the scoreboard. Maitland bagged a consolation goal with the ball finding the back of the net from a deep cross in the ninth minute of stoppage time, despite Weston’s appeals for a foul on Zissis.
The victory sees Weston rise to fifth on the table, while Maitland have now suffered consecutive losses for the first time this season, handing the advantage back to Broadmeadow Magic and Charlestown Azzurri in the race for the premiership.
Weston’s newly appointed interim coach Anthony Richards said he was incredibly proud of his squad for taking victory home against their rivals.
“I’m incredibly proud of the players today, they were fantastic,” Richards said.
“We have started to string wins together now, that certainly helps with confidence. Once you work out what it takes to win a game, you just have to replicate it and I was really proud of all the effort from the boys today.
“We came into today with confidence and we took our chances and Maitland probably didn’t take theirs today. We had two good wins in the last two games and we brought that sense of belief into today’s game.”
Maitland assistant coach Gav Wolfe said they would have to find a way to freshen their players with the hectic schedule that lies before them.
“Weston, to their credit, took their opportunities,” Wolfe said.
“Couple of neat finishes from Tommy Duggan got them away pretty well and we failed to create chances throughout the game. We scraped in with a couple of late goals but up to that point we failed to create, we were pretty flat. I think four games in 11 days have finally caught up with us.
“We were missing Zach Thomas who has been an integral part of our backline for the last couple of seasons, Alex Reid came in and did a really good job but I think the combination of those things made it difficult for us. We have a task this week to freshen the guys up if we are fortunate enough to not have a game on Wednesday [due to wet weather].”