MATCH OF THE ROUND
Edgeworth FC 0-2 Maitland FC
A stunning Tye Cousins volley helped Maitland to an impressive 2-0 win over Edgeworth on Saturday night.
The Match of the Round at Jack McLaughlan Oval did not disappoint as the Magpies edged an even contest to secure their opening win of the season.
Edgeworth were always going to be up against it in the absence of injured captain Pay Wheeler. But the Eagles were also without first team regulars Dylan Holz, Sam Maxwell and Cooper Hunter against a Maitland side boasting the strike power of Braedyn Crowley and James Thompson.
Thompson was a standout in the early exchanges as he worried Edgeworth’s defence, almost setting up the opening goal for Cousins in the fourth minute only for his effort to be saved by Josh Low.
Edgeworth were buoyed by a vocal home crowd with the first half providing plenty of entertainment as chances came frequently early on for Maitland before the Eagles warmed to the task.
It was 2021 NPL Men’s NNSW player of the year Jeremy Brockie who almost broke the deadlock for Edgeworth as he attempted to poke one home past Paul Bitz after 11 minutes.
But the best chance of the half for the Eagles came eight minutes later when Will Bower looked destined to opening the scoring. With Bitz beaten the ball rolled kindly for Bower only for his effort to come back off the post.
Maitland started the second half with renewed vigour as they looked to secure their first win of the season following their goalless draw against Cooks Hill United last week.
The breakthrough would come through Cousins six minutes after half-time with the attacker providing an early submission for goal of the season with a sensational mid-air volley from a Thompson cross that found the bottom corner.
From there momentum stayed with the visitors with Crowley almost immediately doubling the advantage one minute later, only for Low to thwart him one on one.
The hosts pushed hard for an equaliser but were unable to find one, with Crowley securing the result with his first goal of the campaign as he squeezed a shot between Low’s legs to make it 2-0 in added time.
Maitland assistant coach Nick Webb said the win filled him with confidence for the rest of the season.
“After not scoring last week [against Cooks Hill] it was good to get the two goals and I feel we created plenty of chances,” Webb said.
“I don’t feel like [Edgeworth] really worried us. We were on top for most of the match and apart from that one chance [for Will Bower] I thought we controlled the game well.
“The Tye Cousins goal was a special goal. He puts a lot of pressure on himself to score so for him to get that is great.
“Crowley is a special player. Once he gets started he won’t stop scoring.”
Eagles assistant coach Gary Wilson was gracious in defeat and said Maitland were a tough side but was hopeful of getting a full Edgeworth squad back available soon.
“I thought it was a pretty even game but in the end [Maitland] took their chances,” Wilson said.
“They were full strength and we definitely have a few players to come back but we are improving every week.
“Since [Edgeworth coach Peter McGuiness] has come on board it is a process to get where we need to be.
“We were missing Pat Wheeler, he’s the main one. The game in the NPL these days is just so hectic and fast and if you try and match Maitland who is probably the best in the competition at it, you’re just in a running match with them the whole game and Pat Wheeler knows how to organise the midfield and change that tempo.
“I think they probably just shaded us in the end and deserved the result but I think it was a pretty even match.”
It does not get any easier for Edgeworth as they turn their attention to big round two winners Weston FC next round, while Maitland will look to make it two-in-a-row against Adamstown Rosebud at home.
Cooks Hill United 0-5 Weston Workers FC
Weston Workers fired a warning shot to the rest of the competition after they slotted five goals past Cooks Hill United to begin their campaign on a winning note at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.
The Bears started the match full of running, with Weston awarded early consecutive corners that defender Zac Snedden took full advantage of with a header to open the scoring in the sixth minute.
Cooks Hill had no answer for the Bears’ set pieces as captain Nathan Morris doubled their advantage in the 26th minute with a brilliantly taken free kick, picking out the top left corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Cooks Hill had limited opportunities to find a reply and were unable to open their account for the season after playing out their second goalless fixture in a row following their 0-0 draw with Maitland in their season opener last weekend.
The Bears continued their dominance right from the whistle for the second half with Tommy Duggan putting his body on the line to latch onto a dangerously placed through ball.
Duggan delicately chipped Cooks Hill goalkeeper Lachlan Watson with the pair colliding heavily as Weston extended their advantage to 3-0.
The Bears were clinical in front of goal and took their chances. It was then Chris Hurley who would be next to add his name to the score sheet after following up the good work of teammate Aaron Niyonkuru.
Niyonkuru danced his way into the penalty area and drilled a low shot that Watson was wise to but not the follow up from Hurley, who fired home to continue the romp.
Niyonkuru would again bamboozle defenders with his footwork and put the exclamation mark on the emphatic victory as he beat Watson with a terrific shot from distance in added time to make it 5-0.
Bears assistant coach Anthony Richards said it was the perfect way to start their campaign as they set their sights on Edgeworth at home next week.
“To open our scoring with the freekick from Nathan Morris it was one of his special ones. He just does that time after time and to finish it off with Aaron’s goal, it was a good day for everybody,” Richards said
“That was our first 90-minute game in probably a month, so we were a little bit rusty.
“Fitness wise we aren’t quite there yet but you have to be happy with a 5-0 [win] and no injuries. It was difficult as far as fitness for us but we are happy with the result.
“[Cooks Hill United] are an awesome team. They are going to get more positive results than negative through the year and you certainly know when you have been in a game with those boys. They are quite physical.”
Adamstown Rosebud 1-4 Valentine FC
Valentine got their season off to the best possible start as they defeated Adamstown Rosebud away from home on Saturday afternoon.
Valentine would have been determined for a fast start this season after finished last last year in a horror season that yielded just one win.
Valentine were handed the early advantage after a mistake from Adamstown goalkeeper Tom Jenkin who fumbled an uncontested free kick from almost 40 yards out by former Newcastle Jets midfielder Nick Cowburn into his own goal after nine minutes.
But Rosebud were able to cancel out Cowburn’s goal with Kaleb Cox drilling a low shot from just outside the penalty area that found the bottom left corner to level the scores in the 22nd minute.
Valentine would then turn up the pressure after the equaliser and found a quick reply from a corner after 26 minutes that veteran defender Matt Thompson was able to smash home from close distance after a classy nod down from Carl Thornton.
Ryan Clarke would extend Valentine’s advantage six minutes later showing great control to volley an effort from the top of the penalty area while back peddling after Rosebud had failed to clear a corner to safety.
The second half would provide few opportunities until Cowburn forced a strong save from Jenkin after a fantastic solo charge into the penalty area that allowed Nick Martinelli to follow up the save and thrash home Valentine’s fourth and final goal of the afternoon.
Player-coach Adam Hughes said after all the pre-season training nothing compared to stepping out on the field for the first game.
“It’s always some tense and nervous moment when you play your first game of the season in any league,” Hughes said.
“Nothing compares to playing. You can play all the trials you want but once you step out on the park to start the season [it is different]. I’m very happy the way we went.
“[The most important aspect] was our mentality and attitude of the players when they stepped on the park. It was fantastic and we had a game plan in mind and it went accordingly.”
Valentine will now prepare to face Lake Macquarie City next weekend, while Rosebud will take on the challenge of Maitland FC at Cooks Square Park.
Newcastle Olympic 1-3 Charlestown Azzurri
Charlestown Azzurri coach Graham Law commended his side for fighting for the result as they downed Newcastle Olympic 3-1 at Darling Street Oval on Saturday.
Azzurri were forced to share the points in their opening match of the season against Lake Macquarie City last weekend, while Newcastle Olympic were fresh from a thrilling victory to start their season on a high against fierce rivals Broadmeadow Magic.
It was Azzurri striker Riley Smith who opened the scoring for the evening as he latched onto a dangerous cross that he headed home from close range just before the half hour mark.
But Newcastle Olympic persisted and found an equaliser through exciting new signing Chan Yelchan who made it two goals from as many matches as he drilled his shot between Azzurri goalkeeper Nathan Archbold’s legs.
With the score level at the start of the second half it was again Smith who proved that he is in for another big season with the club when he turned in a clever Nigel Boogaard header from a corner two minutes into the second half.
Azzurri had the advantage but Newcastle Olympic pressed hard for an equaliser until Regan Lundy extended Azzurri’s advantage to 3-1 in the 70th minute after cashing in on a loose ball in the penalty area after Olympic keeper Adam Pearce had blocked another Smith shot.
Law said it was a hard-fought victory despite the 3-1 result and recognised there would be no easy games this season with the competition standard at an all-time high.
“I thought it was a real arm-wrestle in the first-half,” Law said.
“It was a real physical game. We matched up to that and then we were able to force our own style in the match.
“In the second half we were able to move the ball and create goal-scoring opportunities.”
Law also outlined the importance of the continuing development of two-goal hero Smith.
“Riley is a kid I had at the Jets [Youth] when I was there. He’s fabulous to coach and he’s really good for the team. His energy levels are just [exceptional],” Law said.
“We have GPS trackers [on our players] and we can see what Riley produces every week and he is leading most runs off the ball and distance covered.
“It was pleasing the two goals he scored because we have been working on getting him striker goals and those two goals were classic striker goals.”
Lambton Jaffas 2-1 Broadmeadow Magic
Lambton Jaffas started their title defence with a 2-1 come from behind win over Broadmeadow Magic on Sunday.
The game threatened to boil over at points with several Jaffas players previously featuring for Magic which made for a spirited and sometimes tense match.
But it was the Jaffas that would prove too strong in the end with the second half producing the game’s three goals.
Jaffas and Magic created plenty of opportunities in the first half but similar to Broadmeadow’s opening clash against Newcastle Olympic, Magic were again unable to convert the early pressure into goals despite striker Damon Green threatening every time he entered the penalty area.
The visitors started the second half brightly with Bailey Wells breaking the deadlock off the back of a swift counterattack early in the second half.
But it would be two familiar faces who would come back to haunt Magic with Jaffas midfielder Mitch Rooke finding the equaliser after combining with Luke Virgili to score a header in the 66th minute.
With the scores locked at 1-1 heading into the last quarter of the match the game looked destined to produce a winner with Lambton and Broadmeadow desperately trying to find the decisive goal.
But it would be Jaffas striker James Virgili who would bag the winner nine minutes from full-time, pouncing on a spilled ball by Magic keeper Nathanael Cavaliere to sink his former club with the ultimately match-decisive strike.
The reigning premiers will now turn their attention to Charlestown Azzurri next weekend, while Magic will be desperate to get their opening win of the season when they welcome Cooks Hill United to Magic Park.