Match of the Round
Valentine Phoenix 1 (Pearson 45+1’) def. by Weston Bears 3 (Morris 30’, Buswell 69’, Sneddon 76’)
Saturday 6 July, 4:30pm, Rockwell Automation Park
Having not defeated Valentine since 2013, the Bears put an end to that trend with a grinding 3-1 victory to retain their challenging position in the premiership race.
Despite the match being a Valentine home game, the fixture had been moved to Weston during the week due to the wet weather, and the new hosts played that to their advantage, quickly asserting their dominance early by keeping the majority of possession.
Their possession turned into a goal midway through the first half as a Chris Hurley cross was met by a strong Nathan Morris header that looped Joel Magnee into the goal.
Their lead was shortly dismantled though right on the stroke of half-time as Phoenix youngsters Aaron Niyonkuru and Kaleb Pearson combined from a cross, and although Pearson’s first header was initially saved by Tristian Esquiliant, the rebound that followed couldn’t be stopped.
The visitors hung in throughout much of the second half with a strong and tough defensive structure, but with just over twenty minutes to go, the Bears broke through.
Cooper Buswell latched himself onto the end of some brilliant work from winger Jason Tjien-Fooh before tucking it into the corner of the goal, and then minutes later, Zac Sneddon blistered home a header to score against his former side and successfully seal the two-goal victory.
Weston coach Kew Jaliens confessed his side certainly didn’t play their best, but he was pleased with the way they scrambled together for the three points.
“Our performance could’ve been better if we were more composed, but I’m happy with the three points,” Jaliens said.
“We had a chat about that [grinding out a victory]. Your quality and talent can only mean something if you put in at least the same effort as the opposition. I was pleased that they brought it in the second half.
“I thought our substitutes Cooper Buswell and Jackson Burston coming on were standouts and had a good impact on our game.”
Weston remain sitting in third but are now just one point away the top of the table and if their form can continue, they’ll be likely to finish in a finals spot and premiership contention.
For Valentine, that loss spells their fourth straight game without a win as they continue to squander near the bottom of the table and just four points away from their rivals Lake Macquarie who are in last place.
Hamilton Olympic 1 (Pettit 32’) def. by Edgeworth Eagles 4 (Gardner 77’, Finn 78’, 83’, Smith 90+1’)
Saturday 6 July, 5:00pm, Darling Street Oval
Edgeworth have pulled off a stunning, late barrage of goals to come from behind to defeat Hamilton and it all came off the back of the introduction of 16-year-old, Archie Finn.
The visitors almost found the breakthrough in the first minute of the game as veteran Daniel McBreen jumped on the end of a corner, but his solid shot was tipped over the bar excellently by Olympic goalkeeper Tyler Warren.
Later on in the half, the first goal would come to the hosts as Kent Harrison played a searching ball into the box finding Scott Pettit and a glancing header that nabbed the first of the game and his seventh for the year.
The Eagles continued to knock on the door of Olympic’s goal throughout the first half, but it was Hamilton who had a golden chance to double their lead after Harrison’s shot that was initially blocked by Josh Low in goals fell perfectly for Rhys Cooper but he blasted his close-range shot over the bar
Chasing a slim margin in the second half, Edgeworth coach Damian Zane made a risky substitution that paid dividends as he brought on one of their most promising youngsters, Finn, who played a major role in turning the contest completely on its head.
With 13 minutes to go in the match, Finn combined with midfielder Aden Gardner, placing the ball on a dime for Gardner to slot home from close range, then, just 45 seconds later, Gardner would prove pivotal again after winning the ball from Olympic’s defence and playing Finn in behind who then calmly slotted the ball home for his first top-grade goal.
Five minutes after that, the two young stars incredibly linked up once more to give the Eagles a two-goal cushion as Gardner’s pinpoint cross was powerfully headed home by Finn to double his career goal-scoring record, and not too long after in stoppage time, Oliver Smith grabbed his tenth of the year to put the icing on the cake.
Despite being down for the majority of the match, Zane confessed he felt his side were always still in with a good chance of making a comeback.
“I was disappointed at half, I thought it was harsh that we were down,” said Zane.
“The way the game was going on, I thought we had a bit of strength to come from the bench.
“I just thought it was a matter of holding tough when you’re not dominating the game, and taking your chances when you are dominating the game and that was probably the story.”
Zane also made special mention for the teenage substitute, Finn, who put in a game-changing performance, as well as Gardner who Zane suggests has been one of the Eagles’ best.
“Aden Gardner has been our player of the year,” Zane said.
“His game is just going to great heights… He’s a very smart player, he get’s what we’re doing each week and I reckon he’s doing 13km’s a game. He doesn’t stop.
“I’ve just felt something special in him [Finn].
“There’s something about him. He’s got a real presence, especially in the penalty box. To be a 16-year-old and have a presence in the penalty box – what the hell is that? That’s something different. He reminds me of a young Macca [McBreen].”
Maitland FC 2 (M. Swan 20’, J. Thompson 52’) drew with Broadmeadow Magic 2 (Oxborrow 18’, J. Virgili 64’)
Sunday 7 July, 2:30pm, Cooks Square Park
It was a battle set-up to play a huge part in who may take leadership in the premiership race, but for the second time this season, both Broadmeadow and Maitland couldn’t be separated forcing the top four to remain extremely tight.
Former Newcastle Jets man Nick Cowburn turned out for his first appearance for the hosts, but for the second week in a row, Mitch Oxborrow started off the scoring early on, and it was again thanks to a great Luke Virgili cross that landed perfectly for Oxborrow to head on home for the visitors.
Magic’s lead didn’t last long though as Maitland’s Matt Swan ran off some nice play from Joel Wood who held off a defender before placing a pass primed for Swan to bang into the side of the goal.
Wood again played a vital part in the goal scoring department in the second half as jumping onto a Broadmeadow defensive lapse before then finding James Thompson who scored easily from close range for the Magpies.
As the tale has been between these two top sides though, the score-line would quickly revert to being level as an Oxborrow cross found James Virgili in the box and despite having multiple defenders around him, Virgili was able to smash a shot high into the goal.
Both sides scratched and clawed throughout much of the second half in search of a winner, but neither could gather one although Magic came within a whisker through Kristian Brymora who missed from extremely close-range with just minutes remaining.
Maitland’s coach Mick Bolch admitted he was glad to come away from the tough fixture with one point and made special reference to their new star.
“It’s always a hard game against Magic. They are one the top sides in the comp,” Bolch said.
“We’re happy with the draw realistically. It keeps everything in our own hands. As far as the game goes, over the 90 minutes they probably shaded the game a bit.
“We stay undefeated at home and it’s another result against one of the top sides.
“Cowby did well in the middle of the park. He’s obviously short of a gallop in match fitness but he’s going to improve each week.”
Bolch and his side will endure a busy schedule in the coming weeks with a plethora of catch-ups games to be played, as well as FFA Cup duties, however the Maitland coach is confident his team will be able to manage.
“We’ve just got to manage the squad,” Bolch said.
“We’ve got Cowby on board, Matt Thompson and Ryan Broadley have come back so were starting to get numbers back and some of the young boys Tommy Duggan and Louis Townsend have been doing really well too.
“They [his team] won’t get a heap of benefit on the training ground over the next couple of weeks because we’ve got that many games on, so it’s just about managing the workload and the injuries of the squad to get through that period.”
All other matches were postponed.