Edgeworth Eagles 4 (Bower 58’, Jackson 71’, Smith 78’, Fabrizio 84’) def. Lambton Jaffas 1 (Crowley 52’)
Sunday 1 September, 2:30 pm, Jack McLaughlan Oval
Edgeworth have taken a significant step towards their fifth consecutive Grand Final following a barrage of late goals to down the Jaffas at home and take a major advantage for the return leg.
An early goal was almost found by Oliver Smith who snuck behind the Lambton defence to go through on goal, but his chance was met by a rushing save from Brad Swancott.
The visitors also troubled the opposition goal with a few long shots but saw their best chance of the half when a back-post cross was cut back to the 2019 Golden Boot winner Braedyn Crowley, but he had his shot smothered by a frantic Eagles defence.
While the first half finished goalless, the second-half was jam-packed with strikes and the first of the game came not too long in the stanza, as Crowley latched himself onto the end of a bumbling corner-kick, volleying it into the net for the lead.
Their advantage didn’t last long at all though as Edgeworth found a quick equaliser and in stunning fashion.
Will Bower took the ball from just outside the corner of the penalty box and a swirling, curling effort in the far top corner leaving Swancott rooted to the spot.
Tyson Jackson then also pulled off a terrific effort to take the lead for the hosts, beating multiple defenders before linking up for a one-two with Daniel Fabrizio and popping it into the bottom corner of the goal.
With the match still in the balance, two goals in quick succession completely turned the tide of the two-legged tie.
Smith grabbed his thirteenth of the year in his return from suspension, poking home a close-range effort after the Jaffas defence couldn’t clear a crossed free-kick, before Fabrizio then scored a deserved strike that fell nicely for him from a corner.
The three-goal advantage now puts the Eagles in an extremely strong position forcing Lambton to now score at least three goals if they want to qualify for the big dance.
The Jaffas may feel a little more confident than they would have if they hadn’t beaten Edgeworth 3-0 just a week ago but face a massive uphill battle to topple the 12-time premiers.
Edgeworth coach Damian Zane said despite the strong lead heading into the second leg, he was adamant that the “job wasn’t done yet.”
“As soon as the game was finished, I said to the boys ‘great start, but essentially if they beat us by what they did last week, they’ll be through’,” Zane said.
“Next week we’re not going to play five upfront that’s for sure but we’re not just going to sit back and invite pressure.
“It’s important we come out and play next week which helps having our captain back.”
Zane made mention of his team’s second half performance and credited his frontmen for how they stepped up after going behind early on.
“I thought they had more of the ball, but I think we both had chances in the first half,” he said.
“We copped that early goal off a set-piece which was a bit unlucky, but I thought it was key that we equalised pretty soon after that. The way we finished off after that was superb really.
“I thought they were some fantastic performances…our midfield worked tirelessly and the boys up front worked hard and some of their end products was a big credit to them.
“Everyone has good moments through the year but it’s what you do when you face a bit of adversity and I think we kept our composure.”
Broadmeadow Magic 2 (Brymora 74’, Piddington 77’) drew with Maitland FC 2 (Wood 26’ (P), Cowburn 75’)
Sunday 1 September, 6:00pm, Magic Park
It’s all square and all to play for in next week’s second leg as Broadmeadow and Maitland scored two goals each in their third exciting draw against one another for the year.
Originally scheduled for Saturday evening, the wet weather postponed the match for Sunday night, but the damp pitch didn’t stop any attacking action.
Magic avoided an early deficit thanks to a goal-line clearance from Matt Hoole to deny Joel Wood of scoring, and just minutes later, Wood was again denied, this time by the desperate, lunging challenge from Luke Virgili to block a one-on-one attempt.
Finally, the visitors found their opening though after being awarded a penalty. Top striker Joel Wood stepped up to the mark and successfully placed it home for the lead.
Maitland held their lead for the rest of the first half and would have doubled their lead in the second had it not been for two great saves from Paul Bitz to deny Nick Cowburn and Wood in quick succession.
Soon after, a flurry of goals – three in three minutes – took the semi-final tie by storm.
Kristian Brymora levelled the scores by rising above the rest on a corner-kick and producing a powerful header into the back of the net, but not even a minute later his goal was cancelled out by a blasting long-range shot from another former Hyundai A-League Newcastle Jet, Nick Cowburn.
The frantic goal-fest didn’t stop there as captain Josh Piddington levelled the scores a second time for the Magicians, smashing a low shot into the bottom corner of the net after a cross into the edge of the box, to score his fifth of the season and potentially the last of his star-studded career.
The sides battled it out for the remainder of the second half, but couldn’t find a match-winner leaving them to draw once more, however, given Maitland only the slightest of advantages heading into the second leg courtesy of the two away goals.