Photo: Sproule Sports Focus
Match of the Round
Maitland Magpies 2 (M.Thompson p 37’, Clarke 69’) drew Edgeworth Eagles 2 (McBreen 21’, Holz 31’) at Cooks Square Park, Saturday 20th August 2.30pm
The Maitland Magpies showed heart, desire and a lot of spirit on a windy afternoon at Cooks Square Park to fight back from two goals down to finish level with the premiers in the first leg of their semi-final showdown.
Down 2-0 inside 31 minutes, the match seemed beyond the home side, but a penalty converted by Matt Thompson and a swinging cross that found its way inside the back post from Ryan Clarke were enough to pull the home side back into the contest.
Playing on a smaller pitch, as Maitland brought the sidelines couple of metres to reduce the threat of the Eagles pace, it was the visiting Eagles who started the stronger of the two sides. With the wind howling from behind them for the first half, Edgeworth controlled the field position and possession for much of the half.
They got their reward when Daniel McBreen opened the scoring on 21 minutes, as Dylan Holz found him with a pinpoint long pass on the left. McBreen ran down the left side of the box, getting on the outside of both Blake Thompson and Dean Heffernan to calmly slot his left foot shot across Maitland keeper Matt Trott and into the bottom right corner.
Just over ten minutes later Dylan Holz doubled the advantage when Ayden Brice found him with a long throw from the right side. Holz turned away from three defenders before burying his right foot shot in the left side of the net to make it 2-0.
It seemed as though it would be a long afternoon for Maitland after Holz put in the Eagles second, but it seemed that was the turning point, as Maitland found some renewed vigour led by the brilliant Matt Thompson.
After a throw-in, the ball bounced up for Jye McKellar who headed over the top of Edgeworth’s defence to Thompson, who was bundled over by Brice. Referee Ryan Gallagher had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and Matt Thompson stepped up to take the penalty.
Thompson fired his penalty into the bottom right corner, where Edgeworth keeper Jim Fogarty looked to have made a brilliant save to keep it out, but unfortunately for Fogarty, it had crossed the line and the Magpies resurgence had begun.
Maitland trailed 2-1 at the break, and when play resumed in the second stanza, with the howling breeze at their backs, Maitland created the best chances. Ryan Clarke having a couple, as well as Zac Hill who had a man-of-the-match performance down the right side for the Magpies.
It was Clarke who locked the matchup for the home side when he ran down the right side. He cut inside Edgeworth defender Josh Evans who had an air swing at the ball, before Clarke stepped away from Evans and back onto his right foot, curling a cross towards the back post. With the gusty wind behind him, Clarke’s cross swirled over Fogarty’s head and dropped into the bottom left corner, as the home crowd went into raptures.
As Maitland searched for their first win against the Eagles since at least 1997, the intensity of the clash reached boiling point, as the battle at Cooks Square Park became very physical and tense. Zac Hill continued to charge down the right-hand side for the home side, swinging in a cross that Ben Martin went very close to knocking in for a massive goal for the Magpies.
In the end though, the Eagles held on to record a 2-2 victory. It sets up a mouth-watering return leg at Edgeworth next Saturday afternoon. Under coach Damian Zane, the Eagles have played four matches in the finals, three of which have ended in draws.
“We let them off the hook a bit. At the end of the day, it was a bit of deja-vu like last year against Magic, where we led 3-1 and had a chance to make it 4-1 and they came back to make it 3-3. They boys were a bit down then, so I said to them at the end of the match, don’t concede next week and your through, so it’s the same again,” a disappointed Damian Zane said at the end of the match.
“At the end of the day, it was very tough conditions today, and it is tough to come here and I know that. So, we need to just start from scratch next week and get the job done at home. We know we are in for a tough match,” Zane added.
For Maitland and Reece Thompson it was all positive.
“At 2-0 down I was scared, to be honest. I think the senior guys we have on the team, your Heffs [Dean Heffernan] and your Thommos [Matt Thompson] really helped us out a fair bit. We came here with a plan and executed it. Long story short, if you had offered me a 2-2 draw at the start of the day I would have taken it,” Thompson said.
“We knew that Zaney [Damian Zane] is preparing his boys pretty well for the FFA Cup match, and we thought this would be his best team today and that he would try and put his best team out and finish us in the first leg. The ideal game for us was to try and stay compact and get bodies behind the ball, and I think we did that.”
Broadmeadow Magic 3 (Haynes 49, Bradbury 82’, 90+5’) defeated Hamilton Olympic 1 (Bird 36’) at Magic Park, Sunday 21st August 2.30pm
Broadmeadow Magic ended Hamilton Olympic’s unbeaten run in the PlayStation 4 NPL Northern NSW and ended their own lean run against their rivals with a 3-1 win on Sunday afternoon.
In a dramatic afternoon of entertainment, Broadmeadow coach Rob Virgili was sent from the pitch for dissent to the officials, as he watched his side roar back into the contest in the second half. It was the first time Hamilton have lost in the NPL competition this season and was Magic’s first win over their rivals since 2013.
It was the visitors though that opened the scoring through Daniel Bird, in what was a carbon copy of the goal he scored three weeks ago against the same opposition and at the same ground. Kane Goodchild stepped past defenders and found Bird on the left who rolled his shot across Nick Hartnett in the Magic goals to give Olympic a much-deserved lead.
The turning point in the match came right on the stroke of half-time when Rhys Cooper found an unmarked Andrew Swan down the left side of the box following a break. Swan had all the time in the world and smacked his left foot shot across Hartnett, but racing onto the line to clear the ball was Luke Virgili, as he stopped Magic going into the sheds down 2-0.
With Magic coach Rob Virgili and Bobby Naumov inspiring their side with a stinging half-time spiel, the home side came out a totally different unit in the second half. Within five minutes they were back level, as Peter Haynes headed home a centimetre-perfect Matt Hoole corner.
Then in the 66th minute, Rob Virgili was sent from the bench following a disputed call with the assistant referee over an offside given against James Virgili. Broadmeadow continued to apply pressure to Olympic in the second half until they finally cracked.
Magic got their reward eight minutes from time when Kale Bradbury broke down the left side after a long ball from Luke Virgili down the left edge. Bradbury came to Tom Pullin and rolled his shot across him and into the right corner.
Magic’s third was a dagger to the heart for Olympic, five minutes into stoppage time, as on the break James Virgili crossed from the right side to Kale Bradbury at the back post who tapped in for a 3-1 lead, as Magic Park erupted.
It was a long-awaited victory for Magic fans and it put them in the box seat to make their first Grand Final since 2013.
After a lacklustre first half, Magic coach Rob Virgili said his side “weren’t following their game plan in the first half.”
“We were just falling down in areas of the park which we worked on during the week. We certainly let that be known at half-time what our thoughts were and to the boy’s credit they were on top for most of the second half.”
“In the second half there was only one side out there and I think we clearly dominated that second half and deserved the win on the chances we did create,” Virgili said.
For Hamilton and Mick Bolch thought the match turned on Luke Virgili’s clearance off the line.
“The turning point in the game was Luke Virgili’s clearance off the line. I think everyone in the ground thought it was going in.”
Bolch was pleased though with his side’s first-half performance but lamented the second.
“They came out in the first 10-15 minutes and really put it to us, and we weathered the storm. Then we took control of the game in the midfield. But, second half they were just better than us, and they probably deserved it at the end of the day based on that,” Bolch said.
Looking to next weekend Bolch was confident his side are nowhere near out of the tie.
“Next weekend, we just can’t panic. Realistically, we did enough in the first half to take a two-goal lead this week. If we are the first to score on Saturday, we can go on with it.”