Monday, 31 August 2015

REVIEW: New-FM Grand Final Day 2015

1st Grade: Valentine F.C 0 def by WALLSEND F.C 1

The long wait has ended for the Wallsend Red Devils as they hoisted their first State League or Division One title in 50 years at the home of the team that beat them 5-0 the last time they played in a Grand Final at this level. It was a day that capped a five-year redemption story for the proud old club from Wallsend.

The game itself was a classic example of Grand Final football...boring. Apart from a fast start from both sides and one or two shots early on, the first half was as attack-lacking as you'll see a New-FM 1st Grade game. Several people agreed with my opinion. The highlight of the first half for me was Winstone Oku showing off his technical skills and beating a couple of defenders.

The second half was similar but with the addition of an steadily-increasing amount of fouls and as a result yellow cards. It was someone surprising to see both teams finish with their full complements. As for the chances of a goal, this game was looking destined for extra time.

Gaps would begin to open up and Valentine were incredibly lucky not to score mid-way through the second half with one or two crucial chances being wasted. Add this to the Phoenix's chances in the first half and they would have been kicking themselves by now.

The breakthrough would come though as the ball fell to Trent Milton who'd end up slotting it past Perry Budden into the far right corner of the net. The #14 brought his team over to celebrate with the Wallsend faithful as they took an unexpected lead against the minor premiers.

Moments later Wallsend nearly broke away and had a chance to make it 2-0 but the ball was lost before the chance could be taken. Valentine threw the kitchen sink at the Red Devils and created some great chances to score but it was becoming increasingly obvious it was not their day.

Fittingly the game would end with Dave Hodgson up to his old tricks, frustrating the Valentine players and revving up the Wallsend fans in that corner of the ground. The whistle would come and start wild celebrations in the North-Eastern corner of Rockwell Automation Park. The Red Devils had done it in their first season back in the big-time.

It was great to see the club celebrate with its fans and lower grade players. The team spirit at Wallsend is second-to-none.

On a personal note, I'd like to firstly thank Valentine Phoenix for being the first club to jump on board with NewySports and constantly sharing my articles and publishing my material in their match-day program. I love the jersey I got and have appreciated the friendliness and respectfulness I've received from the people there (they know who they are!) Best of luck in the NPL!

Secondly, a massive thank-you to Wallsend for inviting me back to the Fire Station Hotel and allowing me to see first-hand how the club would celebrate such a monumental day. I've been around a few different clubs and this one is just unbelievably sociable. Players from 1st Grade, coaches, officials, 23's players, 19's players, you name it. Everyone wanted to have a chat with me and it was a night where I felt like part of the family at the club. I'm looking forward to writing the Wallsend Season Review in the next couple of weeks.


Under 23's: THORNTON REDBACKS 4 def. Lake Macquarie City 0

This game was one to failed to reach the quality of that of the other two lower grade games in my opinion and that's not just because of the lopsided scoreline. It simply wasn't the best game to watch but it was a great win and a convincing win for the Thornton Redbacks.

As for the game, it was a first half that was mostly dominated by strong defending. Crucial touches were needed to intercept any potential through balls but a goal would eventually come after Thornton recorded the majority of the threat in the attacking third. Kyle Duncan would smash the ball past Mathew Guest and give the Redbacks a 1-0 lead.

Lakes were looking a little bit off compared to their performance against Valentine in the Semi Finals and they were made to pay again as James Purazeni smashed in a header off a corner. It'd be the Thornton boys who'd take a 2-0 lead into the sheds at half time but they'd know very well that the job was only half done.

It didn't take long in the second half for Thornton to add another as Newysports' Man of the Match James Purazeni scored a second. This was the most impressive goal of the day as it went in straight off a corner. The Redbacks were firing and denying Lakes any momentum at all.

Captain Mitch Kiczynski has been strong all finals series and he was given a reward for his hard work as he scored Thornton's fourth of the day to all but seal the deal. Lakes had a fair share of second half chances but luck wasn't on their side and Thornton keeper Chris Burg was intent on keeping a clean sheet.

The full-time whistle would bring a large contingent of Redbacks fans to their feet as they applauded their side's effort.

Personally I have to give credit to the Thornton fans as I can't think of too many clubs that would bring such a following for an Under 23's Grand Final. The Redbacks aren't the biggest club in terms of members but the one's they've got are proud and keen supporters of all of the club's sides. A well-deserved win for the Thornton 23's.


Under 19's: Valentine F.C 0 def by. LAKE MACQUARIE CITY 2

The game of the day in my opinion saw Lake Macquarie City overcome Valentine 2-0 in the Under 19's Grand Final. From the get-go this game was entertaining and both teams put in a good shift. They'd have to be one winner though and it was Lake Macquarie City who'd leave Rockwell Automation Park with the trophy in hand.

Valentine were the premiers and thus favourites. Striker Nathan Baker was voted Newysports' Under 19's Player of the Year and was looking like Valentine's best chance of a goal throughout the first quarter of an hour. Straight from the opening whistle he was right onto the Lakes' defenders and putting pressure on.

The Roosters would gain some momentum but it all nearly went out the window as Valentine almost scored from a dipping shot that had keeper Josh Aspey worried. The Phoenix kept turning over possession and were failing to build up any real danger in the final third.

The scores would be level at half-time despite a couple of decent chances from both sides. Valentine came out firing in the second half and almost took the lead through a chance to Nathan Sanders. Suddenly passes were stringing together for the Phoenix and across the park they looked threatening. Even right-back Mark Davis was working well trying to help the side go forward.

The first goal would come for Lakes from a corner (despite calls from Valentine that the ball went out and re-entered the field of play in the air). Goalscorer James Ward continued his fantastic finals series form with a quality header. In my opinion, Ward has been the most influential lower grade player of the last three weeks. Effective in the 17's and 19's.

Lakes almost had a second as the ball bounced their way and rolled dangerously towards the Valentine goal. Goalkeeper Martin Kolleen was able to get a lunging hand to the ball and send it safely wide of the post. Up the other end, Josh Aspey almost cost his side a goal as he fumbled the ball towards his own net. Fortunately for the keeper he was able to regather it.

Valentine were pushing very hard and as a result were left short at the back. A mistake from Martin Kolleen gave the ball to Jordan Harper who chipped the keeper and gave Lakes a vital second goal. Suddenly it was a mountain that Valentine needed to climb.

The Phoenix created some more chances and nearly scored after defender Kaleb Pearson got on the end of a neatly chipped set-play from Nathan Baker. Unfortunately for Pearson it'd go just over the bar. Suddenly everyone on the Valentine side was an attacker and Lakes were incredibly lucky to record a clean sheet. It just wasn't Valentine's day (that wasn't meant to be a pun!)

Credit has to go to both sides as I personally thought this was the best quality match of the day. It really showed that the 19's is a fastly improving competition and I've said it before and will say it again, the Under 19's will become the best of the lower grades as 16/17 year olds get used to New-FM and move up into that grade. It's a great time for player development and confidence building.

Congrats to Valentine for a successful season and well wishes for the NPL and best of luck to those who might not make the cut for that competition. There's a few sides around New-FM that will be happy to have you on board I'm sure of it. 

And congrats to Lakes for producing a quality effort when it was needed the most. It was a helluva entertaining three-way battle between Valo, Lakes and Belswans in the 19's throughout the year and it's Lakes who'll claim the bragging rights after beating Belswans in the Semi's and Valo in the GF.


Under 17's: LAKE MACQUARIE CITY 2 def. Cooks Hill United 1

I was personally excited for this game and to see one of my own club's side play in the Grand Final. The Cookers looked good early on and it was obvious that they were at Weston for only one thing, to win the biggest prize on offer this season. Lakes were always going to be a tough challenge.

The Roosters had one or two early chances and took the lead through a goal to William Reilly. The Cookers stood off of Reilly who neatly curled it into the back of the net from outside the box. It was a deserved lead for the Roosters after the first quarter of an hour or so.

The score would remain 1-0 going into half-time. Cooks Hill weren't looking threatening at all in attack but their defenders were performing very well, especially Luke Sleigh. I thought he has a quality game at the back and was crucial in stopping Lakes' forward momentum.

Lakes were looking good in midfield with the likes of Jack Russo and Ben Roberts linking up very well. They simply strung passes together a lot more effectively than Cooks Hill. The second goal would come (despite calls of offside from Cooks Hill) as Ben Roberts found the back of the net. Lakes were looking almost home.

To their credit, Cooks Hill would get forward and earn a questionable penalty. Nonetheless it was converted by Peri Tagaroulias and suddenly the underdogs were back in with a firm chance of sending the game to penalties.

Lakes were effective in using their substitutions and were doing a good job of winding down the clock. Hate it if you will it's a part of the game, the same part of the game Cooks Hill implemented against Kahibah in the Semi Final.

One or two late corners gave Cooks Hill a look in and the strange decision was made to leave a defender on half-way and put keeper Kaia Roth inside the penalty box. Judge me if I'm wrong but isn't that supposed to be the other way round?

The ball would fall for one of the Cookers (it was that quick I didn't even see his number) and he fired it towards goal. The ball would deflect off a Lakes player and over the crossbar, much to Chris Teasdale's relief. It was game over and a deserved title for the Roosters.

I have to give praise to Cooks Hill though, they brought the fight to Lakes and should be proud of reaching an unexpected Grand Final. They'll long be remembered as Cooks Hill's first New-FM Grand Final side and I personally have enjoyed watching the boys play this season. I'm looking forward to what 2016 might bring for this bunch as a fair few of them move up to the 19's.

Lakes were the better team all season (except for that infamous loss to Kahibah) and deserve the success. They're a good footballing side to watch and one that'll no doubt threaten for some silverware in 2016, regardless of the age group.

I'll be finishing a Season Review for Lakes sometime today or tomorrow and then doing one for both Valentine and Wallsend later this week or early next week. Along with that I'll be doing a Season Wrap-Up for each New-FM grade.

It was an enjoyable Grand Final day. I got to the ground at 8:30am, left at 6pm and was with Wallsend at their pub until 10pm. A long day indeed! I can't wait to do it all again in 2016!

This piece of silverware was the toast of Wallsend!

Also I'd like to give a shoutout to the countless volunteers of the Weston Workers Bears who at very short-notice prepared their fantastic turf and found enough people to successfully run the day. The ground looked an absolute gem and I've heard nothing but praise for how the day was ran. Congrats Weston!

/////-----------------------------------------------------///// Man of the Match (New-FM Grand Final Day)
****1st Grade****
MOTM: Trent Milton (Wallsend FC)
Runner-Up: Scott McGinley (Valentine FC)

****Under 23's****
MOTM: James Purazeni (Thornton)
Runner-Up: Kyle Duncan (Thornton)

****Under 19's****
MOTM: Jordan Harper (Lakes)
Runner-Up: Nathan Baker (Valentine FC)

****Under 17's****
MOTM: Benjamin Roberts (Lakes)
Runner-Up: Luke Sleigh (Cooks Hill)

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