Sunday, 16 August 2015

REVIEW: New-FM Semi Finals Week 1 (Sunday)

Under 17's: Wallsend F.C 1 drew. Lake Macquarie City F.C 1

I arrived at The Gardens keen to watch Wallsend and Lakes do battle in the Under 17's and was hopeful that both sides would be at their best (something Lakes weren't at in their shock loss to Kahibah last weekend). The Red Devils started on the front foot and believe it or not, their best chances in the opening quarter of an hour came from long throw-ins by captain and central defender Danny Herival. I don't think I've seen throws like his all season in any grade. Hope I didn't give away Wallsend's secret weapon!

Lakes' regular keeper was out so 15-year old Cameron Jefferson-Bilbe was forced to step up to fill the void and he showed his confidence by receiving the ball and rounding a Wallsend attacker before booting it away. One slip and it was a goal. Always fun to see goalkeepers dribble the ball!

Lakes began to take control of the game and started to force Matt Pennington into action. The Wallsend keeper would have been relieved when a dipping shot smashed off the crossbar and the visitors were denied again by the woodwork just moments later as a James Ward header could only find the bar. Amazing that it was still 0-0.

For what's it worth, I thought Pennington was strong in the first half hour of the game and really did well to help install some confidence in the Wallsend defenders. The Red Devils' right winger Shuku Sunzu was 'showing the tekkerz' as they'd say with a few little skillful moves on the far side of the field, that's before he got injured and unfortunately substituted.

The first half would see the first goal as Lakes right winger Josh Richardson headed home an opener for the visitors. It was a reward for what was a strong half by the pacey winger.

Andrew Burns had the first opportunity of the second half as again Lakes took the front foot. Wallsend struggled to find the right option going forward and frustration was afoot. 

A lack of communication was costing Wallsend and sloppy defending forced Cameron Jefferson-Bilbe into some work in goals. Defender Danny Herival was strong all game and led the backline well. I believe he was the captain for the Red Devils as well. Definitely their player of the match for my money.

Wallsend substitute Chris Stefoulious really helped bring a lifeline into the Wallsend attacking line and put in a great effort in his short spell at the end of the game. I thought Lakes defending well all game but they had a moment to forget right at the end of the game.

With Lakes looking like 1-0 winners, young Jefferson-Bilbe in goal took down a Wallsend player and gave away a last minute penalty. Ryan McClure stepped up and smashed it home to give Wallsend an equaliser and give the Red Devils a lifeline ahead of the second leg next week. From a neutral viewpoint, this was a great game to watch and I'm looking forward to the next installment in a week's time.

Lakes winger Josh Richardson gets my vote for Man of the Match. He looked threatening nearly every time he went on a run and was really doing a number on Wallsend's defenders. He's one of many exciting players in what is a very technical and very skillful Lakes side.

*Edit: How did I forget! One of the Wallsend players went down hurt with moments left in the game and I think it was Danny Herival who picked him up and carried him all the way to the sidelines. It got a fair few laughs but crucially allowed the game to go on and Wallsend to earn the last minute penalty. Lesson to be learned, always carry your injured mates off the field if they're too slow getting up!


Under 19's: Belmont-Swansea 1 def by. LAKE MACQUARIE CITY 3

The Under 19 Belmont-Swansea side arrived at The Gardens knowing they were in for a challenge but knowing they were more than up for it considering their form this season. There was no signs of the side that smashed Thornton 7-1 last weekend in the first few moments and Lakes capitalised on a slow-starting Belswans outfit to open the scoring through Riley Stackman.

It was straight onto the back foot for the Belswans but to their credit, they tried to turn things around rather quickly. A horror moment for Lakes keeper Josh Aspey almost gave the Belswans an equaliser as he dropped the ball straight to a Belswans' attacker that was unable to find the net. Hard to describe it in words but a sloppy moment at the back for Lake Macquarie City.

Belswans skipper James Youngberry was working hard in transition and tried to really put his team on the front foot. Aidan Hampton had a decent chance to make it 1-1 but it was just kicked wide by a diving Aspey in goals. The 3rd-placed Belswans were looking a lot better during the latter stages of the half and midfielder Matt Ellis really played a part in this.

Just like the first half, the Belswans were undone early on as Jordan Harper scored his second goal in two games to give the Roosters a 2-0 away leg advantage. The Belswans would hit back though and it was through a superb goal from Matt Ellis, bringing the Belswans' fans to their feet.

The goal gave Belswans a lifeline and really brought them to life as they pushed forward and tried to get an equaliser. Lakes keeper Josh Aspey wasn't doing it easy in goals and was forced into one or two crucial saves. The Roosters would make it three though as an unfortunate own goal went in off the head of a devastated James Youngberry. Even this reporter felt crushed for the Belswans as they had defended so well and you never want to see an own goal.

The Roosters had a chance to make it 4-1 but Belswans keeper Connor Bryson was on hand to kick the ball to safety before the Lakes' attacker could get to it. All in all, a classy performance from Lake Macquarie City and one that sees them put one firm foot in the Grand Final. The Belswans boys looked deflated with the loss and it'll be a tough road back in this tie. Hopefully they can make it interesting next week.


Under 23's: Cessnock City 2 drew. Thornton Redbacks 2

By this stage the tiredness was kicking in after six games over the weekend and my note-taking for the match was down on the previous two matches. Jason Zechel looked threatening in attack during the early stages and Thornton were playing well through midfield through the likes of Jordan Smallhorne and captain Mitch Kiczynski.

Cessnock keeper Mathew Zechel was required to cut off a threatening ball across goal and did well to get down and secure it. Not long later, Zechel was forced into a superb backwards diving save to deny Thornton's young upcomer Tanner White.

White was looking a danger and he would go onto the score the opener and put Thornton into a crucial 1-0 away lead. It was almost two just before half time but the Redbacks were denied by an unbelievable sliding save from Cessnock defender Ethan Cross on the goal-line.

The score was 1-0 at the break. Cessnock looked good clearing the ball and getting themselves out of danger. Eventually they'd get the ball up field and earn a penalty which Gocha Abshilava calmly slotted home to make the score 1-1.

Moments after Abshilava's equaliser, Cessnock would score again and take the lead with a goal from Matthew Francis sending those in black and yellow into a frenzy. The match would end level though with the goals being rounded out by Thornton's Mitch Kiczynski. A reward for what was a solid game for Kiczynski; although my pick for Man of the Match was Jordan Smallhorne.

I predicted this one to end 2-2 and as a result, it goes to the second leg evenly poised and anything could happen at Lake Macquarie next Sunday. An entertaining and see-sawing match-up.


1st Grade: Wallsend F.C 1 def by. LAKE MACQUARIE CITY F.C 3

I spent the majority of this match up in the very comfortable lounge area at The Gardens and my focus that I had for the earlier kick-offs had left me. I did see the game of course but wasn't watching in great detail as I was with the Under 17's match and a bit of the 19's (long story short, I was having conversations with people!)

Sam Walker had the first real chance of the game but it was saved by a confident Nick Doyle in goal for the Red Devils. The home side looked the better of the two sides throughout the first half and threatened a fair few times. Agile winger Tega Marcus was causing some headaches for the Lakes defenders.

The first goal would come and would come deservedly so for the team that controlled the first half. Wallsend's fullback Daniel Rufo got on the end of a scrambled ball and smashed it home, much to the delight of a near-capacity crowd at The Gardens (well the Wallsend part of it anyway.)

Lakes would gain some momentum throughout the latter stages of the half and score an equaliser through Dan Walker. I thought the midfield play was neat and tidy from both sides in the second half and I was delighted to see a long throw from Wallsend almost end up in the net. Anyone who was at the West Wallsend v Cooks Hill game would know though that the ball can't go in direct from a throw-in.

Wallsend were denied what in my opinion was a clear-cut penalty for a handball and were made to pay as Sam Walker went down at the other hand and the Roosters were rewarded a penalty of their own. The league's top goalscorer made no mistake as he made it 2-1 for the visitors and 39 for himself this season.

With Wallsend staring at a tough assignment next week being down 2-1, the situation for Josh Rufo's men got a lot worse moments later as Sam Walker scored a goal that's hard to describe in words. It wasn't a bicycle, it wasn't an overhead but something in between. I'm not even sure he was facing the goal as he chipped it backwards over the keeper. It was a crazy goal nonetheless.

So after a tough match-up, it was Lakes who took away a 3-1 lead at The Gardens and it's Lakes who look destined for the Grand Final. I've been told one or two injuries will hinder them a little but if they play like they did today, it'll be the Roosters there in the big one.


Kahibah Note: (written earlier)

I wrote a comment in my match review yesterday about Kahibah's need to upgrade their facility and although I meant it as a not so serious observation, the club didn't appreiciate it too well so I'll write an apology. I think everyone will agree yesterday was the biggest crowd Kahibah will see this season and with the rain it did get pretty crowded up under the awning.

To be fair, Kahibah's ground does in fact have more cover than say Belswans but I still believe (and this is personal opinion) that the club need to install a few minor upgrades. I understand time and money is a factor but it'd be good to see some benches placed on the concrete stands. Anyway I'm not going to go on and on as I'm writing this at the Wallsend game.

I certainly didn't mean to offend those at Kahibah and yes their volunteers are among the best in the league. The way yesterday was ran was admirable and I'm sure the teams that played their yesterday were appreciative. The topic of upgrades is one I think all New-FM clubs will be looking at in the next five years and Kahibah themselves have told me that as soon as they get the money together, they'll work on improving their field even more.

I want to have a working relationship with each and every NewFM club (introduced myself to Thornton and Belswans today!) and certainly didn't mean to single out Kahibah the way I did. Sometimes part-time journalists make mistakes and I'm sorry. The work Kahibah have done this year is unbelievable. Andre Gumprecht and his side have excelled in the NewFM competition and they've got their own unique brand of football that they play. They've got passionate fans and it's a pleasure to have them in the NewFM competition and a pleasure to have the chance to work alongside them in broadening the competitions horizons.

Cheers, Ty

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