Under 17's: LAKE MACQUARIE CITY 2 def. Wallsend F.C 1
Lake Macquarie City Progress 3-2 On Aggregate
After drawing 1-1 in last Sunday's first leg of the Semi Final, Wallsend F.C looked to continue where they left off as they attacked early on and in my opinion, the Red Devils started the better of the two teams. Lakes keeper Chris Teasdale knew early on that it wasn't going to be a simple day at the office.
The first goal of the game would come from the home side though as James Ward continued his good form for the season by putting Lakes into a 2-1 aggregate lead. This would be cancelled out before half-time by a Jereme Wann goal for the Red Devils. For what it's worth, I thought Lakes were the better side in the latter parts of the first half and Wallsend keeper Matt Pennington certainly had a couple of shaky moments in the wet.
Lakes came out firing in the second half and were intent on securing a grand final spot. One of their best chances of the half saw Caleb Morley-Davis almost score an impressive diving header but he was unable to get the ball into the back of the net. Wallsend weren't going down without a fight though.
The Red Devils were looking threatening in attack and a real standout for Wallsend was Taylor Hepburn. The Wallsend defenders had a quality game as well but ultimately Lakes would get over the line. A late goal to Lakes main man Josh Richardson would seal their path into the Grand Final.
A decent crack by the Wallsend boys and there's some decent players in their 17's squad. Unfortunately it was a loss day but a successful season to reflect on. I've personally enjoyed watching them over the last couple of weeks.
Under 19's: Lake Macquarie City 3 drew. Belmont-Swansea 3
Lake Macquarie City Progress 6-4 On Aggregate
Belmont-Swansea arrived at Macquarie Field knowing only their very best would get them over the line but anything was possible in the wet weather. I went to get the 17's teamsheet and missed the opening goal from Lakes' Jordan Harper. I spent around 10 minutes yapping away in the sheds and managed to miss the Belswans score what I've been told an impressive equaliser from Luke Lethbridge.
After a lengthy spell in the sheds (in which I was given a Lakes shirt to go with the evergrowing collection!) I headed back to my seat. An eventful first half saw two more goals, one from a Lakes player I didn't catch due to the Belswans fans loudly cheering an instant goal from Connor O'Callaghan.
The second half saw two more goals, one from Belswans' Matt Ellis and one from 17's match-winner James Ward. I can tell you the gallant Belswans won over a lot of people in the crowd with their efforts and players like bloodied captain Jimmy Youngberry and ever-running attacker Luke Lethbridge, the Belswans boys simply did not give up and they really showed why they finished third today. Some great plays throughout the match and a real team effort to be proud of.
Lake Macquarie will take on Valentine next week in what is sure to be an entertaining contest in the Grand Final.
Under 23's: THORNTON REDBACKS 1-0 Cessnock City
Thornton Redbacks Progress 3-2 On Aggregate
I'm not going to lie, this game simply didn't live up to the excitement of the draw they had last week. It just wasn't the most entertaining game to watch and I've found myself saying that a few times about the 23's this season. I'm a firm believer that it should be simply open reserve grade but that's another story for another day.
Thornton led on away goals after last week's 2-2 draw and were looking decent in midfield just like they were last weekend. Cessnock weren't letting the Redbacks get the better of them and I thought right-back Ethan Cross did a great job of getting physical with Thornton's attackers.
The Hornets (or Stingers as they're calling themselves now!) were threatening through usual suspects Gocha Abshilava and Jason Zechel. Zechel in particular looked like quality on the right wing. The first goal of the game would come for Thornton as Cessnock gave away an obvious penalty via handball. Thornton captain Mitch Kiczynski would convert from the spot.
A quality late diving save from Cessnock keeper Matt Zechel would keep the Redbacks' lead at one. It was certainly still anybody's game but the Redbacks again looked the better of the two sides early on in the second half. Their movement was just a tad better than Cessnock's, on and off the ball.
Matt Zechel almost cost his side a vital goal as he dribbled the ball a fair way out of goal before he could only find a Thornton player. Fortunately for the Hornets they were able to get back and clear the ball away from the goal mouth. Just another indication of why keepers shouldn't leave the box too often!
The Hornets dropped their heads a little bit as time wore thin and it became obvious that they were going to need luck to score the two goals needed to win on aggregate. The Hornets were lucky not to be reduced to ten men late on as a Thornton attacker was brought down rather unceremoniously.
A tough loss but a quality season for the Cessnock boys. I was chatting with a couple of them after the game and they seemed really delighted with the way their season went. And credit to them for sticking around for first grade and getting behind the Red Devils. It's not often you see a full team stick around and support another club.
1st Grade: Lake Macquarie City 1 def by. WALLSEND F.C 6
Wallsend F.C Progress 7-4 On Aggregate
I almost needed a calculator to work out that aggregate scoreline. Don't underestimate that scoreline, Wallsend were absolutely superb today. They honestly never looked like losing this. From the get-go they were the better side. Again, I went into the sheds to grab the teamsheet and just like earlier, I missed the opening goal. Kevin Orr was the scorer as Wallsend scored a vital opener.
I got back to my seat in time to see Trent Milton double the lead on the day for Wallsend and draw them level 3-3 on aggregate. Away goals saw Lakes leading though after their win last week. It wouldn't last for Lakes as a fumble from keeper Mathew Guest allowed Dave Hodgson to pass it into the net, giving Wallsend a 4-3 aggregate lead.
Only moments later, Kevin Orr scored his second and capped off an amazing opening period for the visitors as they took a 4-0 lead. At this point the only word I had to describe what was happening was 'Wow!'.
The Red Devils would take a 4-0 lead into the sheds at half-time and even I must admit, I thought Lakes would come back. The Roosters specialty is high-scoring affairs and I thought they'd come out and get back a couple of crucial goals.
The Roosters hit back first in the second half as Sam Walker scored his mandatory goal for the match, making his season tally 41. Any worry that was building in the Wallsend camp would be soon forgotten as Jason McGuire smashed in a fifth for the visitors, again putting them up 5-1 on the day and 6-4 on aggregate. Suddenly Lakes needed three to progress...it simply wasn't their day.
Gdjeke Marcus was a late substitution for Wallsend and he made his mark on the game as he scored the Red Devil's 6th. It was game, set and match for the New-FM newcomers as they booked an unlikely spot in next Sunday's Grand Final against Valentine F.C.
As I mentioned, it simple wasn't Lakes' day as they fell to their heaviest defeat of the season. The mindset may have been wrong, who knows. It simply didn't go their way. Take nothing away from Wallsend though as today was one of the more ruthless performances I've seen all season. It could honestly have been more. You simply don't come to Lakes' home ground and put six on them, it's almost unheard of but today was a day were Wallsend Red Devils reigned supreme.
Now, I've refrained a little from taking on controversy as I hear a lot of it and just don't want to get involved in that but I have to be a bit harsh here. Lakes' officials blatant refusal to let Wallsend supporters (not just their supporters but their club president and other committee members) into the sheds to sing the team song was one of the poorest things I've seen this year.
Valentine let me into their changeroom yesterday and there had to be 40 or 50 guys squeezed into the room. Sure it's a bit much but for a minute or two minute song, why not? The attitude which Lakes were giving Wallsend was just disgraceful. I'm one of a few neutrals who thought the same thing.
I don't want to get the Lakes club offside but the way they were treating the Cessnock 23's, who were simply staying back, supporting Wallsend and giving some innocent banter was wrong. Sure, they were giving it to the ref but there was no mallace, no swearing and most importantly, it was done in good spirit. Just providing a bit of atmosphere.
Lakes refused Cessnock any more purchase of alcohol which is mind-boggling for me. They weren't drunk, they weren't obnoxious, they were the exact same as the Lakes supporters were throughout the day, supporting!
I keep track of the complaints I hear and the complaints about Lakes are building by the week. Sure, there's other clubs who have issues. Ground issues, player issues, you name it. I was told of an incident in the Under 15 A Grade match yesterday where a Lakes official was involved in an altercation with a Magic official. I've been told of multiple incidents where Lakes' players in the lower graders were causing issues.
Again, I'm stressing that this is not me saying Lakes is a bad club. I'm saying that I've heard a lot from multiple clubs and the feeling about Lakes is souring somewhat. I know this is going to be taken badly and I'm sorry for that but I'm just speaking my opinion. A lot of people think Lakes have an attitude problem and I'm starting to believe them. Remember, everyone is entitled to their opinion and I hope this doesn't strain the relationship I have with Lakes.
For what it's worth, the Roosters were great to me today and gave me a mention over the PA but I believe the club do have one or two issues that they should and no doubt probably will look at in the off-season. Today simply left me with a sour taste in my mouth.
-My Two Cents-