Tuesday, 18 August 2015

SEASON REVIEW: Singleton Strikers (5th)

1st Grade:

Singleton's first competitive fixture of the new season saw them stamp their authority as the premier footballing side in the Upper Hunter with a 12-0 smashing of nearby Zone League Two outfit Muswellbrook in the FFA Cup. Six goals to Dan Bartlett helped give the Strikers a thumping win.

Round 2 of the FFA Cup brought a much tougher test as the Strikers took on fellow New-FM side West Wallsend and the Bluebells were able to come away with a 3-2 win, denying Singleton the chance to progress further in the knockout competition.

There's no doubting the FFA Cup elimination would have been disappointing for the Singleton boys but they had to turn their focus to the opening round of the New-FM 1st Division where they'd face 2014 Semi-Finalists Belmont-Swansea at Blacksmiths on the opening day of the season, the longest road trip in the New-FM league. It was a gallant performance but the Strikers would go down to Belswans 1-0.

Round 2 saw Singleton given a bye and Round 3 brought a chance to kickstart their campaign. They did just that as they came from 1-0 down against Hunter Valley rivals Cessnock City. A penalty was converted by captain Jackson Cox and a Daniel Bartlett shot was spilled into the net by the Cessnock goalkeeper giving the visiting Singleton a big 2-1 victory.

Their next match was a tricky away trip to unpredictable New-FM newcomers Cooks Hill. The Cookers were coming off two draws and a narrow loss to Wallsend and were victorious on the day against the visiting Strikers by two goals to nil. Round 6 against Kahibah was a strong effort but the Singo boys would go down 3-2.

I don't think any teams had as many home wash-out games as Singleton did and it'd definitely no fault of theirs with the amount of rain we've copped this year. One could argue that mid-week night games play into Singo's favour as it's such a long road trip for those who don't live up there.

Hosting promotion-favourites Valentine would have had Singleton feeling optimistic but they were downed 3-0 by a stronger Phoenix outfit on that particular night. Round 7 continued the poor form for Singleton as they went down 3-2 in a tight battle with Wallsend, despite two goals from Lloyd Wakewood.

Next up was arguably Singleton's best win of the season as they stunned promotion-hunting Lake Macquarie City at Macquarie Field. Goals to Daniel Palozzi, Klaudon Ahmataj and Jackson Cox gave Singleton a commanding three-goal lead at the half-time break and despite conceding an own-goal in the second stanza, the Strikers would hold on for a confidence-boosting win. 

I feel like it's important to note that only two away teams won at Macquarie Field this year, Singleton and the NPL-bound Valentine Phoenix. Impressive!

Confidence would have been high after defeating Lakes and a mid-week catch-up game with Thornton Redbacks saw Singleton rocket to their biggest scoreline of the season, smashing five past a stunned Thornton outfit. Captain Jackson Cox recorded a hat-trick whilst goals from Kieran Delaney and Lloyd Wakewood completed the 5-0 victory. It would no doubt have been a night full of celebration at Howe Park.

Klaudon Ahmataj had a standout season. Photo: Singleton Argus

Round 11 saw a chance for Singleton to gain some revenge over a West Wallsend side that sent them packing from the FFA Cup and the Strikers did just that, recording a very gutsy 2-1 victory. Goalkeeper Stuart Plant was superb and made some crucial saves whilst goals from Dan Bartlett and Klaudon Ahmataj was enough to see off Westy.

Next up was another mid-week catch-up game and this time, despite a goal from Jackson Cox, the Strikers would go down in a tight contest, 2-1 against lowly Toronto-Awaba. Looking back now, this one really stands out as a result that probably should have been better.

A Round 13 bye was followed up with a disappointing 0-0 draw against Cessnock City. The last of a busy period of mid-week wash-out games at Howe Park saw the Strikers host Belmont-Swansea in a Round 12 match-up. Skipper Jackson Cox led by example and scored twice but it wasn't enough to secure victory as the Belswans left Howe Park with a point in a 2-2 draw.

The finals started to fade a little after the Strikers' Round 15 loss to Valentine. Goals to Robert Field and Lloyd Wakewood weren't enough to avoid a 5-2 defeat against the eventual Minor Premiers. Next up was in my opinion the turning point of Singleton's season.

I made the trek up to watch Cooks Hill do battle with the Strikers and I must say, despite being a proud member of Cooks Hill, it was one hell of a performance from the Singleton boys. They had a blinder across the park, not just goalscorers Jackson Cox and Lloyd Wakewood (both scored braces). It was a real team performance and one that really gave the Strikers a much-needed confidence-boost.

A crucial Round 18 match against Kahibah saw Singleton come away with a gutsy 2-0 win via goals to Jackson Cox and Robert Field. Suddenly the Strikers were beginning to eye off their first finals appearances in over a decade. Suddenly the picture was coming together for Scott Baillie and his side.

Top Goalscorer and Club Captain Jackson Cox. Photo: Singleton Argus

A tricky away trip to The Gardens saw Singleton put on a gallant display. They scored twice through Daniel Palozzi and Lloyd Wakewood but the Red Devils would go on to win 3-2. This was the only blemish on Singleton's record over the last seven weeks of the season and everyone reading this knows how much things could have been differently if they'd scored one more goal that day at The Gardens.

Singleton went to the mid-week fixture at Thornton Park knowing nothing short of a victory was acceptable and they stepped right up to the plate, winning 4-1 in the process. Lloyd Wakewood continued his strong season with a brace and goals to Daniel Palozzi and Stephen Bramley rounded out a second big win over the Redbacks this season. I'm sure Thornton were glad to see the back of Singo after a collective 9-1 defeat over the two games.

Next up was the now infamous 6-3 win over Lake Macquarie City. I remember walking out of Cooks Hill's ground and getting a message from one of the people up there saying they'd won 6-3 and there were five goals scored in the first eight minutes! Unbelievable!

Lakes had the lead in the first minute and doubled it almost instantly before Jackson Cox got one back for Singleton. He doubled his tally just moments later and with a stunned Lakes defence at sixes and sevens, Lloyd Wakewood sliced through them like a knife through butter and slotted home a third for Singleton, making it 3-2 after just eight minutes. I've seen a lot of football games and have never heard or seen anything quiet like that.

Central defender Stephen Bramley scored from a corner to put Singleton two ahead. The carnage continued in the second as Jackson Cox completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot. Tactical midfielder Kieran Delaney would stamp his name onto the scoresheet as well and despite a late goal from Lakes, Singleton marched home to their biggest win of the season.

The way Singleton tore apart Lakes was incredible and from what I've heard, it could and probably should have been more and I'm not talking one or two more. Singleton weren't copping a loss and after being down 2-0 inside two minutes, they stormed home to a dominating win. This was the game that ended up denying Lakes of promotion and with two wins over the Roosters this season, it's safe to say that Singleton have their number. It's not very often Sam Walker scores a hat-trick and his side loses.

Singleton 6-3 Lake Macquarie City. Photo: Singleton Argus

With the win over Lakes under their belts, Singleton traveled to Toronto knowing a win would put them on the verge of finals football. To say they did it comfortably would be an understatement. It was 4-0 at the half-time break with goals to Lloyd Wakewood (x2), Jackson Cox and James Bate and although they didn't score any in the second half, the lead was enough to see off Toronto and keep their finals hopes alive.

Singleton's final game of the regular season was a trip to a desperate West Wallsend side. The Bluebells needed a win to avoid the wooden spoon and it wasn't forthcoming. Goals to Robert Field and Dan Bartlett gave the Strikers a 2-0 win over a ten-man Westy outfit. The problem for Singleton though is that Kahibah had escaped Macquarie Field with a point.

I was at the Kahibah game and was messaging a Singleton supporter as they took the lead. It was unfortunate to deliver the bad news and somewhat disappointing to see the club work so hard and get so close for no reward. Nothing can be done but a strong foundation is in place for a big year in 2016.

Credit has to go to the coaching staff and players at Singleton for putting on one hell of a wild ride in the back half of the season. That 6-3 win over Lakes is arguably the game of the year in the New-FM League, it definitely was one of the most entertaining! Singleton's season ended without finals football but they simply could not have gotten any closer without making it. A successful season in my honest opinion after the slow start they had.

Photo: Singleton Strikers Facebook Page


Key Players

There'd have to be only one candidate for this. I've had a few people at Singleton suggest Club Captain and Top Goalscorer Jackson Cox as the club's Player of the Season. Cox led by example and scored 16 vital goals this season, including a hat-trick in the club's infamous 6-3 victory over NewFM powerhouse Lakes. He helped get back and defend and really did make an impact this season.

Top Goalscorers Jackson Cox (c) and Lloyd Wakewood. Photo: Singleton Argus

Special mention to Lloyd Wakewood as well who has chipped in with a handy 12 goals. The pairing of Wakewood and Cox has to be one of the most dangerous in the league and have combined for 28 goals between them. I've been told by a few to mention 16-year old left back Jackson Skinner. The young up and comer has played every first grade game this season and I can tell you there aren't too many outfield players this young playing firsts every week. He hasn't looked out of his depth and will be one to watch in the future at Singleton.

First grade goalkeeper Stuart Plant has been superb for Singleton this season as well. The English import has played his part well and has crucially saved Singleton's backsides a fair few times this season. I'm told he's a real club man as well which is great to see. 

Another English-import Jordan Phelan and Dan Bartlett both had strong seasons as well and deserve a quick mention in this write-up.


Young Stars:

I've already mentioned Jackson Skinner who is by far the club's Rising Star for Season 2015 but I've also been told to mention a couple of others. Under 19's captain Tyler Felsch has been quality all season in that grade and has steered his team around the park superbly. Despite the poor results this season in the 19's, Felsch never gave in and gave 110% every week, and as a result he was rewarded with appearances for the 23's and a few chances in First Grade as well.

17's Goalscoring Threat Cashlin Murray-Mell. Photo: Singleton Argus

The Under 17's have a few quality players in their ranks as well. Top goalscorer Cashlin Murray-Mell has been vital to their 2015 campaign and has been rewarded with appearances for the Under 19's. Goalkeeper Bradley Fairclough has been praised by the club's higher-ups as one to watch in the future. The Under 17's stopper has made appearances in the 19's and 23's and has had a quality season in between the sticks for Singleton.


Full Results:


Under 23's Wrap-Up:

The Singleton Under 23's didn't set the world on fire this season but there are foundations in place to build on (in simple terms, it could have been worse!). I've been told that Tom Hume and James Bates were two of the standouts players in this grade and always gave their absolute best for the shirt they were wearing.

23's Player Aaron Caelli v Cessnock City. Photo: Singleton Argus

The standout result would have to be the gutsy 3-2 win over eventual finalists Cessnock City. A double to Will Straw and a goal to Michael Reilly gave the Strikers a big victory over their Hunter Valley rivals and no doubt the team song would have rang loudly around Howe Park that day. Singleton's done a cracking job of promoting some of their younger players into the 23's and I'm sure they'll continue to build the mixture of youth and experience in this grade next season.

Photo Credit: Singleton Strikers Facebook Page


Under 19's Wrap-Up:

The Under 19's always gave their best for the badge but were underdone throughout the season. The standout result would have to be the crucial win (their only win) over eventual wooden-spooners Toronto-Awaba. Goals to Jackson Hough and Thomas Golding secured a gutsy win and one that helped Singleton avoid the unwanted wooden spoon.

19's Tyler Felsch, Tony Zanardi and Jayden Proudlock (right to left) Photo: Singleton Argus

Despite the results, some players really stood out and none more than inspirational captain Tyler Felsch. I've had about six or seven people from Singleton contact me and they've all suggested Felsch as the Player of the Year for the Under 19's. As mentioned earlier in this review, he featured on the bench for 1st Grade and played a bucketload of 23's football this year as well. A proud club player who gave his best for Singleton every week.

Photo Credit: Singleton Strikers Facebook Page


Under 17's Wrap-Up:

Despite not making the finals this season, it certainly was one that Singleton can build on in 2016. These boys started the season with approx 3/4 of the team being 15 and finished the year with a fair few still only 15 so there's a lot of foundation to build on next year. They won 9 and lost 11 and that is by no means a poor season.

To tell you a little bit about their character, they were smashed 7-0 by a quality Lakes outfit and came back to win their last two games, smashing Toronto 4-0 and overcoming a decent West Wallsend side 3-2. They never dropped their heads and always played with pride.

17's Keeper Brad Fairclough. Photo: Singleton Argus

Standout players include Daniel Bray. He chipped in with a few goals this season and I've been told he was a standout in most games. The club have told me that goalkeeper Brad Fairclough is one to watch out for in the future. It was only his first season in between the sticks but the stopper was strong all year and played a big part in the team's success.

Another standout that no-one has suggested but I'm still mentioning due to his goal tally is striker Cashlin Murray-Mell. The keen attacker has a decent goals-to-games ratio this season and has been an integral part of the team. Trae Proudlock and Hamish Mayled have also added some goals this season.

17's Player Trae Proudlock. Photo: Singleton Argus

The club believe this group of boys can find success next season and looking at results this year, it certainly wouldn't be a surprise to see them push for finals.

Photo Credit: Singleton Strikers Facebook Page


Keys To The Future:

Player retention would obviously be a big advantage for Singleton. Being so far out of the city it would be hard to keep the same group but apparently this team at Singleton have a strong bond and will be looking to build on what was an an amazing second half of the season with a quality year all season in 2016. There's no doubt that Singleton would have made finals if they played the first half of the season like the played the second half.

I've been told by a couple to give a mention to Singleton head coach Scott Baillie. As a visiting fan when they beat Cooks Hill 4-1 it was somewhat annoying to hear the coach and his continual yelling but it obviously works and I've been told his constant coaching has helped turn the team around his year. Results were strong and of Baillie can keep this side together I believe they can build on what they've done next season.

If West Wallsend is Wembley than Howe Park is Old Trafford!

A big thank you to the people who have contacted me and helped me compose this review. The club have some great people on board and players who are proud of the town and proud of the club.


-Ty Stedman

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