BELSWANS BEATEN! WESTY SOAR INTO FINALS WHILST COOKS HILL SCORE 13:
In February 2014, West Wallsend SFC were on their knees and were a shell of their former selves. Some committed people saved them and today was the first of three steps to the ultimate fairytale. The Bluebells will return to Semi Final football for the first time since 2013!
On the flip side of the coin, and we'll discuss it later in the review, the once proud Toronto-Awaba club officially hit rock bottom today with their biggest loss in at least two decades. A nightmare turned reality at the AthField for the Stags.
UNDER 19's: West Wallsend 0 def by. BELMONT-SWANSEA (Harry Rapp) 1
With the Toronto forfeit in the 23's, suddenly there was an added piece to the 19's puzzle with the Stags game at the AthField moved back to 12:30pm meaning they had the advantage of knowing this result.
Anyway, let's go over this fixture. There was no Josh Knight, no Mitch Kramer and with that two of Westy's best players gone. For the visitors Belswans, it was simply a must not lose affair whilst a win would have done them even better.
Westy endured a very poor start and were in trouble just two minutes in. Golden Boot contender Harry Rapp burned his man and then squared the ball to Liam Lucas who put it just past the post. Early intentions on show.
Belswans kept the pressure on and again pounced on some less than ideal defending. Jesse Smith would receive the ball with the goal gaping. He'd place it across the face but just past the far post. Fullback Daniel Baker's early celebration brought some jeers from the home support and looked silly on reflection.
Then some poor defending on display for the visitors as Khye Drayton beat three of them and got the ball to Caleb Morley-Davies. His shot would be deflected over and somehow the scores remained at 0-0 despite some good chances early on.
In the 18th minute, Westy got the ball wide left to Lucas Egge and he'd hit a sweet shot that was goalbound until it was met by a top shelf save from Danilo Apollonio. The Belswans keeper with the highlight of the game to that point.
Lucas Egge was involved again in the 21st minute with his corner just breezing past two or three heads in the six yard box. Lots of chances for both sides (too many to note) but neither able to lead the game at half-time.
The second half saw Belswans' urgency rise a little bit. It was obvious they wanted to put pressure on Toronto and not hope for the Stags to lose. A win here for them meant Toronto needed to produce the goods and break their winless drought against the "big teams".
Jesse Smith had another chance for the visitors in the 48th minute and then soon after they took a risk. Off came perhaps their best player to that point in young defender Sam Houston and on came Brian Groth meaning an extra attacker thrown into the mix.
Centre back Will Dunn found himself in nosebleed territory in the 59th minute and fired a decent shot that was put out for a corner. Then in the 62nd minute there was a half chance for Harry Rapp.
A free kick from Jack Blomfield in the 64th minute was as close as Westy would get to the breakthrough goal and as time ticked by it looked more and more likely that'd it finish in a stalemate with neither side doing too much in attack.
Both defences solidified in the second half but there would be a goal. In the 75th minute, the ball broke perfectly to Harry Rapp in the middle of the penalty box and he'd make no mistake as he sunk West Wallsend with a low finish.
1-0 is how it would finish with West Wallsend looking fairly crushed by the late defeat despite the fact it didn't matter too much on the table. Today dented their confidence a little and they won't have Josh Knight until Week Two of finals which is a big out.
It's obviously hard for teams to "get up" for games that don't mean much. Today at the two grounds, three teams bound for finals did so (you can probably guess the one that didn't), decent showing but very lacklustre in the final third. Expect a very defensive focus against Cooks Hill next week.
As for Belswans, you likely already know the Toronto result but again we'll keep that for later in the review. Their season comes to an end today but they put up a good fight and ultimately will look back on some costly draws. Just not consistent enough.
Arch Johnson and Charlie Herivel again led the team well from the engine room whilst Will Dunn pips Sam Houston for MOTM considering the latter didn't stay out there. Very handy defender is young Sam. Westy's Zac Annesley also very strong against his old team.
A toast to Mick Buckley and the squad for keeping the finals race entertaining right up to the last hurdle. And so ends five years in a row of Belswans playing in the New-FM Under 19's Finals. They've done a lot better than most expected.
NEWYSPORTS MOTM VOTE:
3 (MOTM)-Will Dunn (BEL)
2-Sam Houston (BEL)
1-Zac Annesley (WWB)
UNDER 23's: WEST WALLSEND (Jai Webster x2) 2 def. Belmont-Swansea (Isaac Reeves) 1
Newysports was in all honesty dreaded another "dead rubber" (only one more to go for the season) between two sides not in contention for finals but to their credit this turned out to be quiet a decently entertaining match-up and prelude to the main game.
The first chance came just three minutes in as Bien Simba did some good work in the build-up to a Jason McGuire shot that hammered back off the crossbar. Westy breathing a sigh of relief but the pressure remained.
In the 7th minute, again Jason McGuire saw a sight of goal. He was played through in behind but was denied by a good low stop from Zac Park in goals. That save proving vital from the Westy keeper.
Two minutes later, the ball fell for Jai Webster in the penalty box and he'd chip it towards the goal. Will Reeves got two hands to it but it'd still drop into the back of the net. 1-0 Westy and an acrobatic celebration from Webster to boot! Unfortunately someone got in the way of a good photo!
Belswans were denied by the frame of the goal again in the 11th minute. Lachlan McMaster's shot beat a diving Park but somehow struck the inside of the post and went back out! Just horrendous luck for the visiting side.
One of the better team goals in recent 23's memory came in the 23rd minute. Bronson Marshall's ball forward found Westy skipper Jarryd Jones. He'd put in an absolutely pinpoint cross to Jai Webster and he'd make it 2-0. Brilliant work in the build up and the Bluebells flying high.
Kyle Clarke would have liked another chance on the half hour mark as he put his shot off target whilst Westy kept the pressure on with Jai Webster denied a hat-trick by Will Reeves and then soon after the Belswans keeper denying the hosts again!
Reeves was at it again shortly after half-time as he produced another save and then it was over to his brother to try and steal the spotlight. Isaac Reeves scoring on the end of set-piece and suddenly the game was back on. 2-1 Westy.
West Wallsend were looking to restore their two goal cushion and came close in the 47th minute. Kyle Clarke turned well and produced a quality shot from range that was again kept out by Will Reeves.
Moments later and the visitors wasted a chance as they had bodies forward but couldn't find the right option. The 51st minute saw Lachlan McMaster denied by a save off the leg of Zac Park. The ball bounced off the keeper and right into his defender Cooper Smith's face but fortunately away from the goal.
The action kept coming with Jai Webster forcing another save from Will Reeves and again missing out on the hat-trick. His mouth then got him in some trouble with the referee showing him yellow for dissent.
A decent free kick from Belswans midfielder Matt Carroll dipped well in the 65th minute but wasn't to be whilst the chance to wrap the game up came for Westy in the 76th minute or so.
Kyle Clarke received the ball in a very good area but skewed the opportunity. There was still life for Belswans and their moment came in the 78th minute. The ball came flying into the box where Arch Johnson tried to meet it at the back stick but ended up colliding with the post. Fortunately he was okay but the chance was gone.
The final moment of an at times frantic game came with seconds left. Westy substitute Blake Ciappara (by this point there were almost more 19's out there than 23's!) was through in behind but denied by a superb one-on-one Isaac Reeves tackle. Some calling for a foul but all ball here.
2-1 is how it would finish and honestly hats off to both teams. One of the better 23's games this season and went right down to the wire. Westy's experience helping them big time and honestly cannot remember Bronson Marshall, the man they call Monster, putting a foot wrong.
Will Reeves brilliant for Belswans and showing why he could be a future #1 at the club. Hopefully Mick Stafford was watching closely as this was a helluva performance from the shot-stopper. Isaac wasn't too far behind with his defending as well. The goal was a bonus too.
So now it's a chance for both teams to put their feet up and they'll sign off knowing they provided all in attendance with a fairly back and forth entertaining match-up.
NEWYSPORTS MOTM VOTE:
3 (MOTM)-Bronson Marshall (WWB)
2-Will Reeves (BEL)
1-Isaac Reeves (BEL)
1ST GRADE: WEST WALLSEND (Brendan Frost & Bailey Maxton x2) 3 def. Belmont-Swansea (Mark Finlayson) 1
You wouldn't dare tip Belswans to lose. That was the preview statement from yours truly when talking of this one. 13 games unbeaten and sitting in 2nd place. Amazingly that streak came to a grinding halt today thanks to a determined West Wallsend.
Westy's season wasn't on the line today but they wanted to make doubly sure there'd be no worrying 24 hour wait to see what happens with Southy v Thornton. All the Bluebells needed was a point and they got that and a lot more.
Early intentions were on show in the first minute. Tye Jones found himself in a good area and fired a shot away. Belswans caught napping and close to being down a goal early on. They'd look at easing their way into the match from there.
Unfortunately the first half was marred by some very inconsistent refereeing. Agreed earlier this year to "go easier" on the refs particularly in the lower grades but this was threatening to boil over at times.
The 5th minute saw Belswans skipper Joel Shearer come steaming in late and collect Brad Andrews. Shearer wears his heart on his sleeve but got this wrong but no yellow card shown. Maybe a little bit too early...
Both teams showed some attacking intent and it was pretty obvious this wasn't to be a game without goals. Westy were inches away in the 16th minute. Brad Andrews' corner was met by Bailey Jensen. He headed it down across the face but it just skimmed wide of the far post.
Westy threatened again in the 22nd minute when Sam Holt put a decent cross in towards Tye Jones. Again another header but again not to be. The pressure was mounting and the home side were looking to hammer home first blood in the game.
It'd come in the 31st minute. Brendan Frost's free kick curled in the wind and Belswans' keeper Ben Parmenter will be the first to put up his hand and admit he got it all wrong. May have lost it in the wind but the free kick would drop in direct from range. 1-0 to the home side!
There was some sideline craziness in the 35th minute, about ten metres in front of where Newysports was set up. Mark Finlayson with a borderline disgraceful (we can't mince words on these sort of challenges) tackle late on Bailey Jensen.
Jensen was done in a heap and the Westy bench nearly spilled onto the field with this incident taking place metres from their dugout. Believe one of Gary Rowe's offsiders were given their marching orders and the home supporters were certainly letting their feelings be heard.
Finlayson got his yellow (some calling for a red) and then much to the ire of the Westy crowd, the referee brought the ball back to a Belswans free kick. Ugly scenes but an even uglier tackle to set it all off.
Bailey Jensen recovered from said tackle and had an acrobatic chance in the 39th minute that somehow went over the top when it looked easier to find the back of the net from close range.
More drama moments later as the ball rolled out for a throw-in as Dan Rufo came in late on a Westy player. Again another yellow shown and the home fans blowing up because Belswans got the throw-in.
Tensions were rising and the centre official was suddenly public enemy number one on Westy Old Boy's Day. Fortunately half-time brought a chance for all to collect their breath and calm themselves down.
And look Newysports won't feed you BS. Belswans were late in a lot of challenges in that first half and if Southy got the "grubby" tag a month or two ago you could argue the same here. One or two very dangerous challenges. The 'Swans play a physical tough brand but they got it all wrong in that first half.
Anyway, the tensions eased a little in the second half, at least towards the referee. Westy captain Jarrod Olivieri came close as he went on a good run down the field and fired a shot away in the 51st minute.
Belswans again found themselves in hot water as Cameron Tapp came in late on Brendan Frost. Another challenge that was just very poor by Belswans' normal standard and again a yellow card shown.
Westy knew a draw is all they needed and they looked to put a second goal in to create a bit of a cushion. Jarrod Oliveri had another chance in the 61st minute but somehow his header was kept out by either the keeper or a defender on the near post.
It was all too easy for the away side midway through the second half. Clayton Poole (the home fans were calling him "Jesus") subbed on and had a free-kick. He'd find Mark Finlayson who pounced on some poor defending with a sharp header. 1-1 and worry on the faces of Westy fans.
The next five minutes or so saw Belswans start to up the ante but one moment would change the day and the result. With eleven or so to go, a mad scramble in the box would result in Ben Parmenter dropping the ball into his own net.
Didn't get the best angle through a few bodies but a lot in attendance (a lot of Belswans supporters) were claiming a foul on the keeper after he went up to collect a high ball (maybe a corner if memory serves correctly). Either way, the goal would stand. We called it a Parmenter OG at first but Bailey Maxton apparently put it in.
The Josh Sutton snowboard injury saga played on again as he was a late withdrawal pre-game. That meant a 1st Grade debut for Charlie Herivel from the 19's. The retro mullet hairdo working wonders as he continues his way up the ladder at Belswans!
Belswans had their last key chance come in the 83rd minute. Cameron Lodge was falling as he made contact with the ball but he'd still get away a decent shot that just breezed past the far post. You could hear a collective sigh of relief from the Westy crowd.
Stoppage time went on for what felt like a while but as time ticked by, Belswans threw more and more forward to try and keep their unbeaten run alive. That left them open and they survived one or two scares but would be undone again.
The 94th minute or so saw the ball come forward for Westy and with the visitors at sixes and sevens, it was no surprise to see Bailey Maxton in behind. He'd chip Benny Parmenter and seal the deal on a dramatic day at Johnston Park.
Firstly we must talk about Belswans. A very off-colour display and quite frankly a shocking one. Just looking a shadow of their usual selves and yes missing one or two key players (well...Sutto) but honestly not good enough today.
Perhaps a much-needed wake-up call after one or two less than ideal performances as of late (the Cessnock result for one). They were outenthused today and looked one or two steps behind at times.
Fortunately they kept eleven on the park which didn't always look a certainty. Their chance of a home final in the 2nd Week goes sailing out the window but there's no need to hit the panic button yet.
Today was all about West Wallsend and really there was a feeling in the air that something special was going to happen. The club become a different beast when playing in front of their passionate home supporters and that truly showed today.
They were confident, they were cocky, they had a belief about them that they haven't had in recent years. Today they defeated a very experienced Belswans outfit and for that they deserve an enormous amount of praise.
It's hard to remember such a determined team effort in the last couple of months. Everyone worked very hard for each other in the Westy squad and the result obviously paid dividends. With it being a finals-like game and atmosphere, it bodes very well for next weekend.
Their fate of who they play is still up the air but for the first time in five long years, West Wallsend will play in the finals and as mentioned, this is step one of what they hope is a three-step fairytale to return to the pinnacle.
Obviously the players have done their job but loads of credit needs to go to the committee at West Wallsend. They have done a brilliant job this season at building on foundations of what others before them did.
So much hard work has gone into bringing this club back to where it should be and it'll all pay off either next weekend or the weekend after when hopefully a thousand people or so come through the gate to watch finals football at Wembley. How good is it!
NEWYSPORTS MOTM VOTE:
3 (MOTM)-Jarrod Olivieri (WWB)
2-Bryson Cox (WWB)
1-Brendan Frost (WWB)
UNDER 19's: Cooks Hill United (Will Dundas-PEN) 1 def by. TORONTO-AWABA (Sam Lynch x2, Will Cinello & Declyn Ford-PEN) 4
Well what an interesting result this was. Potentially an even bigger upset than Westy knocking off Belswans in 1st Grade. Toronto's season was on the line and nothing but a win was going to suffice. The problem was they hadn't beaten any of the top three all season.
The Stags ended up running away with it in the end as Cooks Hill produced their worst performance of the season. Perhaps a case of the Cookers underestimating what they were up against, thinking the match was won before a ball was kicked.
Either way, the home side were in for a rude shock. Two penalties given away and some poor goalkeeping allowing for Will Cinello to score from over the halfway line. A neutral onlooker described it as Cooks Hill "looking hungover".
Anyway this game was all about Toronto as they rescued their campaign in dramatic fashion. Fact is they should never have been playing for their season today but mistakes were made and they paid the price. In the end, they got what they deserved and that is 4th position.
With all the distractions that have gone on with this time including a couple of injuries, they have really done the club proud in making the finals and honestly they have nothing to lose from this point. What a story it would be if they went on to win it all!
See you in the finals Stags!
UNDER 23's: COOKS HILL UNITED 3 def. Toronto-Awaba 0 via FORFEIT
Some people asked Newysports today if there was a rule stating the lowest grade had to forfeit if numbers were short, meaning the 19's should have called their game and move up to 23's. Not even getting involved in that and if a rule existed it would have been acted upon three weeks or so ago.
With respect to those who have stayed on at Toronto, this result is a positive. There's little doubt they would have copped a heavier loss so all in all, it's probably a good thing although as always the forfeit will cost the club some coin.
These sort of issues is when a club's spot in the competition starts to come under question from some and there's no doubt that Toronto need to fill out their squads next season. Whatever the case, thankfully the year is over.
Cooks Hill did play the club's ZL1 side earlier in the morning. No idea on how that went but hopefully they restored some confidence as they are the most out-of-form side heading into the finals for any senior grade.
1ST GRADE: COOKS HILL UNITED (Nick Russell x5, Lee Ashton x4, Jarryd Johnson x2 & Alex Gillespie x2) 13 def. Toronto-Awaba 0
Northern NSW Football CEO David Eland was on hand for a pre-game presentation of the 2018 Minor Premiership in another memorable moment for this Cooks Hill club. Four years ago they were in ZPL and now they have the federation boss at their ground to present them another trophy. Brilliant!
Eland is a busy man and didn't stay for too long but certainly he'd be aware of this result as would be Northern NSW Football. This is embarrassing. It's embarrassing for Toronto, it's embarrassing for the league, it's just all round embarrassing.
This isn't Under 8's, it's a full fledged second tier competition and for one club to beat another by 13 goals is disgraceful. Yes Toronto-Awaba are in a hole of some depth but how the hell did it ever get this bad? Who's to blame for this?
Clubs like the Suns, Dudley, Mayfield, they'd look at this and laugh. Okay promotion is off the cards but say the Suns go up, take all of Magic A's to fill their Youth ranks, they'd do a better job. It's detrimental to the league to have this happen.
A lot of players have walked from Toronto-Awaba and the questions need to be asked why? This is the Stags biggest loss in at least two decades and indeed it's perhaps their darkest hour in living memory. Where do you go from here?
Darrel McAllister is either a madman or they have some things up their sleeve because nobody would touch this club with a 20-foot pole let alone play there. Here's hoping sponsors get on board and the committee strengthens because they need selling points.
Thank the high heavens it's all said and done and now McAllister can take the reigns and look at restoring the club's soul. It's been ripped out by this horrific season.
Onto Cooks Hill, not much needs to be said. More of a training exercise than a football game. Goals, goals and more goals. You can't accuse them of not being ruthless because they stomped Toronto into the ground today.
The Golden Boot looks settled after Nick Russell scored a casual five goals. There's little chance of Nathan McAllister (who's rumoured to be injured) scoring four against Thornton but maybe Ty Goldsmith might just haunt New Lambton. Unlikely. It's the "Russ Bus" who'll be winning it.
A good day for the club in front of the Legends and Sponsors and a far-cry from when a Blake Glennie-coached side succumbed to Toronto-Awaba on Old Boy's Day two years ago. How quickly things change!
The only worry is that Cooks Hill will come off this easy win and head into all out Semi Final warfare with either Belswans, Thornton or Southy. Their professionalism will see them do well but it'll be a step up from what they faced today.
NL1 YOUTH: NEW LAMBTON v TORONTO-AWABA
UNDER 14's: TBC
UNDER 17's: TBC
NL1 YOUTH: SINGLETON v BELMONT-SWANSEA
UNDER 14's: TBC
UNDER 17's: TBC