Maitland edge Devonport in five-goal thriller

Maitland FC have taken a positive step toward atoning for their NPL NNSW Grand Final loss by defeating Devonport Strikers 3-2 in the first round of the 2019 NPL Finals Series.

It’s the third time Devonport have been eliminated in the first round of the NPL Finals Series in as many attempts, after Maitland staved off two mini-comebacks from the NPL TAS side to clinch victory in the tight affair at Cooks Square Park.

In a frantic opening stanza to the Quarter Final clash Devonport conceded two penalties to the hosts, both of which were buried Maitland midfielder Matt Thompson to give his side a 2-0 lead after 22 minutes of play.

But minutes later Devonport struck back through Miles Barnard, who tucked away a cut-back from Max Fitzgerald at close range to cut the deficit in half, and Maitland carried a slender 2-1 lead into the half-time break.

Shortly after the resumption of play in the second half the visitors thought they had their equaliser after a Joel Stone free kick sailed into the top right corner of the Maitland goal, but a foul was called for a coming together of bodies in the penalty area and the goal was ruled out.

In the confusion ensuing the no-goal decision Maitland set off on a rapid counter attack, but Ryan Clarke could not put his effort on target and somehow the score stayed at 2-1.

But with 20 minutes to play Maitland struck again, this time through Sean Pratt after a cross from Clarke found the Maitland striker free in the box to push the score out to 3-1.

It looked as though Maitland were cruising to victory until Devonport substitute Charles Bidwell pounced on a loose ball near Maitland goal to score his side’s second of the game, but the 86th-minute strike proved fruitless as the hosts held on to knock Devonport out of the Finals Series.