After the penultimate round of the PlayStation 4 NPL Northern NSW competition on the weekend, the four semifinalists have been determined and the Premiership title race is still up for grabs.
Edgeworth Eagles, Hamilton Olympic, Lambton Jaffas and Broadmeadow Magic will contest the two leg semifinals series, with Edgeworth and Hamilton separated by just two points in the Premiership title race heading into the final regular season round on 12-13 August.
Edgeworth Eagles 5 (Taylor 32’, Holz 41’, Bower 84’, McBreen 90’, Moriyasu 90+3’) defeated Valentine Phoenix 0 at Cahill Oval.
Edgeworth put one hand on their third Premiership with a comprehensive 5-0 victory, which left Valentine’s finals hopes hanging by a thread and which on Sunday were completely extinguished by Broadmeadow Magic.
Five different players scored for the Eagles in the win, which they didn’t fully seal until the 84th minute.
After a tight opening half hour, where neither side created much in the way of chances, Edgeworth opened their account in the 32nd minute. Pat Wheeler chipped a pass down the left sideline for Dom Bizzarri.
Phoenix keeper Scott Carter came charging out of his goals to diffuse the situation, but was too late, as Bizzarri got to the ball first, and looped his cross infield to Brody Taylor who headed home into an empty net.
Edgeworth’s second proved a killer blow before half-time.
Dylan Holz raced down the left edge and attempted to cross into the middle, but the ball instead sliced off the side of his boot and wrong footed Carter, sneaking inside the near post, as the Phoenix keeper frantically dove to his right to keep the ball out.
The Eagles led 2-0 at the interval and when they returned the visitors continued to stifle Valentine’s attack, as Jalon Brown was kept incredibly quiet.
Edgeworth had chances to seal the game earlier in the half, via Brody Taylor and Daniel McBreen, but Will Bower finished the Phoenix off in the 84th minute. Ayden Brice’s cross was pushed clear by Carter, but fell straight to Bower who thumped his volley into the back of the net.
Things went from bad to worse in the 85th minute for Valentine with striker Jalon Brown pulling up lame with a hamstring injury and played no further part in the match.
With all their substitutions used Valentine had to play the final minutes with just ten men, and the Eagles smelt blood in the water.
First Daniel McBreen launched a strike from the left edge of the box which cannoned into goal and then Keigo Moriyasu sealed the match in stoppage time with a superb chip over Carter to make it 5-0.
In the wash-up Edgeworth coach Damian Zane felt his side were never troubled.
“I thought we nullified them completely,” Zane said.
“They might have had one shot from distance and a couple of crosses. Other than that, I can’t remember them troubling us too much. Credit to our back four, with Lachie [Pasquale] in front, they were great.”
Zane felt pre-match that his side were primed for a big performance.
“When I saw them today and walked into the sheds to give them the team talk, there is a reason why teams win comps and that look in that shed is exactly it. To win a comp, these boys can smell it and you’ve got to be awfully hungry to take it off them.”
Phoenix coach Darren Sills conceded the Eagles were just too good.
“We set up all week to try and be in the game at half-time. We made a couple of little tinkers to our shape which didn’t work and you put your hand up as a coach.”
“They are a very good football side, and people give them a lot of credit for their attack, but seriously their defence is unbelievable.
“Very difficult to break down, we’ve got the best attacker in the league and he couldn’t get near it. He’s had one shot from halfway, and that was his strike for the day.”
“I said to the boys, it’s round 21 and we are still on a Saturday afternoon alive, which is amazing. We finished third last last year and it looks like we could finish fifth this year.”
Maitland Magpies 2 (McKellar 50’, Thornton 59’) defeated Lambton Jaffas 1 (R.Griffiths 2’) at Arthur Edden Oval.
Lambton’s late-season slumber continued at home on Saturday, as the Jaffas were downed 2-1 and lost for the third time in six matches.
Maitland, who only have a mathematical chance of making the finals, kept up their strong away form which has seen them lose just once away from Cooks Square Park this season.
But, early on it all seemed to be going to plan for the Jaffas, when the scored inside two minutes. Ryan Griffiths controlled and finished in the box for an early lead.
With a strong wind behind them in the opening half Lambton pushed for a second, and it was Joel Griffiths who came the closest.
The Jaffas striker lashed a volley from the right side of the box which seared towards the top right corner and was tremendously stopped by outstretched Magpies keeper Matt Trott.
Lambton headed to the sheds with a deserved 1-0 advantage, but were left to rue their first half chances minutes after the break.
Five minutes into the half Liam Thornton struck from Josh Dutton-Black’s pinpoint corner.
Less than ten minutes later and the Magpies had a surprise lead.
First Ryan Clarke’s shot from the left was saved by Jaffas keeper Brad Swancott, then Chris Fayers had his shot blocked by Lambton skipper Michael Sessions, before Jye Mckellar calmly slotted his first PS4 NPL goal of the season to make it 2-1.
With the wind at their backs in the second half, Maitland were able to keep their slim finals hopes alive – which in the end were dashed by Broadmeadow on Sunday afternoon – as the Jaffas were left to rue their missed opportunities.
Maitland coach Phil Dando described it as an even match made difficult by the wind and a bumpy pitch.
“Kicking with the wind in the first half they were on top and they scored early and then they put us under pressure.
“We battled in the first half and then half-time with that strong wind behind us we were able to go on with it and basically because of it we managed to stay most of the half in their half.
“Probably the first half, they were on top and second half we were on top. But, I think the wind had a big part in it.”
Dando said he was most impressed with the Magpies defence.
“We were missing Matt Thompson and Matt Comerford through injury and young Matt Sokulski came in, but he had to go off after half-an-hour because he couldn’t breathe.
“We changed from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 which we experimented a bit against the Jets on Wednesday night. The two banks of four, just defended really well.”
Broadmeadow Magic 2 (Pettit 31’, Haynes (p) 77’) defeated Newcastle Jets Youth 0 at Magic Park.
Peter Haynes’ final regular season match at Magic Park ended in success for Broadmeadow as they sealed their spot in the finals for a third consecutive season.
Scott Pettit opened Magic’s account for the afternoon with his second goal in two PS4 NPL matches.
Matt Hoole whipped a corner in from the right edge which viciously curled towards the back post, where Pettit prodded the ball over the line.
The Jets should have gone to the sheds locked up, but Angus Thurgate pulled his shot just wide from the edge of the box.
Cameron Joice had another great opportunity in the second half which went begging, and Magic pounced.
The script couldn’t have been written any better. In his final home match in the regular season for Broadmeadow, Peter Haynes got the moment he deserved.
Haynes charged downfield, bumped past Mitch Dobson – who was unlucky not to receive a foul himself – and entered the box where he was brought to ground by Daniel Alessi, who was subsequently red-carded for the challenge.
The Magic Legend then stepped up to the spot and sent Tristan Esquilant the wrong way to double Magic’s lead and seal their spot in the finals.
Magic coach Ruben Zadkovich said their eighth straight PS4 NPL win was “all about guts and spirit”.
“We are battling. We’ve got boys, like let’s say dead bodies out there on the pitch. We are hanging on for dear life with some of them. Three games in a week, and not to mention a really disappointing loss mentally for the boys [in the FFA Cup].
“To bounce back from that, have a big night out and then the travel, and then come back and we barely trained at all and we didn’t prepare for the Jets that well at all. It was just all about guts and determination.”
He also praised retiring veteran Peter Haynes after the match.
“He is everything to our club,” Zadkovich said.
“He is an absolute champion person first and foremost. Forget what he does as a player, he is an absolute champion bloke and anyone who knows him knows that.
“On top of that he is a high-class player and has been for so many years for the club. For him to get that goal on the day that we made a big deal as a club about him, the script was written beautifully for him. He deserves it.
“Not always in football do people get the rewards that deserve, but for Pete it has happened. You can’t say he doesn’t deserve it because he certainly does.”
In contrast, Jets coach Lawrie McKinna was frustrated with the result.
“We improved since we’ve [Labinot Haliti and McKinna] come in and we’ve got high standards and I know Magic are one of the top teams, but I thought they were there for us today.
“I thought we could put a team on the park which was very competitive, which we did, but just disappointed we didn’t get something from the game.
“We feel as though we are improving, but we still have a lot of room for improvement.”
Hamilton Olympic 4 (A.Swan 36’, Duncan 55’, Goodchild 80’, 90+2’) defeated Lake Macquarie City Roosters 0 at Macquarie Field.
Late heroics weren’t required this weekend, but that didn’t stop Hamilton piling on the goals in the second half as Olympic comfortably defeated Lake Macquarie 4-0 on Sunday afternoon.
Hamilton kept the race for the Premiership alive until the final matchday of the PS4 NPL Northern NSW, where they will need a win against Broadmeadow and hope Edgeworth lose to Lake Macquarie to take out the title.
The Swan brothers combined to open Olympics’ account on 36 minutes, when Matt, threaded the ball through the heart of the Roosters defence to Andrew.
Andrew Swan rounded Roosters keeper Kannon Ford – replacing the suspended Benn Kelly – and finished their opening goal of the afternoon.
The visitors took their slender lead to the break and after the resumption it didn’t take long for Marcus Duncan to head them into a 2-0 advantage after Reece Papas curled his corner to the tall defender at the near post.
Hamilton took a while to score their third, but it was worth the wait as Andrew Swan and Kane Goodchild played a superb one-two and Goodchild slotted from close range to go equal top of the Golden Boot standings.
But, in stoppage time Goodchild ensured he will be the outright leader in the Golden Boot race going into the final round as he finished off the rout with a comfortable volley after Scott Smith chipped a wonderful ball to his fellow strike-partner.
It was a comfortable win according to Olympic boss Michael Bolch.
“We ran into the wind in the first half, it was probably a good two goal wind. It was pretty strong out there. We led 1-0 at half-time and in the second half I don’t know if they [Lakes] got out of their own half. It was pretty controlled.”
Bolch said the game was played in trying conditions.
“It was difficult today, the ground wasn’t great, the weather was really windy.
“It was probably not so much a danger game, but after coming off big games against Edgy and Valo the last couple of weeks, there could have been that tendency for the boys not quite being up for it, but they did really well.”
Charlestown City Blues 2 (Bartlett 71’, Ferguson 80’) defeated Weston Bears 1 (Joel Barner 86’) at Lisle Carr Oval.
Charlestown sent departing coach Shane Pryce out on a high, as they finished off the season with a gritty 2-1 victory over Weston at home on Sunday.
The victory confirmed Charlestown will finish the season in eighth place on 19 points, with the Blues having the final weekend off with the bye.
After a tight opening half, both sides cancelled each other out and neither could find a goal.
In the opening 35 minutes of the second half, it was a similar story, until Daniel Bartlett headed the home side into a 1-0 lead.
The afternoon got a whole lot trickier for the Bears when defender Jordan Jackson was given his marching orders in the 75th minute.
The Blues doubled their advantage soon after when Josh Small found space down the left, squaring his pass for Rene Ferguson who finished his season with another goal, the 11th of the campaign.
Joel Barner gave the young Bears some late hope in the 86th minute when a sublime pass from Max Forster split the Charlestown defence. Barner sped down the right and cut his shot across Nathan Archbold and into the left corner.
However, it proved too little too late for Weston as they lost their 10th match straight and 14th of the season.