West Wallsend SFC 1-0 Singleton Strikers FC
Finals football descended on Johnston Park for the first time since 2019 on Sunday and it was worth the wait as West Wallsend scored a 1-0 win against Singleton to progress to the qualifying final.
A Matt Paul strike in the 81st minute was the difference on a day when the home side had the better of the chances. The Bluebells won a throw-in down the left near the corner flag and Wes Pryce sent it into the box towards his striker Kane Goodchild who flicked it on with his head before Paul reacted quickest to get onto the end of it and volleyed it home.
It was a deserved reward for the West Wallsend playing group, who produced a hard-working performance on the day and the side’s coaching staff, following a smart tactical change midway through the second stanza to position Paul higher up the field.
Bluebells coach Bailey Cox was proud of his men for getting the job done and said the atmosphere in the dressing sheds after the match was electric as his side moved a step closer to a home grand final. He also labelled his side’s second half performance as far more improved on the first.
“In the first half, Singleton had a couple of chances and we let them in a couple of times. Our first half wasn’t as good as our second half,” Cox said.
“Even though it wasn’t our best performance in the first half, it wasn’t terrible.
“I thought we were pretty on top of the game there in the second half. I was just waiting for us to score, but it took a while.
“We were pretty solid in defence all game. Our defence has actually been solid since Singo beat us 5-0 earlier in the year. It’s been unreal and everyone is ripping in.”
The defensive performance was even more impressive considering skipper Bryson Cox missed the game with a hamstring injury that he reaggravated at training on Thursday and Quinn MacNeill hobbled off injured early in the game.
Coach Bailey Cox said he was pleased that the “next-man-up” mentality at West Wallsend ensured they weren’t negatively impacted by the reshuffle those injuries created, and he commended his side for getting the job done.
Singleton’s coach Mick Jarvis was frustrated at the state of the pitch at Johnston Park, which he thought suited the way West Wallsend played football and had a significant impact on the result.
“It was a typical game out at Westy I suppose. It’s very difficult to play football at Westy,” Jarvis said.
“It was just typical. Every time we play them at Westy they just play long to Goody and hope they get a second ball off him because the ground is so bad you can’t move the ball around properly.
“That’s their football. They play the type of football that suits that ground and they get results from it. People like all types of football. I like to move the ball and for the ball to be played on the deck, not in the air.
“It’s a results-driven game though, so whatever works. You can’t knock them for it. They play the style of football that suits them and not us and they get the result from it, so I take my hat off to them.
“It was an arm wrestle, but as far as the physicality of the game and energy levels, our guys matched them player for player every time.
“If we got another crack on them on a pitch that suits us to move the ball around, I’d be more than confident.”
West Wallsend’s win saw them join premiers Toronto Awaba in this weekend’s major semi-final at Lyall Peacock Oval. The winner of that match will progress to the grand final day and the loser will host the preliminary final the following weekend.
Singleton will now host South Cardiff in the minor semi-final this weekend as those two sides contest a do-or-die battle to qualify for the preliminary final.
Kahibah FC 1-2 South Cardiff FC
South Cardiff have made it to the final four for the first time in four years after progressing to the semi-finals with a 2-1 victory against Kahibah in the elimination final at Kahibah Oval on Saturday afternoon.
The Gunners went into their first finals game since 2019 as the underdogs after finishing 12 points behind Kahibah on the table and with back-to-back losses.
But South Cardiff established a 2-0 lead midway through the first half after a goalmouth scramble led to the opening goal in the 28th minute, which was recorded as a Jensen Hunt own goal, and then Vincent Asembo scored a one-on-one strike past Kahibah’s goalkeeper George Stephens following a brilliant run and cross by Brendon King three minutes later.
South Cardiff took the 2-0 lead into the half-time break and remained in front by two for the majority of the second stanza before facing a nerve-wracking final 14 minutes after Kahibah pulled one back in the 83rd minute through Curtis Baggs.
The Gunners held onto their one-goal lead when the final whistle sounded following seven minutes of stoppage time to move on to week two of the finals series while eliminating Kahibah in the process.
South Cardiff’s coach Perry Mellon was impressed with the way his entire side stood up on the day. He said the Gunners knew Kahibah would rely on long balls rather than play through the midfield after Robbie Turnbull was ruled out for them late in the week, and they were switched on defensively to thwart that game plan.
“It was a proper finals game, I thought,” Mellon said.
“In the first half, we were really good and really organised. Then in the second half, Kahibah threw some numbers forward at us and we were bunkered in our half for a long time. But I think overall on actual chances created, we were by far the better team.
“We had to defend a lot of set pieces, long throws and corners. Kahibah didn’t play much football, they lumped it forward all day. We would have won 100 headers in that game.
“We knew Robbie wasn’t going to play later in the week, which was a big loss to Kahibah, so we just practised defending long balls and second balls, set pieces and throw-ins all Thursday night.
“They had one of their half chances fall to them and scored but we got there in the end.”
With every game a knockout fixture for South Cardiff in the finals following their fifth-place finish, Mellon said that they were approaching every game as though it was a grand final.
“The boys and myself are over the moon,” Mellon said.
The Gunners will now travel to Howe Park this weekend where they will take on Singleton in the minor semi-final after the Strikers lost Sunday’s qualifying final against West Wallsend.
The winner of the minor semi-final will advance to the preliminary final and the loser will be eliminated.
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