Match of the Round
Singleton Strikers FC 7-0 Toronto Awaba FC
Singleton Strikers wrapped up the regular season in style with a 7-0 victory on home soil at Howe Park against the minor premiers Toronto Awaba on Sunday afternoon.
The Strikers dominated from start to finish against an understrength Stags team who were without several first-grade regulars through injury and suspension or being rested due to card trouble.
Toronto Awaba played some quality football early in the contest but Jack Clare opened the scoring for the Strikers in the 11th minute and the hosts never looked back.
Brad Cox doubled Singleton’s lead 10 minutes later and it was 3-0 by the 23rd minute when Joel Barner netted Singleton’s third.
The Striker’s fourth goal earned one of the most exuberant celebrations and loudest roars seen and heard at Howe Park this year when Singleton stalwart Jackson Skinner scored his first goal for the club.
Having lined up for more than 250 games for the Strikers but never being able to find the back of the net, Skinner looked like a natural in front of goal when he got onto the end of a corner kick in the 45th minute and headed home to make the score 4-0 at the break.
Clare made it 5-0 with his second goal of the game nine minutes into the second stanza before Jake Barner was rewarded for a classy effort in the midfield with a goal in the 72nd minute that put Singleton ahead by six.
Luke Meyn entered the match off the bench a minute later and he scored the goal of the game in the 89th minute with a cracking strike from distance to make the final score 7-0.
The Strikers’ coach Mick Jarvis was far more pleased with the performance than the result and is thrilled to take some good form into the finals series.
“Toronto put three on us the first time we met and four the second time, and we were down troops both times. It’s almost poetic to get all seven goals back off them in one hit, but they were short this time as well,” Jarvis said.
“The football from us was more impressive than the result, to be honest. I’m glad we got back to moving the ball around and the energy levels were higher. We’ve pretty much finished the season the way we started it.
“It helps when you start to get guys back. We’re only due a couple more back and we’re at full strength. The guys that have been coming back over the past two or three weeks are just starting to get some match fitness, which is good.
“We knew we weren’t far off, but it was just a matter of getting the troops back in and healthy. For us, it was about seeing a good quality level of football leading into the semis, so we’re really happy with that.”
The victory saw Singleton finish the season in third place after they jumped Kahibah on the ladder in the final round. They climbed to 43 points while Kahibah remained on 40 points as they sat out with the Round 27 bye.
“The higher you finish, the better, but it wouldn’t have made a lot of difference to us and our mindset. Our mindset is once you get to finals, you have to win every game,” Jarvis said.
“But finishing third is obviously nicer than finishing fourth.”
Toronto Awaba’s coach Jarrad Hiles said that his side’s fifth and largest loss of the campaign hadn’t taken away from the successful year that the premiers have enjoyed.
“I thought that we started off okay today, to be honest. We were passing the ball around nicely there early,” Hiles said.
“We were outplayed in the end, but to the boys’ credit, they kept trying and didn’t give in.
“Credit to Singleton. They were pretty clinical in front of goal and they scored some good goals. They are a dangerous team with some dangerous players. They were good all across the park.
“We obviously had six regular first graders out, but that’s just excuses. It’s just one week that we’ll try and forget about now, and we’ll get back to training and get into it to prepare for the finals series.
“That game today is no reflection of our year. We’ve been the best team through the course of 27 rounds. There are things we can take from it, but I won’t dwell on it. It won’t dent our confidence. Like I said, we’ve had an outstanding year.”
Toronto Awaba finished on top of the table on 53 points following 17 wins, two draws and five losses this year. They ended the campaign four clear of West Wallsend and 10 ahead of third-placed Singleton.
Winning the premiership has earned the Stags a weekend off during week one of the finals and they will now host the major semi-final at Lyall Peacock Oval the following weekend when they welcome the winner of this weekend’s qualifying final between West Wallsend and Singleton at Johnston Park.
South Cardiff FC 1-4 West Wallsend SFC
West Wallsend have ended this year’s regular season on a five-game winning streak following a 4-1 victory over South Cardiff away from home at Ulinga Oval on Sunday.
The Bluebells were guaranteed to finish second regardless of the result, but the win sees them continue their brilliant run of form heading into the finals as they finished just four points behind the premiers Toronto Awaba, having amassed 49 points following 16 wins, a draw and seven losses.
The score was locked 0-0 at the half-hour mark on Sunday before the Gunners found themselves behind 2-0 by the 35th minute after Josh Carroll opened the scoring for West Wallsend with a powerful shot from the top of the box and Kane Goodchild netted soon after with a header from close range.
The Bluebells took the two-goal lead into the half-time break before scoring two goals in quick succession in the second stanza.
West Wallsend went ahead 3-0 from a top-quality Tom Sparre goal in the 54th minute before Goodchild made it four from the penalty spot in the 56th.
Jack Harrison put the victors on the board with a 67th-minute strike, but it was merely a consolation goal as West Wallsend won the contest 4-1.
The Bluebells’ coach Bailey Cox said that although he had rested six players during the final round, nothing changed for his side.
“We played pretty well considering we rested a few and had a couple out. Nothing changed for us,” Cox said.
“I’m pretty happy. We kept the ball on the deck and we moved it around really well.
“We got in behind them a fair bit and had heaps of chances. It could have been more to be honest.
“As I said, nothing changed from the way we’ve been playing.”
The Gunners remained on 28 points following their final-round loss. They were joined on that total by the sixth-placed side Wallsend but held onto fifth spot as their goal difference was 16 greater than the Red Devils’.
South Cardiff will now challenge Kahibah in this weekend’s elimination final at Kahibah Oval.
West Wallsend will be in action this weekend when they host Singleton in the qualifying final at Johnston Park.
Wallsend FC 2-0 Cessnock City Hornets FC
Wallsend finished their 2023 campaign on a high with a 2-0 victory on home soil at The Gardens against Cessnock on Sunday afternoon.
Brad York struck twice from long-range free kicks, the first of which he scored in the 38th minute sending the hosts into the break ahead 1-0 and the second of which he netted in the 78th minute to double his team’s advantage.
The Red Devils played 15 minutes with 10 men after Daniel Keelan received a second yellow card in the 76th minute and was given his marching orders, but his teammates defended well to keep Wallsend’s second clean sheet of the season.
The Red Devils’ coach Michael Gatt was quite happy to have ended the year on a high and declared the team had come a long way from their 2022 wooden spoon campaign.
“It was a scrappy game. There’s always a lot of emotion between us and Cessnock, being the old club of a lot of the boys and the club I used to coach at. There’s always a bit of fire,” Gatt said.
“The boys really showed up today and it was good to get the win.
“If we had got a draw last week against Toronto, we’d be playing finals. Unfortunately, that just sums up our season. But we finished equal fifth and that’s a big improvement from being last the past two seasons. From last year to this year, the improvement has been massive.”
The victory saw Wallsend join fifth-placed South Cardiff on 28 points, but the Gunners’ for-and-against difference is 16 greater than the Red Devils’. This resulted in Gatt’s men having to settle for sixth. He said that they would regroup and come back stronger next year looking to finish even higher and feature in the finals.
Cessnock’s loss was their 17th of the season as they finished on 19 points, five behind eighth-placed Belmont Swansea.
Belmont Swansea United FC 0-1 Thornton Redbacks FC
Two sides that had their sights set on finals football at the beginning of the year entered the final round of the season battling for seventh, with Thornton taking the chocolates.
The Redbacks defeated BelSwans 1-0 on Sunday afternoon.
The Round 27 fixture was BelSwans’ old boys' day at Blacksmith Oval, but once again, they could not find the back of the net despite both coaches agreeing the hosts had the better of the chances.
Thornton went ahead in the 26th minute when Lachlan Yates scored the opener that turned out to be the only goal of the game as the Redbacks defended the 1-0 lead until the full-time whistle sounded.
The side’s former coach Gary Wand, who will lead the Redbacks again in 2024 alongside Gerard Carey, was back on the sideline on Sunday as outgoing coach Nima Nikfarjam was away.
Wand admitted that Belmont Swansea had the better of the chances, but said he was pleased that his side got the job done.
“It wasn’t great. It was one of those games where we scored early and just hung on,” Wand said.
“We played okay but BelSwans had the better of the chances. Our goalkeeper Oliver Mather was really good for us again. He’s had a really good year.
“We had a few guys backing up, being our last game of the year and it being a nothing game, and Father’s Day, so we didn’t exactly go out there with record numbers.
“We defended really well at times and we hung on well, but on another day, I think we get beat 3-1.”
Belmont Swansea United’s coach Mick Stafford was disappointed to have thrown away a chance to defend the side’s 2022 championship with a five-game losing streak to finish the season.
“It’s a disappointing outcome and the same old story for us in the back end of this year; we create very good chances but don’t put them away,” Stafford said.
“It’s another 1-0 defeat and we miss out on semi-final football.
“The core group of this team in the last eight years have made five grand finals and won three, and now we’re staring down eighth place in a nine-team comp. But that’s football. It’s good to learn these lessons and we’ll look to improve for 2024.”
Thornton finished seventh on 27 points following seven wins, six draws and 11 losses this year, just one point behind South Cardiff and Wallsend.
BelSwans ended the year on 24 points, having won seven games, drawn three and lost 14.
Kahibah had the bye.
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