120 minutes. 120 different emotions. The ‘Old Northern Road Derby’ between Camden and Nepean was a Preliminary Final that truly had it all.
Camden Tigers (2) vs Nepean (0)
Set in a tribalistic backdrop of howling air horns and the incessant chanting of a roaring crowd, the ‘Old Northern Road Derby’ between Camden and Nepean exceeded all the pre-match expectations of football fans.
With two sets of terrifically talented footballers and two tactically astute managers, this Preliminary Final was always going to be an exhibition of the finest football the Men’s State League competition had to offer.
And it was.
Nepean settled better of the two sides and controlled the tempo of the match early. They made full use of the wide Valentine Sports Park pitch, with Magdy Andrawes barking orders at his wide players, ordering them to hug the touch-line and stretch the Camden defence.
The width employed by Nepean nullified the customary ferocious Camden press, forcing Camden’s strike pairing of Jayden Russell and Stephen Lloyd to feed on scraps up front.
But Magdy Andrawes wasn’t the only manager with a trick up his sleeve.
Dean Bradley, looking to contain the potent threat of Clement Waoci, shifted Nick Mugridge from wing to right full-back, and it looked to be a master stroke as Mugridge’s pace and determination kept Waoci quiet throughout most of the first half.
Despite surrendering the bulk of possession to Nepean, it was Camden who should’ve found themselves in front on 20 minutes.
A delicate cross from Jayden Russell dipped sharply on the edge of the six-yard box and found the unmarked head of Callum Rogers. The Camden captain’s header looked destined for the back of the net before a miraculous finger-tip save from Tom Hamilton somehow pushed the ball onto the crossbar before the Nepean defence scrambled the ball away.
A golden chance for Camden in a half that had been largely controlled by Nepean red.
Of note for Nepean was the first-half performance of Rory Mcgeown, who looked dangerous with intelligent flicks to release teammates into space whilst Hayden Pronin held the ball up with brute strength and nimble skill.
But for all their dominance of possession, Nepean struggled to carve open any clear-cut opportunities as the referee’s whistle blew for half-time.
Camden charged out for the second-half, looking to wrestle control of the match from Nepean’s grasp.
Their intent almost paid dividends early as the telepathic connection between Dean Mugridge and brother Nick forced the Nepean keeper into a stunning diving save.
The Camden players must have begun to wonder what it would take to beat Hamilton, who had already thwarted Dean Bradley’s side with two unbelievable saves.
Shortly after it was Nepean’s turn to come close to breaking the deadlock.
David Adjassou chipped the ball over the towering Camden defence which found the run of Clement Waoci – who was starved of opportunities all night. Waoci pounced onto the bouncing ball and lifted it over the onrushing keeper, who could only look on helplessly as it plunged onto the roof of the net.
The chanting of the crowd became more desperate as the minutes ticked towards full-time, knowing that any goal would surely prove to be the winning one.
With scores locked at 0-0 after 90 minutes, both sides readied themselves for pivotal extra-time period.
Forsaking their weary legs and equally exhausted minds, Camden and Nepean surged forward with relentless enthusiasm in extra-time.
The fervent crowd became engulfed in the drama of the game. As each side attacked, the emotions of the crowd would rise and fall like the musical rhythms of an orchestra being directed by a skilled conductor.
Nepean were the first to go close, when David Kanaley got an outstretched toe onto a loose ball but couldn’t direct his shot goalward.
Two minutes later, Matthew Serone’s driven cross fell at the feet of Callum Rogers who scuffed his shot when the goal was at his mercy.
Camden were piling on the pressure and came within inches of taking the lead when Christian Cevenini swivelled on a dime and finessed a shot, which looked destined for the top corner of the net, only for it to rebound off the underside of the crossbar.
But Camden would eventually secure a well-deserved goal, 10 minutes into the first period of extra-time.
Christian Cevenini collected the ball around 35 yards from goal on the right wing. He delivered a searching ball into the box, looking for the head of Jayden Russell, but the ball missed everyone, and in a moment of chaotic confusion, trickled its way inside the far post.
Nepean looked deflated.
For all their control of possession in the game and the defensive heroics early in the game, Nepean would have felt this was a sloppy goal to give away.
Refusing to accept the uncertainty of a one-goal lead, Camden went looking for the killer blow.
And it would arrive two minutes later, courtesy of Mr. Reliable – Jayden Russell. The competition’s top scorer played a clever one-two with Cevenini which unlocked the Nepean defence and sent Russell through to finish calmly past the keeper.
With 15 minutes remaining, the clock suggested Nepean still had time to rescue the match. Magdy Andrawes urged his side to not give up but their body language suggested their coach’s cries would fall on deaf ears.
As the referee brought an end to a pulsating 120 minutes of football, Nepean fell to the floor, overcome with disappointment and regret at what could have been a very different night if they were more clinical in the attacking third.
Camden’s tempered celebration revealed both satisfaction with the victory but an acute awareness of the task that awaits them next week, in the Grand Final against Bankstown United.
Camden Tigers 2 (C. Cevenini, J. Russell)
Nepean FC 0
Valentine Sports Park, August 27, 2017
Camden Tigers: B. Brooker, C. Cevenini, M. Clarke, S. Doherty, M. Green, D. Harris, R. Hastie, R. Hastie, S. Lloyd, D. Mugridge, N. Mugridge, M. O’Rourke, C. Rogers, J. Russell, M. Serone, B. Simpson, B. Szumski.
Nepean FC: D. Adjassou, J. Bayubahe, M. Elongo, T. Hamilton, S. Hawthorne, D. Kanaley, S. Ly, R. Mcgeown, R. Polistina, H. Pronin, S. Sabatho, M. Saeed, J. Senior, C. Waoci, D. Watson.
– By Ryan Latty