The 2019 National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s season ended with a bang and a nine goal thriller at Valentine Sports Park, as Hills United registered a 6-3 victory over North Shore Mariners to claim the Championship.
Four strikes in the opening period set United up for Grand Final success. Although North Shore pulled it back to 4-2 early in the second half, two more Hills goals had their fans celebrating long before the final whistle, and a late Mariners strike was mere consolation.
North Shore had the first clear chance of the game with less than three minutes on the clock when Daniel Saric played the ball over the top for Mitchell Smith, the Mariners forward putting the ball well over the crossbar.
Hills made North Shore pay for that miss almost immediately. Wade Giovenali whipped in a sensational cross from the right wing, Daniel Fogarty finishing from close range to give his side a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute.
The same two players combined again on ten minutes, nearly making it 2-0 when Fogarty’s pressure led to him winning the ball inside the penalty area. A clever backheel found Wade Giovenali, who smashed the ball off the crossbar, Jordan Parfait heading the rebound over.
The Mariners began to gain a foothold in the contest, and in the 24th minute Mitchell Smith went close to an equaliser as his curling shot was cleared off the goal line by Eoin Montford. Braden Cheng was the next North Shore player to threaten on 34 minutes, sending a long range shot inches wide of the target.
However, Hills would put themselves firmly in control, scoring three times in a devastating four minute spell. A typically swift counter attack from Patrick Zwaanswijk’s side saw them double their lead in the 35th minute as Kento Sakurai exchanged passes with Nathan Rayner, then made space in the area and drilled a shot into the bottom corner – quite the way to mark his last game for Hills before he moves to Mexico.
It was 3-0 a couple of minutes later after some more neat combination play from Hills. This time it was Parfait finding the back of the net as he raced onto a Fogarty pass and slotted the ball under Mariners goalkeeper Ryan Wood.
Incredibly, Hills scored a fourth goal on 39 minutes. Glen Kelshaw was the architect, playing a killer through pass for Parfait, who tucked the ball away for his 13th goal of the campaign.
North Shore were now up against it, however they would find a lifeline on the stroke of halftime. Piriz headed Chris Lindsay’s corner kick against the crossbar, and in the resulting scramble Marquin Smith (also playing his last game for his club) pulled one back with an improvised overhead kick.
That goal gave the Mariners some momentum, and they built on it early in the second half to cut the deficit to two goals. Once again, Lindsay’s trusty left foot was involved, as Mitchell Smith got on the end of his cross and headed the ball home to take his goal tally to 20 for the year.
Now North Shore were really pressing – Mitchell Smith and Smahel had aerial chances but were unable to hit the target. Hills needed a response, getting it when two of the stars of their season combined in the 57th minute to give them some more breathing room. As for the first goal, Wade Giovenali found space on the right flank, and another brilliant cross led to Fogarty heading the ball into the top corner to make it 5-2.
Fogarty was having a fantastic game, and the lightning-quick forward almost completed his hat trick midway through the second half after collecting a loose ball on the edge of the area, Wood reacting well to push his shot behind for a corner.
Instead it was Hills substitute Alex Vlismas who would score his side’s sixth goal of the afternoon. Just under a quarter of an hour remained when Sakurai picked out Vlismas with an excellent switch of play, and the winger danced around a defender before curling the ball past Wood.
To their credit, North Shore kept pushing until the end. Catlin had to be alert on 79 minutes, saving Mitchell Smith’s volley, and the Hills shotstopper backed it up a few minutes later by tipping Lindsay’s cross onto the frame of the goal. Joe Haywood’s men then grabbed a consolation goal two minutes from the end of normal time, a Saric cross providing the simplest of finishes for Cheng.
However, the destination of the Championship trophy had been decided for some time, and the final whistle sparked scenes of jubilation amongst the Hills United faithful. Patrick Zwaanswijk’s side atoned for narrowly missing out on the Premiership, claiming their first piece of silverware at this level since re-joining the NPL 2 Men’s competition in 2017, while Daniel Fogarty was Player Of The Match after scoring two goals and setting up another.
For North Shore Mariners, it was a day of disappointment at the end of what has been an exceptional campaign. A Premiership – Club Championship double is just reward for their efforts in 2019, and the club looks set for more success next year.
North Shore Mariners 3 (Marquin Smith 45’, Mitchell Smith 49’, Braden Cheng 88’) v Hills United 6 (Daniel Fogarty 6’ 57’, Kento Sakurai 35, Jordan Parfait 37’ 39’, Alexander Vlismas 76’)
Saturday 14 September 2019
At Valentine Sports Park No. 2
North Shore Mariners: 1. Ryan WOOD, 2. Rainer SMAHEL (11. Nathan SEPAROVIC 71’), 3. Chris LINDSAY, 6. Ricky WOODWARD (c) (15. Joshua MBAKWE 63’), 8. Brian JAMBA, 10. Marquin SMITH (23. Damir PRODANOVIC 71’), 12. Braden CHENG, 14. Jesse PIRIZ, 18. Mitchell SMITH, 19. Daniel SARIC, 22. Sean EVE
Unused Substitutes: 21. Joel TINKER, 5. Harrison QUIRK
Hills United: 1. Shaun CATLIN, 3. Jarrod DODDS, 5. Marcus ZARANTONELLO (6. Bradley ROBERTSON 46’), 7. Wade GIOVENALI (16. Greg GIOVENALI 70’), 8. Eoin MONTFORD, 10. Jordan PARFAIT (9. Alexander VLISMAS 63’), 11. Daine MERRIN (c), 19. Glen KELSHAW, 22. Kento SAKURAI, 24. Nathan RAYNER, 44. Daniel FOGARTY
Unused Substitutes: 32. Jordan GEDDES, 30. Adolph KOUDAKPO
Yellow cards: 7. Wade GIOVENALI 9’, 10. Jordan PARFAIT 51’, 19. Glen KELSHAW 66’, 44. Daniel FOGARTY 84’
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: DANIEL FOGARTY
A final note: It’s impossible to watch every match (although we all know I would if I could!). These weekly reviews aren’t possible without the help of so many people, and I’d like to thank all the coaches and team officials who generously gave up their time to provide summaries of the games I wasn’t able to watch, the players for continuing to provide such an entertaining competition, and of course all the fans who read these articles. See you next season!
By Eric Subijano
Twitter – @eric_subijano