The opening weekend of the Football NSW League 3 Men’s competition did not disappoint, with sixteen goals across four games seeing the season off to a positive, attacking start.
UNSW and Hawkesbury City got the campaign underway in a five-goal thriller, with a duo of Saturday matches following suit with a combined 7 goals between them.
Newcastle Jets finished off the fixtures on Sunday with a 4-0 win over Parramatta FC, making for an average of an astonishing four goals per game in round 1.
UNSW 2 – 3 Hawkesbury City
Hawkesbury City topped UNSW in a thrilling affair to open the League 3 Men’s season.
Hawkesbury’s fast start was too much for UNSW, with the away side going 2-0 up inside the opening fifteen minutes.
Harry Drew opened the scoring early in the 7th minute with his head after their opposition failed to clear a bouncing long ball from the goalkeeper.
Zac Miletic doubled the Hawks’ advantage just five minutes later with a thumping strike from 20 yards, following a loss of possession from UNSW in their defensive third.
Uni picked themselves up and came back into the game, and halved the deficit after another failed clearance off a bouncing long ball, with Nima Beik converting the one on one to bring his side back into the game.
UNSW clawed the game level within 35 minutes, after good buildup play saw Matias Da Silva Santos in behind, with the number seven finishing with aplomb across the face of goal.
Hawkesbury once again found themselves ahead late on, with clever buildup finding Drew for his brace from a powerful volley.
Hawks coach Dean Bertenshaw was proud of the result after the tricky leadup with heavy floods in Hawkesbury, while UNSW coach Gabe Knowles was left to lament the mistakes leading to goals, and the 4 players lost to injury over the course of the game.
Hurstville FC 2 – 1 Camden Tigers
Hurstville FC got their season underway with a first win at their new facility, prevailing 2-1 against Camden Tigers.
There were minimal shots in the open 15 minutes to open the match, with both sides looking to feel each other out.
However, it was the slightly more subdued side in Camden that opened the scoring in the 16th minute, after a cross found the head of Stephen Lloyd at the back post, who smartly cut it back across goal to find Tyler Bromham-Fuller, who guided the ball home.
Camden then won a penalty in the 20th minute, after Dean Mugridge rushed ahead of Hurstville’s Dario Borovickic in a loose ball down the right flank and looked to double his sides’ advantage.
Mugridge maundered into the box but couldn’t finish the resulting penalty after a fantastic save from Michael Rutherford in goal, with Lloyd skewing the rebound over the bar.
Camden settled after the missed penalty with a lengthy spell of possession, in which their two centre backs maintained the ball with Hurstville man making their opposite numbers in a midfield 3v3.
Hurstville remained threatening off set pieces from captain Paul Gagro, with the Australian Croatian club going close on a number of occasions.
Hurstville found an equaliser – in fact off a set piece – in the 41st minute, with Jesse Gagro finishing clinically first time into the bottom right corner after a ball dropped at his feet inside the box.
Just three minutes later, Jacob Botic put Hurstville ahead for the first time in the match, with a scuffed clearance off a cross from P. Gagro finding the right-back, who again found the bottom right corner, this time with his left foot in a wider position.
Hurstville went close to adding a third ten minutes into the second half, where a bright burst from P. Gagro found his brother on the edge of the box in an inside right position; the striker’s shaped shot was narrowly grazed over the crossbar.
Camden almost equalised the score five minutes later – after a clever shimmy from Bailey Simpson saw him breeze past his marker, he played in a teasing cross which found the boot of Lloyd, who missed a high-quality chance.
Play was starting to intensify, with the sides trading chances, and a fantastic ball from Borovickic saw P. Gagro with time to shape a shot on the edge of the box, but the winger couldn’t find the target to extend Hurstville’s advantage.
In the 63rd minute, a stray elbow off a corner from Bailey Simpson saw Camden reduced to ten men, in a sliding doors moment for the complexity of the match.
While intensity remained within the game, chance creation settled down to a minimum over the next fifteen minutes, although the match nevertheless remained a captivating affair with Hurstville’s three points at stake.
Yianni Nioplias was a bright spark after entering the game for Hurstville, providing pace and directness down the right flank as a winger.
Substitute juan Esteban Puentes Botero went close in the 80th minute, but his powerful right-footed shot clanked the post.
The home side domination had commenced, with Hurstville winning a freekick 60 seconds later.
After a stoppage to tend to an injury, Botic’s strike was centimetres off nestling inside the left post but was wide of the target.
Borovickic went close after brilliant direct dribbling from Puentes Botero but again couldn’t find the target in an uncontested shot with one minute left to play.
The game ended in a fiery fashion, with Camden not taking any liking to Hurstville’s time-wasting, as multiple push and shove matches saw the game through, with Nicholas Marco from Hurstville sent off for a second yellow for delaying the restart of play.
In the end, the late missed chances didn’t come back to bite the home side, as they picked up a win in the opening game of the campaign at their new stadium.
There were a few contentious decisions throughout the match, with Hurstville captain Paul Gagro and Camden coach Gary Seymour both lamenting red cards, time-wasting and other decisions; Seymour in particularly was frustrated at the referees for the short length of time added on to the 90 minutes.
However, Gagro was delighted with the result and performance, praising the quality of his side’s character and consistency over the ninety minutes.
“It was a tough game. I thought we were the better side for the first 10, 15 minutes, but to Camden’s credit, they turned the tide on us a little bit. They got the goal and kept the momentum on us for the next ten-fifteen minutes, and then Rutherford stepped up and saved the pen we conceded. It was a huge play – if he didn’t save that we go down 2-0 and the game changes. Then to the boys’ credit, we started to dig into it and created a couple of chances.
“We probably didn’t deserve to go in leading at halftime (it was 2-1 to Hurstville) to be honest. But I honestly thought in the second half our goalkeeper didn’t make a save – obviously, they were reduced to ten men midway through. I thought our red was a little harsh (late on in the game), but the big thing for the second half is that we completely dominated. It wasn’t pretty the whole way through, but we completely exhausted control of the game, so credit to the boys for that.”
South Coast Flame 2 – 2 Western Rage
Another thrilling game continued the weekend of action in League 3 Men’s, with a four-goal thriller not enough to separate South Coast Flame and Western Rage at Ian McLennan Park.
With a tentative start from both sides in the season opener, Flame eventually found the opener midway through the second half, with two debutants featuring for the goal. The youthful Louis Miller-Tamsitt played a clever through ball to Matthew Mazevski, with a cutback finding the feet of Lucas Ayala, who forced the ball over the line to score South Coast’s first of the season.
However, Rage drew the scores level in the 37th minute, after a misplaced backpass from Flame found the feet of Mitchell Whalley, who beat a defender before neatly tucking the ball past Flame goalkeeper Luke Morgan.
In the 68th minute, Rage went ahead for the first time, after Alessandro Tolomeo buried the ball home into the bottom left corner for twelve yards after a clear penalty conceded by Flame.
But all hope was not lost for the Wollongong side, with a set-piece again coming in key as Mazevski, who set up the first goal, heading the ball into the top corner from a corner.
Greg Carluccio credited Flame for finding a late equaliser, and described the occasion as a great night of football with a tough away fixture, crediting his players for grabbing a valuable point away from home.
Newcastle Jets 4 – 0 Parramatta FC
Newcastle Jets completed the weekend of fixtures, opening their season with a 4-0 win over Parramatta FC.
Newcastle’s opener came from Joshua Benson from a cross to the back post, while the move was repeated as the Jets doubled their advantage through Archie Goodwin, who looped a header back to the far corner.
The third goal came from a set-piece, which found the head of Matthew Buettner. Despite his first shot not finding the back of the net, he made no mistake from the rebound, re-heading the ball back across goal to make it three for his side.
Just a minute into the second half, Newcastle went four ahead, with an Adam Zervas toe-poke finding the target.
Parramatta’s improvement made the second half an even affair, but it wasn’t enough to get them back into the game, as they look to go again next Sunday against South Coast Flame.
Nepean FC vs Fraser Park – Postponed (washed out)
Bye: Prospect United
By Football NSW League 3 Men’s Reporter, Jack George (@JackGeorge0004)