Round five of the League Three Men’s competition brought a plethora of highly congenial matches for football fans throughout New South Wales, with fifteen goals scored across the four games.
In a third vs first clash, Hurstville FC and Hawkesbury City played out perhaps the game of the season in a 3-3 draw at Penshurst Park, before another six goal thriller saw Camden Tigers beat Western Rage 4-2.
UNSW FC continued their strong form with a 3-0 victory over Fraser Park, while Newcastle Jets played out a 0-0 encounter with Nepean FC to conclude the round.
Hurstville FC 3 – 3 Hawkesbury City
Hurstville FC and Hawkesbury City couldn’t be split after a dramatic, fervent encounter at Penshurst Park in perhaps the game of the season so far.
Hurstville FC began brightly start, with Dario Borovickic winning a freekick in a good inside right position for his side.
Paul Gagro drove a powerful freekick to the bottom left corner, and Hawkesbury City’s goalkeeper made a smart stop.
The parry, however, could only find Pedro Almeida, but Hawkesbury goalkeeper Craig Morley stood strong, making another two clever saves from close range.
Hawkesbury had their first attacking foray in the match a couple of minutes later, with a good switch of play ending in a shot, drawing a save from Hurstville goalkeeper Michael Rutherford.
Hawkesbury began to dominate after five minutes, threatening their opponents with their quick interchanges in attack.
They prioritised direct football with an in-sync front four, and pressed high after losing possession in the final third – particularly transition moments – to squeeze Hawkesbury and impose themselves on the game.
They weren’t direct in the sense of putting a spray of crosses into the box or even in the length of passing, but more that the majority of their movements looked to progress play forwards – whether it be through passing or dribbling.
Marco Turpeinen and Harry Drew combined well with a clever flick from the former seeing the latter in behind in a one verses one against his marker, but he couldn’t fashion a clean shot, with his attempt blocked and saved easily by the goalkeeper.
While there wasn’t a plethora of clear-cut opportunities for either side, the match was highly enticing and exciting with both teams playing at an admirable intensity within the opening 20 minutes.
It was Hawkesbury City who opened the scoring, through a sensational goal from Zineddine Messaoui in 26th minute.
The central defender dribbled the ball positively from inside his own half, bypassing Hawkesbury’s forward line in the process.
Advancing towards goal, he hit an astonishing strike from over 30 metres, and the ball rifled into the top left corner.
Messaoui had shown his class within the opening half an hour with his confidence in carrying the ball out of the backline, and it worked a treat for his side as they soared to the lead.
Hawkesbury City was millimetres off doubling their advantage in the 37th minute, with a long ball bouncing within the box and finding Drew, who rattled the woodwork with a powerful strike from the right-hand side of the penalty area.
Hurstville FC were frustrated within the last fifteen minutes of the half at their inability to assert themselves within the game.
However, they went close in the dying stages of the first stanza, with Almeida mis-hitting a strike from just inside the box against a stranded goalkeeper and defence.
Hurstville FC were quick out of the sheds at halftime and matched that eagerness with a goal to draw scores level.
Paul Gagro broke free down the right flank and drove a low cross square into the box.
Hawkesbury City’s goalkeeper fumbled the pass, but the home side couldn’t profit from the opportunity.
Hawkesbury City absorbed the early pressure, and had a sight on goal through Turpeinen, with the ball slicing off his right foot and missing the target from an acute angle in the box.
Within a minute, Hurstville FC again went close to finding their opener, with Morley gratefully collecting the ball after a goal line scramble off a corner.
Jacob Ritchie the followed up two minutes later as the home side looked to be creeping closer to an equaliser, with the winger’s shot taking an awkward deflection and narrowly missing the inside of the post.
It was Hawkesbury City however who doubled their advantage in the 62nd minute through Drew, after winning back the ball in the final third and punishing Hurstville for their loss of possession.
Following the goal, Hawkesbury went close to making it a third, but Rutherford stood strong to make an important save.
After the concession, Hurstville FC struggled and introduced three substitutes in Michael Kotzambasis as an attacking midfielder, Yianni Nioplias on the left flank and juan Esteban Puentes Botero up front.
The subs instantly provided a spark, but it was Paul Gagro, their captain, who halved Hawkesbury City’s lead with a composed finish after making a clever run in behind the defence, drifting inwards untracked off the right flank.
Gagro almost had an instant brace within two minutes, finding himself in behind once again, but he couldn’t convert a close-range effort past Morley, who put his body in the way.
However, a minute later Hurstville did find an equaliser to jubilation from the crowd at Penshurst Park, with Kotzambasis converting with time from inside the box after fantastic work in build-up from Nioplias.
The tides were truly turned.
Hurstville FC dramatically made it three in the 77th minute, completing a stunning comeback through super-sub Nioplias, who guided a tap in home after a cross from Gagro after once again breaking free in behind on the right flank.
Hurstville continued their attacking impetus with Nioplias missing the target off a long-range shot, remaining dangerous off attacking transitions as the final whistle neared.
However, with just two minutes left of the ninety minutes, Hawkesbury City found an equaliser to complete the most dramatic of matches – the pinnacle of League Three Men’s football.
It was a controversial ending with Hurstville goalkeeper Michael Rutherford claiming he was fouled to such an extreme he was sent of for his protests following the concession of the goal, which was scored by Drew.
The match ended with extreme tension in a 3-3 draw, with both sides lamenting the result considering the game state at different periods across the ninety minutes.
“We have to give some credit to Hawkesbury, this was probably the worst first half this team has played in a long time”, said Hurstville FC captain Paul Gagro.
“We had a good hard look at ourselves at halftime – we were probably lucky to only be down 1-0. They came out with a high high intensity and we just couldn’t match them. In the second half we took the game to them. They got their second goal – probably against the run of play I’d say – but we dug deep and made some changes and we’ve got to give some credit to Juan (Esteban Puentes Botero), Yianni (Nioplias) and Michael (Kotzambasis) who came on and really changed the game.
“We took the momentum and were buzzing to get in front with the third goal. They got a goal at the end of the game, and while a point was probably fair on the basis of play, we were devastated in the context it happened.”
“It was a crazy match, I think we had pretty much full control for sixty minutes, and then Hurstville came to life and we couldn’t deal with it,” said Hawkesbury City coach Dean Bertenshaw.
“We pushed back at the end there, and we should have had more goals earlier, but it just didn’t roll our way. They were too good for around 25 minutes and showed quick, good attack.”
Hurstville FC will travel to Melita Stadium to play Parramatta FC next weekend, while Hawkesbury City will host Newcastle Jets in a top of the table clash.
Camden Tigers 4 – 2 Western Rage
Camden Tigers have defeated Western Rage in the second six goal thriller of the round at Valentine Sports Park.
Western Rage and Camden Tigers both had opportunities to open the scoring in the first half, but it was the former side that struck first in the 32nd minute through Daniel Cooper.
“At half time I explained that we don’t need to change anything due to the dominance,” said Camden Tigers coach Gary Seymour.
“However, I stated we need to be better mentally prepared and finish our chances.”
The home side did just that, scoring in the 52nd minute to draw scores level.
After a corner, a clever ball found Dean Mugridge, who chested the ball forward and slotted a shot into the bottom corner.
Five minutes later, Camden Tigers took the lead after a fantastic cross from Shaun Irwin found Jayden Russell who headed the ball home.
In the 84th minute, Camden Tigers took a two goal lead, with Mugridge getting his second of the match, running a through ball around the goalkeeper and passing the ball into an empty net.
With two minutes to play, Western Rage applied pressure by reducing the home side’s lead to the solitary goal through Nicolas Huidobro through skillful play down their right flank, but Camden Tigers responded sixty seconds later with a well created goal finished by Russel, who grabbed a brace.
Camden Tigers have a bye next weekend in the League Three Men competition, while Western Rage will face Fraser Park.
Fraser Park FC 0 – 3 UNSW FC
UNSW have defeated Fraser Park in a dominant performance to record the second victory of their campaign.
Keeghan Burke opened the scoring for the away side in the second half from a freekick in the 49th minute.
Just five minutes later, Matias Da Silva Santos doubled UNSW’s advantage, beating a few players on the edge of the area before striking the ball home.
UNSW then added a third through Mike Kenny in the 78th minute, as he chested down a cross from Nathaniel Sharpley and converted the ball into the back of the net.
Fraser Park will look towards their match against Western Rage next weekend to find their first point of the campaign, while UNSW will aim to continue their winning run of three games including two victories in the League Three Men’s competition and one in the Australia Cup when playing Nepean FC away from home next Saturday night.
Newcastle Jets 0 – 0 Nepean FC
Newcastle Jets have dropped points for the first time this season in a 0-0 draw against Nepean FC.
Newcastle coach Daniel McBreen labelled it as a good contest and a good team performance all round, while crediting Nepean FC for their defensive organization.
Newcastle had a couple of chances in the first half and controlled possession in the second stanza, while Nepean FC remained dangerous on the counter-attack.
Nepean FC coach Joe D’Ermilio stated Newcastle as a typically well executed Daniel McBreen side featuring trademark good movement, and stated it was a super defensive effort to neutralize their effectiveness, although lamenting the fact they didn’t capitalize on their opportunities in quick transitions.
D’Ermilio praised the performances of Eddie Stewart and Mitchell King, while happily saying that no member of his side left anything in the tank to secure a crucial point away from home.
By Football NSW League 3 Men’s Reporter, Jack George (@JackGeorge0004)