Another thrilling weekend of the League Three Men’s competition saw some crucial, salient results in the long run towards finals, with some cracking goals and matches along the way.
UNSW FC opened the weekend with a 2-2 draw against Prospect United on Friday before Hawkesbury City defeated Parramatta FC 1-0 on the evening of the following day.
In a doubleheader on Saturday night, Nepean FC beat Camden Tigers 2-0, before Fraser Park fell to Hurstville FC by the solitary goal.
To conclude the round, Newcastle Jets beat South Coast Flame 4-1, placing them third in the table on goal difference with games in hand.
UNSW FC 2 – 2 Prospect United
UNSW FC has drawn with Prospect United at Hensley Athletic Field, with the home side clawing back a two-goal deficit to take a point home from the match.
With a narrow front three and clever rotations, UNSW FC opened up Prospect United in the 2nd minute of the match and won a freekick which was struck narrowly over by Keeghan Burke.
Andrew Cotten had Prospect United’s first shot of the match, with the centre-back on the left of the back three seeing space open up and driving a shot wide from close range.
To begin the match, Prospect United’s wingbacks looked to press UNSW’s fullbacks aggressively, stepping out of the line as soon as one of the home side’s central midfielders looked to play their teammates.
Prospect went close through another central defender in David Muller, as the captain struck from inside the box off a corner and saw his on-target shot blocked.
A minute later, off another set-piece, Muller couldn’t find the target off a golden opportunity from close range with time inside the box.
Cotten from Prospect demonstrated his passing range with two well-struck switches of play to find the right-wing back on the opposite flank.
Prospect had a plethora of shots from distance within the opening fifteen minutes, with none troubling UNSW goalkeeper Nicholas Croucher, however.
UNSW remained dangerous with their short, sharp, vertical passing through the lines of Prospect, with their main opportunities in the opening twenty minutes coming from beating the press with quick interplay through their opposition before breaking in behind.
Prospect hit the crossbar as they troubled UNSW on another set-piece, but the run made for the shot was offside.
In the 16th minute, Prospect United opened the scoring through Christian Martinez.
Dante Soares made a marauding run down the left flank and continued after a heavy touch, winning a 50 50 before squaring the ball to Martinez, who made no mistake in dispatching with time from close range.
Following the goal, Prospect began to build up strongly through the lines, with their front three rotating to allow one of their players, mainly Praneet Singh, to drop into the attacking midfield space while the other two remained positioned on the last line and looking to run in behind.
Cristhian Martinez was a bright creative spark for UNSW, often beating his man to help progress play.
Prospect’s Martinez went close to getting a brace, unleashing from just outside the box and striking a hard shot narrowly high.
The home side struggled to find the attacking incision to pass through the lines that they did in the opening fifteen minutes, with Prospect sitting deeper and compressing space in midfield – UNSW’s wingers then swapped wings as they looked to work their way back into the match.
Luka Zepina forced a save from Croucherwith a stinging volley off the follow up of another set-piece opportunity, as he drove a shot towards the near post.
UNSW began to work their way into the game, finding that passing groove, and missed an opportunity with Kevin Lopes toe poking an effort wide when through on goal.
Prospect almost doubled their advantage a minute later, with Soares seeing his shot saved.
The away side continued to create good opportunities as the end of the first half wore to a close, with Claudio Fabiano making a good block to stop a Zepina strike before Singh hit the follow up narrowly over the crossbar.
Prospect started the second half in the ascendancy and doubled their advantage early in the second half with Martinez receiving a pass in behind and finishing to earn himself a brace.
No. 7 looked to reply for UNSW immediately as he bent a shot from an inside left position towards the far post, but it didn’t have the height to match its whip, with Prospect goalkeeper Brendan Allen untroubled.
Prospect defended well against UNSW’s clever rotations in between the lines, with the two wider forwards switching with midfielders, while the trio of midfielders themselves varied in their areas occupied.
The away side was looking dangerous on attacking transitions, with Soares having a shot deflected from just outside the box after a one-two with Martinez.
However, it was UNSW who scored next, as they clawed a goal back through Lopes to halve their deficit.
UNSW drew in the press from Prospect cleverly, before playing a direct long ball forwards towards Lopes.
The striker noticed the goalkeeper off his line and chipped the goalkeeper with a well-placed strike from 25 yards.
Martinez then almost added a third for Prospect in spectacular style – he adjusted to a cross behind him and struck a spectacular scorpion kick, which sailed over the bar.
UNSW’s fullbacks looked to come into midfield at times as their rotations continued, with the home side in search of an equaliser.
Prospect again went close to adding a third, with beautiful footwork from Martinez seeing a square ball roll agonisingly across goal without being tapped home.
UNSW went close off a freekick, with a nicely lofted ball in from Matias Da Silva Santos seeing a header go over the crossbar.
A quiet ten minutes then ensued, with UNSW looking to build up from the backline and Prospect happy to sit deeper and then counter.
UNSW found their equaliser in dramatic style, with Matthew Cuda striking home from close range off a cross.
UNSW looked to lift and find a climatic winner, with the game opening up considerable following the equaliser.
Prospect began to press UNSW when they had the ball in the backline, which upped the tempo of the match.
Burke went close to finding a winner for UNSW, latching onto a long ball in behind and looking to steer play home, but his shot dragged wide of the near post.
The game remained end to end in dramatic fashion, with Zepina going ever so close to finding a winger after squaring up his opponent and dragging a shot just wide of the far post.
“I enjoyed the game; I thought our guys were outstanding,” said Prospect United coach Darren Camilleri.
“We created lots of chances and played some really good football. It was 1-0 at halftime but it could have been a lot more, for me it was probably the best half we’ve played. We played against a really good team today and they had some guys on the bench that came on and changed it. We were probably trying not to lose the game rather than trying to win mentally, but we’ve got a young group and that’s just how it is. It’s unfortunate with the result but we’re really happy with how we’ve played.”
“It’s disappointing we didn’t put 90 minutes together”, said UNSW coach Gabe Knowles.
“We only put 40 minutes together and that’s where we let ourselves down tonight.”
Prospect United will face Newcastle Jets next weekend, while UNSW will have a bye.
Hawkesbury City 1 – 0 Parramatta FC
To continue the weekend, Hawkesbury followed on from their bye by defeating Parramatta FC to go top of the table.
Hawkesbury took away a crucial three points with a goal to Marco Turpeinen, coming in the 60th minute, with the striker finishing a chance with aplomb.
Prior to this, Hawkesbury had had their chances to open the scoring, but hadn’t capitalised, while they’d had a goal ruled out for offside earlier in the match.
Following the strike from Turpeinen, the match opened up with both sides having chances.
Parramatta FC was denied a late equaliser by Daniel Schwarzer, with the Hawkesbury goalkeeper making a good save to retain the three points for his side.
Hawkesbury will next look towards their match against Camden next weekend, while Parramatta will travel to Blacktown to face Western Rage.
Nepean FC 2 – 0 Camden Tigers
Nepean FC has defeated Camden Tigers to remain in the top four, moving four points clear of fifth place.
The match was toughly contested from both sides, with the first half a tense affair.
There weren’t many scoring opportunities for both sides throughout the opening forty-five minutes, with both teams battling hard.
In the 65th minute, Camden Tigers had a player sent off and Nepean began to sustain pressure.
They opened the scoring in the 75th minute through Christopher Bascur, before doubling their advantage with Mathew Crossley finishing for Nepean.
Nepean coach Joe D’Ermilio credited his goalkeeper Jade Jonsson: “Special mention to our goalkeeper Jade, who had limited work all night, but then needed to pull off a great save in the second half, which would have been a game-changer.”
Nepean will next travel to face Hurstville FC in a top-four clash, with Camden Tigers taking on Hawkesbury City.
Fraser Park 0 – 1 Hurstville FC
Hurstville has retained their pressure on Hawkesbury City at the top of the League Three Men’s ladder with a victory over Fraser Park to conclude the Saturday fixtures.
Hurstville came strongly out of the blocks, scoring through Michael Kotzambasis, who hit a left-footed strike from the edge of the box into the back of the net in the eighth minute.
Play levelled out following the opener, with Fraser Park moving the ball well left and right and Hurstville transitioning with intensity and intent, but just not getting the final action right in their moves.
Set pieces also were a threat for both sides, but didn’t eventuate to anything in the first half.
In the second half, Hurstville almost doubled their lead through Nicholas Marco, as he missed a gaping goal from a freekick from Paul Gagro.
Fraser Park had joy down their left flank with diagonal balls, as Hurstville goalkeeper Michael Rutherford was forced into some good saves and remained solid as Fraser went in search of an equaliser.
Juan Puentes offered an attacking threat off the bench for Hurstville, but it wasn’t enough to add to their lead.
Fraser Park will next travel to Wollongong to face South Coast Flame, while Hurstville will host Nepean FC at Penshurst Park.
Newcastle Jets 4 – 1 South Coast Flame
Newcastle Jets have defeated South Coast Flame to go third on the League Three Men’s table, as they look to utilise their games in hand to propel to the summit over the next few weeks.
South Coast Flame opened the scoring in the 56th minute, with Fabian Iacovelli chipping the goalkeeper from outside the box.
Newcastle came back into the game in the second half, with Peter Grozos scoring directly off a corner to equalise the scores.
Blake Archbold then got a double as the Jets flew away with the three points, while 15-year-old Janni Rafty got his first goal for the League Three Men’s side.
Newcastle coach Ric Marchioli was pleased with his side’s performance.
“Looking forwards, there are many more levels that these boys can hit,” he said.
“We haven’t begun to scratch the surface of what they’re capable of and we’re getting closer and closer to where we want to get to as a team in terms of style of play and application of that style of play.
“While we do that, it’s important that we’re ruthless like we were in the second half today.”
Newcastle will next face Prospect United, while South Coast Flame will host Fraser Park.
Bye: Western Rage
By Football NSW League 3 Men’s Reporter, Jack George (@JackGeorge0004)