Another action-packed weekend of League Three Men’s action has come to a close, with the campaign as competitive as ever as we move forwards towards the run to finals.
In a Wednesday night game, Prospect United defeated Parramatta FC 2-1, before Hurstville FC and Newcastle Jets drew 0-0 in one of the four Saturday night matches.
In the other three, Camden Tigers defeated Fraser Park 3-0, Western Rage emerged as victors against Prospect United, and to conclude the round, a 90th minute winner saw Hawkesbury extend their lead atop the table with three points against Nepean FC.
Prospect United 2 – 1 Parramatta FC
In a midweek game, Prospect United defeated Parramatta FC 2-1 to continue their pressure on the top four.
Both sides had opportunities to strike in the first half, with Prospect hitting the crossbar through Luka Zepina and Milorad Cubrilo going close in a one-on-one for Parramatta.
Ten minutes into the second half, Parramatta struck first, with Cubrilo converting from the edge of the box.
Prospect reacted well however and found an equaliser fifteen minutes later with Zepina converting a header within the six-yard box off a cross.
Parramatta had chances to find a winner, but it was their opponents who struck late on, with Alex Gorgievski finishing off a scramble inside the box to give Prospect the three points.
Parramatta FC will next face Camden Tigers away from home on Saturday night.
Hurstville FC 0 – 0 Newcastle Jets
Hurstville FC and Newcastle Jets played out an entertaining, tense 0-0 draw in one of the four Saturday night fixtures in round 14.
From the first whistle, Newcastle Jets looked to set in their possession-orientated style, with Hurstville FC pressing intensely to force mistakes and create chances off attacking transitions.
The Jets instated a highly absorbing tactic off goal kicks from the off as they looked to build into the match,
With attackers legally unable to be offside off goalkicks, the front three moved halfway between halfway and their attacking box.
Hurstville’s defence dropped off, which opened up space in between the lines their defensive and midfield lines.
Off the first goal kick, Newcastle’s goalkeeper lofted a pass into the centre circle, with no. 11 running from behind Hurstville’s two central defenders to control the ball.
The innovative tactic from Ric Marchioli and his coaching staff was an exciting addition to the match, with the Jets almost scoring directly off it last week against Fraser.
Newcastle looked to keep passing connections short when playing out with the ball, moving play quickly to draw in Hurstville, before forming triangles and rotating, with players often making a pass and instantly making a positive run forward to receive again.
However, despite Newcastle’s territorial domination, it was Hurstville who created the first high-quality chance of the match.
Dario Borovickic picked up the ball in midfield and played a pass to Paul Gagro, who was operating on the left flank this match
Gagro played a fantastic low cross across the face of goal, but juan Esteban Puentes Botero was unable to convert from close range.
While Newcastle was supremely coached in their rotations and ball movement in possession, Hurstville demonstrated a fantastic defensive structure, with the away side unable to create any chances of note in the opening half an hour.
The Jets were struggling to find the by-line off crosses for high-quality cutback opportunities, with the majority of their balls in the box – instead they came from deeper positions as they looked to target the ten metres outside the box as pace to counter-press to then regain possession again.
Newcastle’s first good chance came off a long ball in behind, with Fin Toddhunter mis-hitting an attempted chip over Michael Rutherford to convert the opener.
A few minutes later, Pedro Almeida struck a left-footed shot just wide of the near post for Hurstville.
In the 38th minute, Newcastle went close again, with an inswinging corner finding Lachlan West at the back post – the midfielder’s hooked shot forced a smart save from Rutherford.
Ben Van Dorssen, Newcastle’s right-sided centre back, showed good enterprise at times to carry the ball out from defence and engage in forwards passing combinations, as he often looked to continue his run without the ball up through the Jets’ attacking lines.
Newcastle’s wingers switched flanks towards the end of the half, with Hurstville holding strong in their adequate defensive structure.
To begin the second half, the Jets went close through Taylan Unal.
Some good play from Adam Zervas saw an overlapping run played, and a low cross saw a great save by Rutherford after Unal’s effort.
In the second stanza, Hurstville began to force some more turnovers in advanced areas and pressure their opponents.
In the 58th minute, Hurstville looked to have found the opening goal, with only the post denying them.
Almeida showed good skill and vision to draw in Newcastle’s right side of defence before playing through P. Gagro down the left flank.
The winger sent in another impressive low cross first time, with no. 18 hitting the far post against a stranded Jack Kenny.
Hurstville continued to remain solid and positionally aware in their defensive movements, as the Jets struggled to break down their opponents’ deeper defensive structure when in the final third.
Newcastle showed positive passages of play to keep possession but struggled as the game entered its last fifteen minutes to penetrate through the lines or around with their width.
The Jets continued to control the ball within the last quarter of an hour, as Toddhunter went close with a good curling effort from just outside the box after dummying multiple opponents to get a shot away.
Hurstville remained dangerous on attacking transitions and set pieces, with multiple substitutes across their front four (centre-forward, two wingers and attacking midfielder) providing energy through pressing and forward runs.
As the match looked to be ending without a goal, a loose ball was chased down cleverly by one of those substitutes, Michael Kotzambasis, and he drew contact to win a foul inside the box.
All of a sudden, Hurstville were presented with a golden opportunity to take home an invaluable three points, with Jacob Botic standing over the ball on the spot.
However, his penalty was saved gallantly by Kenny, and the scores remained even at the final whistle.
“In the first 10-15 minutes it was crucial not to concede – we got better and better as the half went on”, said Hurstville captain Paul Gagro.
“We didn’t have too many chances but we had the opportunity of the half with the missed open goal.
“Newcastle had a lot of ball but didn’t have many chances, and we hit the post with another big chance before the missed penalty.
“Our back four was exceptional tonight – it’s a bit heart-breaking because we’ve played well but haven’t won in three games.”
Hurstville will next host Western Rage at home, while Newcastle will play UNSW on Sunday night.
Fraser Park 0 – 3 Camden Tigers
Camden Tigers have continued their strong run of form, gaining their second victory in a row while putting three past Fraser Park away from home.
Fraser began the game brightly, settling with possession and controlling the ball.
However, Camden began to come into the game and found their first goal 32 minutes in.
A switch to the right flank saw a good pass find Blake Brooker, who powerfully converted the ball into the top corner from sixteen yards out.
In the second half, Camden consistently created chances, with their second coming 11 minutes in with Mathew Lane converting a tap in.
They found a third late on, with Dean Mugridge calmly slotting home a near-post cross from the left.
Fraser Park will look to regroup with a bye heading into the weekend, while Camden will take on Parramatta FC at Ron Dine Stadium.
Western Rage 3 – 1 Prospect United
Western Rage has moved two places up the ladder with their second win of the season, as they dismantled Prospect United at home.
The home side netted early through Daniel Bortolazzo before Robert Perre made it 2-0 inside ten minutes.
Prospect chased the game, but Western Rage was well set up in their defensive structure, with only an 85th-minute goal from Luka Zepina penetrating their backline.
In the dying stages of the match, Alessandro Tolomeo scored to secure the Rage’s second victory of the season, with both coming inside their last three matches.
Western Rage will look to continue their run of form when travelling to Penshurst Park to take on Hurstville FC, while Prospect will host Nepean in a crucial clash next Sunday night.
Hawkesbury City 2 – 1 Nepean FC
Hawkesbury City has extended their advantage at the top of the League Three Men’s ladder with a win over Nepean FC to conclude round 14.
After a quiet first half, the second stanza began with Nepean FC finding the back of the net, but the goal was disallowed for a handball.
Hawkesbury then found the opener through Daniel Morsillo, and looked to have extended their advantage to two goals, but saw their second disallowed for handball as well.
Nepean equaliser through Jack Hoban – a long ball found the goalscorer, who lifted the ball over Hawkesbury’s goalkeeper before finishing into an open net.
In the 90th minute, Hawkesbury found a dramatic winner, with former A-League star Predrag Bojic finishing after a good drive through midfield.
Nepean coach Joe D’Ermilio praised Hawkesbury for their high-pressure match and defensive stability, and was proud of his side, with “every player putting in a good shift”.
Hawkesbury will next take on South Coast Flame at Valentine Sports Park, while Nepean will play Prospect at William Lawson Reserve.
Postponed: UNSW FC vs South Coast Flame
Bye: Parramatta FC
By Football NSW League 3 Men’s Reporter, Jack George (@JackGeorge0004)