UNSW FC were crowned the 2023 Football New South Wales League Two Men’s Champions following Round Twenty-Nine – they won promotion to 2024’s League One Men’s competition with one round to spare.
Their match away to last-placed Inner West Hawks FC was the Match of the Round this week, where they wrapped up the title in dramatic style.
Saturday, 19th August 2023
Match of the Round: Inner West Hawks FC 0-1 UNSW FC
UNSW FC won the 2023 Football NSW League Two Men’s title thanks to a last-gasp winner away to last-placed Inner West Hawks FC at Arlington Oval.
The Hawks started well early on, especially on the counterattack and hit the crossbar as an early warning sign for UNSW.
UNSW held the ball well early on, but it was the Hawks who fired the early shots – one went over the crossbar and another from Hesan Soufi from 25 yards out was collected by UNSW goalkeeper, Luke Del Vecchio.
In the 23rd minute, UNSW’s Matias Da Silva Santos received the ball in space down the left; clever footwork put him onto his right foot when he delivered a ball into the box through the air, which was headed just wide by Domenic Abruzzese.
The match was tense and the nerves from UNSW were evident; they were tentative in attack but defended well to stop the Hawks from attacking.
In the 33rd minute, the Hawks looked to build pressure through a succession of corners to no avail, before an audacious half-field attempt from Inner West’s Soufi sailed wide of the UNSW goal.
Five minutes later, UNSW had a chance from a corner of their own delivered by Emilio Vinci; UNSW captain Claudio Fabiano climbed highest at the back post but was unable to keep his header down.
Hawks challenges were flying in left and right as UNSW’s Jack Fulton received a yellow card for protesting a decision.
UNSW had taken control of the half from the 35th minute and had a header through Fabiano headed towards goal but deflected wide from a free kick.
Mitchell Mattison had UNSW’s next attempt a minute later from 20 yards, which was saved well down low to his right by Hawks’ goalkeeper, Shunsuke Sugiura.
Da Silva Santos continued to be a menace for UNSW down the left flank, but he was unable to find a teammate with his dangerous deliveries into the box.
Following one minute of stoppage-time, the referee blew for half-time; the sides were scoreless heading into the break in what was an even contest so far.
The first attempt of the second half fell in the 49th minute to UNSW’s Mattison, whose shot flew across the face of goal past the right-hand post.
A minute later, the Hawks’ Marcus Apostolakis fired a long shot from 25 yards wide to the right of the UNSW goal following a scramble in the box.
The chances kept coming as another minute later, Da Silva Santos had a long shot from 25 yards aimed at the top-right corner just tipped over the bar by Sugiura; this was a clash so far which did not look like first versus last.
Kevin Lopes fired up towards the hour mark as he had a header cleared wide, while shortly after he applied pressure to Sugiura who almost dawdled on the ball for too long in front of his goal.
A restless crowd which had split support for both sides grew restless and rode every moment as the match went on; the contest also got fiery as challenges started flying in from both sides.
In the 65th minute, Fulton hit a free kick from 30 yards just over the Hawks goal for UNSW.
Yellow cards were flying in Arlington as four players, two from each side, picked up bookings within eleven minutes.
Both sides freshened up with substitutes; the Hawks created the next big chance with a run in behind but strong defending from the UNSW centre-halves blocked an attempted pass from the Hawks with a player free in the middle of the box.
The Hawks did well to pinch the ball off UNSW in their defensive third.
In the 75th minute, Da Silva Santos delivered yet another dangerous ball into the box for UNSW from the right, but once again the Hawks cleared the danger.
Soufi continued to be the main goal threat for the Hawks as he tried an audacious attempt from 30 yards a minute later which was caught by Del Vecchio.
The Hawks started to win the ball better and were crafty to beat the UNSW press to attack; they continued to fire shots at the UNSW goal.
The final ball was missing at times for UNSW, who were increasingly wanting the league-winning goal late.
In the 80th minute, the Hawks’ Lawrence Claxton burst with quick feet in behind the UNSW defence down the left flank; he fired a shot at the near post which was clasped by Del Vecchio.
Three minutes later, a big diving save to his right by Del Vecchio denied the Hawks their biggest chance of the night to score; the resulting corner led to a header for the Hawks which was glanced just over the top of the UNSW goal.
Two changes each from the Hawks and UNSW in the final minutes saw both sides look to attack for a late winner.
The Hawks defenced a UNSW counter well, who had the pace in the newly substituted players to hurt the Hawks.
Then, in the 88th minute, the biggest moment of the season occurred.
Following a throw-in down the left next to the Hawks’ box for UNSW, the visitors lost possession in the box.
However, following a mix-up between the Hawks’ defence and goalkeeper, the ball was gathered by UNSW’s Fulton, who pressed well and won the ball.
He received the ball six yards out from goal, held his nerve and slotted the ball into the back of the net with a cool right-footed finish to give UNSW the potential league-winning goal late.
The crowd exploded into life; Jack Fulton was the hero for UNSW with his twelfth goal of the season.
A nervy few minutes plus stoppage time awaited for UNSW, but they had the final attempt of the match; a lobbed shot from an acute angle floated over the bar as they looked to seal the result late.
After five minutes of stoppage time, the referee called full-time; the UNSW bench and coaches all ran onto the field to celebrate the 1-0 win and their first promotion since 2006, when they were promoted to the then-State League competition in NSW.
UNSW FC will be competing among 15 other clubs in League One Men’s next season; a season where they will have led for 24 of the 30 rounds culminated in the ultimate glory – the League Two Men’s title, the Championship trophy and promotion.
Speaking post-match, UNSW FC Head Coach Gabe Knowles said he was proud of everyone at the club for achieving the goal they had set out from the beginning of the season.
“A lot of hard work and dedication went into this… for them to get the reward at the end of the day, it makes me very happy.”
Speaking on the match against the Hawks and the challenge they knew they had to overcome to secure the league title a week early, Knowles said he knew how tough it was going to be.
“We were playing with pressure, and we knew it was going to be a tough game… [but] the players showed, like multiple times throughout the season, they showed their Championship character.”
Talking about the moment they finally scored in the match, the moment which secured them the title, Knowles laughed as he spoke about the manner of the goal.
“We have been at Jack [Fulton] all year to ask him to score a tap-in… 99% of his goals this season have been outstanding strikes and he finally scored a tap-in – as we say to him all the time, they all count the same!”
Looking ahead to next week, Knowles said his side is looking forward to a bit more of a relaxed week but would like the club to achieve one more goal.
“We would like to secure the Club Championship, as well, that is maybe one more for the coaches and the program… that is the goal.”
Inner West Hawks Head Coach Bill Condoleon said he was proud of the progress of his side this season.
“Lawrence [Claxton], Declan [Woolnough], these guys, Chris Phillips, he has come-of-age… there is a nucleus there of a competitive team.”
He was also proud of his side’s performance and how hard they made the Champions work for their season-defining moment.
“You would not think you are watching first versus last, so I am proud of the boys; I also gave a debut to Dominic Tisic, a junior midfielder, he did an excellent job.”
19-year-old Tisic smiled as he spoke on his debut, including the nerves and what he gained from the experience.
“All the boys really comforted me…I was really pleased with my performance today… I think it is a lot faster, being in first grade… there are a few accusations saying I have played right-back before, maybe they are true, maybe they are not, but midfield is where I want to be.”
The title was secured for UNSW FC – they moved to 59 points and took an unassailable five-point lead into Round Thirty ahead of Nepean FC.
Congratulations are in order for the club, who will look to push on next season in the League One Men’s competition.
Before that, though, they will look to end the season in style and lift the trophy following a win in their final match of the season next week at home to 10th-placed Hurstville FC, while Inner West Hawks FC will hope to win and capitalise on a loss from either 14th-placed Parramatta FC or 13th-placed Sydney University SFC as they look to escape last-place away to 5th-placed Prospect United SC.
Friday, 18th August 2023
Bankstown United FC 0-2 Nepean FC
Nepean FC took another step towards securing second place and the all-important promotion play-off position as they came away with a 2-0 away win over Bankstown United FC at Wanderers Football Park.
Nepean held the ball well as Bankstown sat back in a defensive block and looked to attack on the counter.
The visitors found space to be limited as they looked for the pockets of space to open the hosts up.
However, in the 33rd minute, Nepean found their good moment to score when Matthew Crossley scored his tenth goal of the season to give Nepean the all-important lead.
Bankstown hung in the match but were unable to create the chance they needed to score a goal.
The dagger blow was dealt by Nepean in the 93rd minute when Jack Hoban, who entered the match as a first-half substitute for Luka Zepina, slotted the ball home to secure the three points and the league double over Bankstown for Nepean.
The win kept the pressure on UNSW FC for one day, as the students ended up winning their match to win the league title, but more importantly for Nepean it meant they remained one point ahead of the Newcastle Jets in the battle for second place; they had 54 points to the Jets’ 53.
Nepean FC Stephen Appleby congratulated UNSW FC for winning the league and his side will hope to join them in the League One Men’s competition in 2024 through the promotion play-off, which they will hope to secure next week with a second-place finish.
For Bankstown United FC, they stayed in 7th-place but fell to a fourth-straight loss and will hope to hold on to a top-half finish next week.
Nepean FC host a side hoping to avoid last place next week in 13th-placed Sydney University SFC as they chase the all-important 2nd-placed finish, while Bankstown United FC will hope to end the season strongly in an 8th vs 7th clash away to Camden Tigers FC in the all-or-nothing battle for a top-half finish.
Hawkesbury City FC 5-1 Sydney University SFC
Hawkesbury City FC continued their strong end to the season with a 5-1 home win over Sydney University SFC at David Bertenshaw Field.
University started the match well and were awarded a penalty in the 14th minute when a handball was seen just inside the Hawks’ box; Jay Hirschowitz stepped up and converted to his right to give the visitors the early 1-0 lead.
From there, however, the Hawks attacked hard and hit back five minutes later through Gregory Kondek.
Harry Drew scored in the 39th minute to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead at the break, which they extended nine minutes into the second half through Drew, again.
Stuart Gosling gave the hosts their fourth goal in the 66th minute which all-but wrapped up the outcome of the match.
The scoring was rounded off by substitute Joel Corcoran in the 89th minute as Hawkesbury moved to nine matches unbeaten, including seven wins, with a strong 5-1 home victory over Sydney University SFC.
The win for Hawkesbury kept them in 9th place, while the loss for Sydney University SFC dropped them one place into 13th.
Hawkesbury will hope to end the season ten matches unbeaten and finish 8th as they look to claim the biggest scalp of the season in the 3rd-placed Newcastle Jets; if they defeat them, they will deny the A-League Men’s academy side 2nd-place and the play-off position for promotion.
For Sydney University SFC, they will want to avoid a last-placed finish and would also love to have their say on the promotion play-off battle as they travel to face 2nd-placed Nepean FC; if they defeat them, Nepean would be reliant on the Jets losing to Hawkesbury City FC.
Saturday, 19th August 2023
South Coast Flame FC 2-4 Gladesville Ryde Magic
Gladesville Ryde Magic ensured a 4th-placed finish in their final match of the season with a come-from-behind 4-2 victory away to South Coast Flame FC.
The Flame started the match full of running through the likes of Samuel Alston as the Flame looked to get in behind and utilises crosses.
The Magic’s Joshua Sarina saved the first big chance of the match from a Flame long shot, while the rebound was sent wide.
Against the run of play, the Magic’s Chris Gaitatzis had a long shot which went just wide, before Kohki Hiyaoka had a header from a corner which was turned over the top by Flame goalkeeper, Ruon Nakamura.
The Magic took the lead in the match in the 17th minute when a free-kick into the box led to a scramble in the box following a failed clearance; Magic right-back Filip Nikic smashed the ball home from the scramble to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
The Flame had a free kick saved by Sarina, before a penalty was awarded to the Flame in the 34th minute following good play from Levi Durks out wide, who pushed the ball to Samuel Alston before he was cleaned up by a Magic defender.
Matthew Mazevski stepped up and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way with his penalty as the Flame restored parity in the match at half-time.
Samuel Alston was substituted shortly after half-time for the Flame due to a dislocated finger, which meant the Flame’s strong attacks down the right flank were hindered and that changed the way they played.
A free kick from the Magic’s Gaitatzis was tipped onto the crossbar by the outstretched Nakamura as the Magic looked to retake the lead.
However, the Flame took the lead in the 57th minute when Alexander Alston was fouled wide on the left; Mazevski launched the free kick into the box, where Dean Pender was waiting as he headed the ball home to give the Flame the lead in the match, 2-1.
The Flame could not go forward well, however, and were caught out in the 67th minute when David Ustimenko curled a free kick from 20 yards out around the wall and into the back of the net to restore parity at 2-2.
The Flame were exposed at the back as they searched for the winner late; the Magic’s Majid Eslami won the ball and passed it to Kohki Hiyaoka, who slotted the ball home with a good right-footed shot to give the Magic a 3-2 lead in the 75th minute.
The victory was secured by the Magic in the 84th minute when Ustimenko ran down the right wing and cut in towards goal; he beat Flame Captain, James Baldacchino, who was tracking back and slotted the ball into the top corner to secure the victory for the Magic, 4-2.
The win for the Magic moved them to 45 points and ensured they will finish the season in 4th place as they have an unassailable five-point lead over 5th-placed Prospect United SC and 6th-placed Fraser Park FC, respectively, while the loss for the Flame meant they stayed in 11th place and will want to secure victory next week to maintain that position.
Gladesville Ryde Magic have one final match to play, a catch-up match away to 14th-placed Parramatta FC on Tuesday, 22nd August at 7pm at Melita Stadium, while for South Coast Flame FC they will hope to end on a high note as they travel to also face Parramatta FC in their final match of the season.
Parramatta FC 0-1 Hurstville FC
A second-half strike saw Hurstville FC do the league double over Parramatta FC following a 1-0 win at Melita Stadium.
Hurstville started the match with high tempo and held the ball better than Parramatta, but the final ball was missing for them; Parramatta looked to play long balls as the match got scrappy.
Hurstville turned the ball over and Parramatta looked to hurt them on the counter but neither side were able to fashion clear chances early.
Hurstville built into the half and had a few shots and crosses which were dangerous; their best chance came when Mouhamed Hamdache beat two Parramatta players but struck his effort over the bar.
The Hurstville backline dealt with the Parramatta long balls, while Daniel Kochina and Pedro Almeida controlled the midfield for the visitors, but the match was scoreless at half-time.
Hurstville started the second half with intent and built pressure through corners.
The visitors had one shout for a penalty waved away, but they were awarded a penalty when Hamdache broke down the right and shot the ball into the box, which hit a Parramatta player’s hand.
Jesse Gagro stepped up to take the penalty but missed it; however, he volleyed home the rebound to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Parramatta continued to look dangerous when they played long to their pacey attackers, but Hurstville’s Allie Jayee and Lachlan Birrell dealt with the danger.
In a tough time for Parramatta, the Parramatta players could not execute what they had trained for, including the game plan and tactics, as they pulled out of line and allowed space for Hurstville to run into.
The Parramatta side lacked the quality and discipline to deal with the Hurstville side in the contest.
Hurstville substitute George Salachoris slipped Jesse Gagro through for a great chance late, but the latter struck his effort straight at Parramatta goalkeeper, Jameson Hinwood.
Jesse Gagro had another effort late after he had cut inside and shot towards the Parramatta goal, but that effort was also saved; it did not matter though as Hurstville picked up the victory, 1-0.
The win for Hurstville kept them in 10th but ensured they could battle for an 8th-placed finish next week away to League Two Men’s Champions UNSW FC; they will hope to spoil their title celebrations and end the season four matches unbeaten.
For Parramatta FC, they play a catch-up match at home on Tuesday, 22nd August at 7pm to 4th-placed Gladesville Ryde Magic FC, before they host 11th-placed South Coast Flame FC in their final match.
Western Rage 3-2 Prospect United SC
It was a Western Sydney derby with plenty of fight and late drama as the Western Rage came away 3-2 victors in a fiery, dramatic affair at Rydalmere Park.
In the first 20 minutes, the Rage’s Timothy Borg-Williams played a ball to Jason Najdovski, who hit the post with his shot on goal.
The Rage started on the front foot and dominated for the first half-hour but kept on missing chances.
The Rage were rewarded for their efforts, though, in the 19th minute when a long ball down the left from Jamie Nicolau found Brent Flavin in behind, who scored one-on-one against Prospect goalkeeper, Jackson Jarnet, to give the hosts a 1-0 lead early.
Momentum shifted from the 30th minute, however, as Prospect peppered the Rage goal; they had a shot after play down their right, where the ball was cut back and flicked on before the final shot was saved and the rebound put behind for a corner.
Prospect hit back in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time, though, when Rage goalkeeper Branko Vidakovic came out and misjudged the ball, which led to a goal-mouth scramble, before a shot from the penalty spot by Prospect’s Jahnbek Bulut was launched into the back of the net, despite strong hands from Vidakovic.
Ninety seconds into the second half, though, the Rage retook the lead when they won the ball and countered; Najdovski played the ball to Borg-Williams, who scored one-on-one from the right flank with his ninth goal of the season.
Prospect scored a controversial equaliser eight minutes later, however, as Borg-Williams thought he had scored a double from a Najdovski pass, only for the linesman to disallow the goal for offside.
The Rage players were celebrating down the left as Prospect took the free kick quickly down the right and Cristian Gerardo Leiva scored a header at the other end into the bottom corner to restore parity in the contest.
Prospect dominated the next 5-10 minutes while the Rage made a triple change to settle things down.
The hosts stayed in the contest and in the 83rd minute were rewarded for their efforts as Borg-Williams, now playing at striker, held up the ball and passed it off to substitute Daniel Cooper, who had his shot saved.
Rage substitute Daniel Bortolazzo was on hand and slotted home the rebound into an empty net to give the Rage a 3-2 lead.
The Rage controlled the tempo after that and in the 92nd minute, won a long ball and sent Borg-Williams through on goal, who hit the post late with his shot.
That was the last chance of the match as the Rage held off two Prospect comebacks and recorded a 3-2 victory.
The win moved the Rage up from 13th to 12th as their strong second half of the season continued, while for Prospect the loss meant a top-four finish was unreachable as they stayed in 5th place.
The Western Rage will hope to end the season on a high and potentially move into 11th place as they travel to face 6th-placed Fraser Park FC next week, while Prospect United SC will hope to end the season in the top five as they host last-placed Inner West Hawks FC.
Sunday, 20th August 2023
Newcastle Jets 6-2 Fraser Park FC
The Newcastle Jets ensured they took the battle for the promotion-playoff position of 2nd-place to the final matchday as they hit Fraser Park for six in their 6-2 home victory.
Xavier Bertoncello got the hosts off to the perfect start when he scored in the 16th minute to give the Jets the lead, they wanted early.
Janni Rafty gave the Jets their second goal just five minutes later, but that lead was cut back to one goal in the 23rd minute when Hayato Sadamori pulled a goal back for the visitors.
However, it was Bertoncello’s day as he scored his second in the 30th minute and completed his hat-trick within 37 minutes to give the Jets a 4-1 advantage at the break; he moved to 14 goals for the season, which is fourth among all scorers in the league.
Ezra Palombini, the league’s third-top scorer, scored his 17th goal of the season in the 58th minute as the Jets wrapped up the result early.
Fraser Park scored a consolation goal in the 70th minute through Samuel Shepherd to make the scoreline read 5-2 to the Jets.
However, things worsened for Fraser Park when Miki Bisceglia was sent off in the 88th minute.
The Jets rounded out the scoring in the second minute of second-half stoppage time through Murray Peart; the Jets took the battle for 2nd place to the final matchday.
The win for the Jets moved them to 53 points in 3rd-place, one point behind 2nd-placed Nepean FC in the battle for the promotion play-off position, while the loss for Fraser Park meant a top-four finish was no longer possible as they stayed in 6th-place on 40 points, level with 5th-placed Prospect United SC.
The Newcastle Jets will look to do all they can to ensure victory which could move them into 2nd-place next week away to 9th-placed Hawkesbury City FC, while Fraser Park FC will hope to finish the season on a high as they host the 12th-placed Western Rage.
8th-placed Camden Tigers FC had their bye this week and remained in 8th following the weekend’s results.
By Football New South Wales League Two Men’s Reporter, Dylan Costa @_dylancosta