Tigers succumb to Spirit
By Corinthian (Paul Green)
NSW PRE-SEASON CUP MATCH REPORTS
PS4 NPL2 POOL 1 – Round 4
7:30pm, Sunday 22 February, 2015 – Christie Park, Marsfield
SPIRIT FC 4 (Henry Wells 24′, Gosue Sama 29′, Aaron Kidd 35′, Daniel Cunningham 70′ pen)
NORTHERN TIGERS FC 0
First place was at stake in this fourth-of-five PS4 NPL2 Pool 1 Group stage match at Christie Park; but having already won twice and drawn another match, Spirit FC needed to beat their similarly unbeaten North Shore rivals to put them out of contention and they did that emphatically, gaining a 4-0 victory in a game that was virtually wrapped up in the first half-hour.
Spirit were already leading 2-0 when their opponents had their first man sent off and soon after that the home team rattled in a third, in what was overall a sound attacking display, featuring clinical finishing and great movement among the attacking runners.
Furthermore, Spirit appeared to have their opponents’ measure down either flank and while both coaches were experimenting with formations and players, Spirit coach, John McLafferty, had enough of a score-line cushion at half-time to relieve his captain and regular goalkeeper, Murray Nelson, of his evening’s duties and enjoy the luxury of bringing on reserve keeper, David Lowery for 45 minutes of game time.
Northern Tigers tried a few things out in the second-half, as well, but already down to ten men they then lost their own skipper, Michael Rolston, who was given his marching orders by referee James Lewis, following a tackle inside the penalty-area on slippery Spirit FC customer, Aaron Kidd.
“I thought it was a good tackle,” opined Tigers’ new coach this season, Steve Hurd, afterwards “but it looks like there were no second chances being given in this game, even though it was only a pre-season fixture.
“We had a man sent off early and I can’t complain about that decision by the referee, though I was not at all happy with my player’s actions,” he observed.
There had been some retaliation, but the matter was not quelled by the issuing of a caution and the player continued to challenge the decision, earning the second card.
After that first dismissal, for what had initially been a bad challenge and was later compounded by some choice comments from the Tigers’ man, Matthew West, a second yellow card was handed out, only moments after the first, with the midfielder seeing red.
Northern Tigers were looking to come away with a win to help themselves to top place in their group, as well, but all that soon went up in smoke when Spirit scored first and then doubled their lead in a five-minute spell before the half-hour mark.
The loss means that unless Spirit are beaten by Fraser Park at home next week and other results go against them they should certainly be one of the two finalists on March 8th.
“They seem to be back to where they were a couple of years ago,” Hurd evaluated.
Spirit were always strong at home, but the last couple of seasons had seen their home fortress challenged more often.
“They have gone back to what they were doing before and it worked well for them tonight,” Hurd went on.
“We’ll be keeping busy, even if we’ll miss the final now, as we’ve still got friendlies to play, three of them are already lined up, so we won’t be idle ourselves after next week’s final group match.
Hurd said that Macarthur Rams, Central Coast and Dundalk Rovers from the Eastern Suburbs will be meeting the Tigers ahead of their opening match of the season against the Bankstown Berries.
The game began brightly for the Tigers who had come from behind earlier to win the Under 20s match 4-2, but so often happens, fortunes can turn around completely once the first team take the field.
Northern Tigers went on the offensive early, with Braden Cheng firing just wide in the seventh minute, but Spirit soon took charge.
Their highly mobile midfield and sound defence well marshalled as always by Daniel Cunningham enabled them to control the game.
Aaron Kidd offered the first clue that this might be Spirit’s night when he got through on the right and saw his angled shot in the 12th minute deflected wide for a corner, with the Tigers’ defence looking decidedly spooked.
Russel Farrell headed into the Spirit net after 15 minutes following a corner, but the assistant had his flag up for an infringement, so the chance of taking the lead was lost.
Tom Lovell dashed away down the right in the 24th minute and got to the byline before sending a low cross across the face of goal. The well-timed run down the left by Henry Wells paid off as the wide man converged on the ball and rifled it home from a tight angle to give Spirit the lead.
Five minutes later it was the turn of Wells to exploit the left hand channel with a perfect cross to the near post, where experienced Gosue Sama – known as Josh to most – tucked the ball away past Tigers’ new keeper, Matt Nemes, with aplomb.
Following that goal a skirmish on the half way line led to the dismissal of Matthew West and with ten men the Tigers were clearly facing an uphill task from then on.
Nemes had to be alert to push away a shot in the 32nd from Lord Darkoh.
It was not long, however, before Spirit made it 3-0.
Once again Wells got away down the left and when he got the ball into the penalty area it was met superbly by a volley from Aaron Kidd that gave Nemes no chance.
Sama nearly helped Ryan Johnstone make it four in the 41st, but the latter steered the ball just wide.
Clearly Northern Tigers had pride to play for in the second half and looked determined to get something from the game, though a result of any useful kind looked increasingly beyond them.
They attacked as best they could, with a man short and defended doggedly, but Spirit continued to hold sway for the most part.
In the 68th Lord Darkoh again fired just wide, though Tigers did get a header in after a 62nd minute corner, but substitute Tai Smith was off target.
Smith was a driving force in attack and looked in the mood to score, but had little luck as he rattled the crossbar late and saw other efforts deflected away.
The intention to stop Spirit scoring again was uppermost in the minds of the visiting team, but captain and club veteran, Michael Rolston, went too far according to referee Lewis who judged that his ball-winning tackle inside the area in the 69th was worthy of a red card.
The penalty was put away by Cunningham, with his customary authority, giving Spirit an unassailable 4-0 lead.
Smith’s surging run and shot probably deserved better as he rode a few challenges before smashing a shot from 20 yards against the crossbar for the Tigers, who played the game out in positive style.
Spirit will now need only a point to ensure top spot, though only a heavy loss to Fraser Park in their final game at Christie Park could rob them of a Final date.
It’s looking increasingly likely that they’ll be meeting Mounties Wanderers from Pool 1 in the Pre-season Cup Final.
Spirit players were happy with the win, but didn’t hang around to celebrate.
Even coach, John McLafferty, disappeared soon after the final whistle, no doubt going home to plot the downfall of his team’s next opponents.
Crowd: abt 50
Spirit FC: 1. Murray Nelson (c)(gk); 19 Tom Lovell, 2 Daniel Cunningham, 4 Nicholas Trimble, 3 Henry Wells; 11 Abraham Majok, 8 Grant Cornwell, 14 Ryan Johnstone, 13 Lord Darkoh; 22 Gosue Sama, 16 Aaron Kidd
Subs (interchange): RGK 41 David Lowery, 5 Andrew Robertson, 7 Jacob Harris, 15 Nicholas Mouzourakis, 21 Kuag Reec
Yellow cards: Grant Cornwell 29, Jacob Harris 62; Red Cards: Nil
Coach: John McLafferty
Northern Tigers FC: 1. Matt Nemes (gk); 12 Russell Farrell, 5 Sam Porter, 4 Michael Rolston (C), 10 Shervin Adell; 6 Paul Davies, 3 Lucas Dawson, 7 Matthew West, 16 Steven Baveas; 17 Braden Cheng, 9 Liam McConaghy,
Subs (interchange): 14 Liam Julian, 13 Craig Jamie, 15 Hayden Kyha, 2 Samuel Ryder, 18 Tai Smith
Yellow cards: Matthew West 31, 31; Red Cards: Matthew West 31, Michael Rolston 69
Coach: Steve Hurd
Referee: James Lewis
Assistants: Alex Goodhew and Matt Howart
Weather: Mild, little or no breeze
Report and photos Corinthian