No fuss Spirit stay top
By Corinthian (Paul Green):
NSW – PS4 NPL 2 MEN – Round 7 catch-up game – Feature
8:15pm, Tuesday 12 May, 2015 – Christie Park, Marsfield
Spirit FC 3 (Daniel Cunningham pens 24′, 78′, Abraham Majok 90’+2)
St George Saints FC 1 (David Wilson pen 90’+3)
This mid-week catch-up game had a little riding on it, after Spirit FC had struck the front in the race to the title, albeit only after half a dozen games and on goal-difference, while St George had begun the season slowly and were looking to consolidate after a couple of dismal recent performances, the last a 4-0 loss at Mount Druitt.
A win here would propel Spirit to the top, even with one more game in hand, something they achieved with the minimum of fuss.
The Saints, meanwhile, languished far nearer the bottom of the table than the top.
Here they were, out to put that right and they went about their business with sound application and defensive rigour, but like so many teams have found when coming up against this Gladesville-Hornsby-based outfit, getting the better of them is quite a task – especially on this decidedly bumpy pitch – a key to doing which is locked away somewhere that opposition coaches are yet to locate.
If St George have a fault it’s in not really possessing any sharp-shooters or strikers, with a gift for the killer-instinct close to goal, or the imagination to overcome what, in Spirit’s case, is a towering back-line.
Time and again the Saints came up against a brick wall, as they made their way forward, with Spirit’s centre-backs, long serving defender and current captain, Daniel Cunningham, and the equally immovable Nick Trimble, making the visitors’ task unenviable.
Spirit’s assets include the probing ‘number ten’, the well-seasoned Gosue ‘Josh’ Sama and the fleet-footed, as well as muscular, Kuag Reec, with plenty of support from the midfield, with speed and mobility a highly regarded commodity possessed by all of them.
Spirit won a couple of early corners, Reec getting on the end of the first of those in only the 17th minute, but offering a weak shot at St George keeper, David Hamilton.
Having survived that early scare, St George began to find their own rhythm and Ali Nasreddine offered their first meaningful shot in the 21st, but put the ball just wide of the left-hand upright.
Peter Pelekanos put over a superb cross a minute later, which looked ideal for an accomplished striker to make something of, but Spirit were taking no chances and tall defender Trimble made sure by heading clear off the home team’s goal-line.
St George were looking capable of taking something from the game, at that stage, but it all fell apart two minutes later when that man Reec got away down the right and confronted a gaggle of defenders, before cutting inside and being brought to his knees by a challenge from Emanuel El Ali.
Referee Katie Patterson was well-placed to rule in favour of the defending side and awarded a penalty-kick.
‘Mr Reliable’, Daniel Cunningham, stepped up and put his shot perfectly into the top-right corner of Hamilton’s net.
Playing catch-up in a catch-up fixture, the Saints re-grouped and tried to take the game to their hosts yet again, with Wassim Hijazi going on a mazy run, which ended with a shot from 20 yards in the 29th minute, that was deflected hurriedly for a corner by the alert Spirit defence.
Three minute later Wassim saw another shot saved by keeper David Lowery, after the St George man had received a pass from Lenox Tweneboa, following an attack that had begun down the left.
That looked promising for the Saints, but when Sama burst clear at the other end on a swift Spirit counter-attack it did not look good for the visitors; but the 33rd minute shot from the experienced campaigner flew just wide.
No changes were made at half-time and understandably so, with the Saints working hard and in good shape, apart from conceding that one goal.
The second-half began quite well for St George, with Wassim clipping a cross from his captain, Michael Yarnold from out on the right, in the 49th, narrowly over the bar.
That miss, however, later signalled the introduction of David Wilson for Emanuel El Ali and Stevan Ilic for Wassim around the hour mark, with both newcomers making an appreciable impact.
In the 67th an Ilic free-kick was saved by Lowery, at full stretch to reach a shot intended for the top-right corner of the net.
But as the game hung in the balance, fate intervened, with St George conceding a second penalty, this time a crude tackle on the left of the area on Lord Darkoh, Spirit’s marauding wing-back, by Pelekanos, giving referee Ms. Patterson no option, but to point to the spot again.
Cunningham, inevitably, provided the usual conversion and it was 2-0.
That second goal more or less finished the Saints off for the night.
Spirit pressed on, looking for a third goal, getting it from open play, this time, in the second minute of time-added-on at the end of 90 minutes.
Substitute Henry Wells, one of Spirit’s well-versed wingmen, laid on a through pass for fellow-substitute, Abraham Majok, who cut back inside and slid the ball past an unprotected keeper. 3-0.
A minute more was to be played and it was enough for the visitors to get a goal at last, when their own substitute, Johnathan Kontalis, was brought down and Wilson beat the keeper well to make it 3-1 at the finish.
Crowd: Approx 75
Spirit FC: 41. David Lowery (gk); 19 Tom Lovell, 2 Daniel Cunningham (C), 4 Nicholas Trimble, 8 Grant Cornwell; 14 Ryan Johnstone, 10 Ossama Zaki (6 Ross Kethel 69), 17 Adam Savetta (11 Abraham Majok 60), 13 Lord Darkoh; 22 Gosue Sama, 21 Kuag Reec (3 Henry Wells 85)
Subs not used: RGK 50 Corey Finch, 5 Andrew Robertson
Coach: John McLafferty
Yellow cards: Gosue Sama 75; Red cards: Nil
St George Saints FC: 17. David Hamilton (gk); 3 Emanuel El Ali (20 David Wilson 62), 5 Daniell Zeleny, 6 Ali Nasreddine, 8 Tarek Ercan; 10 Michael Yarnold (C) (4 Johnathan Kontalis 82), 14 Andrija Petkovic, 15 Peter Pelekanos, 18 Anthony Abi-Arrage, 11 Wassim Hijazi (19 Stefan Ilic 64), 13 Lenox Tweneboa
Subs not used: RGK 21 Lachlan Kerr, 16 Joseph D’Elia
Coach David Perkovic
Yellow cards: Nil; Red Cards: Nil
Points, ratings, etc.
Referee: Katie Patterson
Assistants: Matt Riedy and Keith Yau
Weather: Cool, dry, light breeze
Players noted: Kuag Reec (SFC), Gosue Sama (SFC), Nicholas Trimble (SFC), Lord Darko (SFC), Andrija Petkovic (SG), Anthony Abi-Arrage (SG)