Spirit sail past the Coast

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

NSW PS4 NPL2  Men – Round 15 feature report
3pm, Sunday 28th June 2015 –  Christie Park, Marsfield

Spirit FC 3 (Abraham Majok 9′, 63′, Ryan Johnstone 67′)
Central Coast FC 0

Spirit FC made light work of nearest challengers, Central Coast FC, when the two sides met at Christie Park on a pleasant and sunny Sunday afternoon.

Having beaten Central Coast comfortably, 3-0, in the teams’ first meeting of the season at Pluim Park Spirit would have held no fears going into this game, at least not of their opponents, who on this occasion were missing some key personnel.

Spirit had their own problems, however, being without captain Daniel Cunningham and striker Kuag Reec, who’d also missed the previous match against Sydney University, with the skipper coming off in that game, after only 30 minutes, having succumbed to his injury.

On that occasion Spirit brought in the dependable Ross Kethel to fill the gap left by Cunningham, but with Kethel away at the weekend and unavailable, coach John McLafferty asked for a reshuffle along the backline, before bringing in Andrew Robertson to the left-back role and handing Lord Darkoh the right-back spot, taking over from Tom Lovell, who moved to the centre to partner Nicholas Trimble.

Tom Lovell also took the armband, as Cunningham’s usual deputy and he was able to lead his side to victory with the minimum of fuss.

Lovell and Trimble were rock solid and the two wing-backs did all that was asked of them as well.

Also absent from the Spirit squad was Jacob Harris, the scorer of a few goals this season already and a player who netted the third the previous weekend.

Central Coast had to deal with the absence of their suspended defender, Nathan Verity, while the players’ parent club, Central Coast Mariners, had recalled two of the NPL2 team’s best performers this season, Josh Bingham and Jake McGing, who were asked to report for pre-season training earlier than anticipated.

“We thought we’d have them for this game,” said a disappointed Coast coach, Peter Preston, before the match, “but the Mariners said they needed them back right away, which was disappointing for us.

Spirit have been well-served recently by the highly promising Abraham Majok and the youngster, who grabbed two early goals against Sydney University the previous weekend, relished the responsibility of taking the attack to the opposition again, by bagging another brace here.

His two goals came in the ninth and the 63rd, but he was quite fired up and received an early caution, then having to be reminded of that again by referee, Katie Patterson, before half-time, after a clash with Coast defender, Brian Jamba, that left the latter spreadeagled on the turf.

As a precaution his coach replaced Majok before the end, to reduce the risk of his talented attacker being issued with a second caution.

With Reec still missing, Spirit coach, McLafferty, needed to make sure he had every available man on deck, when the competition resumes in two week’s time.

Brad Gibson and Gosue Sama provided the main thrust of the Spirit attack, here, with Majok and Henry Wells operating on the flanks to good effect.

After the altercation with his marker on the left-side, Majok began to switch more often with Wells, who normally plays exclusively on the right.

Wells has been providing some good service from the flanks this term and it was no different here.

After Sama had hit the side-netting in only the third minute, after a run down the left and great persistence from Gibson, it was the right side that provided the opening goal in the ninth minute.

Sama, who’s been consistently playing the more creative ‘number ten’ role this season, always to good effect, sent Wells away down the flank and the latter did well to get the ball over, under a tight hold, from the by-line, without any great elevation.

Majok needed to stoop slightly to beat the keeper to the ball at the near-post and thus finish perfectly.

Although principally deployed wide, Majok is also relishing the additional opportunity to pounce on chances which might otherwise have fallen to his injured team-mate Reec, were he fit to start.

It was mostly Spirit during the first-half as Central Coast focussed on holding their adversaries, placing less emphasis on attack than one might have expected, given their solid goals aggregate this season.

They did need to do that, though, as all of the Spirit men going forward had something to offer and the Central Coast defenders were indeed kept very busy.

Brad Gibson swept the ball just wide, from right in front, after another good Wells cross in the 26th.

Then twice in succession the woodwork came to the rescue of the Coast defence, after a corner sent over by Ryan Johnstone in the 40th, first Sama and then Trimble striking the bar, before the ball went out.

In the 45th Majok fired in a shot that was saved by the legs of the Coast keeper, Blake Tuxford, who, even then, had to rely on his defenders to clear the loose ball off the line.

Central Coast knew that they had to lift their game, going forward especially, with Trent Buhagiar and Lachlan Wales trying to probe with some width, but meeting stern resistance from the attentive Lord Darkoh and Robertson.

Getting nowhere, really, Coast tried their luck from distance, in the 48th, through Buhagiar, from 25 yards, after Wales had nodded the ball on and then Daniel Mcfarlane tried one too, his effort just skimming the bar.

Majok’s 54th minute attempt was charged down by the keeper, before the skinny winger doubled his side’s lead in the 63rd with a tidy finish, after a nice Sama ball had initially been sent through to him.

After a corner from the right by Johnstone had been cleared repeatedly in the 67th, up came the same player to send a rasping shot through a sea of legs, when the ball sat up nicely for him, 20 yards out, the industrious Johnstone making it 3-0 ,with much glee.

Spirit substitute Tim Simpson almost made it four in the second-minute of stoppage-time, as he converged on the Coast goalmouth, with another Spirit man in support and it took a good save by the keeper to deny him.

“The better team won today, no question,” admitted vanquished coach Peter Preston.

“We didn’t have any answers today. No excuses.

Spirit coach, McLafferty, didn’t get too carried away, even as his team march nine points clear at the top and with other challengers even further off the hot pace his team has been setting.

To have their captain and main striker out and still come up with a solid win like this shows the depth of the Spirit squad.

“I told the boys that if our full-backs could take care of their two wide runners we’d win the game for sure and that’s how it turned out.

“I switched Lord Darkoh to the right, as the other boy who came in can only play on the left, so that worked out fine for us today.

Spirit will need the breathing space, however, as they have five of their last seven games away from Christie Park.

But having been beaten only by one team this year, Fraser Park twice, travelling should not worry them too much.

The one week break will allow Spirit’s two missing men to make further recovery in readiness for the resumption

They next face the in-form Hakoah Sydney City East, who put paid to St George easily enough on the weekend.

Spirit should hold no fears for the artificial surface at Hensley Field, as they’ve already won comfortably at Lambert Park, two weeks ago.

Hakoah won’t lie down, of course, but consistency has not been their strong suit, though two away wins in a row would have given them some confidence as they aim for a Finals’ spot from their current third-place standing.

With no NPL2 next weekend Back of the Net will be at Arlington Oval again, this time to see Dulwich Hill take on unbeaten competition leaders, North Shore Mariners, on Sunday afternoon.

The Northbridge-based club have drawn only two games this season winning the other dozen, so should pose a tough challenge for the improving Dully team, coached by former star-striker, Norman Tome.

Match details

Crowd:  approx 120

Spirit FC:  41. David Lowery (gk); 13 Lord Darkoh, 4 Nicholas Trimble, 19 Tom Lovell (C), 5 Andrew Robertson; 3 Henry Wells, 14 Ryan Johnstone, 8 Grant Cornwell (20 Michael Streater 87), 11 Abraham Majok (9 Tim Simpson 77);  22 Gosue Sama, 12 Brad Gibson (10 Ossama Zaki 65)
Subs not used: RGK 1 Murray Nelson

Coach: John McLafferty
Yellow cards: Abraham Majok 11, Red cards: Nil

Central Coast FC: 1. Blake Tuxford (gk); 5 Brian Jamba, 3 Joshua Forbes, 2 Liam O’Dell, 28 Chris Hurley (11 Louis Bozanic 76); 10 Alexander Arbelo (9 Adam Woodbine 58), 8 Joel Hardwick, 6 Matthew Crowell (C), 16 Daniel Mcfarlane; 17 Lachlan Wales, 12 Trent Buhagiar (13 Steve Whyte 78)
Subs not used: RGK 40 Beyhan Irmako, 7 Jayden Priest

Coach: Peter Preston
Yellow cards: Trent Buhagiar 44; Red cards: Nil

Referee: Katie Patterson
Assistants: Paul Faithfull and Brandon Lovric

Ratings and miscellaneous

Match 7/10
Pitch: 6/10

Weather: Cool, dry, sunny afternoon, with no breeze.

Players noted: Gosue Sama (SFC), Ryan Johnstone (SFC), Tom Lovell (SFC),  Abraham Majok (SFC), Daniel Mcfarlane (CCFC), Matthew Crowell (CCFC)