2019 NPL NSW MENS 1 ROUND 21
ROCKDALE CITY SUNS v WOLLONGONG WOLVES
WOLVES ANNEX THE NPL NSW MENS 1 PREMIERSHIP
In a tough match with tension rising in the last half hour, the Wollongong Wolves have created history once again, in winning, with a match to spare, the 2019 NPL NSW Mens 1 Premiership and their third Premiership over all, after accounting for Rockdale City Suns 2-1 in the penultimate round. Nick Littler and Thomas James scored in the first half with Rockdale replying through Jonathan Grozdanovski in the second half to set up a titanic struggle to the finish line.
The Wollongong Wolves have also been on top of the Mens 1 standings throughout the whole season and will remain so even though there is one match to play and this cannot be usurped.
The away team went into this match with previous starters in Darcy Madden ad Lachlan Scott sustaining injuries in the last outing with Blacktown City and were ruled out with Ben Tosi and Brendan Griffin taking their place.
The first goal came in the seventeenth minute of proceedings. A Patrick Savor long back pass went back to Bradasevic. He cleared the ball to over the half way line and Taylor McDonald won the heading duel with Nikola Taneski to propel the ball forward. As Ben Tosi tried to bring the ball under control he hit it up with his second touch and Savor was adjudged to have hand balled. Playmaker James Stojcevski took the resultant free kick. After deliberating while the Wolves set their attack, he floated the ball in. It seemed to be headed by Savor with the ball bouncing in the vicinity of striker Thomas James and Michael Neill. James won the struggle for the ball and Petkovski came to tackle James. The ball came off James and it went out to Littler. He subsequently struck with a strong right-footed shot, which traversed in at the near post with a diving Bradasevic unable to prevent.
The lead up to the second goal came about as Rockdale attacked with Panni Nikas pushing the ball out to Urosevski on the left. He went forward before cutting the ball across the face of goal. Jonathan Grozdanovski threw himself at the ball but could not make contact. The ball travelled out to the near the sideline close to the corner flag. Tosi chased it down before sending the ball close to the sideline up to Takeru Okada as a defender loomed. Okada in turn lifted the ball on to where James was positioned. He accelerated and Petkovski was there. The two kept at each other as James went into the penalty area and then went down as Petkovski tackled. The Victorian referee signalled a penalty kick. James regained his composure to dispatch his spot kick with power high into the goal in time added on in the first half. This was the competition’s leading marksman’s twenty-first goal of the season, one goal to the good of the second placed scorer in the run to the Golden Boot top scorer award.
Rockdale reduced the arrears in the sixty-third minute. Nikas, the fulcrum of much of Rockdale’s’ attacks probed just outside the area. The Wolves intervened a couple of times. However, the ball was ultimately played to Idris El Hafiane. He got the ball onto his right foot and lifted the ball in the goal area. Grozdanovski stole in between Djordjevic and Price to head beyond Pasfield as he dived to his left as the ball lodged into the goal.
The match began with the Suns kicking off and the Wolves running to the northern end. Rockdale sprayed the ball around in the early stage keeping possession with the Suns wily Alec Urosevski having the first opportunity only for his effort to go straight to the Wolves’ custodian Justin Pasfield.
Nick Littler played a long diagonal pass intended for Chris Price for a Wolves initial attack. However, before Price could gather the ball, a Rockdale defender intervened. Jake Trajkovski dispossessed Okada as he looked to make inroads but Okada recovered to win a free kick. Petkovski headed out a Tosi lifted ball and Littler won a heading contest with Taneski.
Once the Wolves had scored, Rockdale looked to bounce back quickly. A Nikas shot from outside the penalty area went wide. Later, on twenty-five minutes, Nikas moved the ball to Grozdanovski. He made contact with the ball but it spun up into the air before Pasfield took it into his grasp. Rockdale had a great deal of possession and were making a solid game of it as the Wolves were defended diligently. Just after the half hour, Nikas shot wide after Rockdale worked him into shooting range. James had a couple of efforts one that was tipped over by Bradasevic, and another he tried an overhead after McDonald had given him the ball. Tosi affected a ball winning tackle on Grozdanovski as he looked to cause damage and Guy Knight produced a sizzling shot that was touched over. Brendan Griffin, playing his first full match all season and what a match to do this in, intercepted many balls in this match and did so on forty minutes, when he cut off a clearance to keep the Wolves on the offensive.
At the half time break, the Wolves were in front but had a mountain of work in the second half to keep their advantage intact. Rockdale were endeavouring to save their season and they were trying to make the semis.
The second half was a defensive rearguard action from the Wolves as Rockdale threw everything they had. Guy Knight was attempting to keep Nikas under wraps throughout the encounter and the fact that Nikas did not score shows the effect.
Littler brought the ball out of defence with deft skill and change of direction to elude Urosevski and others during the match and his combination with Nikola Djordjevic stood firm. Urosevski and Grozdanovski were dangerous and El Hafiane was making his presence felt. Pasfield had to make a number of saves to keep Rockdale at bay and he used all his experience and skill to deny on these occasions.
However, the Wolves broke out for a few attacking forays. Price went close after a Knight pass had travelled to Okada and then onto Price. From close in Bradasevic thwarted Price’s attempt. Following a break, Stojcevski was in a good position to score. However, Rockdale scuppered his attempt with slight touch that deviated the trajectory. Okada produced a shot that also took a deflection. The ensuing corner kicks did not bring any joy. At the other end, a Neill cross caused some concern and Price took the safety first option by heading the ball out for a corner kick. A Nikas free kick flew in and Pasfield took under pressure.
Once Grozdanovski had scored, Rockdale had a new belief. A Nikas corner kick had Leigh Egger heading wide. An El Hafiane left footed effort went wide as Rockdale kept on the front foot. Griffin and Jordan Nikolovski exchanged a number of passes between them as they kept the ball from Rockdale. However, as hard as Rockdale City Suns endeavoured in attack, the Wolves defended in equal measure and soaked up the pressure to emerge the winners of the encounter and to achieve the Premiership.
Coach Luke Wilkshire - ‘it was not going to be an easy game and they were fighting for their lives to make the play offs and we knew the situation but we have defended fantastically. We adjusted the defence (structure) on the run in the first fifteen minutes and after that I thought we were comfortable…. The back four, Ben Tosi and Guy Knight were fantastic and Brendon Griffin was having his first ninety minute match all season and with young players like Bul Juach, Jordan Nikolovski and Brandon Stojcevski who had half an hour and these guys making good performances, it was a good way to wrap things up. We aware of the difference in goals but we just want to be winners and it doesn’t matter that we are premiers we are winners…. we have keep winning and that is what we said all year.’
Captain Justin Pasfield - ‘it is good feeling I guess. All year we have worked hard to this point. We are the best team and on top of the competition… it is the first step.. We have a lot of weary bodies and the young boys were given a chance and it proves the depth we have in the team’…. On his captaincy and verbal exultations - ‘that has been a part of my game and I have been around along time as you know. But is a great responsibility, it is a very proud moment to lead the boys, fantastic, but we have continue on.’
Midfielder Guy Knight - ‘definitely, it was definitely a battle that game, and we did our job we came here to win and we did that… it is awesome, great feeling and it put the icing on the cake, we were on a roll.’ Role on marking Nikas – ‘Tried to, he’s a good player.’
Midfielder Brendan Griffin - ‘yes this was my first full game and it was definitely one to play in. The team dug in the second half and we came out the winners.’
ROCKDALE CITY SUNS………………1
Jonathan Grzdanovski 63’
WOLLONGONG WOLVES …………...2
Nick Littler 17’, Thomas James 45+1’ pen.
@ ILINDEN SPORTS CENTRE, ROCKDALE
SUNDAY 4th AUGUST 2019
4.30 p.m. Kick Off
Coach: Nick Porreca
1.Daniel Bradasevic (GK) 2.Daniel Petkovski (Capt.) 3.Michael Neill 5.Jake Trajkovski (8.Aleks Canak 85’) 7.Alec Urosevski 2 9.Jonathan Grozdanovski 10.Nicola Taneski (45.Jordan Figon 59’) 11.Leigh Egger 12.Idris El Hafiane, 23.Panni Nikas 19. Patrick Savor.
Substitutes not used: 15.Nick Petrillo18.Sasa Macura 22.Max Rowston.
Yellow Cards: 2.Daniel Petkovski 3.Michael Neill 89’
Red Cards: Nil
Coach: Luke Wilkshire
1.Justin Pasfield (GK) (Capt.) 2.Taylor McDonald 4.Nikola Djordjevic 6.Ben Tosi 7.Chris Price 9.Thomas James (23.Jordan Nikolovski 82‘) 10.Brendan Griffin 11.Takeru Okada 15.Nick Littler 16.Guy Knight (8.Bul Juach 78’) 17.James Stojcevski (20. Brandon Stojcevski 62’) 23.Jordan Nikolovski
Substitutes not used: 12.Luke Kairies 13.Stefan Dimoski
Yellow Cards: Guy Knight 69’
Red Cards: Nil
Referee: Lachlan Keevers
Assistant Referees: Scott Edeling, Greg Taylor
Fourth Official: Cameron Wright
By Malcolm Rowney