2019 NPL NSW MENS 1 ROUND 22
WOLLONGONG WOLVES v MARCONI STALLIONS
WOLVES TAKE STALLIONS DOWN
The Wollongong Wolves have concluded the season proper (the twenty two rounds) with a keenly fought match against the Marconi Stallions with a well-earned 1-0 victory at WIN Stadium on a cold windy day. It was a deserving win on the day that the NPL NSW Mens 1 Premiership was presented, the club’s first Premiership victory since 1988, a thirty-one year gap. A Thomas James powerful penalty kick was the ultimate difference between the two sides and this goal attained the striker the Golden Boot, being the competition’s top scorer, this being a tremendous achievement for the player and the team. James with his twenty-two goals has also broken the club record of the most number of goals in a single season, a record formerly held by the great Sasho Petrovski, who achieved his tally of twenty-one in the 2000/01 NSL season.
The Wolves have led the standings for every round of the 2019 twenty-two games with no Wolves team having ever accomplished this fantastic feat before and may be no other in the competition has done so as well but this hasn’t been verified. In addition, with only three matches conceded, this equals the club record of the least tally of games lost, first attained in 2011.
Two penalty shouts emanated in the match and midfielder Harry Callahan with his forward runs was the instigator of each. It was in the seventy-sixth minute that Madden on the right received an across field pass from substitute Takeru Okada. He subsequently moved the ball back to Griffin as a defender stood in front. Griffin propped and feigned, before squeezing the ball between two Marconi players on to James. With a marker at his back, James pushed to the ball sideways to substitute Takeru Okada before he went wide to Brendan Low on the left, a player making his starting debut. He then whipped a left footed cross to Callahan who ran into the box. As he was about to head the ball, Marconi’s experienced defender Zach Cairncross’ arm appeared to make contact and Callahan fell to ground. Play was held up as he received treatment before resuming his feet. The referee ignored the appeals for a penalty and as a consequence coach Luke Wilkshire was yellow carded.
However, lightning does strike twice. Peter Pelekanos received the ball from James Andrew before played a back pass to Vekic as Griffin applied some pressure. He punted the ball over the half way to where Low and a Marconi player were positioned. They both vied for the header with Low winning out and projecting the ball to Okada. He then hooked the ball to Callahan. He probed before releasing the ball to James. The striker took the pass and with a defender in tow, he moved to his left before sending it into the path of Griffin. He took a few strides before slotting a low pass to Callahan. With his back to goal, Callahan, inside the penalty area turned in possession and again was dealt harshly by the Marconi defence with Nathan Millgate being the culprit on this occasion. However, this time, the unhesitant official gave the penalty kick, with the custodian Vekic being booked in a separate incident. James deliberated before taking the spot kick. He took five steps before burying the ball to the custodian’s right side of the goal with Vekic diving the opposite way.
Taking to the field in this match with a number of players being rested, Brendan Griffin led the team out as captain and proceedings began with Marconi kicking off and the Wolves running towards the northern end. The home mounted the first foray but nothing emanated and then Marconi began some attacking momentum. The Wolves’ Taylor McDonald, playing in central defence today, cleared before any damage could be done and Ben Tosi intercepted to derail an attack. Nikola Djordjevic headed out in a duel with Marconi’s top scorer Marko Jesic before Sean O’Connell skied his opportunity. Wolves’ striker Jordan Nikolovski latched onto a through pass from Lachlan Scott, (recalled to the team after sitting out the previous match with injury), and eluded his marker before the ball just got away from him at a crucial moment. Darcy Madden (also returning from injury) headed out in relative succession to frustrate Andrew and Pelekanos.
On fifteen minutes, Marconi went close as an O’Connell shot took a deflection and the ball could have gone anywhere but luckily for the Wolves it traversed for a goal kick. Later, Low tackled the dangerous Andrew to concede a corner kick. Jesic took and the ball flew across the face of goal with nary a touch from a host of players vying for it. Callahan and Griffin had shots in a four-minute period with the first being blocked and the second one a trifle high.
With four minutes remaining of the half, tempers became a little frayed before order was restored. James nearly met the ball from a Madden cross but Vekic beat James to the ball by seconds.
At half time, it was all square on the scoreboard. Defensively both teams were coping effectively and neither custodian was under too much threat, though the Wolves striking partnership of Scott and James with their flicks and back heels and close ball skills and combinations, all displayed in this match, could at a moment’s notice strike with venom.
In the second half, three shots by the Wolves in the first ten minutes involved Callahan, Low and James. Callahan’s effort was wide, a deflection deviated trajectory of Low’s chance and Vekic thwarted James with a reflex save, by sticking his leg out.
The defences of both teams were doing their jobs in limiting the number of gilt-edged chances and each team was cancelling out the other. Many of the Wolves shots took deflections during this match to further give a bit of bother, but the desire to win the match never waned.
Two minutes after the hour, custodian Luke Kairies, playing his first premier league match for the club, took the ball from an attacker, as he was about to head the ball.
Following the conversion of the spot kick, Marconi looked to strike back quickly though McDonald cleared to deny. He did again as Andrew put in a cross. Andrew later produced a snap shot in time added on but Kairies reacted instinctively to save.
In the last stages of the match, the Marconi coach Peter Tsekenis joined his counterpart with a yellow card being displayed his way to cap off his afternoon.
The Wolves finish the campaign on top with sixteen victories and three draws on fifty-one points while Marconi is in fifth position with ten wins, two draws and ten defeats on thirty-two points.
Following the final whistle, the Wolves were presented with their individual medals and the trophy, the first one since 2008. It was a joy to behold for everyone there and for the supporters at the game and far and wide.
Coach Luke Wilkshire - ‘we have been top all year and have been the best side and it satisfying to win the league but we haven’t finished yet. It does means a lot to all the boys and the club. I have worked them hard and this their reward.’
Top scorer Thomas James – ‘it is great personal achievement and it put the icing on the cake to be fair, winning the league and grabbing his… We have a good mentality here, we all want to win, we all work hard and we respect each other…. I look forward to the Sydney FC match, that will be great for all of us and I don’t see why we can’t win, and the semi -final as well. I hope we get a big crowd… no nibbles, it is dream of mine (playing in the A-League)…I’m happy here. We have all created something here and I hope we all stick together and do it again next year.’
Impressive midfield Ben Tosi - on the celebrations - ‘it’s a nice moment for us and we have known it for a few weeks now and everyone deserved it and everyone at the club as well… I enjoyed the celebrations…. Hopefully in the semi-final the crowd will be like today it has been awesome. Today we were really focussed and we wanted to win…. Hopefully, now with a home semi-final I hope we get similar crowd like today and getting to Bank West has been a goal of ours.’
Captain and midfielder Brendan Griffin - ‘definitely was (a proud moment being captain) it was an honour given the season that I have had, I have worked my butt off to get back and with the team that we have got I’ve had to work hard. Some people would say it has been a tough season for me but watching the football that has been played every week has been a delight… Leading them out today in a massive game and we wanted to finish right, and as Luke has said, winners don’t lose. I would like to thank everyone for coming out. It’s has been a big season.’
WOLLONGONG WOLVES ………………..1
Thomas James 81’
@ WIN STADIUM, WOLLONGONG
SUNDAY 11th AUGUST 2019
3.00 p.m. Kick Off
Coach: Luke Wilkshire
12.Luke Kairies (GK) 2.Taylor McDonald 3.Darcy Madden 4.Nicola Djordjevic 6.Ben Tosi (Brandon Stojcevski 84’) 10.Brendan Griffin (Capt.) 9.Thomas James 24.Lachlan Scott (8.Bul Juach 72’) 23.Jordan Nikolovski (11.Takeru Okada 64’) 14.Harry Callahan 25.Brendan Low
Substitutes not used: 1.Justin Pasfield 13.Stephan Dimoski
Yellow Cards: Luke Wilkshire 78’
Red Cards: Nil
1.Nenad Vekic (GK) 2.Nathan Millgate 3.Giorgio Speranza 7.Sean O’Connell (9.Anthony Frangie 72’) (Capt.) 8.Connor Evans 12.James Andrew 14.Peter Pelekanos (Christian Nascimben 90+’) 16.Liam Youlley (Paolo Laxamana 58’) 10.Marko Jesic 19.Zach Cairncross 23.Brandon Vella.
Substitutes not used: 17.Kristian Sekutkoski 15.Lachlan Stepping
Yellow Cards: Liam Youlley 34’ Peter Pelekanos 41’ Sean O’Connell 43’ Nenad Vekic 79’ Peter Tsekenis 90+
Red Cards: Nil
Referee: Troy Danaskos
Assistant Referees: Matthew McOrist, Nathan Wotton
Fourth Official : N. Ryan
By Malcolm Rowney