Beautiful spring days are so pretty to look at, but they do make playing 90 minutes of football tough, particularly when the temperature is 25 degrees on Charles Bean Oval in Lindfield. But this is Champion of Champions football, where only the best can compete.
Kenthurst had the honours and kicked off against Willoughby Dalleys. Both sides appeared confident and ready for a solid match. Both sides had won their respective leagues; Dalleys won 15 out of 18 matches during their season and topped the Northern Suburbs Football Association (NSFA) Premier League. Kenthurst had won 16 out of 18 matches and topped the Galston Hornsby Football Association (GHFA) Premier League. This was going to be a close match.
Right from the kick-off, both teams were going to give no quarter. Both sides were filled were in-your-face strong men. Played at a frenetic pace, both sides were keen to get the upper hand quickly which lead to some strident play.
Kenthurst’s Paul Knipler was brought down in the penalty area by Willoughby only five minutes in to the match, which they quickly converted in to a goal, pushing the ball to the right of Dejan Josipovic in goal, much to the frustration of Cowley the coach who voiced his frustration at the referee.
This turn of events visibly rattled Dalleys; they didn’t appear to have their super-confident edge that they brought to regular matches during the season.
Knipler and Tai Smith were playing well upfront for Kenthurst. They were strong players, playing an open brand of confident football and were backed-up by a good, solid team.
Dalleys kept the pressure up and after twenty minutes Sean Doran scored a beautiful goal, only to be penalised for off-side by the linesman.
Kenthurst’s Nate Gray was screaming orders to his players like he was a sergeant major on a parade ground. And it was having good effect; the team was tight and well organised.
The pressure that Kenthurst put Dalleys under meant that Connor Nix, Adam Vlatko and Matthew Perdija were going to have to work hard in defence today. Continual forays from Kenthurst were repelled by Dalleys, but the tension was mounting. When a Kenthurst player went in for a tackle with his studs showing, the sideline erupted with complaints earning Dalleys a telling-off from the referee. Clearly this was a very important match for everyone and everyone was tense.
Dalley’s Anthony Farac calmed things down in the 37th minute with a cracking shot on goal from 30 yards out after bringing the ball down the right wing. But it went square in to David Lowery’s arms who was playing in goal for Kenthurst.
And that’s the way the scores remained at half time. 1:0 to Kenthurst.
The second half started with a long slow build-up by Kenthurst finishing with a superb shot on goal by Knipler but it was pushed over the crossbar by goalie Josipovic.
I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall during the half time chat from Dalleys. Whatever had been said calmed the players down and focussed their attack. But Stephan Liu, playing up front was getting pinged for offside continually which meant they were missing opportunities to even the score and eventually had him subbed-off for Franjo Kis.
After twenty minutes Dalleys Chad Cowley had a blinding shot on goal forcing Lowrey, the Kenthurst goalie to go full-stretch to his left to push the ball wide of its mark.
With ten minutes to go, the heat of the afternoon and energy with which they had played was really hurting the players. Both sides were looking spent and no more major attacks on goal were to come.
To my eyes, Dalleys had the better possession in the second half. But goals are what matter at the end of the day. Kenthurst, not only good up front, were solid in defence and their goalie was brilliant.
And that meant the match finished with Kenthurst winning 1:0. They will move on to the semi-final next week against Penrith Rovers and the winners of that match will play the winners of Dunbar Rovers vs Pittwater in the final.
Good luck Kenthurst. Well played.