2023 NPL MENS 1 ROUND 24
WOLLONGONG WOLVES v NWS SPIRIT FC
WOLVES CONQUER THE SPIRIT
A Takumi Ofuka brace assisted the Wollongong Wolves to a hard fought victory over the North West Sydney Spirit 2-1, after coming from behind in the eighteenth minute. Both teams were highly competitive for the entire match, with each struggling hard to gain the ascendancy. Scoring opportunities were presented with one for the Spirit shaving the crossbar. All the same, effective defending from the backline of Banri Kanaizumi, Ethan Beaven, Marcus Beattie and Walter Scott in addition to the goalkeeping and sweeping of Tomas Butkovic with tight control of his domain except for one blemish, saw the Wolves, emerging victorious with three deserved points.
The Wolves had met the Spirit in only one previous Mens 1 competition match in 2023 and it was a 5-4 Round 9 win to Spirit and it was retribution time in Round 24. The teams had met in four Cup matches that were played in 2010, 2015, 2018 and 2020 with three Spirit victories (one on penalties) and one Wolves win. Nine Wolves goals were scored with eleven to Spirit in these particular matches. Coming into this match the Spirit had a win and a draw the last two matches while the Wolves had a loss and a draw with eight and six nil scores in the 2023 matches to date. The top scorers for each team were Lachlan Scott (WW) and Richard Darko (NWSS) with eleven and seven goals respectively while nine and ten players have scored for each team.
The Wolves were running towards the northern end when play commenced with the Spirit kicking off.
The initial goal was hit on eighteen minutes. A ball into the Wolves penalty area saw Ethan Beaven clearing over the sideline. A subsequent Simon Nicholas long throw was headed on by Mitchell Davidson. Ollie Wiggins slipped the ball to Jordan Gomez, who slotted the ball beyond the reach of the Wolves’ custodian. This was Gomez’ initial goal of the season and his team’s thirtieth for 2023, while his Spirit team had gained the advantage.
This lead nonetheless was only held for a further five minutes until the home side drew level. This is how it unfolded. Ofuka headed the ball on to Samuel Riak. He in turn lifted it high up to Lachlan Scott to make inroads down the left. He then utilized the outside of his right foot to provide a pinpoint pass into the Spirit penalty area for Alex Masciovecchio to produce a shot. He was in a prime position to score. Yet, to his disappointment, his effort smacked onto the cross bar. Fortuitously, Ofuka reacted decisively and rammed the ball home.
The Wolves looked likely to add to their season tally of thirty-six goals to date. Striker Jake Trew had the ball into the net a minute short of the hour mark with a thundering effort only to be over ruled by an off side call which caused some conjecture in the ranks.
However, the Wolves were not to be denied in the seventy-ninth minute. A high Beattie clearance fell to Lachlan Scott and he pushed a pass to Ofuka. He moved a few steps forward before sending the ball out the right for substitute Sebastian Hernandez. He subsequently moved it to the right for Chris McStay. From his wide position McStay played a low cross in and Okfuka charged in to meet the cross and achieve his brace, his seventh goal of the season. A host of Spirit defenders were in the vicinity but the McStay cross eluded them.
The Spirit began the match with confidence but nothing of any consequence emanated until the team had an opportunity present itself on seventeen minutes in. Consternation was caused when a Beattie throw in was sent to Butkovic. Being out of his goal, he stumbled momentarily allowing the bouncing ball to fall to the menacing Mitchell Davidson. Butkovic regained his feet to block Davidson’s shot with his body. It was a dangerous situation. A minute later the team scored. Earlier, Corey Kavanagh sent a ball forward with a little too much power and the front line could not get to it to inflict damage. Ollie Wiggins made a ground breaking run in to the box but no further joy was to behold and a Darko cross from the left failed to elicit jubilation. Wide player Peter Kekeris who was dangerous through out the match, attempted to curl the ball in from the left side. It was close but travelled narrowly wide of the far post. It was a good effort. A Kota Odakura corner kick was dangerous. Anyhow, Walter Scott intervened by heading away to safety. A first shout for handball was heard in the final minutes of the first half but fell on deaf ears. A Kavanaugh effort to bring up the bacon narrowly traversed disappointedly wide. The Spirit team had a great deal of height in their players and this aided their defensive and offensive manoeuvres.
In the early part of the match, it was an even affair with the Wolves coping with a number of shots from the Spirit. The Wolves defence were keeping the Spirit honest with the team had a fair amount of possession but got a bit bogged down. After conceding, the Wolves had to change things and upped the ante scoring five minutes later with quick movement in the lead up.
As the minutes progressed, the Wolves fashioned a few more shots on the Spirit domain. A McStay shot saw custodian Marques on his knees to take. Another shot with his left foot this time was again thwarted by Marquez. Lachlan Scott produced a shot after eluding a defender with deft skill with the ball being deflected for a corner kick. The following Walter Scott effort was taken by Marques. Very late in the half, Trew worked his angles with a skilful turn with his powerful effort but again Marques was equal to the task.
With one goal apiece at the half time break, it was anyone’s game with the spoils still up for grabs.
Kyle Shaw cleared up field to defuse the threat of Trew on fifty-one minutes the Spirit went looking for a second goal with a free kick by Kota Odakura being whipped in with Butkovic jumping high to take. A header by Musashi Kokubo went close only to deflect of the goal frame. Darko looked to add his tally but his shot was blocked. A corner kick was won on seventy minutes as pressure was applied. Kavanagh plied it in with Kanaizumi intercepting by heading away. The Spirit produced a second handball ball shout in the eighty-ninth minute but the referee was having none of this. Around this time Darko was at the last chance saloon. Unfortunately for his team the palms of Butkovic kept out his projected header. A corner kick was thus conceded. Despite their efforts, the Spirit could not add to the first half goal tally and finished the match empty handed.
The Wolves achieved a corner kick in the forty-seventh minute to apply early second half pressure. Masciovecchio swung the ball in from the corner with Marquez. Following a threatening jinking run by Masciovecchio on the hour mark, his team could not further add to the promise. Following Trew stole the ball in a tackle and charged into the box, He was looking to pass to Masciovecchio but the Spirit defence intervened by conceding a corner kick. Masciovecchio sent the ball in and before any of his teammates could react Masques safely held. Trew produced a stinging shot in the sixty-ninth minute. Marques could not hold but nary a follow up eventuated. Ofuka blasted over as Marques was found off his line but he did not have wait long for his brace. Second half substitute Sebastian Hernandez sent his effort skywards with twelve minutes of normal left.
The Wolves came through with their first victory since Round 21 and it was one to savour against a team who have had more prior victories. The Wolves now join the Spirit on thirty-two points on the NPL ladder but are ahead on goal difference.
Wolves’ striker Jake Trew – ‘some games have kind of gone against us this year and it is good to come out on top today and hopefully go on with a few more wins for the rest of the season…. We chatted a little bit this week about this game being a bit of redemption match. We deserved to win last time so it was good to get the points today…. Some shots go your way and some don’t. I may have been offside though… It has been a solid year and I am happy to be back playing, a first year of consistent ninety minutes of football since I had two years off with an injury It is good to be back playing again’
Wolves’ central defender Ethan Beaven – ‘it is always good to get a win especially as it could have gone either like most games down here… We had a good fight and good hunger and we will never give up. We took our chances, kept them out and came out on top.’
WOLLONGONG WOLVES F.C.…………………2
Takumi Ofuka 23’ 76’
NORTH WEST SYDNEY SPIRIT F.C……………..1
Jordan Gomez 18’
@ Albert Butler Memorial Park, Primbee.
Sunday 16th July 2023
3.00 p.m. kick off
Coach: David Carney
13.Tomas Butkovic GK 5.Banri Kanaizumi 7.Marcus Beattie 8.Samuel Risk 9.Takumi Ofuka 14.Jake Trew (6.Senna Stevenson 90’) 21.Ethan Beaven 23.Walter Scott 24.Lachlan Scott (Capt.) 25.Alex Masciovecchio (99.Sebastian Hernandez 66’) 88.Chris McStay
Subs not used: 1.RGK Nenad Vekic 4.Dax Kelly 10.Damon Gray 17.Jake Lavalle
Yellow Cards: Lachlan Scott 80’
Red Cards: Nil
NSW SPIRIT FC
Coach: David Perkovic
1.Christopher Marques GK 3.Musashi Kokubo (C) (Anthony Younis 80’) 4.Kota Odakura, 5.Jordan Gomez (20.Jared Lum 60’) 6.Corey Kavanagh 7.Richard Darko 9.Mitchell Davidson 10. Peter Kekeris (12.Matthew Cahill 77’) 11.Ollie Wiggins 13.Simon Nicholas 16.Kyle Shaw
Substitutes not used: 12. Jacob Madden, 19.Daniel Mitwali 26.Maisam Awaz. 21.Luiz Lobo
Yellow Cards: Musashi Kokubo 12’ Corey Kavanagh 67’
Red Cards: Nil
Referee: Ivica Covic
Assistant Referees: Matthew McOrist and Mayson Griffith
Fourth Official: Charbel Geha
By Malcolm Rowney