Newcastle v Spirit

Round 2 report by Chris Dunkerley
Newcastle United v Northern Spirit

Northern Spirit conceded two penalties to gift the game to Newcastle United, whose forwards lacked penetration. Despite Spirit's Dylan Macallister pulling one back, the clinical spot kicks by Jobe Wheelhouse kept Newcastle on top of the table.

Newcastle got off to a dream start when man of the match Robert Middleby earned his side a penalty within the second minute and 18-year-old Jobe Wheelhouse cooly guided the ball into the net from the spot. Midfielder Middleby's direct approach exposed the Spirit's sluggish back three to invite a clumsy challenge from Mark Milligan, but the referee made the first of several contentious decisions by carding Noel Spencer.

Despite an Esala Masi header which was tipped over by Paul Henderson, Spirit were fast on the counter on both sides of the park, and were on top by the 20th minute. In the 28th minute Dylan Macallister rammed the ball home for the Spirit after Newcastle keeper Tom Willis had parried O'Sullivan's effort made after the blocking of Macallister's shot off a Stewart Petrie corner. A well deserved equaliser, as Jonathan Richter and Macallister, supporrted on the right by Wayne O'Sullivan and John Hutchinson, had been stretching Newcastle's defence throughout the opening half.

It wasn't all Spirit though as Middleby, supported by young Mitchell Johnson continued to carve holes through the Spirit defensive midfield.

Macallister failed to follow through in the scoring department after half-time when he missed a 56th minute penalty given after Adam Griffiths was ruled by referee James Lewis to have hand balled a header from Julian Watts off a John Hutchinson cross from the left. Hitting it against the left upright Macallister could only watch as Willis, having picked the correct side, gathered the ball.

Newcastle regained the lead in the 76th minute being awarded a contested penalty after Mark Milligan was adjudged to have handballed inside the area. Jobe Wheelhouse strode forward confidently and duly converted his second penalty of the match to earn his side all three points.

An entertaining game but Newcastle have not yet settled fears that they lack in the golscoring area, and Sprit although putting in an improved display from the week before, are still not the threat they were late last season.

Both coaches agreed that Newcastle had been on the receiving end of some favourable refereeing decisions, and Ian Crook (Newcastle) was pleased to secure the 3 points after not playing well).