Stallions v Newcastle

Round 3 report by Stephen Webb
Marconi-Fairfield v Newcastle United

Who said soccer isn't exciting! Bit of biffo. Players sent from the field. End-to-end action. Shots firing into the woodwork. Equalising goal in the final seconds. And, as everyone was saying, there was passion!

I had fun anyway. In the first half, of which I thought Marconi had the better, I was on my own (apart from my liquid refreshment, which took a-g-e-s to get; so long that I missed the first couple of minutes - other people gave up waiting). But in the second half I sat with Steve Eagleton and his family and friends (because some grotty Marconi kids took my seat) and enjoyed being a Newcastle supporter for 45 minutes.

Even from the slow-moving beer queue we could tell some softening up was going on. The whistle went half a dozen times before I got back to my seat. In the third minute I saw Brad Maloney cop his yellow for clipping Damien Brown from behind (Brown was one of Newcastle's highlights). Then Grant Last was shown his yellow. And then Brown played a good ball into the left corner for Robert Middleby, who was fouled.

In the tenth minute Adam Griffiths got a yellow for struggling too hard against Joe Spiteri, which of course any player has to do because Spiteri is so strong and determined.

Newcastle keeper Tom Willis got up well to punch clear Brendan Renauds free kick, but he did even better an instant later parrying a volley from man-of-the-match Nick Carle at the edge of the penalty area.

Another Carle shot from the left of the box was blocked and cleared.

There was good football on offer from both sides.

A long high ball from the right was held by Marconi's Michael Turnbull. Carle launched another shot from 20 metres, just to the left of goal. And Willis held a lofted cross from the right & at his second attempt.

Renaud had a long-distance left foot volley, wide to the left of goal. Then Alex Brosque was almost played into the Newcastle penalty area.

Luke Casserly struggled hard and eventually beat Middleby who made good ground down the left, as usual.

In the 25th minute a long Newcastle ball from the right was headed behind the post by Casserly. The corner dropped into the goal box but no-one got a touch.

Brosque was looking dangerous running from midfield and a couple of times his persistence almost paid off. He looked pretty taking on three Newcastle players and almost succeeded until Griffiths brought him down.

The free kick was pushed wide to Renaud whose high cross from the left just eluded Dominic Longo.

At 30 minutes, following a great ball through by Carle, Maloney put the ball in the net - pointlessly, despite the crowd's revelry and the PA system celebrating, because the referee had already spotted an infringement.

Griffiths was very neat winning a tackle on his own by-line and pulling the ball forward to Brown - who was then taken down behind play.

Esala Masi played a good touch through to Middleby (that seemed to be the key feature of his routine) who put over a good cross. Renaud was on hand, though, and coolly controlled and cleared.

Marconi were impressive with their energy and variation in attacking angles, trying to get in behind the Newcastle defence.

In the 36th minute a wonderful ball found Spiteri who ran to goal and looked certain to score & but he was denied by the post (Newcastle's best player, according to a Marconi fan).

Four minutes later Spiteri was again running at goal. But with defenders closing in he chose to lift the ball rather than drive it and Willis saved.

Renaud hit a lovely long ball looking for Maloney but Willis got in the way again.

The Newcastle forwards seemed to have a good sense of one another. They were prepared to back their team mates for speed and were confident to push the ball forward and wide for the chase on both wings.

Just on half time Brosque seemed to be looking for an angle through a line of Newcastle defenders, but instead of slotting a pass through he drove low and hard and forced Willis to save. It was a good effort.

Newcastle had the final word for the half, though. Greg Owens, cutting in from the right, hit a cracker. Turnbull dived but the ball hit the post.

Early in the second half Jeromy Harris played Spiteri down the left but he was stopped by a great tackle from Griffiths.

Then Harris chipped through for Spiteri but he was offside.

In the 54th minute Middleby took advantage of a defensive bungle and made a goal out of nothing, following a loose ball all the way through and chipping it past Turnbull.

To this point Marconi seemed more likely to open the scoring. But Newcastle had been getting back into the game in the second half and, even with over half an hour to go, that one goal lead was significant.

Jobe Wheelhouse ended some more penalty area scrappiness with an awkward volley high over the Marconi goal.

In the 65th minute Marconi had a good chance at equalising when Spiteri crossed from the by-line on the left. Substitute Eric Anabalon was waiting and shot point blank & into Willis, making another fine save.

Two minutes later, Spiteri, unmarked at the far post and with some time, volleyed a ball from the right high over goal.

Maloney had a shot blocked by Brown, Carle had a shot blocked high by Willis, and Anabalon and Costanzo worked a one-two coming out of defence and set up Spiteri whose cross from the left was too long to be of use.

The major 'incident' of the game in the 72nd min resulted from Renaud not taking kindly to being fouled by Owens. Soon most players on both sides were scrapping with one another in front of the team benches. Renaud and Scott Thomas were shown red. And Owens copped a yellow for his tackle.

Owens, who was probably due for substitution anyway, was hastily replaced by Ryan Griffiths.

Maloney made a great diving header clearance on a Middleby cross, and Wheelhouse hit a pretty good shot, just too high, after a sustained Newcastle build-up.

In the 80th minute Carle run up the middle of the pitch and played a good ball to Anabalon who hit a stinging, early shot that glanced off the top of the crossbar.

Costanzo was great cutting out a ball intended for Masi and then breaking forward. He won a free kick, but complained too heartily and won his own yellow card as a bonus.

Dominic Longo did a good job tangling with Ryan Griffiths (though my new Newcastle friends didn't see it quite that way).

The next point of contention was the amount of time added on. The fourth official seemed to indicate two minutes. But two minutes passed and the game continued. More time must have been added for the melee. And just as well for Marconi, for in the 49th minute of the second half Costanzo got onto a corner from the right and denied Newcastle the three points & which, given the company I was keeping, I thought they deserved.

After the match, Newcastle coach Ian Crook commented on the vigour of the tackling, saying there was nothing wrong with a battle. And he said the supporters would walk away saying they'd seen two teams have a go. "Some of the tackles were bordering on dangerous, but it's a game where we all go out there knowing what we have to do. We need to win games. It was just a passionate affair tonight I thought."

He said without a doubt he was happy to come to Marconi and take a point home. "Any side that JP (Jean Paul de Marigny) has is extremely well organised, difficult to beat. They've got quality all over the park.

De Marigny said the Marconi unit was very close and there was a good attitude in the dressing room. He also said, "It's a battle & and I think it will bring people back. It's a long time since the club had this type of atmosphere and willingness to chase results and it's a credit to the boys."

Crook said, "To win any game you have to win the battle & If you lay down and die you get run over & Tonight was a step up for us. And I'm really pleased. We have three central midfield players playing back at the moment to help out and they've been up against a good attacking unit today. They did really well."

De Marigny said, "We look at Newcastle as a top six team & I thought we did enough to win the game but, credit to them, they didn't give up."