Round 13 report by Trent Dickeson
Newcastle United v Wollongong Wolves

A delayed start was inflicted on this rescheduled round 13 clash due to a change in the flood lights at Energy Australia Stadium (EAS) but it was Newcastle who adjusted their preparation sufficiently to defeat a flat Wolves. The four flood light towers on the Eastern side of the ground were disconnected to allow for the construction of a new grandstand, in there place three generated powered portable stands. An act which could see Newcastle issued with a breach notice from the Australian Soccer Association for not informing them and subsequently not having the ground inspected prior to the match.

A WNSL match played beforehand between the NSW Sapphires and Northern NSW Pride saw Sapphires captain and Matilda Taryn Rockall pleading with the referee about the poor light 5 minutes into that matches second half. Numerous pitch inspections by the match inspector before the main the main game kick off saw the match finally go ahead at 8:00pm a full 30 minutes late.

Newcastle United were missing two regular team starters in goalkeeper Tom Willis and midfielder Mitchell Johnson who both were called up for international duty in Dubai with the national U/20 team. This change allowed United's number two goalkeeper John Perosh to make his debut for this his third NSL club after two stints at Sydney United broken by a period at Spirit.

It wasn't long for the home crowd to start cheering with Ryan Griffiths opening the scoring in the 6th minute. A cheeky shot from some nothing passing on the edge 20 yards found Crews wanting and ball snuck inside the left post. Ryan Griffiths could have made it a double in the 14th minute when he found himself 1 on 1 with the keeper with the ball bouncing. But with two Wolves breathing down his neck he failed to capitalise on the opportunity.

The rest of the half saw United create some half chances and Wollongong produce none. Wollongong found it hard to contain the United passing game and United in turn easily snuffed out Wollongong attacks whenever mounted.

The second half started more positively for Wollongong with a short corner finding Shane Lyons who turned and shot, both attack and defence watched the ball roll across the face of goal and out for a goal kick. United seem to stir after this and were presented with excellent opportunity with Owens receiving the ball from a perfect Brown pass in the 55th minute, Owens shot and forced an excellent block save from Crews. The ball rebounded for Masi who shot well on goal only to see the ball cleared off the line by the Timpano.

United kept trying throughout the half to kill the match off but were foiled by Andrew Crews each time. Crews pulled off some excellent 1 on 1 saves whenever the Wollongong defence let him down.

80th minute saw Perosh called into action for Newcastle after Adam Griffiths gave away a free kick in poor position and Stuart Young stepped over the free kick for the dead ball situation. Young drove the low and hard to left hand side of goal and forced Perosh to fully extend to keep the ball out.

United's second goal came in the 90th minute care of substitute Tom Libbesson after some excellent lead up work and a picture perfect cross by Brown. Libbesson header was hard and low leaving Crews no chance from such close range.

Rookie referee Simon Przydacz had a nervous start with the debate over lighting not helping. He seemed tentative in his decisions in the first half and continued to lack conviction in the second.

After the match the Wollongong coach John Turner said that his team hadn't turned up in the first half failing to keep up with the Newcastle side. He felt due to budget restrictions at the Wolves he had little depth and found players recently promoted from the state league finding it hard to put in week in week out.

United's coach was happy with how his team handle the disruption and came out ready to play the first half. He had particular praise for John Perosh who was faultless for the match and didn't look like a keeper who hadn't played at this level for in excess of a year.

The lighting situation at Newcastle is sure to raise some questions with administrators blaming a young, over cautious referee. Whilst some may say a more experienced referee may have abandoned the game without entering into debate. Australian soccer has to decide if they want increased professionalism a balanced has to be struck between the fans, the players' safety, clubs bottoms lines and the responsibility issued to the match officials.