Spirit v Newcastle

Round 15 report by Chris Dunkerley
Northern Spirit v Newcastle United

Newcastle United backed up for their second game this weekend and played Northern Spirit at their own game, hussling the midfield and snatching a header by Esala Masi in the 1st half, but Spirit got back in the game through an own goal by Scott Thomas.

As well as having to deal with the 2nd game, Newcastle dug deep to bring many young players into contention to cover the absence of quality players like Robert Middleby, Adam Griffiths, and Peter Tsekenis, but had Tom Willis back from the U20 WC. Spirit had the return of their U20 WC players Alex Wilkinson and 'Jonty' Richter to look forward to, and Mark Milligan back from injury. Spirit had to contend of course with off-field developments, which were discussed with players on Saturday before the NYL game.

In the 2nd minute Jonathon Richter battled through, getting the ball to Wayne O'Sullivan, who in turn lobbed it to Stewart Petrie but the Scotsman volleyed high and over. Newcastle hadn't come to defend, with evidence of that coming when Thomas Libbesson got a cross from the right to the far post where Greg Owens headed just wide. Four minutes later Owens took a snap shot which lobbed over the crossbar, and then Mark Wilson shot wide from 20m

Spirit slowly came back into the game. In the 15th minute Jonty Richter got an early ball in to Dylan Macallister but he couldn't connect. Hutchinson on the left got to the line and cut the ball back but Petrie could only shoot weakly.

Spirit's growing dominance was set back on its heels when in the 34th minute they conceded a free kick on the right which was sent long by impressive youngster Peter McPherson and Esala Masi got a free header past Northern Spirit custodian Paul Henderson, to take the lead.

With Craig Deans and Josh Mitchell, backed by Mitchell Johnson, marking Petrie and Macallister tightly Northern Spirit struggled to get any shot on target. It could have been worse as Esala Masi had a free kick in the net in the 44th minute only find that it had been an indirect free kick and his shot had gone straight in. Eventually Macallister forced Tom Willis to take a save from a soft shot as the half closed.

Newcastle came out firing, and whatever they put in the previously quiet Ryan Griffith's cup of tea - it worked. First he shot wide on the right, and then a minute later repeated it on the left. Three minutes later Josh Mitchell got onto a corner but his header was weak and over the crossbar. Newcastle coach Ian Crook said after the game that "I asked the players to slow the game down due to the amount of games in so short a time". I'd love to see them when he asks them to speed it up!

In the 56th minute John Hutchinson put in a cross from the left to Petrie outside the area, but he couldn't get his shot onto the target. At last in the 62nd minute Dylan Macallister got free on the left, received a ball, took it down the field and got a fierce cross in which cannoned off Newcastle's Scott Thomas at the far post and into the net for an own goal.

Spirit, desperate for the points, put a heap of pressure on the young Newcastle defence but they held, and it was an even bet at the end as to which team might have scored.

Best for Spirit were Paul Henderson, Alex Wilkinson, Vuko Tomasevic, and Wayne O'Sullivan. Newcastle's were Craig Deans, Mitchell Johnson, Josh Mitchell, and Peter McPherson.

Coach Ian Crook was pleased with their performance away, and the way many of his young players stepped up. Spirit coach Lawrie McKinna was candid about the effect the clubs financial woes had had on the team, praising them for their loyalty and the way they were dealing with it.

The company's Administrator will meet with Soccer Australia tomorrow.