Lake Macquarie rejoined the Northern NSW National Premier League after a two-year absence with modest expectations.
Charlestown’s place in the 2017 league was at one point in doubt after off-season upheaval on their committee and question marks over the club’s financial position.
Six rounds in, and both are showing that hard work, character and a bit of luck can make up for comparatively small budgets.
Coming off a 1-0 win over Broadmeadow, Charlestown defeated another perennial heavyweight, Hamilton, 2-1 on Saturday night at Darling Street Oval to go to 10 points and third on the ladder.
Lake Macquarie bounced back from a 4-0 thumping to leaders Lambton Jaffas to join them on 11 points with a 2-1 win over Rosebud at Adamstown Oval on Sunday. The Roosters sit only two goals behind Jaffas, who boast stars and depth Lake Macquarie and Charlestown can only dream of.
Lake Macquarie trailed after 22 minutes on Sunday when Chris Berlin scored for Rosebud, who sit second last on two points from six games. Sam Walker equalised in the 43rd minute when he chipped goalkeeper Paul Bitz after a ball from Steve Rospigliosi over the top. Tom Walker then made space for Blake Green to blaze home the winner for Lake Macquarie in the 66th minute after a turnover in defence.
It was another gritty performance from Anthony Richards’ Roosters, who were missing Justin Broadley (broken toe) and Matt Toohey (groin).
“Last week we had a reality check of where we really are,” Richards said. “We’re not kidding ourselves, we know we’ve got to do a bit of work to get to the level of those guys, but we’re happy with our work. I think we are exceeding expectations for us, but we do have some good players. Justin, Greeny and Sam, they’d fit into any NPL side, but there are a group of players behind them that are prepared to do that work and that’s the difference.”
Coach Peter McGuinness was disappointed Adamstown did not convert more chances in the first half.
“We need to find a way to win games and be more ruthless,” he said.
Charlestown coach Shane Pryce said there was “a bit was luck” but also reward for character in their win. The Blues scored with Josh Maguire corners in the second and 57th minutes. The first went through the hands of Danny Ireland and the second beat everyone at the near post. Kane Goodchild equalised for Hamilton in the 43rd minute. Jaffas drew 1-1 with Magic on Friday in the only other game played.
Pryce said Charlestown deserved their victory.
“My boys are showing a bit of character, they are putting it in for themselves and they are getting the rewards,” he said.
“It was a great performance by guys who turned up and wanted it more on the night. It was an end-to-end match and at no stage did we feel comfortable with the quality that they’ve got. You’ve got to fight until the end and that’s how it turned out.”
He said Todd McSorley, Josh Small and Matt Tull were strong for his side, who lost Andy Klijn to a quadriceps injury in the opening minutes and had Cameron Hughes out injured.
The Jaffas, meanwhile, are hopeful of having attacking weapons Joel Griffiths (hip flexor/quadriceps) and Pat Brown (knee) out for only one week after they were casualties of the draw with Broadmeadow.
Jaffas coach James Pascoe said the pair would be out for the match with Charlestown next week but Luke Remington (elbow), who also left the field against Magic, had been cleared of fractures and could be fit to play. Pascoe said Brown may be sidelined longer with a grade one medial ligament strain.
Given the setbacks on Friday night, Pascoe was pleased to get a result.
“They shaded us and in the end we were happy to come away with the point,” Pascoe said.
The result was bittersweet for Broadmeadow coach Ruben Zadkovich, whose side dominated chances. They sit fifth on eight points.
“It was super frustrating not to get rewarded for our efforts, but it was nice to show everyone the type of football that we can play,” Zadkovich said.
“The goals and the points will come, we’ve just got to keep repeating that performance.”