Hamilton Olympic threw the Northern NSW NPL premiership race wide open with a 1-0 win over leaders Edgeworth at Darling St Oval on Sunday.
Only three points separate first from fifth after Broadmeadow beat Adamstown 3-0 on Sunday, their sixth win in a row, and the top three all failed to gain three points. Lambton and 10-man Valentine drew 2-2 with Charlestown and Maitland respectively on Saturday.
Olympic kept right in the hunt for end-of-season honours with a disciplined showing at home against the two-time defending premiers.
Striker Kane Goodchild scored in the 27th minute from the penalty spot at the second attempt after Eagles captain Josh Evans handled the ball while stretching for a header at the far post.
Hamilton coach Michael Bolch said Edgeworth “killed us through the middle” in an FFA Cup loss in May and he employed Andrew and Matt Swan as holding midfielders in a 5-3-2 formation.
The brothers did a sterling job of limiting the influence of Daniel McBreen, and the visitors were uncharacteristically poor with the ball, especially in the first half.
“Any of three or four teams could win the minor. Anyone could miss the semis,” Bolch said. “We had a plan and the boys stuck to it. We stifled them a bit. It wasn’t a game of any great chances, but we took the one that came.”
Edgeworth coach Damian Zane flew to Melbourne on Friday to watch Victorian NPL leaders South Melbourne, whom they play in the FFA Cup round of 32, beat Melbourne Knights 2-0.
He had hoped to rest a host of players against Charlestown this weekend in readiness for the cup game in Melbourne four days later, but Sunday’s loss has left them in an “arm wrestle” he would rather have avoided.
Edgeworth could have had a penalty themselves late on when Aaron Aaron McLoughlin was tripped accidentally chasing a cross floated to the back post, but Zane was at a loss to explain his side’s performance.
“In know it’s a tighter ground, but we were rushing everything. There was no composure whatsoever,” he said. “We sort of got what we deserved. It was awful. It was just one of the ugliest games of football I’ve seen.
“We were just kicking it. I’d like to say something different. I understand it’s a tight ground, but there’s a difference between having a touch and flipping a long pass into someone. This was just full-on booting it anywhere.”
At Magic Park, the home side’s poor mid-season run, when coach Ruben Zadkovich was rumoured to have lost the dressing room, is a thing of the past after six games in which they have outscored their opponents 18-3.
Winger Kale Bradbery started the fun against Rosebud in the 38th minute by cutting in twice from the right and unleashing a stunning 25-metre shot into the top corner.
Magic doubled their lead in the 70th minute when Mitch Oxborrow lumped an innocuous ball forward and James Virgili beat the defence for pace and beat the keeper at the near post.
Ten minutes later Shane Paul scrambled a shot onto the right post while lying on the ground and Bradbery tapped home the rebound.