A week after their heaviest loss, Lambton Jaffas upset National Premier League leaders Hamilton on Sunday to score one of the most important wins in their history.
Down 1-0 at half-time, Lambton thrived as heavy rain hit Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility to prevail 3-2 and make the national stage – the FFA Cup round of 32 – for the first time. Edgeworth later beat Singleton 7-0 to secure the other spot up for grabs over the weekend. Brody Taylor scored twice and Keigo Moriyasu twice.
While it was no surprise to see the Eagles repeat their effort of last year, the Jaffas came back from a 5-0 thumping to Edgeworth in the NPL the previous Sunday.
Jaffas striker John Majurovski missed with a free header in the third minute but it was otherwise all Hamilton in the first half hour. Simon Mooney scored off a Kane Goodchild header in the eighth minute and Jaffas goalkeeper Brad Swancott made three quality saves before his side threatened again. Ben Hay and Joel Wood were then wide with headers as the Jaffas took control for the next 15 minutes.
Rain set in at half-time and the Jaffas dominated possession and chances in the conditions. Jobe Wheelhouse, rested in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Belmont Swansea, was the star in midfield and scored the equaliser in the 58th minute. Wood made it 2-1 in the 75th from a Wheelhouse through ball. Rhys Tippett scored 10 minutes later for 3-1. Hamilton made a late charge after Ben Koina scrambled a goal in the 87th but the Jaffas held on.
Jaffas coach James Pascoe said his team had focused on working harder in defence and he hoped the win could spark their NPL campaign, which sits in seventh with just eight points from nine games.
“It’s fantastic. It’s the magic of the cup, isn’t it,” Pascoe said. “We know we haven’t quite hit the mark week in, week out in the competition that we’re in and this could be a catalyst for the boys.
“They know how hard you have to work. I just said in there, winning costs. It costs physical effort, it costs concentration and tactical and technical discipline. Today is the first time for 90 minutes that we hit the mark in all of those areas.”
Hamilton coach Mick Bolch, whose side beat Armidale’s Norths United 4-0 on Saturday, said Jaffas “created more than us and wanted it more than us”.
“We did well and created chances the first 25 but they had the rest of the game, especially the second half,” Bolch said. “We didn’t come out second half.”
“Jobe sort of got control of the midfield second half and it went from there. They had a couple of good finishes, but defensively we were poor. There was a 20-minute period in the second half where we just lost our way.
“We weren’t marking, we weren’t urgent. They looked like they were playing for their season and we had something else to play for, that’s what it looked like.
“I think [the rain] suited them a bit more, it brought the game back down a bit pace-wise, but nothing against them. They were just too good on the day.”
Pascoe said the Jaffas, who were without Peter McPherson (back injury), had worked hard since the lacklustre performance against Edgeworth.
“We put a bit more focus on what we do without the ball,” he said.
“We just tightened ourselves up. We’d conceded some dead sloppy goals, so it had to be done. There was enough evidence there through the NPL that you need to do something different.
“I was really happy with some of the football we played.”
Edgeworth beat Urunga 3-0 on Saturday. Singleton downed fellow second-tier club Thornton 2-1 on Saturday.
Daniel McBreen played for Edgeworth and Leo Bertos for Hamilton on Saturday but both missed Sunday’s matches because they were attending a coaching course.