Valentine and Lambton Jaffas’ minor premiership hopes were dealt a blow as both had to settle for frustrating 2-2 draws in round 18 of the Northern NSW NPL on Saturday.
Lambton Jaffas moved equal with leaders Edgeworth on 33 points ahead of Sunday’s games with a draw against Charlestown at Edden Oval, while third-placed Valentine went to 32 points with a stalemate against Maitland at Cahill Oval.
Valentine played with 10 men for almost the entire second half but came back from 2-1 down thanks to a 20-metre strike from US import Jalon Brown in the 72nd minute.
Sixth-placed Maitland led in the 13th minute after Matt Thompson converted from the spot following a penalty against Alec Faulkner for clipping a runaway Ryan Clarke from behind.
Valentine equalised in the 38th minute when Reece Pettit showed strength to win a header off a failed clearance from a corner.
Josh Carroll was sent off for a second yellow card in the 46th minute after a foul tackle and Maitland capitalised in the 58th when Josh Dutton-Black scored off a Clarke cross.
Brown, though, had the final say to go top of the league scoring with his 12th goal of the season.
Valentine coach Darren Sills was proud of the fighting effort.
“That’s 50 minutes on this massive pitch with 10 men, 50 minutes of hard work where you’ve got to dig in,” Sills said.
“We went to 4-4-1 and isolated our striker, then we rolled up our sleeves and did the hard work. We’ve done a bit of work that way in case it happens and we set up well.
“They had a lot of possession for about 10 minutes there and in the second half and they just wore us down. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to be proud of your team. Playing that long with 10 men against a team playing pretty well their grand final.”
Sills, though, was frustrated with the amount of fouls called against his side and the lost opportunity to improve their minor premiership hopes with the Jaffas’ draw.
“It wasn’t a bad day, but at the end of the day, I was just a little bit disappointed with the way things were handled,” he said. “If it was handled a bit better we might have snatched something out if it.”
It was a similar feeling for Jaffas coach James Pascoe.
A classy left-foot finish on the run from Rene Ferguson in the 14th minute gave eighth-placed Charlestown the lead.
However, the Jaffas steadied with Pat Brown knocking in a Riley McNaughton cross in the 48th minute. Luke Remington then battled down the byline to force an own goal deflection off Charlestown keeper Nathan Archbold. The Blues cried foul after believing the ball had gone out before the goal.
Jaffas keeper Brad Swancott saved a Daniel Casciaroli penalty in the 63rd minute after Ferguson was fouled, but Charlestown levelled five minutes later. Casciaroli scored after Daniel Bartlett’s shot rebounded off the crossbar to his feet. The Jaffas believed Bartlett was offside.
Pascoe believed his side lost concentration and discipline because players were staggered by some of the officials’ decisions.
“It was one of the most bizarre games we’ve both probably sat through in terms of some of the officiating decisions,” Pascoe said after speaking with Charlestown coach Shane Pryce.
“Refs are human and they make mistakes but just the volume of incidents that appeared clear-cut to everyone in the ground that ended up going the other way. It was for and against both teams though.
“It was a strange, strange game.”
The Jaffas played the final 15 minutes with 10 men after injuries to Luke Remington (hip flexor), Nathan Morris (knee), Pat Brown (elbow) and Joel Griffiths (calf) left them short.
“We are completely busted after that one,” Pascoe said.
“We were fantastic the first 20 minutes and had three or four chances, then they score against the run of play for 1-0.
“We spoke about the need to stay calm and disciplined and play our own game, and we did well to get it to 2-1 to our favour early in the second half.
“But we lost a bit of concentration and discipline, the players were just staggered at some of the decisions being called.
“I couldn’t be happier with the boys, we executed everything we spoke about at half-time and got it back to 2-1. There was no lack of desire, but just a level of frustration crept in on top of so many poor, poor decisions from the officials.”
At Weston Park, the Newcastle Jets Youth won 1-0 over the last-placed Bears.
The Jets went ahead in the ninth minute when a Kaleb Cox cross found the head of Bears defender Jordan Jackson for an own goal.
On Sunday, Broadmeadow host Adamstown at Magic Park and Hamilton welcome Edgeworth to Darling Street Oval.