EDGEWORTH and Lambton Jaffas shared the spoils and frustrations with the Edden Oval surface after finishing 1-1 in the first leg of the Northern NSW NPL semi-final on Saturday.
The Jaffas were better early and led in the 16th minute when Braedyn Crowley hit a low, powerful shot to beat Josh Low after Ryan Griffiths put him into space with a deft touch.
Josh Rose equalised for the premiers in the 31st minute with a strike off Adam Cawley’s cross from the left.
Steady rain hit midway through the first half to soften the hard and bumpy pitch, but neither side were able to earn an advantage into the second leg next Saturday at Jack McLaughlan Oval.
Eagles coach Damian Zane and Jaffas counterpart James Pascoe were looking forward to playing on a better surface in the decisive qualifier between last year’s grand finalists.
“I didn’t think we dealt with the surface well,” Zane said. “It’s very hard because you have to adapt to it, and we didn’t that too well. But I think the rain helped us. I think it got the ball moving and skidding off a bit more.”
Pascoe said a draw was a fair result on chances created. He was disappointed with his defending champions’ approach in the second half.
“I thought we tried to play too much football in our own half and it played into their hands a bit,” Pascoe said.
“You want your more experienced players to get a feel for the game and when you need to change what you do, and we kept doing the same thing for too long.
“Given the pitch, the quality of the game wasn’t too bad in the end. Hopefully we get a better deck there next week and we can play a bit. I’m looking forward to it.”
Zane believed his side were affected by nerves early.
“I think people forget, but we’re a young side and a lot of our guys this year are playing in their first finals series,” he said. “I think we will be better for it. We could have easily been down 2-0 and then we're up against it, but we grew into it and shed some of those nerves.”
The Jaffas were without Marcus Duncan (concussion), while Pat Brown injured his ribs in a heavy collision. Pascoe said X-rays cleared Brown of fractures.