Jacks in the pack for West Australian Top Four Cup

Report by Peter Simcox

Pictured: ECU striker Gordon Smith holds of Cameron Edwards. Photo: Peter Simcox

ECU Joondalup moved into third spot on the PS4 National Premier Leagues WA table, after a come-from-behind 3-1 win against Cockburn City at the ECU Football Stadium on Saturday.

Blake Adams had given Cockburn the lead early but a goal on the stroke of half time from Steven McGarry got the home side back in the game, before Gordon Smith bagged a brace to put the Jacks in pole position for the West Australian Top Four Cup.

Despite the loss, results elsewhere meant Cockburn City are safe from possible relegation.

ECU coach Dale McCulloch said they were lucky to go into the break on level terms but in the second half they got their game going.

“We were slow out the blocks today and we spoke on the bench if we can nick one before half time, which we probably didn’t deserve, it would be great,” he said.

“So to score just before half time turned the tide a bit. We tried to rush the ball in the first half and we weren’t patient enough but after the break we moved the ball a lot quicker and looked dangerous and got in some good areas.

McCulloch said their Top Four ambitions are in their own hands now.  

“We’ll go to Inglewood and try and spoil their party,” he said. “Hopefully we can get a win, because we can still get second and we can still miss out. It’s in our own hands now, so next week it’s game on.”

The win stretched ECU’s unbeaten run to 11 games and Tommy Amphlett said they are playing with confidence.

“We didn’t play like we have been in the first half, but scoring right on half time gave us a lift,” he said.

“It’s good to keep the unbeaten run going and we go into next week’s game at Inglewood looking for the win to go into the finals on a high.”

It’s been a fantastic season in PS4 NPLWA and at kick off, the table was tight at both ends, and both sides needed the points.

The home side made the perfect start on 12 minutes. Aden De Luz made ground down the right and whipped in a deep cross, Adams got ahead of his marker and finished well past Lewis Italiano.

Cockburn, who were the last team to beat ECU in the league this season, were well on top and Angel Andres’ curling shot whistled past a post, before Riley Woodcock’s shot was well saved by Italiano at full stretch.
 
The home side were struggling to find holes in a tight Cockburn defence, well marshalled by skipper Euen Grant, and it looked like the visitors would go into the break with the lead.

But in stoppage time Daryl Nicol was brought down on the edge of the penalty box and McGarry fired low past Luke Radonich and into the corner of the net to send the sides level at the break.

Both sides had chances early. Cameron Edwards’ long-range shot was saved by Italiano, before Amphlett’s dangerous low cross was well claimed by Radonich with Gordon Smith ready to pounce.

The home side were now on top and Cockburn had to scramble the ball away after Amphlett’s cross caused panic in the penalty area, before Gordon Smith’s header drifted inches past the far post on the hour.

But four minutes later the home side hit the front. Gordon Smith was brought down in the penalty area by Reuben Tristao and referee Tom Glavovic pointed to the spot. The Scottish striker picked himself up to score from the resulting penalty.

It was now one-way traffic as ECU pressed forward. Amphlett’s long-range shot flashed inches past a post and they had the ball in the net again on 68 minutes, but Shane Pickering’s goal was disallowed for a foul in the penalty area.

But seven minutes from time ECU wrapped up the points with a third. Ryan Lowry’s cross from the right wasn’t dealt with by Radonich, and the ball fell kindly to Gordon Smith who scored into an empty net.

Cockburn almost pulled one back in stoppage time. Substitute Liam Murray’s header looked goal bound but a stunning one-handed save from Italiano, a contender for save of the season, denied the striker.

The win sets up an intriguing game next week, when ECU travels to league leaders Inglewood United. The home side need the win to secure the title, while Joondalup need the win to make the West Australian Top Four Cup.

Cockburn will also have a say at the top of the table, when they host Floreat Athena, who are still in the race for a place in the Top Four.       

ECU Joondalup 3 (McGarry 45+1 Mins, Smith 64 pen, 83)
Cockburn City 1 (Adams 12 Mins)
Saturday, August 20, 2016
ECU Football Stadium, Joondalup
Referee: Tom Glavovic
Assistants: Adrien Liechti and Max Hallas
 
ECU Joondalup: GK Lewis ITALIANO, 2 Ryan LOWRY, 3 Rikki SMITH, 4 Steven MCGARRY, 5 Andy HIGGINS, 6 Shane PICKERING (8 Michael MCDOUGALL 88’), 9 Daryl NICOL, 10 Gordon SMITH, 11 Cian HIRRELL, 13 Tommy AMPHLETT (19 Paddy DOYLE 86’), 17 Kevin MOON
Subs not used: RGK Todd HOYLE, 7 Bayley BROWN-MONTGOMERY, 12 Ryan MCDARBY
Yellow cards: Lowry 86’

Cockburn City: GK Luke RADONICH, 4 Euen GRANT (C), 5 Riley WOODCOCK, 6. Reuben TRISTAO, 7 Ali GHOLAMI (3 Josh KUSER 71’), 8 Cameron EDWARDS, 9 Angel ANDRES (14 Liam MURRAY 76’), 10 David ARAYA, 13 Blake ADAMS, 16 Daniel DOLS (2 Nathan DE ABREU 46’), 18 Aden DE LUZ
Subs not used: 12 Andrew EMSAVANA, 17 Jesse LAZZARO
Yellow cards: Dols 41’, Woodcock 46’, Tristao 64’, De Abreu 71'




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