Nicol leads ECU charge again
Report by Peter Simcox
Photo by Peter Simcox
ECU Joondalup kept their Top Four finals hopes alive after a 3-0 win against a disappointing Inglewood United at the ECU Football Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Skipper Daryl Nicol gave the hosts the lead early on with a brilliant free-kick and Tommy Amphlett doubled their advantage 10 minutes later.
The points were wrapped up 12 minutes from time when Nicol added his second to make it 19 goals for the season for the league’s top goalscorer.
The defeat saw Inglewood drop a place to fifth and may have all but ended their outside chances of pinching the NPL title.
ECU coach Dale McCulloch said his team were worthy winners but insisted they have six cup finals coming up if they are to make the top four.
“I thought we were brilliant today and everyone put in a great shift, including the players who came off the bench,” he said.
“We are getting all of our players back from injury and everyone is fighting for positions in the last six games.
“All we can do is keep winning, it’s a simple message to the players, and we’ve got six cup finals in front of us starting at Armadale in two weeks.”
Former Inglewood defender Adam Tong echoed his coach's comments.
“At the end of the day they are fourth (now fifth) for a reason and eight points clear of us, so it’s nice to get the three points today and close the gap,” he said.
“It was a great team performance and we had worked on our shape this week and it worked well for us on the day.”
Inglewood went into this one on a seven-game unbeaten run but found themselves behind after only five minutes. Ross Millard was brought down on the edge of the penalty area and Nicol superbly curled home the free-kick.
The home side were well on top and it wasn’t a surprise when they doubled their lead. Tom Hough played the ball out to Amphlett on the left, who eased past his marker and raced into the penalty area and finished clinically past Alex Dunn.
It was almost three moments later when Nicol’s free-kick from out on the left hit the crossbar.
Inglewood steadied and almost pulled one back on the half hour when Ellis Healing’s shot from the edge of the box was well saved by Johnny Perkins at full stretch.
Moments later Nicol was sent one-on-one with Dunn after a great through ball from Gordon Smith, but the Inglewood custodian stood tall to save.
Inglewood needed a good start to the second half but they were struggling in the final third and it was Nicol who went close early for the hosts, his shot on the run flashing wide of the upright.
The visitors thought they had pulled one back on 67 minutes when Healing's deep cross picked out David Cyrus at the back post and his header beat Perkins, but Tong was alert to head the ball off the line.
It was the best period of the game for Inglewood and moments later Jamie Murphy’s cross from the left found Brian Farrell, but his shot was saved low by Perkins.
Despite their pressure, Inglewood found themselves 3-0 down on 78 minutes. A short corner from Nicol caught the visitors napping and he exchanged passes with Smith before racing into the box and finished well past Dunn.
Nicol thought he had his hat-trick three minutes later after he turned home Steven McGarry’s cross. But after consulting his assistant, referee Arvin Shanmuganathan disallowed the goal for handball.
Inglewood pressed late and Woodall fired over after good work on the right by Feisal Zaw, before Cyrus was similarly wasteful on an afternoon on which Inglewood assistant coach Saul Contera said they didn’t turn up.
“We were extremely disappointed with our performance. We have set high standards over the past two months and we failed to deliver on those standards,” he said.
“Credit must go to ECU who wanted it more than us on the day and capitalised on a poor day at the office from us which we need to bounce back from.”
ECU Joondalup 3 (Nicol 5min, 78, Amphlett 15)
Inglewood United 0
Saturday, July 7
ECU Football Stadium
Referee: Arvin Shanmuganathan
Assistant referees: Stewart Beattie, Ethan Persse
ECU Joondalup: GK Johnny PERKINS, 2 Cian HIRRELL, 3 Ross MILLARD, 4 Steven MCGARRY, 5 Adam TONG, 6 Kieron STALLARD (15 Shane CASSIDY 56), 7 Tom HOUGH, 9 Daryl NICOL, 10 Gordon SMITH (12 Brad MCDONALD 82), 11 Andy HIGGINS,13 Tommy AMPHLETT (16 Lukas DE LIMA 70)
Substitutes not used: RGK Jack NUNN, 8 Josh WHITMORE
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil
Inglewood United: GK Alex DUNN, 2 Alex ISHIDA-LIVINGS (12 Feisal ZAW 60), 3 David CYRUS, 7 Kenny KEOGH, 8 Jason BARRERA, 10 Ashley ROSINDALE (6 Miki VUJACIC 54), 11 Ellis HEALING (4 Scott BLACKMORE 84), 15 Brian FARRELL, 16 Jamie MURPHY, 19 Connor BECSI, 23 Brian WOODALL
Substitutes not used: 5 Griffin BESCI, 17 Rikki SMITH
Yellow cards: Cyrus 86
Red cards: Nil