Wollongong Olympic will celebrate 40 years in the Illawarra Premier League this season and have built a formidable team as they seek to dominate the league after their disastrous self-inflicted exit in the semi-final 2017. They kick off with a home game against Woonona on Saturday 24 March at 2.30pm. This will match will be featured.
Details of the season’s draw can be found at South Coast Football (Draw details).
Corrimal Rangers have made some new signings for this season and will look to improve on last year’s struggle at the wrong end of the table.
Fernhill returned to the Illawarra Premier League after gaining promotion last year and the question immediately arises, will they go immediately back down?
Fernhill contemplate their opening game against Tarrawanna.
Fernhill set up as a counter attacking team with a compact defence and this worked on Sunday. They harassed Tarrawanna’s midfield and broke down the play nullifying the Blueys attack.
View from behind the net as Fernhill narrowly miss a chance.
Despite midfield control for large parts of the game by the Blueys the chances fell to Fernhill who were unlucky not to win by more.
Tarrawanna contemplate the unexpected loss and the season ahead.
Wollongong Olympic are off to a flying start as expected in a 5-1 demolition of Woonona.
Woonona are left contemplating what is to come in the season ahead.
Tarrawanna take on competition favourites Bulli on Friday at the picturesque Tarrawanna Oval and will be the feature match for Round 2.
Tarrawanna sit at the bottom of the league after losing in the first two rounds.
Jacob Fryday attacks down the flanks was one of the few highlights of Tarrawanna Blueys disappointing game.
It was all too easy in front of the Jim Clancy Bar
Tarrawanna coaches discuss the first half performance but to no avail.
At the foot of the table after just two rounds but with a long season ahead the clouds descend over Tarrawanna Oval
The Woonona v Fernhill clash turned into an exciting action-packed game with a penalty save at both ends as Fernhill came from behind to snatch all three points. Fernhill, the newly promoted team join the leaders at the top of the pack.
Shinsei Tanaka’s speed and clinical finishing caused the Woonona defence difficulties all match. Tanaka scored a brace and the important second goal that lifted Fernhill to see them as eventual winners, Woonona 2 Fernhill 3.
Jacob Madden nearly scores with just minutes to go.
Early days yet but it is always important to get off to a good start.
Fernhill face a difficult top of the table clash against Wollongong Olympic.
The mid-table clash between Port Kembla and Corrimal was one of those games that can only happen in football with the referee awarding four penalties in the first half and waving away another three penalty shouts in the second half. After the first half, he seemed determined not to award another.
A tough day for goalkeepers. Brad Jardine given no chance as the ball is driven into the net.
Final result: Port Kembla 4 Corrimal 5
After Bulli’s win and move to the top of the table, the question was who would join them?
Then there were two on top of the table. Bulli and Wollongong Olympic both have three wins from three. Wollongong Olympic and Bulli meet next week. Who will become outright leaders after Round 4?
The Wollongong Olympic v Bulli FC was the early and late show.
Wollongong Olympic then took control of midfield and went searching for the equalizer. Yuya Kuwata was rock solid in defence and Bulli triple marked Yusuke Ueda nullifying the final balls into the penalty area.
The first half became a stop and start affair with whistle, whistle and more whistle from the referee as Bulli went into niggle mode breaking up the play and stopping the fluidity of the Olympic midfield.
Eventually the Wollongong Olympic bench blew up with increasing criticism of the refereeing from the sidelines.
Eventually a yellow is issued to the Wollongng Olympic bench.
Early dominance in the second half pays off with a well constructed goal from a series of interpasses as the referee allows the play greater fluidity with intelligent use of the advantage rules.
Marcus Beattie made incisive runs up both flanks and prevented Wollongong Olympic pushing too many players forward in their chase for a win.
Bulli FC as the only team yet to drop a point sit on top of the league and live up to the early favourites tag.
The mid-table clash between Corrimal Rangers and Albion Park White Eagles was important for both sides. Corrimal conceded too many goals in their first two games and were looking for another clean sheet after their win over the struggling Wollongong United.
Opportunities were created by both sides in an exciting game.
Corimal Rangers 0 Albion Park White Eagles 0
It was one of those highly entertaining and exciting 0-0 draws. A fair result for both sides seeking to consolidate their defences for the season ahead.
Demolition Day as Wollongong United are crushed at home by Wollongong Olympic who were stung by a defensive Bulli last weekend. Three early goals by Wollongong Olympic including two by John Martinoski ensured the win after only 25 minutes with Yusuke Ueda adding another in the second half.
This had the Wollongong United fans stunned who were expecting more resistance from their side.
But it was all smiles for Wollongong Olympic fans.
Matty Brennan couldn’t penetrate the rock solid Olympic defence
Luke Foster distributes the ball in one of the attacking raids in the first half. Alvin Ceccoli is kept busy chasing shadows.
Wollongong United drop to equal 7th place as their scratchy form continues.
In the Sunday mid-table clash between Port Kembla and a resurgent Tarrawanna there is another early goal as Bradley Arcev drives home a Tarrawanna Blueys belter after 12 minutes. A fit and hungry Tarrwanna Blueys outfit dominated the first half with Port Kembla struggling to gain or maintain possession.
The midfield was disputed with Tarrawanna emerging on top early in the first half .
In the second half Port Kembla were unable to crack the Tarrawanna defence.
Port Kembla 0 Tarrawanna Blueys 2
Tarrawanna join Port Kembla and Wollongong United in equal 7th position in what looks to be an intense mid-table struggle. Has the Fernhill bubble burst going down 8-0 to Bulli at Balls Park? They now will need points from a stung Wollongong United who will also be desperate for points. This game will see whether Fernhill are the real deal with finals aspirations or will be drawn into the relegation zone. Early in the season but things are sorting. Can’t make next week’s rounds, but get to a game if you can. It is a great competition with excellent and exciting games. Viva La Football.
With ANZAC Day weekend approaching it is appropriate to acknowledge the service of soccer players and fans around the nation. Bulli 1901 home ground is still in use today.
The notes say that football (soccer ) was played at Balls Park since the 1880s.
Wollongong United needed to show that they are a chance in this year’s competition when they took on Bulli FC flying high in the table and apparently unbeatable.
After conceding early goals against Wollongong Olympic they needed to ensure an early grip on the midfield if they were to have any chance of winning. The tactics employed were to close down the ball distributors and limit the space for the mobile Bulli FC outfit.
Wollongong United soon dominated midfield and Bulli FC found it difficult to gain possession.
After losing last minute in the FAA Cup and going behind to Wollongong United has the wheel of fortune turned for Bulli FC?
Chances continued to fall to Wollongong United
Bulli bring on Marcus Beattie to add thrust late in the game as they chased an equalizer
The question now arises will this be a stumble or fall for Bulli FC in the quest for the League Championship. Wollongong Olympic defeated Port Kembla and join Bulli on top of the table.
Wollongong United 1 Bulli FC 0
Meanwhile, Fernhill FC who were off to a flying start were brought down to earth with two straight losses and needed to lift against Cringila Lions at home in the late match. Fernhill set up defensively a tactic which had brought them their early wins.
Fernhill FC score first and close down the Cringila attack. They play the offside trap and set up a compact pacy defensive pressing game as they looked for the quick Tanaka counter sucker punch.
In the second half Cringila dominated possession and eventually were awarded a penalty.
It proved a frustrating night for Cringila but an effective one for Fernhill FC who remain difficult to beat at home.
Fernhill FC 1 Cringila Lions 0
Tarrawanna needed a win or they’d fall too far behind the chasing pack for a finals spot even this early in the season. The hot and cold performances are no doubt a source of frustration for the coaching staff because when the Blueys are good, they are very good, but when they are bad they are horrid!
The game against Corrimal Rangers was therefore very important to build confidence and consistency. Corrimal were already six points ahead of Tarrawanna so going for an away win for the Blueys was tactically essential.
Tarrawanna were immediately on the front foot looking to attack Corrimal Rangers.
Samuel Chapples looks to inject an attacking tempo early
Eventually the intense pressure translated into a goal with a Liam Unicomb piledriver ripping into the top right hand corner of the net bringing Acaba and Corrimal down to their knees.
Tarrawanna continue to attack and are awarded a penalty in the 2nd half that is duly converted.
Corrimal Rangers then threw players forward in attempt to make up the deficit.
Corrimal 0 Tarrawanna 2
All in all, it was another great week of exciting matches.
The big game will be Wollongong Olympic against Albion Park White Eagles on Saturday. The White Eagles have flown under the radar and are only one point behind leaders Bulli FC and Wollongong Olympic. Expect an eagerly contested and possibly heated encounter as both team seek to keep Bulli FC in their sights.
The mid-table scap is heating up. Fernhill Foxes play Port Kembla who are just two points behind. This game will be another important indicator if the Hill are the real deal and a potential candidate for the championship.
Port Kembla need points to stay in touch with the leading pack to have an opportunity to repeat their remarkable feats in last year’s finals. The speed and agility of Fernhill contrast to the gritty no-nonsense approach of Port. This game promises to be a tussle and an important confidence booster for the winner. A draw could see Tarrawanna, who play Picton, leapfrog the Hill and Port.
The big game was between Wollongong Olympic and Albion Park White Eagles with Olympic in equal top spot followed by the White Eagles just one point behind.
The big question was whether the White Eagles could match it with Olympic.
As expected, Olympic were immediately on the attack and dominating possession. Shun Tokuno was marshalled by a narrow defence that aimed to intercept his passes into the box.
The key target man for Olympic was Ueda who was closely marked and given no room. The White Eagles also intercepted passes starving him of possession.
Early pressing of the Olympic central midfield and tackles on Martinoski disrupted the flowing Olympic midfield.
Martinoski is brought down
Unable to get an early goal, the inevitable White Eagles counter punch catches the Olympic defence as Hayden Durose is beaten at the near post.
Olympic continued to chase the game and rearranged midfield with Martinoski making more flank runs in an attempt to drag the White Eagles defence wide and out of position.
Olympic began putting in a sterner defensive effort.
The Olympic pressure finally paid off late in the Ist half with a Tokuno goal
The referee ignores White Eagles pleas for offside. The goal stands.
The second half became a game where both teams nullified each other. Olympic continued to attack but threw fewer players forward. Controversy erupted near full-time.
White Eagles goalkeeper Chris Fuentes was red carded for violent conduct after an altercation with John Martinoski.
Wollongong Olympic 1 White Eagles 1
After an impressive win against Cringila Lions, the Fernhill Foxes faced a desperate Port Kembla needing points to keep up with the running pack. It was one of those wintry days with a Southerly Buster impacting on the game. Both teams needed to decide how to deal with the windy conditions as Fernhill ran with the wind in the first half.
As Henry Lawson puts it,
“Old Southerly Buster! your forces you muster
Where seldom a wind bloweth twice,
And your ‘white-caps’ have hint of the snow caps, and glint of
The far-away barriers of ice.”
Port adopts a tight making regime all over the field
Port Kembla got a second through Marko Ishihara
Fernhill Foxes go into the break 0-2 and looking for new ways to get passed the Port Kembla defence.
Fernhill keep attacking and are awarded a lifeline with a penalty.
As Fernhill throw players forward then the killer blow arrives from a rapid counter attack.
Fernhill 0 Port Kembla 3
Fernhill next play Albion Park White Eagles then Corrimal Rangers, matches that may determine their chances of 5th spot at the end of the season.
It’s safe to get into the surf again as the Woonona Shark had its first feed. Woonona move above South Coast United on the table.
Woonona 2 Corrimal 0
South Coast United are now all alone in the relegation stop.
The big question surrounded Bulli FC. Have they succumbed to the jitters after losing recent games and will they continue to struggle? They faced Port Kembla who were coming off an impressive win over the rapidly sinking Ferhill Foxes.
Port Kembla were off to a good start with a number of attacking raids pinning Bulli FC back who were looking jittery.
Port caused problems for the Bulli defence early in the first half with Bulli struggling to get hold of the ball. Bulli set up defensively and relied on the quick counter to make inroads into Port territory.
The deep lying Bulli FC defence and quick wing-backs ensured that Port were unable to get the ball behind the lines. The pacy Kyle Jackson linked well with Marcus Beattie and they were causing trouble for the Port defence on the counter with their rapid movement and quick passing of the ball.
Port had numerous opportunities early on none of which were converted.
Against the run of play a quick attack down the right-wing by Dylan Lewis and Mitchell Del Turco slots in the first giving Brad Jardine no chance. Bulli FC take the lead. Port’s defensive frailty reappears and the players begin to lose confidence as Bulli start to surge forward.
Port rearranged the system to a more defensive approach. Bulli took full advantage of the extra space and soon had a second by Dylan Lewis in a great response from the berating he received from his coach the previous week.
Just before half-time Port are down to 10 men.
The writing was on the wall and Port went into loss limitation mode.
Bulli FC put on the accelerator as confidence was sky-high and Port struggled to deal with the pace of Bulli’s attacks and the quick ball movement around the box.
Dylan Lewis get his second with a smashing drive into the left-hand corner.
It was too easy for Bulli after the third and fourth. Ben Zucco is subbed after non stop running. The defence tell Jardine to slow down on goal kicks and let them catch their breath.
Bulli FC take the foot off the pedal and cruise to victory.
Port Kembla FC 0 Bulli FC 4
Wollongong Olympic played the next day knowing they need a win to remain level with Bulli at the top of the table. The coach urged the players to win the ball, first, second and third balls. Meanwhile Corrimal Rangers needed to sort out the defence again after losing to bottom placed Woonona the previous weekend.
Olympic were immediately on the front foot and dominated possession as Corrimal built a brick wall in the defensive 3rd.
The Corrimal defence used all means to defend.
Olympic created a number of half-chances and tended to rely on high balls into Yusuke Ueda.
The brilliance of Daniel Arcaba and super-human effort by the Corrimal defence kept Olympic scoreless in the first half.
Corrimal relied on quick flank attacks by Mashahiko Morita and Takeru Okada. They often switched sides but the zonal approach taken by the Olympic defence ensured chances were far and few between for Corrimal.
In the 2nd half Olympic continued to attack while Corrimal adopted a ‘thou shalt not pass’ approach.
The question arises, had Ueda gone down when tackled from behind in the box, would the referee have awarded a penalty?
Great individual battles occurred across the field. David Hartas and Masahiko Morita engaged in an enthralling contest of speed and will.
The game ends in a thoroughly entertaining draw.
Corrimal Rangers 0 Wollongong Olympic 0
Woonona Sharks with 6 points from their last two games faced Tarrawanna Blueys who have come off a mid-week FFA Cup tie and who will play Hakoah Sydney City the following Wednesday. The key question was could the Blueys maintain the rage and over-run Woonona at home. With so many mid-week games, squad rotation is a must which has its advantages and disadvantages. It gives the manager the opportunity to see all the squad players under competitive conditions and creates incentives for the fringe players to improve their games. A lack of depth in the squad, coupled with a conservative approach by the manager by using the same players runs into the problems of fatigue. Even A-League clubs struggle with mid-week games, largely the result of the lack of depth due to the salary cap as has been seen in recent Asian Champions League games. So the stage was set for an interesting struggle.
The Sharks started off well, were sharper to the ball and dominated territory early until the Blueys got going and started imposing their superior organization and technique.
This style of response didn’t really suit Kwang Woo Kim who is a ball player and the Ocean Park surface was bumpy added to his difficulty getting into the game.
Nevertheless these balls were easy meat for Christopher Gibson who rose to the challenge and nullified this approach.
It was 0-0 at halftime with the Blueys scratching their heads about how to break down the Woonona defence, a defence that has conceded plenty until their last two games.
There was no way through and Jarrad Fish struggled to get onto the ball and create problems for the Woonona Sharks defence.
In fact, all the players despite their effort looked exhausted from their midweek effort.
Liam Unicomb played well but lack that final edge need to crack open the Sharks defence.
The Blueys were first out of the shed, whether keen to get on with the game and take three points or just keen to get the match finished is anyone’s guess.
The second half saw few chances and good goalkeeping, A collective defensive Woonona effort motivated by the desire to move away from the relegation zone had the Blueys struggling to make headway.
The approach by the Sharks was defensive, and it worked. They now move out of the relegation zone.
The game ended in a scoreless draw and Woonona earned another valuable point making is seven points in the last three games.
Woonona Sharks 0 Tarrawanna Blueys 0
A sign of resilience is the ability to lift after adversity. Fernhill Foxes came into the game against Corrimal Rangers after undergoing a long slide in the table after an excellent start to the season. Confidence was no doubt petering to the edge of a cliff after the drubbing they received the previous week. Albion Park White Eagles breached the Hill defence as if it were butter, winning by a resounding 6-0 at home. The White Eagles are now gearing up for League Champions race. The question was how would the Foxes react at home, coming up against Corrimal who held out title-chaser Wollongong Olympic last week. A Corrimal win would move them level with the Blueys in the Top 5.
Corrimal Rangers were immediately on the front foot and the first chance was on target with Bryce Daenell saving at the near post. Undeterred, the Foxes counter attacks with Shinsei Tanaka and Yusuke Maruyama combining down the flanks created difficulties for the Rangers. The Foxes took advantage of the attacking Corrimal formation which left gaps at the back open for exploitation. The next clear chance went the way of the Foxes and a low drive narrowly missed.
The early counter attack resulted in an early goal and the Hill immediately readjusted with Tanaka and Maruyama dropping deeper into a more defensive formation as Corrimal searched for an equalizer.
Chances flowed at both ends with both goalkeepers in action.
Tackles began to flow as Rangers struggled to contain the Fernhill momentum created by the goal.
Corrimal began to take control in the latter part of the 1st half and narrowly missed on a couple of occasions.
The 2nd half was a one-sided affair with the Rangers pressing for an equalizer while the Foxes sought to break-up play.
Corrimal employed a high defensive line and focused on attack but to no avail.
The Hill began to put in their fair share of tackles to disrupt the Rangers surge.
Tight marking was a feature of the Hill play and in particular containing Morita.
It was an important victory for Fernhill desperate to atone for the trouncing the previous week. The Foxes play Picton next week and will go into the tie with renewed confidence.
Fernhill Foxes 1 Corrimal Rangers 0
A diversion to the FFA Cup
Tarrawanna Blueys were the last IPL team to represent the region in the FFA Cup. Tarrawanna was unable to score against Woonona Sharks on the weekend and were looking jaded in that game, now had to come up against Hakoah. They were required to move grounds by the FFA because of the inadequate lighting at their home ground. Imagine, soccer has been played in the Illawarra since at least 1883 (Balgownie is the oldest still existing club in the region) and yet there is only one dedicated soccer ground in the whole region deemed fit for night matches.
The inevitable occurred: a light failure before the match plunged the ground into darkness except for the moonshine. Eventually the lights were restored and the game started.
It was 0-3 by half-time. Early into the 2nd half, a red card and the Blueys were down to 10 men.
Admirably, they attacked and tried to make a game of it, but to no avail.
The game ended 0-4. And so ended the last IPL team challenging for the FFA Cup.
Tarrawanna Blueys now need to regroup and prepare for a difficult assignment against Wollongong Olympic which will be the featured match next round.
We’ve reached the halfway stage of the season. The Blueys have had a hard slog over recent weeks with midweek FFA Cup games taking the edge and sharpness off they play. They now face Wollongong Olympic with Yusuke Ueda back in goals scoring form after a few lean weeks. The question was whether the Blueys, an inconsistent team at the best of times would be able to lift and consolidate their position in the Top Five. The chasing pack of Port Kembla, Fernhill and Corrimal meant a loss would open opportunities for them in the 2nd half of the season with the closing of the gap.
Tarrawanna started off on the front foot and they created the first couple of opportunities. They seemsed to have learned that a slow start can be disasterous, as was the case in their game against Hakoah.
That made it 14 goals for the season so far for Ueda. The exertions over recent weeks were beginning to show on Tarrawanna. Olympic continued to dominate possession and the Blueys struggled to contain the momentum shift.
Wollongong Olympic go in at halftime leading 0-1 with all the signs auguring well for the 2nd half to come.
Olympic were out of the blocks early and immediately on the attack going for the jugular.
The gusty winds made it difficult even to place the ball for a corner.
However, Tarrawanna didn’t give up and get the goal that puts them back into the game.
Soon after Olympic get their 3rd and the game looks safe.
Followed by the coup de grace.
A well-earned and deserved win by Wollongong Olympic but there is concern about an injury cloud over Yusuke Ueda who was substituted late in the 2nd half with what appears to be a hamstring issue. For a day at least Olympic move to top spot.
Tarrawanna Blueys 1 Wollongong Olympic 4
Bulli FC needed a win if they were to return to the table top. Their opponent Corrimal Rangers could join Tarrawanna in 5th spot with a win; a loss would see them fall precipitously and be clinging onto the chasing pack. The loss to Fernhill the previous week robbed them of the opportunity to create a gap with the chasing pack. Bulli would be a difficult opponent so Corrimal needed to carefully consider the approach they’d take to this encounter.
Corrimal were immediately on the front foot and pressed Bulli across the park.
Masahiko Morita created problems down the flanks as Bulli struggled to get into the game.
Masahiko Morita was able to contain Marcus Beattie and to cause problems for the Bulli defence especially in the opening stages of the game.
Yuya Kuwada watches the ball as it flashes past his right upright and Bulli narrowly escape from going one down early into the match.
And soon after another.
The midfield was fiercely contested and Bulli slowly managed to rein in the Corrimal Rangers attacks.
The Corrimal pressure paid off with David Abel bringing down Timothy Wylie in the box.
Corrimal were now in the lead with halftime rapidly approaching. There were then two crucial, what looked like dead-set penalty shouts waved away by the referee.
Corrimal go into the break one up and looking good to take the points.
Bulli are a side that plays for the full ninety. Any team that seeks to defeat them need to do so in both halves. Bulli started the second half with the foot on the accelerator and were immediately into attack mode. Ben McDonald was brought on for Sam Davies and this paid immediate dividends.
Goal to Bulli
From that point on Corrimal had no answer for the superior fitness, determination and technical ability of the Bulli team.
Bulli go on to score another two. There was a hint of offside in the last breakaway goal that McDonald slotted home with aplomb.
It was a disappointing end for Corrimal who now drop to the bottom of the chasing pack seeking 5th spot. Bulli are back on their perch. Any team that takes on Bulli will have to play the full ninety plus, if they are any chance to take points off this quality side.
Corrimal Rangers 1 Bulli FC 3
There are four likely contenders for the converted 5th place and the opportunity to participate in the finals series and be Premiers. These are: Tarrawanna (17 pts), Port Kembla (16pts), Fernhill (16pts) and Corrimal (14pts). Of course there may be other scenarios with a full 11 rounds to go in the second half of the competition, but this would require a major reshuffling of the current positions, which is unlikely but possible. The race for the League Championship appears to be a four-horse race: Bulli (28pts), Wollongong Olympic(26pts), Wollongong United(23pts) and Albion Park White Eagles(22pts). The relegation battle is between South Coast United(1pt) and Picton Rangers (4pts). Of course many things can can still happen. Woonona and Cringila appear safe and their results with other clubs will be important in determining finals spots and relegation. They still need to look over their shoulders in case there is a surge from the bottom two clubs.
This weekend Tarrawanna are at home against Fernhill after losing to them in the opening round. Tarrawanna have had a very congested few weeks with the FFA Cup but have had time this week to rest. The question is, will they be battle-hardened or will they be off the pace again? They need to stop the rot before they end well outside the reckoning for any honours this season. Fernhill have regrouped after they were thoroughly thrashed by the White Eagles. This promises to be an important encounter for both teams; a loss for Fernhill will make it difficult for them to challenge for a finals series spot; a loss for Tarrawanna would have disastrous consequences for their confidence going into the latter half of the competition.
I will be heading off to the World Cup in Russia so this will be the last report on the Illawarra Premier League until after the tournament. The next report will be mid-July, Round 18. I will continue to follow the Illawarra Premier League from abroad.
Tarrawanna proved to be a battle-hardens side when they took on Fernhill Foxes desperately needing a confidence boost. In characteristic fashion, the Hill started off well and caused trouble immediately for the Blueys defence. The Blueys were however very determined. They shut down the attack and matched the Foxes physical early style. The Foxes altered their approach slightly and used Alexander Rooke as the go-to man for the breaks down the flanks rather than relying on Shinsei Tanaka and Yusuke Maruyama to do all the legwork. It appeared something they had worked on in training during the week.
The Blueys tightly marked both Tanaka and Maruyama allow them little room. They were clearly identified as the key dangermen in the Fernhill lineup.
As the game progressed, Tarrawanna slowly got on top and began threatening the Fernhill goal.
The pressure on Fernhill intensified.
Eventually the Blueys get their goal as Jared Fish slots the ball into the net from a Machida cross.
Fernhill began to chase the game and this opened more opportunities for the Blueys who scored another before the break.
The heads dropped and the coach knew that a difficult second half was about to brew.
Early in the 2nd half another goal.
Liam Unicorn gets the third and Fernhill are unable to contain a rampant Tarrawanna attack. From then on Fernhill went into loss minimization mode.
Tarrawanna Blueys 5 Fernhill Foxes 0
Crigilia Lions are languishing in the outer limits. They are well away from the relegation zone but quite far away from a potential finals series spot. They took on League Champion chasing Albion Park White Eagles on a cold drizzling night. Cringila were looking to consolidate and move far enough away from the relegation zone to not have to look over their shoulder. Soccer is an uncertain world and a few wins on the trot from the relegation threatened South Coast United and Picton could have them in trouble yet again this season. Unlikley but possible.
The White Eagles essentially controlled the ball throughout the match. They had the greater incentive and needed to lodge a challenge for the League Champions race. Shane Ardle put in a lot of kms during the night and kept the pressure on Cringila.
In the second half, Cringila began to chase the game and managed to get hold of their fair share of possession. This translated into an equalizer from Ibrahim Sesay. Cringila now believed they had turned the corner.
Finally, some of the Cringila fans had something to smile about- a least for a while.
But the cruel game that is soccer had a sting in the tail. Albion Park score in added time to make it 1-2 to the massive disappointment of Cringila supporters but joy for the White Eagles fans.
Cringila Lions 1 Albion Park White Eagles 2
The Saturday night game was Corrimal Rangers who are still in a good position to make a challenge for a finals sport were up against League Champions chasing Wollongong United. This game turned into an exciting high tempo game with quality action.
Corrimal were immediately into defensive mode with Hajittofi pressuring the Wollongong United attack.
However, it was Kushida who scored in the 18th minute, a gaol that could have sunk Corrimal’s season had they let their heads drop.
It was tense from then on and soon players were in each faces as a melee broke out.
There were a number of strong tackles in the game as both teams tried to dominate the game.
Dean Pender gets the equalizer for Corrimal and all is square 1-1 at the break.
In the second half, Wollongong United came out of their shell, attacked Corrimal and eventually scored. After a quality save by Arcaba, McNab is onto the rebound and thumps the ball into the net giving Wollongong United the lead.
This spurred the Rangers into action. They mounted a series of all out raids. The battles became increasingly physical all across the park.
A brilliant solo dribble down the left flank by Takeru Okada and a missile from his boot gave Corrimal the lead in the 80th minute. The attacking approach paid off in spades.
Masahiko Morita then finishes the job with a last-minute goal. The Corrimal revival and comeback is complete.
It was an important win for Corrimal which has them as a big chance to cause an upset this season and make the finals playoffs. They are riding high and are difficult to beat at home. A very resilient side.
Corrimal Rangers 4 Wollongong United 2
The reshuffling has begun in this exciting competition. Get to the games if you can and support your local side.
The next update will be Round 18 after the World Cup in Russia. Go the Socceroos!
There has been a resurgence of Port Kembla who have moved to 5th spot and are all but assured of a Finals Series berth with both Tarrawanna and Corrimal falling by the wayside. This was a remarkable turnaround given their defensive problems in the first half of the season.
The question this round is whether Tarrawanna Blueys could at least put some pressure on Port. They need to win against Corrimal. They are at home and this is their last opportunity.
Tarrawanna Blueys v Corrimal Rangers
Both teams start aggressively, Corrimal with nothing to lose and the Blueys desperately needing a win.
An early goal! But Corrimal have time to respond.
A confident start to the game.
However, Corrimal lift in a torrid beginning to the match.
Takeru Okada storms down the wing from a central position and is brought down just inside the box. Penalty.
The Blueys are in the lead! Hope springs eternal.
The second half soon becomes bogged down as both teams have half chances but no more goals. The Blueys and Corrimal are left mid-table without any real hope of making the Finals Series.
The Blueys need to regroup for the remaining matches and look back on what could have been.
Tarrwanna Blueys 2 Corrimal 2
The next match was Wollongong Olympic v Port Kembla. Wollongong Olympic were needing the win to keep in touch with Bulli FC who have pulled ahead in the Champions race. For Port, the pressure was off and are virtually assured a Finals series spot. This was an oppoprtunity to show their credentials as grand final aspirants looking to make it back-to-back.
The Olympic tactics were clear- play the ball in the air where they had height advantage over Port.
But it is Port who scored first.
Joey Lavalle deflects the ball into the net off a direct free kick
Deja Vu; the Achille’s Heel of conceding early goals and then chasing the game continues to plague Olympic.
Lack of Port runners off the ball allows Olympic to regain possession easily and dominate the midfield.
Olympic not to be deterred immediately raises the tempo, takes control of the midfield and begin a series of forward runs turning the Port defence this way and that.
From then on Olympic turned on the style.
Vaughan Patterson scores Number 2 and Olympic take the lead
Martinoski gets Number 4 but also soon after a 2nd yellow. Martinovski continues to attract the ire of referees. He is sent off again in a match against Port. At least this time it was not for dissent.
It makes no difference, Olympic still control midfield as Port struggle to get into the match in the 2nd half.
Port’s defence had no answer to Olympic’s domination in the air and across midfield. They will need to improve if they are to achieve last season’s grand final success.
Wollongong Olympic 4 Port Kembla 1
Olympic now have the chance to lift silverware when they take on Corrimal in the Bert Bampton Cup on the weekend.
The Bert Bampton Cup Final 2018
Olympic are after silverware in the Bert Bampton Cup Final. Olympic open the scoring.
From that point on it is Olympic dominance and Corrimal hanging in there.
Corrimal put in a few niggly tackles causing simmering tension for Olympic players but it is not enough to put Olympic off their game.
Bert Bampton Cup: Corrimal 1 Wollongong Olympic 2
Olympic now have to do it again against Corrimal if they are to keep up with Bulli who are on a roll. Will there be some scores to settle?
Bulli take on Port at Balls Park- they too need to win. Port could still theoretically miss out on a finals series spot so they really don’t want to be looking over their shoulders. This will be the game covered this Saturday.
Wollongong Olympic v Corrimal Rangers
Olympic are hoping Bulli FC will stumble in the last few rounds and that they can snatch the League Champions crown from under them. This means they need to win against Corrimal Rangers. Having just beaten Corrimal in the Bert Bampton Cup the simmering tensions between the teams could resurface in this game.
It is a frenetic opening with Corrimal seeking to expose Olympic early on. Both teams press but neither side gain control as raw energy is expelled within the first few opening minutes. Olympic avoids its Achilles Heel. The defence though looking vulnerable is able to hold out, the all out, early Corrimal attack. Olympic look to score early but excellent goalkeeping by Arcaba keeps Olympic out.
Hayden Durose makes some brave interceptions and holds out the early Corrimal pressure.
Also there is brave goalkeeping at the other end as Ueda runs onto a through ball.
Corrimal matched it with Olympic through the first half.
The effort pays off for Corrimal who open the scoring.
In the second half the loudspeaker tells Olympic that Port have taken the lead over Bulli. Will this be an opportunity spurned? They are one down and need to win.
Tackles begin to fly in as Corrimal sniff an upset.
An early second half equalizer has Olympic tails up again as they chase the lead with Bulli still one down against Port.
Takeru Okada continues to cause Olympic problems but they are slowly getting control of the match.
Corrimal are still in it as Hayden Durose makes a fingertip save to keep the scores level
Then a goalkeeping blunder gifts Olympic a second as the ball floats over Daniel Arcaba’s head and drops into the right hand corner.
After a few hefty challenges from both sides Karouna Michael is show a second yellow and sees red.
The inevitable third goal. It’s status quo at the top of the table.
Wollongong Olympic 3 Corrimal 1
Sunday’s game will be the relegation scrap between Woonona and Picton. If Picton lose they are most likely relegated.
Woonona Sharks v Picton Rangers Round 19
Woonona have a long and glorious history since 1889. Today would be a matter of survival. A win is enough to ensure survival, a draw and they’ll still be looking over their shoulders but an unthinkable loss could place the club into the second tier. This is an important game for both clubs. Picton are one point adrift of South Coast United at the bottom of the table. South Coast have been on a recent run of form, taking seven points from their last four games. They meet the Blueys who are going through another bout of hot and cold form that has dogged them all season.
Woonona Sharks 0 Picton Rangers 0
South Coast United defeat the Blueys and Picton are all but down and out, three points adrift at the bottom, with three rounds to go. Still, there are nine points on offer and if they win all three they are almost guaranteed survival because South Coast United and Woonona meet in the last round.
Woonona Sharks are away to Corrimal Rangers still needing points to ensure survival on Sunday. Another dog fight in dusty conditions is likely at Memorial Park.
Picton Rangers need to win to avoid falling over the relegation precipice. Tarrawanna Blueys come to the game after losing to South Coast United and will be looking to lift their form.
Right from the beginning when things didn’t fall the way of the Rangers the pressure showed on the faces of the players.
And Tarrawanna Blueys are in no mood for losing another game to a team below them in the competition.
The Blueys lift a gear and Picton are left chasing shadows all over the field.
Blueys have their noses in front and determined defence quickly nullifies any Rangers threats.
The Blueys continue to dominate in the second half scoring twice.
South Coast United win against Wollongong United and are now safe from relegation. On Sunday, Woonona can do the same. Picton’s goal difference has blown to -48 and makes it impossible to survive the drop if the Sharks win.
Corrimal Rangers v Woonona Sharks
A tight, enthralling and nail-biting tussle.
Woonona Sharks put in a big effort to contain the mobile and speedy Corrimal Rangers midfield.
Early in the second half Rangers begin to dominate.
However, the Sharks are left looking over the shoulder hoping the highly improbable doesn’t happen and they survive for another season.
Corrimal Rangers 3 Woonona Sharks 3
Round 21 begins with the tragic news of the death of Port Kembla player Justin Cario. Woonona needs points or rely on Wollongong Olympic defeating Picton Rangers if they are to avoid regulation .
The match begins with a minute’s silence after the death of IPL player, Justin Cario.
Tarrawanna Blueys are immediately off the blocks and pressing Woonona into defensive mode.
Tarrawanna pressure is immediate leaving no time on the ball for Woonona.
Can Woonona Sharks rely on Wollongong Olympic defeating Picton Rangers? The head says “Yes” but butterflies remain in the stomach.
The Blueys strike early and take the lead.
If the score remains as is Woonona will have to wait it out and hope Olympic win in a game that is just kicking off.
Woonona keep up the struggle and put pressure on a determined and resilient Blueys defence.
Woonona go after the equalizer and cause the Blueys some defensive problems
A tight and competitive game ends with the early goal deciding the outcome.
Tarrawanna Blueys get the win in their final home game and Woonona Sharks avoid the drop.
Tarrawanna Blueys 1 Woonona Sharks 0
The Sunday game is Port Kembla v Wollongong United, a 4th v 5th game with little bearing, other than psychological, as both sides have qualified for the finals series. Port Kembla players were shocked at the death of their Number 8, Justin Cario (he is in the Featured Image of the 2017 Grand Final) which greatly disrupted preparation for the game. The game is to go ahead nevertheless.
Port Kembla FC honours the contribution made by young star Justin Cario.
After the opening whistle, Wollongong United dominate all aspects of the game.
It wasn’t long before this translated into an early goal.
Port persists and creates a few half-chances but United continues to dominate.
Port Kembla 0 Wollongong United 3
Next week all games occur at the same time as it is the last round. The League Champions will be determined. Bulli FC sit on 54 points with a goal difference 57. Wollongong Olympic are still in the race with 52 points and a goal difference 54. If Bulli FC lose or draw and Olympic win by more than 3 goals, they can snatch the championship from under Bulli. Bulli play Corrimal Rangers at home while Olympic are away to the Tarrawanna who have regained form late in the season. Anything is possible. Corrimal Rangers are not a team to be underestimated. Bulli should win and become League Champions. This game will be covered next week.
Bulli FC v Corrimal Rangers Round 22
The equation is simple for Bulli FC: a win guarantees they become League Champions. Corrimal Rangers have different thoughts, “There is nothing to lose and this is the last game of the season.” Corrimal immediately press looking for an early goal.
Bulli FC take the lead and after a shaky start their confidence grows.
Things are looking up for Bulli
Second half and Corrimal are in all out attack. Duels intensify across the park.
A draw is not enough for Bulli. They must lift if they are to win the title.
Marcus Beattie steps through the gears with the League Championship on the line.
Bulli FC 2 Corrimal Rangers 1
The Finals Series
The finals series begin this week. In the Elimination Final, Wollongong United take on Port Kembla. At their last meeting, United were able to outplay Port relatively easily. There were mitigating factors affecting Port’s performance. The disrupted preparation and the mental focus of the players after the sudden and tragic loss of their No.8 Justin Cario affected the team morale. If Port are to win, they will need to refocus and rekindle their excellent mid-season form. United have a formidable backline, plus Alvin Ceccoli is sitting of the bench. United will be difficult to break down and must be considered favourites to progress.
In the Qualifying Final, Wollongong Olympic take on Albion Park White Eagles. In the season proper, Olympic have had the wood over the White Eagles and are clear favourites to win this one.