Story and photo courtesy of Northern NSW Football

Wallsend FC 1 defeated Lake Macquarie City FC 0 (Wallsend win 2-1 on aggregate)

Sunday, August 21

Macquarie Field

Wallsend player-coach Dave Hodgson scored the winner but said it was his side’s defence that put them into consecutive Grand Finals with a 1-0 victory and 2-1 aggregate triumph over Lake Macquarie on Sunday at Macquarie Field.

Hodgson, who had a penalty saved late in the first half, scored about five minutes into the second half for the Red Devils from a goalmouth scramble from a corner.

Minor premiers Lake Macquarie, who scored 80 goals in the regular season, then provided little threat to Wallsend, who finished with 10 men because of a second yellow card to Cameron Tapp for foul tackles in the 84th minute.

Wallsend defeated Lake Macquarie 7-4 in the semi-finals last year, including a 6-1 rout in the second leg, before beating Valentine in the Grand Final.

This year it was their work without the ball that won the day against the Roosters.

“It was a pretty even game and they certainly had the better of the first 20, 30 minutes,” Hodgson said.

“We fought our way back into it and then we came out second half and scored early. They pressured us and then we had a man sent off in the end, which put a bit more pressure on us.

“But I can’t think of any saves our keeper made. He may have had one or two in the whole game.

“Heath Kepreotes was great and Mitch Cook was really good at the back.

“They were two standouts for us. It was a really good defensive display from them, but it was pretty well the same right across the park.

“I thought we were solid. We weren’t great going forward. We probably had four or five good chances but not a lot. We just defended really well.”

The winning goal was a relief for Hodgson, who was denied by Shannon Szmynec from the spot just before half-time after Trent Milton was fouled on the edge of the 18-yard box.

Hodgson was disappointed for Tapp, who will now miss the grand final because of suspension, but said his side had a plan to outmuscle Lake Macquarie.

“I told the boys to be physical,” he said.

“While they have some good players, they are not a physical side.

“I told them, let’s go out and dominate them. We wanted to intimidate them, and we did.”

Lake Macquarie coach Anthony Richards offered no excuses for his side, saying they were simply not good enough and were unable to create clear-cut chances.

“It probably wasn’t the greatest exhibition of football you would see, but they took the chance they had and we didn’t take ours,” Richards said.

“My boys tried hard and I was really pleased with how they went. They continued to play at the end but it just wasn’t their day.

“They’ve got guys who’ve played a decent level of football and they are smart enough to wind the clock down and have people in the right places.

“Full credit to them, they made it difficult.”

Richards praised Szmynec, who had a nasty gash on his forehead stitched up at the hospital after the game. He was injured in a collision just before making the penalty save and Richards said he “showed a massive amount of courage”.

The coach said midfielder Joey Cacic, who travelled from work in the Northern Territory to play, was another standout for his side.