Bottom place Cumberland United are going out fighting, beating finals contenders Campbelltown City 2-1 in Round 20 of the PlayStation 4 National Premier League at Steve Woodcock Sports Centre on Saturday
A red card for Campbelltown late in the game opened the door for Cumberland’s Jace Cummins to score the decider in the closing minutes of the match.
With positions six through nine so hotly contested on the PS4 NPL ladder, Campbelltown City needed a win to give them a realistic shot of finishing in the top half come the season’s end, while Cumberland are bottom place and are guaranteed relegation.
The first 10 minutes of Saturdays match, however, seemed more like two teams playing for a grand final spot.
The physicality and attack started from the get go for both sides, Cumberland going all out and not looking at all like a side to be relegated.
It took only a couple of minutes for the first chance to show itself for Campbelltown, Jake Halliday supplying Adam Piscioneri with a beautiful ball down the left side, his pass in to the middle just couldn’t find a teammate, and went out for a goal kick.
Two minutes later it was Cumberland’s turn, capitalising on a Campbelltown mistake in defense, Evan Kounavelis going down the right side and crossing in to Karl Phelps, but the headed shot was just wide.
A 12th minute Cumberland free kick from just outside the box was the next best opportunity for goal, Pierce Stephens’ shot beating the wall and the keeper, but hitting the crossbar, with no teammates near the rebound.
Campbelltown City responded in a more impressive fashion in the 14th minute, a ball to Luigi Ditroia, who held up the defender while his teammates got in position, a quick pass to Piscioneri who made no mistake and slotted it past the keeper, putting Campbelltown City up 1-0.
Cumberland’s resolve in the face of a goal deficit and a vocal home crowd was admirable, especially with Campbelltown’s dominance in most of the first half.
The 42nd minute saw Cumberland’s persistence pay off, another counter attack saw the ball crossed in to Phelps, who went down to a Campbelltown tackle, the cries from Cumberland players and fans for a penalty was met with a loud and stern “no!” from the referee, but just seconds later Campbelltown captain Iain Fyfe made a sliding tackle, bringing down a Cumberland player and this time there was no doubt about the penalty.
Kounavelis took an easy penalty to even the match at 1-1, and tensions instantly shot up between the teams, following a baffling sequence where Kounavelis made a “shh” gesture to the audibly disapproving crowd, and Campbelltown’s goal keeper kicking the ball back to the middle, but managing, accidentally, to hit the goal scorer as he ran by.
No cards were given, but both sides were visibly roused, and the intensity continued to go up in the final few minutes of the first half.
The whistle for the start of the second half apparently was also the whistle for the rain, bucketing down now.
Both teams took quite a bit of time to get used to the pitch and ball with the new found moisture, and it took about 10 minutes before the first real chance showed itself.
Cumberland’s Jonathan Moore worked his way past two Campbelltown defenders, his pass to Kounavelis was perfect but the shot by the goal scorer was right into the arms of Campbelltown’s goalkeeper.
Campbelltown had to wait just under 20 minutes for their best chance in the second half, a 62nd minute counter attack saw Marc Marino break past the entire Cumberland defense, cutting inside as he neared the box, but his shot was deflected off the keeper.
The intensity from the end of the first half continued, with almost the entire first 20 minutes of the second half being counter attack after counter attack.
Phelps’ cracking shot in the 75th minute sailed just wide of the Campbelltown goals.
The tension of the match seemed to burst in the 78th minute, a Campbelltown free kick was being set up just outside the box, when the referee halted play for some substitutions to take place.
A mass of players were around the ball for both sides, and what appeared to be an arm swinging saw the referee bring out a red card for Campbelltown’s Piscioneri.
The man disadvantage proved to be too much, Cumberland counter attacking down the right, a cross into the top of the box saw a shot, but a defender blocked it, the keeper diving at the same time, leaving Cummins alone to compose himself and slot the ball into an empty net to take the 2-1 lead with just minutes left to play.
There was no miracle comeback for Campbelltown this week, and Cumberland claimed their third win for the season.
The Week Ahead
Campbelltown City face Adelaide Olympic at The Parks Football Centre on Saturday night in a must win match for both sides finals contention, while Cumberland face Para Hills Knights at A.A. Bailey Reserve.
Written by Marc Onofrio.
Article feature image: Renee Vassallo.