Northgate beat Central North to head North in the table
Northgate 12 – 0 Central North SA
Upon waking on Saturday morning, excitement turned to nervousness as players looked outside their windows to see the torrential rain and wondered whether or not they would be playing football. A pitch inspection and long wait for confirmation eventually gave the green light and Northgate were about to embark on their first ever league match, playing in Division 3 of the SMCCFL against Central North SA.
The away team struggled in the league last season, but this was a fact Clark wasn’t going to allow to cloud the minds of his men as at the start of a new campaign there was every chance they would have added to their squad and look completely different. Northgate themselves were fielding three debutants, making it 24 players used in their opening four matches including friendlies. Matt Hilsden delayed a trip to Cardiff to make himself available late on which allowed, with the addition of Wade Crank at left back, a regular back four alongside Clark and Scott ahead of Davenport in goal. Josh Slade and Lawrie Campbell made their first appearances in midfield alongside Captain Morgan, with Thomas and Sharrock taking the wings and Owen playing as a lone striker.
The rain subsided for the start of the game, and immediately Northgate came out of the blocks strongly with Morgan and Slade winning aerial balls and forcing the Central North defence into some last ditch stuff early on. After 10 minutes the home forwards were beginning to feel frustrated with several chances going begging, but it was the captain who eventually got the breakthrough when a Clark throw was headed back to him allowing him to cross straight onto the head of Morgan.
Just like the weather, the floodgates then seemed to open. Campbell found himself with space on the right and delivered a dangerous ball which allowed Owen to tap in after some confusion from the defence. Slade capitalised on a poorly cleared ball and smashed home into the roof of the net from the edge of the box to make it 3. Sharrock was the next beneficiary from a defensive mix up as the ball fell to him after a scramble in the box which he gratefully dispatched. Owen was the manufacturer of his second goal as he twisted and turned past the Central North full back until he handballed from the floor. Despite having to retake a scored penalty due the goalkeeper coming off his line, Owen kept his cool and slotted the ball into exactly the same place to make it 5-0. Northgate weren’t done there though and Crank found himself with the ball and plenty of space, and he threaded a perfect long through ball across the pitch to Campbell who just beat the keeper to it, allowing him to then pass into an empty goal.
Half-time came at 6-0 and Northgate were understandably in high spirits even in the continuing heavy rain. A club record attendance of eight cheered the team on as Clark’s message was to keep up the pressure and send a message out to the league. A triple substitution was then in stow, with Morgan leaving for a wedding to be replaced by Heathcote, and Thomas and Scott making way for Raven and Bullen on the right hand side.
Central North came out from the break with a point to prove and seemed to get more control of the ball and venture into the Northgate half more often, but Davenport was left untested. The game soon turned into a familiar feel though as a Sharrock cross from the left found its way through a crowded box to the waiting Heathcote who tapped in from close range. Desperate to claim Northgate’s first hat-trick, Owen was working hard to create space for himself and saw several shots fire frustratingly wide or off the woodwork until he then latched onto a loose ball from the midfield, turned his marker and then calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner to great celebration. Heathcote then doubled his goal tally in a similar fashion to his first, this time finding himself the beneficiary of another Clark long throw into the box that somehow evaded the defenders and fell to the man in orange at the back post. A second hat-trick of the day soon followed as Heathcote the half-time substitute seemed to have mastered the ‘right-place, right-time’ way of playing, finding himself with the ball dropping at his feet from another goalmouth scramble to finish the milestone 10th goal of the game.
With the game into double figures, and having withstood a nervy moment between Hilsden and Davenport which almost resulted in embarrassment and a ruined clean sheet, it became the defenders’ turn to get in on the action. Whilst running back to position after a throw-in, Bullen picked up the ball at the back and wrong-footed a midfielder to find Clark in space in a midfield position. Having turned and looked at the options out wide he then realised he had space and time himself. One touch out of his feet, he then struck the ball from 25 yards and it flew straight into the roof of net leaving the goalkeeper floundering and Clark wheeling away to celebrate with his right arm raised á la Alan (Shearer). His 2nd SMCCFL goal in as many years, both against Central North and both from 25 yards.
Hilsden wanted to even things out between the central defenders and after putting a free header straight at the keeper from a corner he thought his chance was done, but Campbell still had another great delivery left and Hilsden met it with a strong downward header at the back post to complete the rout at 12-0.
Ultimately this was a thorough, motivated, ruthless performance from Northgate which resulted in their first ever win and sent them to the top of the league on day one with many club records set. After the game Clark was full of praise for the continued pressure in the 2nd half and the way that his men had looked after the ball and looked to pass the ball properly throughout the team. He will, however, be keen to stress that the season will offer much sterner tests and Northgate need to take what they have learnt here into the rest of the campaign. With no game next week there is a chance for rest and recovery for some players before their first ever away game: the long journey to Kay Street United, the former club of Clark and Elkington.
Words by Jonny Clark.
1. Ben Davenport (GK)
2. Steve Scott (RB)
3. Wade Crank (LB)
4. Matt Hilsden (CB)
5. Jonny Clark (CB)
6. Josh Slade (CDM)
7. Theo Thomas (RM)
8. Russ Morgan (CM)
9. Alex Owen (ST)
10. Lawrie Campbell (CM)
11. James Sharrock (LM)
Man of the Match: Alex Owen