FLAME STARTS THE SEASON WITH A SCORELESS DRAW
In version 2.0 of the 2020 NPL4 season Round 1 fixture, South Coast Flame drew blanks as they hosted UNSW FC. These two sides met earlier this season in what was the original Round 1 and the students got up 3-1 on that occasion. This game however did not reach any great heights as the defensive resilience from both teams dominated the fixture. Flame definitely had the better of the chances and UNSW Goalkeeper Conor Winn came to his team’s rescue on more than one occasion as the game ended scoreless.
It was a nervy start from both teams as they seemed content to just feel each other out for the opening 15 minutes.
The game kicked into life on 19 minutes. Louis Connell using his pace to pass a defender and get the ball to the goal line where his cut back pass found Sandy Lowcock. Lowcock’s first time effort from about 12 yards forced Winn into a super flying save to deny the opening goal.
Nima Beik was looking threatening for the visitors as he constantly looked to cut through the Flame defence. On 35 minutes, he did just that however his cross from an acute angle was well handled by Matt White who overall had an uneventful evening. Just before half time though Beik looked to sustain a nasty injury as he was forced from the field in what was a major blow for the students.
UNSW’s best chance of the game came on 43 minutes as Flame gave away a freekick in a dangerous position. Keeghan Burke’s effort from 20 yards out had White scrambling however the ball struck the inside of the post and across the goal line and away as Flame breathed a sigh of relief.
Both coaches would have reinforced the importance of three points in a reduced (10 game) season and encouraged more attacking football in the second half.
It was Flame who started the second half on the front foot with some sustained possession leading to a series of corners. On 55 minutes, the ball was headed back out to the centre of the field where Matt Mazevski was lurking. He took a neat touch to set himself before unleashing a bullet that forced Winn into a strong save to his left.
Just 3 minutes later, Lowcock used his strength to fend off a defender however his chip is smothered by Winn.
On 61 minutes, a Mazevski free kick from 25 meters out takes a slight deflection but Winn manages to get something on it to tip over the bar with yet another save. Just a minute later, Lowcock can’t get on the end of a Connell cross that skims across goal.
Flame were starting to get a little more desperate and on 72 minutes, a wonderful run by Connell saw him deliver a dangerous cross along the ground that went agonizingly past the outstretched leg of Hiroaki Ushijima on the far post leaving the home side supporters holding their hands on their heads.
Mazevski was starting to pull the strings and a neat pass to Justin Smith on 83 minutes saw the latter one on one with Winn but the big UNSW goalkeeper was once again able to smother Flame’s effort.
On 89 minutes, both Mazevski and Lopes got into a dispute that saw both players cautioned and for Mazevski, this was his second yellow and subsequently he was sent off leaving Flame with 10 men in the dying minutes.
It did not seem to hamper Flame as they pressed forward again and into stoppage time, Lowcock weaved his way through the UNSW defence and did incredibly well to stay on his feet through the contact. His left foot snap from about 10 yards just skimmed over the cross bar.
There was one last opportunity seconds later for UNSW as a wonderful cross from the left found Lopes unmarked on the penalty spot, but his header was directed straight at White.
In the end, both sides had to settle for a point a piece as they restart their 2020 season campaigns, respectively. It is hard to tell whether this was one point gained or two points lost for Flame, but one thing is certain; they will need to take their chances if they want to feature in the finals this year.
Flame Coach George Kulcsar was lamenting his sides squadered chances but was happy with the teams shape.
“I believe the players have now bought into the defensive principles I have tried to implement this season and the team managed to keep good shape in keeping a good side like UNSW scoreless. We created enough chances to win the game comfortably, but a good performance from their goalkeeper and a lack of composure at times resulted in a scoreless draw. The fact that UNSW beat us earlier this year shows the improvement in the squad”.
In the Under 20, Flame and UNSW fought out a 1-1 draw. Preston Ridley grabbing Flame’s goal.
Flame has the bye next week due to Newcastle’s promotion to NPL2 whilst UNSW host Hurstville FC.
Saturday 18 July 2020 @ Ian McLennan Park | Round 1
South Coast Flame – 0
UNSW – 0
SOUTH COAST FLAME: Matt WHITE (C), Louis CONNELL, Kasey KULCSAR, Sandy LOWCOCK, Daniel LUCAS, Matthew MAZEVSKI, Alex PAPPAS, Justin SMITH, Carlo STELLA, Hiroaki USHIJIMA, Wade WILTON.
Substitutes: Luke DEBROT, Joel DOWLING, Jonathan MUSHABA, Luke PAULL, Deakin SOUTHERN
UNSW FC: Conor WINN, Nima BEIK, Jakub BURIS, Keeghan BURKE, Raul CARRIZO, Joshua CHAHAL, Daniel COOPER, Noah HUNT, Kevin LOPES, Marcus NAOUM, Peter PRANDALOS.
Substitutes: David BOOTH, Des FORD, Ian HILLIER, Ilan KESSLER, Maison McGEECHAN, Christopher PHILLIPS.
Photo courtesy of Pedro Garcia