South Coast Flame travelled to Penrith to take on Nepean on Saturday night at the changed venue of Jamison Park. The fixture featured two of the form sides in the competition however a pair of converted penalties saw the match end all square.
The first real chance of the game fell to Flame after just four minutes, delightful ball out wide found Jack Balmforth in stride and he drove forward into the box before flashing his shot inches on the wrong side of the far post.
Nepean’s first opportunity arose on eight minutes as Jack Hoban intercepted an errant back pass. He perhaps waited a little too long to square the ball to the Christopher Bascur who was waiting in the goal area unopposed. When the ball finally arrived, Luke Morgan was able to pressure Bascur and smother his effort for a corner.
Midway through the first half, Nepean put together a neat combination in the midfield which culminated in Aaron Avery having a dig from 25 yards which saw the ball whistle just wide.
Moments later, Matthew Mazevski rose above the pack and got a clean header away from a Balmforth corner however it bounced narrowly wide.
On 33 minutes, Aden Wade switched the ball to Balmforth who lobbed the ball into the penalty area however two Nepean defenders appeared to get in each other’s way leading to a handball infringement on Edward Stewart. From the resulting spot kick, Mazevski made no mistake sending Jade Jonsson the wrong way and giving Flame the lead.
Just a few minutes before halftime, a Mazevski long ball found Balmforth lurking on the far side. He took a touch before delivering a dangerous ball into the box however Lucas Ayala just couldn’t get enough purchase on his shot from six yards out otherwise Flame would have surely doubled their lead.
Just after half time, Nepean looked to be dominating possession as the rain started falling however on 52 minutes, a poor touch from Nepean custodian Jonsson saw Balmforth steal the ball however his touch took the ball wide. Balmforth did incredibly well to cut the ball back to Fabian Iacovelli who swiped at the ball with his left foot wide of an open target.
Just a minute later, Jonsson was again guilty of gifting possession back to Flame with Ayala intercepting a pass from 25 metres out however Mitchell King scrambled back to flick the ball over with his head over the bar to save his side’s blushes.
Flame were left the rue the last few opportunities as they perhaps should have skipped further ahead.
On 59 minutes, Andre Cavallaro went on a run and whipped the ball into the box. Dylan Nikolovski crouched down to control the ball with his thigh however the referee deemed the ball struck his hand and the home side looked to be given a fortunate penalty. Mitchell King stepped up and calmly put it past Morgan to square the scores.
Flame responded well with a couple of half chances in the minutes after conceding.
On 65 minutes, Cavallaro did well to win the ball back for Nepean and he sent a dangerous ball across goal for Majid Eslami who was quickly smothered by Morgan to snuff out a promising chance for the home side.
With the conditions significantly deteriorating, the football become a little messy.
On 83 minutes though, Matthew Crossley did well to get through two Flame tackles before trying to curl his effort into the far post however Morgan did well to save. He only managed to parry and Eslami was on hand to tap it into an empty net however he was clearly in an offside position at the time and the goal was ruled out.
Just a few minutes from time, it was Crossley again who found himself with time on the edge of the box after a failed clearance fell to him. His skidding shot almost crept under Morgan as he flung himself to the right however he was able to recover in time to prevent the ball from crossing the line.
Right on the stroke of full time, Balmforth made a great run with the ball through the middle of the park piercing the Nepean midfield before laying off to substitute Antonio Sansone whose shot when straight to Jonsson.
That was effectively the last real chance as both sides settled for a point a piece.
Flame coach Darren Jones was pretty pleased with the effort from the team.
It was a really solid performance away from home against a quality side in at times tough conditions. The boys are learning to grind out results which is pleasing to see. Everyone is working hard and we are improving with every week.