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Toukley 4 – 2 Wyong

Our match of the round this week took place between two Men’s Division One sides poised to make their charge for the upper positions on the ladder in Toukley and Wyong.

It was a lightning-quick encounter on a slippery Harry Moore Oval, and it saw the home side in yellow emerge victorious, largely thanks to a scintillating first-half display.

From the onset, both teams ran at a frantic pace, each trying to assert their dominance in possession.

However, only one team could wrest control of the match, and this time, it was Toukley, who, after some end-to-end running, settled the game down emphatically with a goal. 

It came when a fast drive down the Toukley right resulted in a troubling cross for the Wyong defence. 

Nobody was able to deal with it, and it fell to 16-year-old debutant Owen Church, who thrashed the ball into the crossbar, only for it to fall to Dean Pepper, who attempted the same, and this time sent the ball flying into the net to make it 1-0. 

Toukley mostly dominated the entire half from here, leaving Wyong to go long stretches without ever managing to venture past halfway. 

The Gunners’ press was simply relentless. Every loose ball went their way, and as a result, their chances began to pile up.

One thing above all else was Toukley’s biggest asset and it was the spectacular performance from the goal scorer, Pepper, in the midfield. It was he who created their next two opportunities to score in quick succession. 

The first came when Pepper, in space in midfield after another quick failure to transition from Wyong, calmly slid a dangerous through ball to the path of striker Zachary Hewitt, who so nearly got a touch on the ball, but just in time Blake Carker in the gloves for Wyong rushed to make a great stop. 

The next chance came only moments later and at first looked to be a goal when Pepper, in a similar circumstance, this time got it to Church, who smartly dribbled to his left to get an angle around the keeper before slotting it home. However, the goal was called back on a tight offside call, keeping the score 1-0.

But it wouldn’t stay that way for long, and when a goal did come, it came completely against the run of play.

After about ten minutes of constant Toukley pressure, Wyong finally found space on their right edge and instantly made the Gunners pay.

Wyong’s Samuel Zappala finally took some meaningful possession across halfway for his side. He followed it up with one of the best passes of the match when he perfectly played it across the field from the right along the ground straight to Lachlan Bellenger in front of goal.

Bellenger got the ball with his defender, Sebastian Ceolin, scrambling, so he took it around him and did the same around Robert Ryan between the Toukley posts before placing it into the goal to make it 1-1 out of nothing. 

From here, most games would change complexion, and many sides would be rattled at conceding after being so dominant, but Toukley did no such thing.

It was almost as if Wyong had never scored. That’s how attacking Toukley continued to play, like a side that wasn’t leaving themselves vulnerable to counter-attacks. 

With this confidence came even more chances, so it wasn’t long until the home side resumed their ascendancy on the scoreboard, and it came once again from the undoubted man of the match in Pepper.

With their aggressive press ever present, another loose ball wound up in the middle of the Wyong defensive half. With no one near it, a mad dash from both sides began towards the ball. 

Pepper was just first to it, and he got there with a shot, a shot well outside the box that looped over Craker’s head to dip under the bar, making it 2-1.

And in what only felt like seconds later, the lead was doubled, this time produced from the right side of midfield through Philip Watson, who played in a lovely ball to Hewitt who, like a true striker, only had eyes for goal, charging towards the goal before driving the ball home hard and low to make it 3-1.

It was here that it became apparent that no one on the Wyong side felt comfortable staying forward. They simply couldn’t afford to be outnumbered at the back, so dangerous were the Toukley forwards. 

As such, Wyong severely struggled to progress the ball, and this was never more evident than when Pepper completed his hat-trick just before halftime. 

Trying to play out from the back, Craker took the ball to the edge of his box and laid it off to his defence, where it was instantly lost.

Now in no man’s land, Craker began to rush back towards the goal but could only watch as the ever-aware Pepper pounced on the ball and swiftly shot it towards the empty net to complete his first-half hat-trick, sending his team into halftime leading 4-1.

Wyong desperately needed a change of mindset in the second half after allowing Toukley to force them so far into their shells in the opening period; when the second half commenced, that change came. 

The Emu’s looked entirely different when the match resumed, primarily because they were distributing the ball faster and more precisely to avoid the Toukley press. 

It wasn’t long before chances came their way, and it was often thanks to substitute Elija Steiner, whose raw pace granted Wyong an avenue to counter the Toukley aggression. 

Around 55 minutes in, they had a great chance to pinch one back when Steiner beat a man down the left. Ultimately, the entire frontline got involved when Zappala got it on the right and put in a cross to Erik Vermeulen in the box, who just couldn’t control it before Ryan could save.

More good chances like this would come, and Toukley struggled to keep up with their opponents’ pressure, but still, their defence held firm, and their centre-back pairing of Ceolin and Thomas Carlson performed assertively overall, mostly keeping Wyong at bay in the final third.

So good were their defensive efforts that when Wyong finally pegged one back it was courtesy of a penalty.

Jackson Stone in the Wyong midfield played a slick ball forward into the path of Bellenger in the box, who attempted to take it right around Ryan. Instinctively, the keeper dove with outstretched arms and missed the ball but got the man, leaving the ref no choice but to point to the spot.

Stone stepped up and made easy work of the spot kick as he nailed it into the bottom left corner to make it 4-2.

Unfortunately for Wyong, despite their drastically improved efforts in the second half, the game never got any closer, and Toukley confidently secured their way to third place on the Men’s Division One ladder, ending 4-2 victors.

Speaking to both coaches, each saw that the game was won and lost in the first half thanks to the brilliant Toukley performance.

Toukley coach Peter Ward noted how good it was to get a win in a season with so many washed-out weekends.

“Really happy with the result, it’s been week on week off, so we’re just trying to build up some momentum, so really happy, especially with the first half” Ward said.

Wyong Coach Brenton Westley reflected that his side just left it too late to make their comeback.

“On a soft boggy pitch we found it hard to kick out of first gear” Westly said.

“Second half was much improved but it was too little too late”.

Men’s Division 1 Results –

Women’s Division 1 Results –