Two ‘golden eggs’ from Englishman Thomas James were enough for competition front-runners Wollongong Wolves to overcome Hakoah Sydney City East 2-0 at Hensley Athletic Field on Easter Sunday.
The hosts were denied any opportunities to take a stranglehold of the contest by an energetic Wolves side, whose rapid counter-attacking game proved to be successful yet again.
The sides were ultimately split by two moments of brilliance from emerging Golden Boot favourite Thomas James, who found the back of the net on either side of half time with a precise flicked header on 22 minutes and a 55th minute low drive which nestled in the bottom corner.
The two goals propelled James to ten goals for the NPL NSW Men’s season.
Hakoah experienced brief periods of dominance, particularly late in the second half, however were often let down by their final pass on a frustrating day for the hosts.
Overall it was a professional showing from the ladder leaders, who continue to go from strength to strength under new boss Luke Wilkshire.
The first clear sight on goal arrived 5 minutes in, as former Western Sydney Wanderer Lachlan Scott weaved his way through the Hakoah penalty area, but saw his near-post effort parried away by Ryan Norval.
And while the Hakoah custodian appeared unfazed by Wolves’ early pressure, making a few key interventions, he was to be beaten 15 minutes later.
James came within inches of opening the scoring, as his deflected effort rattled the crossbar 21 minutes in.
However he did not have to wait long to achieve exactly that, as the ball was whipped in from the left by Takeru Okada moments later. The Englishman rose highest to flick on his winger’s delivery, and watched the ball settle in the top right corner, granting the visitors a deserved lead.
Gavin Rae’s men then attempted to establish a foothold in the contest, and they saw the returning Amaury Gauthier come close with a nodded effort on 25 minutes.
However, as many defenses have experienced this campaign, Wollongong’s lightning pace on the break was proving too hot to handle.
James should have doubled his tally just moment’s after Gauthier’s chance, but his one-on-one was denied brilliantly by the extended leg of Norval.
His strike partner Scott then came close on 34 and 36 minutes, however despite some promising build up he failed to hit the target on both occasions.
The Wolves then started the second stanza as they had completed the first, and soon forged a second opening.
Ten minutes following the resumption of play, a quick free kick saw James fed the ball in space just over the half way line.
The marksman drove with one thing on his mind, and Hakoah were left to stop and stare as he worked his way to the edge of the area and powerfully found the bottom corner with ease.
With their lead doubled, the Wilkshire’s men continued to push the initiative, yet somehow failed to extend their advantage.
Following the 70th minute, four golden opportunities arrived in quick succession.
Guy Knight saw two headers kept out by a goal-line clearance and a strong Norval palm, whilst close range strikes from substitutes Darcy Madden and Stefan Dimoski also narrowly evaded the target.
Hakoah forged their best opportunities as they toiled for a late fightback, with Oliver Green squandering the pick of the bunch.
Just outside the final ten minutes, the midfielder saw his header cleared off the line before the ball fortuitously rebounded to his feet six yards out. But with the goal at his mercy, Green only could loft his effort over the bar – summing up what was overall a night to forget for Hakoah.
Hakoah striker Amaury Gauthier was understandably disappointed post-match:
“It was a tough night,” he said.
“They (Wollongong) played some awesome football, they pressed very well.
“They were obviously the better team tonight and we came off second best.”
Luke Wilkshire praised another positive showing from his side:
“I thought it was a good away performance,” he reflected.
“It (Hensley Athletic Field) is a tough place to come on the synthetic surface.
“I thought the boys thoroughly deserved the win.”
The former Socceroo added his plaudits to a red-hot Thomas James:
“That’s what we brought him (James) into the club for, and that’s the quality we know he possesses,” he said.
“I expect that from him week in week out.
“He’s a fantastic player and I think he has his head in a really good place.
“He’s working hard and deserves what he is getting.”
James and his teammates will look to build on their rich vein of form as Wollongong face Sutherland Sharks at Seymour Shaw next Saturday, while Hakoah make the trip up North to face Manly United at Cromer Park on Sunday afternoon in Round 8 National Premier League’s NSW Men’s action.
Hakoah Sydney City East 0
Wollongong Wolves FC 2 (Thomas James 22’, 55’)
Sunday, April 21 2019
Hensley Athletic Field, Eastgardens
Referee: Craig Fisher
Assistant Referees: Scott Edeling & Maggie Price
Fourth Official: Hugh Fenton-White
Hakoah Sydney City East: 1. Ryan Norval, 2. Connor Shaddock, 4. Bradley Walker, 7. Addison Sayan (16. Hristijan Tanoski 67’), 8. Oliver Green, 9. Shohei Okuna, 11. Jack Green, 13. Robert Ezekiel, 17. Harry Jones, 24. Amauri Gathier, 60. Takayuki Noji
Substitutes Not Used: 28. Hassan Soufi, 41. Thomas Rozman, 3. James Combes, 10. Nathan Roberts
Yellow Cards: Harry Jones 38’
Red Cards: Nil
Wollongong Wolves: 1. Justin Pasfield, 2. Taylor McDonald, 4. Nikola Djordjevic, 7. Christopher Price, 9. Thomas James, 11. Takeru Okada (6. Benjamin Tosi 84’), 14. Harry Callahan (13. Stefan Dimoski 66’), 15. Nick Littler, 16. Guy Knight, 17. James Stojcevski, 24. Lachlan Scott (3. Darcy Madden 45’)
Substitutes Not Used: 12. Luke Kairies, 23. Jordan Nikolovski
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Thomas James (WW)
2 – Guy Knight (WW)
1 – Bradley Walker (HAK)
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Reporter Chris Curulli (Twitter handle @ChrisCurulli)