Singleton Strikers take top spot after victory over Thornton Redbacks

LADDER LEADERS: Singleton Strikers' player Dylan Bentley has spoken about why the team has made such a jump up the table this year.
LADDER LEADERS: Singleton Strikers' player Dylan Bentley has spoken about why the team has made such a jump up the table this year.

THE Singleton Strikers have taken top-spot on the New FM Northern League One table after securing yet another win on the weekend.

Their form has been electric since the restart, winning six and drawing two, scoring 18 and conceding just 8 during that time.

Last weekend's match saw them defeat Thornton Redbacks 1-0 at Howe Park, which again showed their defensive strengths.

A bye to Belmont Swansea meant those three points sent them to top of the ladder with just four home-and-away games to come.

Utility player Dylan Bentley was ecstatic with the victory and stated there was now immense belief within the side they could continue their form for the rest of the campaign.

"At the start of the season our main focus was just making finals and building on what we've been working on for the last few years," he said.

"It's only been the last few weeks with results over New Lambton and the draw against Belswans when that belief started growing in the side that we could go all the way and be on top by the end of the season.

"Saturday night was crazy and I think that was the point where everyone believed that we can do something special this year."

Bentley said the team had spoken about their form since the restart and have acknowledged they came back a better and more determined side.

Competition for spots has been a major part of their development this year, according to the 22-year-old, who said some new players have made a huge difference.

"Two years ago we were in a very good spot for a lot of the season but discipline and injuries just started creeping up and the depth in the squad wasn't there," he stated.

"But this years we've brought in the likes of Joel Barner and Ben Henry and it's added that bit of depth and bit of strength to the side and we're fighting a lot more... because we haven't been the most physical side historically."

Match reports by Michael Akrill:

Two very hard fought wins over the last week has seen the Strikers First Grade side sit on top of the Northern NSW League One table with just four games left to complete the season. As one long time supporter noted, all the hard work of coach Brendan Slade and his players have resulted in the relatively easy job, staying there will be the difficult part.

Mid week catch up games against Kahibah saw reserve and 18s beaten before the top team took a two nil first half lead thanks to goals from Lachlan Nichol and Joel Barner, the second after an exciting run down the right by Brad Cox. The second half was a slog with both sides having chances but the only goal was scored by Kahibah with a long distance shot after the Singleton had failed to effectively clear their lines.

There was a sense of anticipation for the weekend games against lowly placed Thornton, who despite their lack of success are always a hard nut to crack. Before these games, on Friday night the Singleton ladies beat top of the table Garden Suburbs at Howe Park, admittedly the visitors were short of players. The Over 35s, on the road played out a goal-less draw. The senior games at Howe Park on Saturday started well with the 18s beating their visitors 3-0 thanks to goals from Isaac Small, Atticus Sinclair and Tristan Burzinski with Burzinski's game particularly praised by his team-mates.

Prior to the main game Jackson Skinner and Will Holz were congratulated on recently playing their hundredth grade game for the club. All but one of Skinner's games have been in first grade, the seventeenth player to hit the total.

The first grade encounter started as a scrappy affair with both sides initially lacking fluency, even so each side had chances which they failed to take. The closest was a Joel Barner free kick which hit the bar. The Strikers, with several forced changes, appeared to be trying too hard and were giving away too many free kicks. The second half saw more composure from the Strikers. It was the home side who were starting to get on top. Mid way through the second half they had three corners in a row and after two on the left one from the right was bundled home from the head of Lachlan Nichol to see the stalemate broken. While the home side had chances to add to their lead it was a tense last twenty minutes holding out a Thornton team keen to take a point. After five minutes of time added on, the final whistle brought three points and the competition lead to the Strikers.

There are still only six points between the top eight teams which will ensure a very competitive last four weeks of the league. This weekend sees Cessnock, the only team to beat the Strikers this year, visit Howe Park. The game will be played on Saturday with first grade kick off at 2.30.