THE Weston Bears have all but guaranteed themselves a spot in the Northern NSW NPL finals for the first time since losing the 2014 grand final with a 1-0 win on Sunday against their 2014 opponent Lambton Jaffas.
The Bears are second on the table with 32 points, three points behind Edgeworth who strengthened their hold on a fifth minor premiership in a row with a 3-1 victory over Maitland on Saturday.
At Weston on Sunday, the Bears left it until the 86th minute to seal their win with skipper Nathan Morris calmly slotting the goal home from the penalty spot.
Jackson Burston earned the penalty after he was brought down inside the box by one of two chasing defenders after a darting run from inside the Bears’ own third.
The Magpies can still claim the minor premiership but sitting eight points behind the Eagles must win at their remaining six games.
Edgeworth opened the scoring in the 25th minute through a strike from a deflection by an unmarked Adam Cawley. The Eagles their 1-0 lead into half-time.
The Magpies scored the equaliser in the 59th minute when James Thompson struck home from inside the box from a deflected corner. It was Thompson’s third goal in an many games.
However, Edgeworth struck back soon after through Ollie Morris in the 66th minute and sealed the win in the 82nd minute when Oliver Smith calmly shot across the goal in front of the Maitland defence to find the opposite corner after being played in by an excellent ball by Daniel McBreen.
The top four seems almost sealed in stone after the weekend’s rounds with only Lambton (24) and Charlestown City Blues (25) capable of breaking into the play-offs positions.
Both Lambton and Charlestown have five games to play, but have far tougher runs home than the Magpies who sit fourth with 27 points and more games to play.
Broadmeadow Magic have five games left to play including a catch-up game against Hamilton on August 11. However, their chances of claiming the minor premiership and those of the Bears are likely to be decided in their showdown next Sunday at the Weston’s Rockwell Automation Park.
The Magpies busy run home is punctuated by their FFA Cup round of 32 game against Central Coast on July 31 at Maitland Sportsground, however they have no other encounters against top four NPL teams.
Things are tougher for the Bears who have Edgeworth away in round 21 (August 18) as well as Magic.
They also play Charlestown (home, August 8) and Lake Macquarie also at home in the final round (August 25).
MAITLAND MERCURY – Michael Hartshorn (Monday July 22, 2019)