Joondalup and Cockburn fight out a thriller in NPL opener

Joondalup and Cockburn fight out a thriller in NPL opener

Posted on March 9, 2014 in 'Reports'

The National Premier League started with a bang on Saturday afternoon, with ECU Joondalup drawing 3-3 with Cockburn City in an entertaining game at the Edith Cowen University Campus.

It was an historic day for Western Australian football and the first ever goal in the new NPLWA came from Cockburn City midfielder David Araya, his stunning long-range shot after only seven minutes, was worthy of it.

An own goal from Conor Kavanagh levelled for ECU before Devon Gibson and Tommy Amphlett made the score 2-2 at the break. Amphlett looked like he had given the home side the points with 11 minutes to go, but a late striker from Kavanagh, in the right goal this time, saw Cockburn leave with a point.

ECU midfielder Amphlett was outstanding, and despite missing a number of good opportunities he was happy with the sides’ performance. “We had a number of chances we wasted today, I missed a few, but its early days in the season and I thought we played well in the second half,” said Amphlett.

“I thought on the whole we deserved the three points, but we can take a lot of positives from the game and move forward to next week’s game against Perth Glory.”

In other games on the day ECU under18’s ran out 5-1 winners against Cockburn, with Harry Gent and Luca Jukovic scoring doubles, while Jamie Murphy added the fifth. The ECU Reserves were beaten 3-2 by Cockburn City, with Mitchell McClymans and Henry Durr on target.

ECU Joondalup Coach Dale McCulloch was happy the way his side responded in the second half. “Disappointed not to take all three points, I thought we created enough chances to win three games today,” he said.

“But you have to remember it’s the first game of the season and I’m not going to be down on the boys, they responded well to what we spoke about at half time and performed well in the second half.”

The visitors were out of the blocks quickly and into the lead early. Gibson found Araya 20-yards out, and his bullet like shot flew past Joondalup keeper Andy Banks.

That lead was wiped out on 20 minutes, Amphlett in-swinging corner flicked off the head of Kavanagh, to send the ball past the stranded Cockburn keeper Dejan Aleksic.

Cockburn began to take control of the game and Blake Adams’ shot on the turn whistled over the top, and on 35 minutes they regained their lead. Euen Grant’s free kick was deflected into the path of Gibson, who finished with aplomb past Banks from 12-yards.

But with half time looming the home side levelled. Amphlett picked the ball up in the middle of the park, and his run took him past three Cockburn defenders, before firing low past Aleksic at his near post.

Joondalup could have taken the lead in to the sheds, but Dave Caine’s goal bound shot was superbly blocked by Cockburn skipper Paul Natale with a last ditch tackle.

Whatever ECU coach Dale McCulloch said at half time, worked as his chargers began to take control of the game.  David Foster’s shot crashed off the post only three minutes in, before Aleksic denied Amphlett five minutes later.

Both keepers kept their sides in the game with good saves. Banks came to the home sides rescue on the hour, tipping Araya’s long-range shot onto the crossbar, before Aleksic denied Jake Benson-Cooper six minutes later.

But it was the home side that hit the front on 79 minutes. A neat through ball by Lee Jones sent Amphlett in on goal and he finished low past Aleksic, and it looked like the points were safe.

But Cockburn had other ideas, and four minutes from time they levelled. Julian Telles found Kavanagh, who fired low past Banks from the edge of the penalty area.

Both sides had late chances to take all three points, Banks saved well from Kavanagh, before Aleksic denied Charlie Comyn-Platt.

Cockburn Coach Marc Anthony was happy with the point, but knows they can improve. “The most pleasing thing in the second half from the lads was the character they showed, to fight back from 3-2 down,” he said.

“I thought we were the better side in the first half, but it was a different story in the second and they missed a few chances, but I’m delighted to have got a point, especially after seeing the other results today.”

ECU Joondalup – GK Andy BANKS, 2 Ryan LOWRY, 3 Jon HIGGINS, 4 Charlie COMYN-PLATT, 5 Ryan TOWNSEND (12 Dejan SPASESKI 87’), 7 David CAINE (6 Jon STYNES 46’), 8 Joe SMITH, 9 David FOSTER (11 LEE JONES 51’), 10 Andy HIGGINS, 13 Tommy AMPHLETT, 14 Jake BENSON-COOPER – Subs not used – 16 Genaveo HUMAN

Yellow Cards – Smith 42’

Cockburn City – GK Dejan ALEKSIC, 3 Shazalee RAMLEE (15 Byran HUSON 82’), 4 Euen GRANT, 5 Alan CARROL, 8 David ARAYA (7 Ryan HASLETT 79’), 9 Eamon MCNELIS, 10 Papa KPATAR (16 Julian TELLES 70’), 11 Devon GIBSON, 14 Conor KAVANAGH, 17 Paul NATALE, 18 Blake ADAMS – Subs not used – RGK Struan HERD

Yellow Cards – Nil

Referee – Trent Fleskens