LAST Sunday’s 2-2 draw with a 10-man Adamstown was the first time Lake Macquarie coach Nick Webb has questioned the effort of his players.
Results have not always gone the way of the ninth-placed Roosters, who have 13 points from 14 games heading into round 16 against bottom side Valentine (8 points) on Sunday at CB Complex. But the effort had always been there.
Up 1-0 just after Rosebud went down a man early in the second half, Lake Macquarie trailed 2-1 before scrambling to score and hold out Adamstown.
“I was disappointed with the effort and that's the first time this year I could say that,” Webb said. “We were lucky to get a point.
“I questioned their effort. We were second all the time to balls and they dominated us with 10 men. It was unbelievable.”
Captain Sam Walker, who converted a penalty against Adamstown to go second on the Northern NSW NPL scoring list with 11 goals, said it was “definitely our worst game of the year, not just skill wise but the attitude and effort”.
While Lakes seek redemption on Sunday, Phoenix will have plenty of motivation of their own.
Valentine were lucky to escape with a 0-0 draw against Maitland last Sunday and coach Darren Sills said they were keen to make up for their 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Lake Macquarie in the first round.
“That’s our motivation, we spoke about it last night,” Sills said. “It was our worst game of the season and worst last season as well. We just can’t play there, for whatever reason, and we’ve turned up there and been non-existent. Hopefully with half-decent support on the weekend we can turn that around.”
Valentine are five points behind Weston and Lake Macquarie but they have two games in hand on both. And while there is no relegation this season, Sills said Valentine's goal was still to avoid the wooden spoon.
However, Sills, who took Valentine to fifth last season, was determined to stick to his coaching philosophies to get that result.
“I got a text from a Maitland player Monday morning congratulating us on at least trying to play football,” he said. “He said too many in this competition don’t try to play, and at least we did.
“I’ve always tried to coach that, and as long as I’m there, we’ll try to do that and blood some young blokes.”
Valentine will be without recent recruit Nathan Hundley (foot fractures), while Zac Sneddon (head knock) and goalkeeper Scott Carter (knee) were injury concerns.
Lake Macquarie, who are nine points off the top four, are full strength and not giving up on a late push up the ladder.
“Our motivation is probably to finish as high as possible, rather than not getting the wooden spoon,” Walker said. “With that congested middle table, if you can get a few wins on the trot, you can finish anywhere really.”
Also Sunday, Charlestown host Broadmeadow at Lisle Carr Oval and Lambton Jaffas are away to Adamstown.
On Saturday, Weston welcome Edgeworth and Hamilton take on the Jets Youth.
Walker, meanwhile, is one goal behind scoring leader James Virgili, who is in China with the Newcastle Jets this weekend and will miss Broadmeadow’s clash with Charlestown.
Walker is a regular challenger for the league award but is yet to take home the honour.
“I’m probably missing a little bit of consistency, but it’s always good scoring some goals,” he said.
“Definitely getting three points would be much more valuable, a few more wins would be better, but we’ve got a really good attacking third. We’ve been getting lots of goals and there’s been lots of chances. It’s just about getting games where we can put them all away.”
Walker was among a handful from last season’s squad to stay at the Roosters after the departure of coach Anthony Richards.
Lake Macquarie finished a creditable seventh last season in their return to the NPL.
“I’m definitely enjoying it,” Walker said of 2018.
“It’s been a very different year. Last year we had to solidify and just be competitive, getting back into the NPL, and try and get that squad on and off the field.
“This year we’ve been very new, very young and Webby has done a good job bringing in a lot of people who wouldn’t have got first-grade opportunities at many other clubs.
“Everyone is just hungry to play and get a spot in first grade.”
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