The Maitland Magpies survived a late Weston Bears surge to advance to the next round of the FFA Cup with a 3-2 win.
The game dubbed “El Classicoal” in reference to the El Classico fixtures between Real Madrid and Barcelona, went into overdrive with two late Bears goals after Maitland led 3-0 at half-time.
Magpies coach Phil Dando said his team always expected the Bears to continue to fight even when they led 3-0 at half-time through goals to Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, Jye Mackellar and Ben Martin.
“It’s a chance to advance in the FFA Cup and a local derby, the Bears were always going to push hard,” he said.
“I thought we always had control of the game, even with the two late goals. One was a cracker from long distance and the other was an excellent header from a well-taken free kick.
“The free kick was from an unnecessary foul and while we couldn’t do anything about the long goal once it was struck, it came from a poor turnover.”
Dando said the first half provided some of best football the team had played all year.
“If we can continue to play like that we will win more games than not,” he said.
“But the schedule is telling on us in the final 30 minutes when we are tiring and dropping in concentration.
“Sunday’s game against Adamstown Rosebud will be our 12th in 46 days. Even the professionals in Europe don’t have a schedule of a game every four days.”
Dando said he continued to have to juggle his playing roster to ensure players got time off to recover from niggling injuries.
He said even inspirational skipper Carl Thornton missed Wednesday night’s fixture, ending a run dating back to 2008 with the Magpies and Bears where he has not missed a game through injury.
Thornton has a shin injury after receiving a kick during last Sunday’s loss to Lambton. Matt Comerford is sidelined with an ankle injury.