The Albion Park White Eagles began life under Alvin Ceccoli with a 2-1 win against Port Kembla at Wetherall Park on Sunday.

The Premier League legend’s coaching debut didn’t get off to a great start with Bailey Fleming netting two minutes into the match, but goals either side of half time maintained the White Eagle’s unbeaten start to the campaign.

Port profited from an early free-kick that was cleared out of the box as far as Fleming, who managed to loop his shot over the outstretched Blake Horton to open the scoring in the second minute.

The hosts nearly took advantage of the whirling winds moments later when Kyle Senior failed to deal with a poor clearance from Horton with Nuno Pires pouncing before hitting his shot straight at the White Eagles goalkeeper.

Albion Park began working their way back into the match with Cody Waller and Cameron Morgan both getting shots away – the best coming in the 15th minute when Chris Nathaniel’s cross found Morgan whose header was well saved by Bryce Daenell.

The White Eagles secured an equaliser with an exceptional move between their three midfielders; captain Brendan Fordham chipping the ball to Sam Munro who laid it off to Robbie Delbanco to finish into the bottom left corner.

Stuart Beedie’s side had a couple of chances before the break through Jayden and Jordan Nikolovski respectively, however, neither effort forced Horton into a save.

Alvin Ceccoli delivering in-game instructions.

Horton was required to intervene on a couple of occasions 20 minutes into the second half. 

The first saw him make a good save off Jayden Nikolovski’s powerful half-volley from 20 metres out before a comfortable catch of a close-range Pires header a minute later.

Pires was centimetres away from a goal in the 63rd minute when a scramble in the area finished with his shot coming off the base of the left post. 

Four minutes later, Horton nearly gifted Jordan Nikolovski a chance to score against his former club when the Albion Park goalkeeper scuffed a clearance straight to the winger who, with more than half the goal to aim at, blasted his shot over from 25 metres out.

In the 74th minute, Albion Park found a second goal through Martin.

Fordham hit a shot from the edge of the area which Daenell parried the ball into the path of substitute James Mack who lifted it over the goalkeeper before he was brought down; allowing Martin to run in and finish from inside the six-yard box.

Port, who were also undefeated heading into this match, rallied in the final stages with Daenell finishing the match hunting for scrapes in the White Eagles box but ultimately it was to no avail.

Bryce Daenell competing for the ball against his opposite number Blake Horton.

The three points lifts Albion Park into fourth and Ceccoli said his first week – and 90 minutes – as a coach went about as well as he could have hoped for.

“It was pretty much what I expected transitioning from a player to a coach,” Ceccoli said.

“It was a difficult week with a lot of sleepless nights. Your mind is always thinking about things, but Rob my assistant has helped me a lot and Stu the reserves coach has been wonderful as well.

“In regards to the match, they started off early and pressured us but I think we had control of the game generally and I thought we played the better football. [Their goal] was more fortune and I thought we were still composed and we stuck to our game plan.”

Beattie happened to be Ceccoli’s first-ever coach in the Premier League with Dapto in 2004 and next weekend he goes up against his last coach, Rob Jonovski, with Albion Park hosting Coniston on Sunday afternoon.

The former Socceroo offered a wry smile when asked about the prospect of facing the coach who he played for at Corrimal, admitting Jonovski’s Coniston will be a difficult opponent.

“It’s just another game,” he said.

“It’s probably more personal for me rather than the boys but it’s just another game. They’re a team that can take points of us so we need to be on our game.

“We are gaining confidence now so it’s going to be an interesting game.”

As for Port Kembla, they drop one place to fifth ahead of a round four meeting with Wollongong Olympic at the PCYC next Saturday.

Port Kembla: 1 (Bailey Fleming 2’)

Albion Park White Eagles: 2 (Robbie Delbanco 20’, Jacob Martin 74’)

Port Kembla: 1. DAENELL Bryce, 2. RICHARDSON Peter, 3. MOBBS William, 4. DI PIETRO Mitch, 5. FLEMING Bailey, 6. CHICHARO Daniel, 7. NIKOLOVSKI Jayden, 8. PATTERSON Vaughan, 9. PIRES Nuno, 10. NIKOLOVSKI Jordan, 11. NAGATSUKI Tatsuki

Substitutes: 12. CHIODDI Elesio (FLEMING), 13. PRANDALOS Peter, 14. SAFIOTTI Christian, 15. CARELLA Daniel, 21. MATIS Harrison

Albion Park White Eagles: 27. HORTON Blake, 2. MCGINN Blake, 3. SENIOR Kyle, 5. ALLPRT Boden, 13. NATHANIEL Chris, 21. FORDHAM Brendan, 6. DELBANCO Robbie, 11. WALLER Cody, 17. MARTIN Jacob, 10. MUNRO Sam, 7. MORGAN Cameron

Substitutes: 16. WEHMEYER Cody (DELBANCO), 8. LEIGHTON Jake, 14. MACK James, 4. SEADON Riley, 22. BRUCE Jordan

Date: 11 April 2021

Venue: Wetherall Park

Referee: Andrew Naylor

Assistant Referees: Steven Payne and Damien Dennelly

Report by Dylan Arvela, on Twitter @dylanarvela

Photos by Kiah Hufton

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