OLYMPIC striker Pat Brown was told on Friday night that if he wanted to keep his starting spot he needed to be a consistent performer as Hamilton build towards the Northern NSW National Premier League finals.
The response on Sunday at Darling Street Oval was exactly what coach Michael Bolch was hoping for.
The speedster, who has been used mostly off the bench this season, scored a hat-trick as Olympic thumped Weston 5-1 to stay within reach of Edgeworth in the premiership race and leave the fourth-placed Bears facing a crunch game against Broadmeadow this weekend in the penultimate round.
Brown pounced on a failed clearance at the back in the sixth minute and put his left-foot shot past goalkeeper Tim Pratt.
Matt Swan produced a well placed left-foot strike to make it 2-0 after 16 minutes before Kane Goodchild scored off a long ball that caught Weston napping at the back in the 23rd.
Weston created chances late in the half, but Olympic went to the break 3-0 ahead.
Brown again took advantage of a turnover in Bears territory, taking a ball from Jacob Bailey in behind the defence before finishing with his left foot in the 65th minute.
His best moment, though, was still to come. In the 72nd minute, Brown made a long, overlapping run down the right flank on a Hamilton counter-attack before again finishing with his left boot.
Garry McDermott got one back for Weston in the 74th minute, but the result was beyond doubt.
Bolch was pleased with the effort of Brown, who has come into the starting side over the past three weeks after a reshuffle of Hamilton’s line-up.
‘‘When he’s on, he’s on, and he took his chances well today,’’ Bolch said.
‘‘We spoke to him on Friday night and said that if he wants to stay in the starting side he has to be consistent and do those little one per centers every week.
‘‘He’s taken that on board and done really well today.’’
Bolch said the performances of Brown and Ben Koina, who has also started in recent games, had helped Olympic recover from a four-game winless streak that ended last week with a 7-0 rout of the Jets Youth.
‘‘They’ve got that confidence back they didn’t have when we had those three or four bad games,’’ Bolch said.
‘‘The couple of changes that we’ve made, like Benny Koina and Pat Brown coming into the starting side, have really helped us in the front third.
‘‘Having said that, Matt and Andrew Swan are doing really well. We get that go forward out of right and left fullback with them and Ben gives a lot of energy in the middle of the park.’’
The Bears are now just three points clear of Broadmeadow, who have a better goal difference and travel to Weston on Sunday with the chance to take over in fourth.
Weston coach Trevor Morris was disappointed with his side’s display at the back.
‘‘We pride ourselves on our defence, and it just wasn’t there,’’ Morris said. ‘‘The first 15 minutes and we’re 3-0 down. They are a good team, Hamilton, but those goals were absolute gifts.
‘‘Even though we were poor, we had chances to get back into the game, but their commitment and desire was better than ours.’’
Peter Haynes and Kale Bradbery scored braces as Broadmeadow defeated the Jets Youth 5-2 at Magic Park.
The Jets scored early through Braedyn Crowley, but goals from Bradbery and Dino Fajkovic put Magic ahead 2-1 at half-time.
Ben Hay equalised for the Jets halfway through the second term before Magic piled on three goals in the last 15 minutes.
One of Haynes’ goals was a 60-metre strike which caught Jesse Cook off his line.
At Lisle Carr Oval, Joel Wood equalised for Maitland with four minutes left as the Magpies and Charlestown stayed in the relegation mix.
Ben Hughes scored with a 25-metre free kick about the 75-minute mark for Charlestown, who moved to 13 points, four ahead of South Cardiff and one clear of Maitland.
The Blues play a catch-up match with the Jets Youth on Wednesday night.
At Adamstown Oval, John Majurovski and Alex Palozzi scored two goals each as Lambton Jaffas thumped Rosebud 6-0 to end the hosts’ slim finals hopes.
Riley McNaughton scored with a long-range strike and Jobe Wheelhouse produced a clever finish to also get on the scoresheet.
On Friday night, Dylan Holz scored in the 85th minute and Bren Hammel curled in a free kick in the 88th as leaders Edgeworth beat South Cardiff 2-0 at Jack McLaughlan Oval.
● Merewether clinched the Herald Women’s Premier League minor premiership with a 2-0 win over Valentine on Sunday as second-placed Adamstown were shock 3-1 losers to lowly Wallsend.
Thornton kept their top-four hopes alive with 2-0 win over Mid North Coast, and South Wallsend beat Warners Bay 2-0.