Thornton Redbacks FC v Cooks Hill United FC
Saturday 12th August, 2:30pm at Thornton Park
Fresh off a maiden Northern League One premiership, Cooks Hill will be full of confidence and on a high when they travel to Thornton and look to make a big impression in their first leg clash on Saturday.
Overall this season, the Cookers’ have had the better of this weekend’s opponents. A 4-2 win early in the season came in the middle of Cooks Hill’s steam roll of the competition in the first round of matches, while they lost their nerve and gave up two points at Thornton Park just five weeks ago.
Coming up against one of the most potent attacks in the league, Thornton will be confident of holding their defensive resolve this weekend.
They’re in good form at the back – only one goal has gotten through in their last five matches, and that came against Belswans last weekend.
The Redbacks missed their chance to go into second and lock down a semi-final with Kahibah instead and will be stinging from the loss last weekend. Expect a fired up Thornton side this weekend, keen to make the most of their home leg.
While Thornton might be stinging, Cooks Hill will be flying high after a dream weekend where they put five past New Lambton and secured their maiden Northern League One premiership.
Goals are something that Graham Law’s side love, and they’ve scored plenty this season. 66 goals in 20 matches in the league puts them 15 ahead of next best, coincidentally, Thornton.
Whereas some sides have one or two main goal scoring threats, Thornton will have to work hard to contain the talent Cooks boast all over the park. Lee Ashton, Cal Lewis and Nick Russell all broke double digits in their goal tallies this season, and scored last weekend.
Thornton coach Darrel McAllister was pleased to have drawn the premiers.
“We’re happy with it, we’ve had a couple of good contests against them, we haven’t beaten them but if we’d have taken our chances we would have,” McAllister said.
“I think we need the experienced players to make the right decisions for us, if we can get that mix (of youth and experience) right then we’ll do alright.
“It’s a massive game in term of time frame, doesn’t have to be won in the first 10 minutes you’ve just got to stay in the contest and hopefully you’re still in the contest in the 160th minute with 20 to go… that’s what we spoke about, just trying to be in the contest.”
There are still doubts over Redbacks ‘keeper Drew Olsen after he hurt his ankle last weekend.
“Given it’s a Saturday game we’re racing against the clock so we’ll just have to assess it, we have a pretty handy replacement in Chris Burg who was first grade ‘keeper last year, so we’ll have to make a call at the last minute and see which is the best way to go,” McAllister said.
Cooks Hill had a lot to celebrate last weekend, and coach Graham Law is confident he’s got heads back in the games.
“We went in for a recovery session and then trained Tuesday, it was quite an intensive session, and tonight (Thursday) will be a ball work session,” Law said.
“It’ll take a good team to stop us in the finals, it’s not being cocky or disrespectful but it’s just an answer to the question about having experience in the team… Thornton play a very direct long ball, so we have to be aware of that.
“I see the pitch playing a bigger factor in the game than anything else… we need to adapt our game to suit (it), that’s one thing we’ll have to take into consideration at training and we’ll need to concentrate on a different way to play.”
Law had a parting comment for his opposite number ahead of Saturday’s match.
“The pressure is all on Thornton because he (Darrel) got coach of the year.”
Belmont Swansea United FC v Kahibah FC
Sunday 13th August, 2:30pm at Blacksmiths Oval
Important wins for both sides last weekend will have both Belswans and Kahibah on a high, and confident of taking the advantage in the first leg of their semi-final clash when they face off at Blacksmiths Oval on Sunday.
It’s only been three weeks since Belswans and Kahibah last faced off, and it was a match which was delayed due to a Tom Parkinson broken leg. It was Belswans who took all the points with a 2-1 win on the day, whereas Kahibah managed a 2-0 win when they met earlier in the season.
They say form goes out the window when two rivals clash, but it’s definitely something Belswans have on their side this weekend. They’re ten games undefeated, picking up 28 of the last 30 points on offer.
In another plus for Belswans this weekend, they boast the best home form of any side in the competition. They’ve won eight, drawn one and lost one at home this season – the loss came back in May against South Cardiff.
They’re pretty handy in front of goal, too. Tega Marcus took out the competition golden boot last weekend as he ticked over 20 goals this season, and he knows how to score against Kahibah too – he nabbed a double last time out. Look for him to make a big impression over the next two, possibly three, weekends.
Kahibah had been solid if not spectacular up until last weekend when they smashed six past Wallsend in their final match of the season to tie up second place. They’ll be hoping it’s the mark of a real turning point, and they can kick on across the two legs of the semi final.
Goals on the road are something Kahibah have struggled with, having scored 13 less away than they have at Kahibah Oval. Blacksmiths Oval has proven a fortress this season, and any kind of result will be a huge boost.
Despite a wealth of talent in their ranks, Kahibah doesn’t have the free flowing goal scoring ability of the likes of Cooks Hill, or Tega Marcus. What they do have on their side is the best defence in the league – only 18 goals have made their way through in 20 matches. Expect them to shut up shop, and try to grind out a result.
Belmont-Swansea coach Josh Rufo was preparing for a tight tussle.
“I think it’s going to be a really tightly contested game between both teams, both have really solid squads,” Rufo said.
“Andre will set his team up how he thinks he can best combat us, and we’ll focus on ourselves and work on a few things that we think will keep them at bay but ultimately we just have to focus on us.”
The home advantage is something Belswans have on their side, and Rufo was keen to see it continue this weekend.
“We’ve got some really good support from the local community, I think that like most teams we really wanted to create a real fortress like atmosphere at home and make the opposition realise they’re coming to a difficult place to play at,” Rufo said.
“We’re well supported there, so that might be the twelfth man so to speak.”