Match of the Round
Wallsend FC (5th) vs. Thornton Redbacks FC (4th)
Sunday 13th May, 2:30 pm, The Gardens
One week ago, this would have been a mouth-watering clash between two undefeated sides, however after both teams had their unbeaten streaks ruined last weekend, this fixture between Thornton and Wallsend will be about returning to the winners’ circle and safely back inside the top four.
Although last week marked the Redbacks first loss of the year, they’re still chasing their first victory away from home despite only conceding one goal on the road and only six in total.
Wallsend on the other hand, haven’t lost a game at The Gardens so far this year, and as they now sit outside the top four for the first time this season, they’ll be looking to solidify their home ground as a fortress.
Wallsend’s coach Ben Edwards, affirmed his confidence in his team returning to winning ways but admitted he was expecting a tough battle against the Redbacks.
“We’ll bounce back,” Edwards said.
“We’re trying to make our home ground a fortress and make it a hard place for other teams to visit – not just because of the surface.”
“I’m expecting them [Thornton] to come out hard to try and get back on their winning streak, as we will be as well.”
Edwards also suggested that despite being held scoreless for the first time last weekend, that he wasn’t worried for his forwards and expected them to return to their attacking potential this weekend.
“It had to come eventually, so I’m glad we got it out of the way now instead of at the end of the season.”
“It’s just something the boys have to learn from.”
Singleton Strikers (2nd) vs. South Cardiff FC (6th)
Saturday 12th May, 2:30 pm, Howe Park
For the first time in a very long time, the Strikers remarkably sit in second (2nd) position on the table, and the confidence around the club looks to be at an all-time high.
South Cardiff though, are another team who’s had their confidence lifted due to some strong recent form and with only two points separating second and seventh, a win for either side would be vital.
It’ll have been seven weeks since Singleton last lost a game but this weekend they come up against the best offensive team in the competition including the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nathan McCallister.
Singleton coach David Willoughby admitted that he was aware of the attacking prowess South Cardiff possesses, however they weren’t making any exceptions for individual opposition players, and instead would be focussing on the team as a whole.
“There’s no specific plan in place for Nathan McCallister,” Willoughby said.
“Collectively, if our eleven players do their job defensively and put pressure on the ball further up the park, he’s going to have less time on the ball and will be receiving it deeper areas.”
Willoughby suggested that their impressive start to the season may have caught the rest of the league off-guard, but not them.
“We always knew we were going to be competitive and that we could go toe-to-toe with anyone on our given day.”
“We’ve worked really hard to get where we are…it’s a credit to all the players.”
Belmont-Swansea United (9th) vs. Cessnock City Hornets (7th)
Saturday 12th May, 4:00 pm, Blacksmiths Oval
It’s been a tough start to 2018 for Belswans as the club has still yet to record a victory in their past six matches.
So far this season, Belmont-Swansea have severely struggled in their goal-scoring department and pose the worst attack in the league, and it doesn’t get any easier this weekend when they face the team with the second-best defence in Cessnock City.
Despite winning last weekend, the Hornets still sit in seventh-place, however, they only lie one point outside the top four and after picking up some tidy results against the top teams of the league, they’ll need to make sure they can win games like these if they wish to play semi-final football.
The last time Cessnock lost playing at Blacksmiths was back in 2014 so fans of the league should expect another battling encounter with the three points at stake being of the utmost importance for both teams.
Kahibah FC (8th) vs. New Lambton FC (11th)|
Sunday 13th May, 2:30 pm, Kahibah Oval
New Lambton travels to Kahibah this weekend with the hope of putting last game’s dismal display behind them and finally climbing the table from the last place.
The Eagles will come up against a Kahibah team that knocked off an undefeated side though, and the Green and Blacks will be confident and hopeful that they can string some wins together and return to the top four where many originally predicted they’d be.
New Lambton’s new coach Jim Foley will still be working out the strengths and weaknesses of his new side but will definitely be looking to tighten up their defence especially at home as they have already conceded fifteen goals in their three home games.
While for Kahibah, their defence has struggled this season compared to last as they have already conceded as many goals in their first seven games of 2018, that they did in all of 2017.
Coach Andre Gumprecht will be hoping his defence can show the same strength and will at the back that was displayed against Thornton last weekend in order for the club to achieve their first point at home this season.
Cooks Hill United (1st) vs. West Wallsend Bluebells SFC (3rd)
Sunday 13th May, 2:30 pm, Newcastle Athletics Field
This Sunday, the league-leaders host one of the in-form sides of the competition in an unpredictable tussle where anything, and everything, could happen.
Last season when these two sides faced off, West Wallsend were comprehensively beaten, 4-1, in their first match, but shocked the league in the second round when they defeated the eventual champions, 5-2.
This season, the Cookers are once again the team to beat, however, the Bluebells have quickly stamped themselves as one of the top sides in the league having won four matches on the trot.
Another intriguing factor to this match is the influence that returning coach Graham Law may have on Cooks Hill especially on their defence that was rock-solid (zero goal conceded) before he left for Scotland to complete a coaching course.
Law admitted that although he wasn’t entirely pleased with the recent results of his side, that he placed responsibility on the players, not his replacement Glen Chapman and that they were already focussing on fixing their weaknesses.
“I did feel for Glen Chapman, especially when you go down to ten men in games because you don’t even know your own squad to cope with those kinds of things,” Law said.
“It’s been player decisions that have cost us our defeats. I don’t think there was much the coach could have done.”
“All I did in my first session back was remind the boys how good they can be and why we won the double last year, and just tried to focus on getting back to where we were at.”
Law admitted that he was surprised with the impressive results West Wallsend had recently achieved and that his side is expecting a tough clash.
“The boys need to be aware that when other teams play against us, it’s a grand final for them.”
“We’re having three sessions this week so I can have some time with the boys before Sunday. But we’re just analysing where we’re at and focussing on our shape again.”
“If we are to turn up on Sunday without the same intensity and energy as them [West Wallsend], it’s going to be a long day for us.”
Toronto Awaba Stags FC have the bye.