VALENTINE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea FC v Thornton Redbacks
Sunday 8th July, 2:30 pm at Blacksmiths Oval
It’s the back end of the season which Belswans have proved to work stronger in – the typically slow starters have done so well once again this year, and haven’t lost in the league since back in round six.
Coincidentally, that loss was at the hands of this weekend’s opponents Thornton. Their 3-0 win on that day was one of seven this season that has them sitting in second place on the ladder.
Belmont-Swansea secured a comprehensive 3-1 victory over Toronto on Wednesday night, which catapulted them into third on the ladder. It follows a 3-0 win over Kahibah the previous Saturday.
A win this weekend would move them level on points but behind Thornton on goal difference. Given there are only two points separating Belswans in third and Singleton in seventh, every week is now vital.
Thornton lost on the final day last season to slip from second to fourth, and although that day is some weeks away they’ll be keen to put the necessary distance between themselves and the rest of the pack with what would be a crucial win on Sunday.
The second best offensive team in the league, they will be up against a tight Belswans defence sure to prove challenging. Jye McKellar and Jake Milsteed are the men to keep quiet.
Belmont-Swansea boss Josh Rufo was under no illusions that this was a tough match for his side.
“I’m expecting a well-organised, enthusiastic team,” said Rufo.
“At this stage of the season, all games are going to be very tough and very competitive so I don’t expect anything too different [on Sunday].“We only really talk about ourselves, so I’ll let Thornton worry about what they have to do to stop us first of all. We won’t worry about them, we’ll focus on what we can do and see what happens.”
Toronto was brushed aside by a solid Belswans win on Wednesday night, which Rufo was pleased with.
“A win is a win in my book, we had a number of players from the squad step up and do the job.
“We had four or five players who were 20 years and younger in the team, but a lot of positives and a lot of good things.
“At this stage, there are no injuries, we had seven starters missing from last night but they’ll do fitness tests in the next couple of days.”
Thornton coach Gary Wand believes it’ll be tough on Sunday.
“They’ve got a lot of experience in their team, they’ll be a bit test for us and they’re on a bit of a roll as well, their usual end-of-the-season roll,” said Wand.
“We all know how tight the competition is, but it’s a matter of trying to look after your own not so much looking over your shoulder. We’ll worry about what we can control, and if we can get a result of some sort on Sunday it will be massive.
“They’re all important at this time of year given how tight the competition is.”
Wand was coy on just how they’d go out and approach the match at Blacksmiths.
“I’ve got a few things in mind, we just have to be on our game and hope we give some things to worry about. They’ve got a lot of good players, they’ve got a good set-up and they’re experienced in big games which holds them in good stead.
“We’re going to try and do a few things which will make it hard for them.”
West Wallsend v Cessnock City Hornets
Saturday 7th July, 2:30 pm at Johnston Park
Saturday brings together two sides which are sitting just outside the top four, and definitely harbour finals ambitions. A win for West Wallsend would give them some breathing room inside the four, while three points would draw Cessnock closer – but who wants it more?
It was a narrow Westy win the last time these two sides met one another, a 2-1 win which ended Cessnock’s undefeated run to the start of the season back in April.
A first-half blitz which saw the Bluebells go to the sheds five goals to the good helped earn them a massive 6-1 win over New Lambton in their midweek fixture.
It means West Wallsend now occupy the fourth spot on the ladder, but with just two points between third and seventh place, anything could happen this weekend.
While West Wallsend will be playing their third match in six days when they meet Cessnock on Saturday, which is in stark contrast to the Hornets who enjoyed the bye last weekend.
With six points between them and the top four, Cessnock needs to make the most of this one if they’re to have a chance at cracking into the finals. They’ve won just one of their last five – they need to turn things around.
Cessnock coach Brendan Slade was anticipating a physical match on Saturday.
“They’re a tough, physical side. They beat us up at Turner Park when we played them earlier this year, they can be a bit like us in that they can be hot and cold,” said Slade.
“I went and watched them play Toronto [in round 10], who are struggling a bit but Toronto beat them 3-1.
“They’ve got some big players in the midfield which worry me a bit, they’re a physical side so it’s going to be a tough game for us but we’re feeling pretty confident. We need to bounce back after a loss against New Lambton last Wednesday.”
It’s a crucial match for Cessnock whose finals ambitions all but hinge on a good result on Saturday. It’s a fact not lost on the Hornets side.“We’re hoping for a better performance on Saturday and we need a win. If we lose, we’re going to slip down the ladder even more,” said Slade.
“We all still believe we can make the finals, we’ve lost a few players like Kyle Williams who’s away, Josh Dwyer has been out for three weeks but we’ve still got some good quality players there.
“Jake Peters looks like he might have a bit of an Achilles injury so he’ll come out, and Peter Brand is going to step into his role.
“Hopefully we can do better this week against Westy.”
Cooks Hill United v South Cardiff
Saturday 7th July, 2:30 pm at Newcastle Athletics Field
Just six points off their hefty total from last season’s with five games remaining, a win for Cooks Hill would put them within a win of that 43-point mark while putting a dent in South Cardiff’s finals hopes.
Although it might not be the easy result that the ladder suggests it could be. The last time the two met in the league, it was South Cardiff who emerged with the three points after a 2-1 win.
Four wins on the trot, Cooks Hill hasn’t lost since mid-April and are looking unstoppable at present. With a resurgent Belswans playing Thornton, their lead at the top of the table could stretch further than its 11 points by the end of the round.
Graham Law’s side has been scoring for fun this season, but South Cardiff may prove a slightly tougher nut to crack. They’ve conceded 20 this season, the fourth-best in the league, and kept Cooks Hill to one last time the two played.
South Cardiff actually slipped out of the top five due to midweek results as West Wallsend and Belswans won out, while the Gunners were beaten 3-0 by Wallsend.
That means the pressure is on this weekend, as three points over tough opposition may put the wind back in Southy sails and send them firing up the ladder once again. They can go as high as third or as low as seventh.
Singleton Strikers v Kahibah FC
Sunday 8th July, 2:30 pm at Howe Park
Sunday shapes as crucial for a Singleton side which harbours some pretty serious finals football ambitions, and a match which they may consider winnable given Kahibah’s woes of late.
It was Singleton who triumphed the last time these two sides met back in round six, with goals from Joe Civello, Hayden Nicol and Nathan Hall in the Strikers’ 3-2 win.
A good run of form early season has Singleton perched somewhat comfortably inside the top four for now, but they’ve hit a rough patch and things must turn around if they are to remain there come finals.
Just one win in their past six has put the pressure on, but victory over a struggling Kahibah may put the wind back in Strikers’ sails.
Singleton may have one win in their past six, but Kahibah can do one better – one in their past seven. A side which had high hopes for the season is languishing at the wrong end of the ladder, with just four points between them and last place Toronto.
Kahibah seems to enjoy playing on the road this season, as their three league wins have all come away from home. They’re out at Singleton this weekend – will they make it four?
Singleton coach David Willoughby is anticipating a tough game regardless of where Kahibah sits on the ladder.
“We always expect the same of Kahibah, they’ve got a very well-organised side,” said Willoughby.
“I know they’ve struggled with some injuries and suspensions, they’ve probably not had the players available they would have hoped this season but they’re still well-organised and they’re going to be hard to beat.”
It’s an important match for Singleton in order to keep their finals hopes alive, and Willoughby believes his depleted squad know what they need to do.
“We talked early in the season about what our goals were and the players are aware of what we need to do to have any sort of chance to get to September,” said Willoughby.
“They’re up for it, we’ve struggled recently with a few injuries and the last four weeks have been very difficult for us that have really knocked us around, and still are.
“Hayden Nicol is having migraines, Jackson Skinner and Jae Dawes with ankle injuries and those two are unlikely to play again this year. Hayden hopefully will play, but it doesn’t look good and hasn’t been able to train since the week before last.”
Toronto Awaba v New Lambton Eagles
Sunday 8th July, 2:30 pm at Lyall Peacock Oval
It’s 10th versus 11th on Sunday, and it’s a match which may well decide just how the bottom of the ladder plays out.
The last time these two sides met, the defence was thrown to the wayside and it was all about the front third. Nine goals in total, with New Lambton emerging 5-4 winners on the day.
New Lambton is doing it tough this season, and things only got tougher after they were well-beaten by West Wallsend on Wednesday night; 6-1 was the final score after the Bluebells led 5-0 at half-time.
It means the Eagles have now conceded eleven goals in their last two outings, a quarter of their goals against (44) all season. Given they leaked five last time they played Toronto, they’ll be hoping for a much better showing at the back on Sunday.
Goals against is a column which isn’t pretty reading for Toronto, but things weren’t as bad in their 3-1 loss to Belswans on Wednesday night as they perhaps had been on other occasions this season.
A torrid record sees Toronto with six losses in their past six and just one win in their past ten. They’ve conceded 23 goals in their past five outings, and with New Lambton’s defensive record in mind, we could be in for another high-scoring affair on Sunday.
Wallsend has the bye