PHOTO: Valentine Sports Photography
Match of the Round
New Lambton FC v Wallsend FC
Sunday 23rd April, 2:30 pm at Alder Park
New Lambton will hope they’re able to maintain their perfect home record in the NEWFM Northern League One so far this season when they tackle the might of Wallsend at Alder Park on Sunday.
It’ll be the first time these two sides have faced off in a competitive arena, given New Lambton’s promotion from the Zone Premier League at the conclusion of the 2016 season.
The Eagles struggled to eventual defeat against the Belswans in round six of the NEWFM Northern League One but managed to match it with Josh Rufo’s Belswans side for much of the match despite a heavy schedule – Good Friday’s match was their third in six days and their first loss of that run.
Their heavy schedule was set to continue on Wednesday night, but the match was postponed once again due to a waterlogged pitch. Coach Andrew Packer will be pleased to have a couple of days’ extra rest, and the challenge is now on to ensure he can get his side up once again for this one against Wallsend.
The Red Devils enjoyed Easter with their feet up, thanks to a round six bye. Chris Gallagher will have been pleased for the opportunity to get some extra work in on the training pitch, but his players suffered a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Cooks Hill in a catch-up game on Wednesday night.
Wallsend didn’t embarrass themselves in the defeat and looked the goods at stages throughout. They have impressed going forward this season and a lot is expected following two good years for the Red Devils, but two wins from five starts isn’t the form that they have been hoping for. Wallsend need a big performance on Sunday afternoon to get their season back headed in the right direction.
West Wallsend SFC v Singleton Strikers FC
Saturday 22nd April, 2:30 pm at Johnston Park
Singleton will be looking to put some early daylight between themselves and West Wallsend when the pair clash at Johnston Park on Saturday afternoon.
Westie and Singo last faced off in the Westfield FFA Cup round two just last week, both sides playing relatively full strength sides for the encounter and it was the Strikers who edged that one 4-3 at Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility.
The Bluebells were victim of a light failure at Ulinga Oval on Friday night immediately prior to kick off, and coach Gary Rowe will have every reason to be disappointed with his Good Friday turning bad as they desperately needed a reaction following their last match – from that heavy loss to Thornton.
Given their recent bad run of results, West Wallsend desperately need to take the full three points from this one. Singleton have had a topsy-turvy start to the season themselves, and the Bluebells will need to assert their authority over a young Singleton outfit. They’ll be keen to do so, and the Cox brothers will have to keep it back at the tight if they want to keep the points at Johnston Park.
The Strikers don’t have a midweek game to contend with and are in the rare position so far this season of having a full, uninterrupted week’s preparation in the lead up to this one. Singleton had a number of solid performances last weekend against Toronto; Joe Civello nabbed a 13-minute hat-trick, while Brad Millar delivered two assists from free kicks.
The Strikers have six points from their five outings so far this season and currently sit seventh, but given the slew of washout games to be played by teams beneath them know they can slide down the table to as low as tenth if other results go against them. A positive result here would put some real distance between them and West Wallsend, who sit on three points after four matches.
Cooks Hill United FC v Thornton Redbacks FC
Saturday 22nd April, 2:30 pm at Newcastle Athletics Field
Cooks Hill will have to be at their best on Saturday afternoon when they face the free-scoring Thornton at Newcastle Athletics Field.
Round 21 of 2016 was the last time these two sides met and it was Thornton who took the points with a 3-0 win on the day. Cooks Hill have a midweek fixture to overcome in the lead up to this and Thornton’s time off the pitch may give them a slight advantage in this one.
Round six’s victory over Cessnock was more hard fought than the 3-1 scoreline would suggest, and harder than coach Graham Law would’ve liked. The Cookers lacked the zip they’d shown in previous outings, and if not for some poor finishing on Cessnock’s behalf may have found themselves fighting for a result rather than defending one.
Cooks Hill have lost only the one match this season and it was last-minute heartbreak against Kahibah in round five. They’ve scored freely throughout the season – 24 goals in six matches – but they’ll face another big challenge entirely this weekend against the Redbacks, who themselves have scored 11 goals and conceded only two.
Thornton sit sixth on the ladder with only two games under their belt, and every side beneath them has played at least two more matches than them. They too have scored freely, eleven in their opening two matches is a good return for a side that’ll be hopeful of making their way toward their first top four finish since 2014.
The Redbacks will have to be at their best across the park to take the full three points from this one. Cooks Hill have set up to play a possession based, expansive style of football this season, and as such positive distribution and rigid organisation defensively from the midfield will be crucial for the Redbacks. Look to the likes of Josh Benaquista and Pat Wand in the centre of the midfield to put in the hard yards on Saturday afternoon.
Toronto Awaba FC v Belmont Swansea FC
Sunday 23rd April, 2:30 pm at Lyall Peacock Oval
Around the lake, Belmont-Swansea go on their quest for three more points when they take on Toronto at Lyall Peacock Oval on Sunday afternoon.
It was Toronto who took the points the last time these two met in round 17 of 2016, scoring a 2-1 victory over Belswans who went on the finish runners-up in last season’s grand final.
Up twice early on last week against Singleton, Toronto conceded their lead twice in the first half and went on to lose 4-2. Back at home this weekend where they won their first match of the season over South Cardiff just a fortnight ago, a familiar setting may inspire the Stags to what would be an unlikely victory over Belswans.
Toronto wreaked havoc in the opening stages of their loss to Singleton with a surging high press – suffocating possession in their attacking third and preventing Singleton from settling. If Belmont-Swansea insists on playing their low tempo match, Toronto may look to once again press and win the ball high and counteract Belswans’ style.
Unlike Toronto, Belmont-Swansea have the benefit of no midweek game to contend with. By the time they take to the pitch on Sunday afternoon, it’ll have been nine days since their victory over New Lambton and how exactly Josh Rufo has prepared his men to deal with the gap between matches may go a long way in deciding this one.
Rufo urged low tempo from his troops last time out against the Eagles and his insistence on a slow paced, possession game may negate any potential negative impacts from the long break between matches. Chris Gazzard and Nathan Stevens are able to slow down play and direct traffic in the middle of the park, but it may well be Tega Marcus playing off the shoulder who’ll pose the biggest threat to the Stags.
Kahibah FC v South Cardiff FC
Sunday 23rd April, 2:30 pm at Kahibah Oval
South Cardiff will be looking to spoil the party when they head to Kahibah Oval to face a star-studded Kahibah outfit on Sunday afternoon.
Kahibah took the points the last time the pair sides faced off, a tight 1-0 victory at Kahibah Oval in round 15 of last season in what were drastically different seasons for the two sides.
It’s been a disrupted start to 2017 for Kahibah – they’ve only played three games (plus the bye) in six rounds of football so far this season. Seven points from three games is a respectable return, but given the pre-season hype around the squad Andre Gumprecht has assembled and their big result against Cooks Hill last week, plenty will expect the Green and Black to kick on with it this weekend.
They’ll have been frustrated to missed out on the opportunity to test themselves against what looks to be a very strong Thornton team last Friday night, and know South Cardiff will present a different type of challenge entirely. The Gunners have shown so far this season they’re capable of adapting their style to best tackle the opposition at hand, so Kahibah will have to be proactive if they’re to take maximum points from this one.
South Cardiff will feel aggrieved to have had their Good Friday fixture cancelled due to light failure, but the gap between matches didn’t appear to bother them when they rolled five past Cessnock on Wednesday night. The Gunners will have to be at their best against a strong Kahibah squad if they’re to strengthen their standing in what is a congested mid-table only six rounds in.
South Cardiff have enjoyed a good start to the season, two solid wins before defeat away to Toronto brought them back down to Earth, and then a bounce back to form against Cessnock. Despite the round four result, the Gunners played well and took all available points from both New Lambton and Wallsend and know that if they play to their potential, they’re capable of beating anyone on their day.
Cessnock has the bye.