Match of the Round
Wallsend FC v Lake Macquarie City FC
Sunday, July 10, 2.30pm
Lake Macquarie will be out to take another major step towards the minor premiership in a potential dress rehearsal for the semi-finals against Wallsend in the NEWFM Match of the Round at The Gardens on Sunday.
The Roosters are on 40 points, five points ahead of Belmont Swansea and six clear of Kahibah, with four games to play. Wallsend, who lost six points for mistakenly playing a suspended player, are six points further back on 28 in fourth place but nine clear of their nearest rivals for the last spot in the finals.
If positions remain the same, Lake Macquarie and Wallsend will meet in the home-and-away semi-finals series.
“You don’t count your chickens, but if it does finish like that, then we’ll certainly get a good look at them this weekend,” Roosters coach Anthony Richards said.
He said while a win over Wallsend was important in the premiership race, Lake Macquarie also remained wary of Cooks Hill, Cessnock, and South Cardiff in the run to the finals.
“We’re in a good position but we’ve still got some work to do,” Richards said.
“Wallsend are still a good side, just because they lost six points for playing the wrong guy doesn’t change that.
“They’ve got a couple of handy players there, guys like Hodgo and Chris Gazzard, and they will certainly be difficult.”
Richards said his side, who have won five games in a row and defeated Wallsend 2-1 in their first encounter, were injury-free and likely full strength for Sunday.
That is in contrast to Wallsend, who are down on numbers.
An understrength Red Devils downed Thornton 2-1 last week thanks to a Trent Milton double but have lost four more players for the clash with Lake Macquarie.
Player-coach David Hodgson said Trent Richards (injured), Jacob Kepreotes (suspended), Chris Gazzard and Jason McGuire (away) had dropped out of his already “paper-thin squad”.
Cooks Hill United FC v Toronto Awaba FC
Saturday, July 9, 2.30pm
Newcastle Athletics Field
Cooks Hill will be out to put on a show for Old Boys Day against a resurgent Toronto Awaba at Newcastle Athletics Field on Saturday.
Coming off a 3-1 loss to South Cardiff, Cooks Hill will meet a Stags side fresh from upsetting second-placed Belmont Swansea 2-1 to move off the bottom of the ladder.
Cooks Hill, who are ninth on 16 points, three ahead of Toronto Awaba, beat the Stags 7-2 in their second match of the season but both sides have had their fair share of struggles since.
Toronto Awaba, though, will be on a high after their win over Belswans, which came despite the absence of seven regular first-graders.
Cooks Hill coach Blake Glennie, who expected to have a full-strength side, said the result highlighted the potential for upsets in the competition.
“It was a good win for them and I dare say they will have some confidence out of it,” Glennie said.
“It’s our Old Boys day on Saturday so I just hope all our guys will be up for it and put on a good show.
“There has been a few upsets and you can’t take any team lightly because on their day if we play poorly and they do well, anyone can win.
“We’ll have to put in a good shift and do well.
“We beat Toronto the first time 7-2, but I will definitely be telling them we can’t go out there with a ‘this will be easy’ attitude because if we do, we’ll probably get beat.”
The Stags have Daniel Williams back from suspension as well as Caleb Prebble, Hayden Jensen and Luke Jovcevski returning. Tyler Ossington (holidays) and Matt Clarke (suspension) are out.
West Wallsend SFC v Belmont Swansea United FC
Saturday, July 9, 4pm
Belmont Swansea have taken time out to rally and reset their goals ahead of their clash with West Wallsend at Johnston Park on Saturday.
Second-placed Belswans lost 2-1 to then cellar-dwellers Toronto Awaba last week to fall five points behind Lake Macquarie.
Coach Brad Paul was disappointed with the performance but philosophical about the consequences of the result.
Paul believed catching the Roosters was now unlikely but said the goal at the start of the season was to make the top four and his team had already achieved that with four games to play.
“We backed off training a bit this week, which may seem strange, just to let the boys recharge,” Paul said.
“We had a positive team meeting and a realignment of goals.
“I will certainly be asking all to lift and give a bit extra against Westy. All players were disappointed about their performance last week and are looking to improve this week.”
Belswans, who beat the Bluebells 3-1 last time, will be without Ben Cox, Fletcher Price and Joel Shearer.
West Wallsend lost 2-1 to Singleton last week and sit seventh on 16 points.
Jarrod Olivieri was sent off in the loss and joins Tye Jones on the suspended list. Keiran Sasim and Ryan Cole are injured but coach Gary Rowe hoped to have Michael Baillie back from suspension to take Olivieri’s spot.
Rowe said the absence of key players, in particular, Cole and Tye Jones, hurt them against Singleton but he hoped his side would lift at home.
“It’s hard when you’ve got your two most attacking outlets missing,” Rowe said.
“But after last week, if the players turn up ready to play, then we should be OK.
“They should be smarting after what happened the last time we played them and want to do well, but with the cattle we’ve got, we’ll have to see.
“We should do OK, we usually play better at home.”
Kahibah FC v Cessnock City FC
Sunday, July 10, 2.30pm
Kahibah have not given up on the minor premiership and will be back to full strength against Cessnock City at Kahibah Oval on Sunday.
A 4-2 loss to Lake Macquarie last week was a major blow to Kahibah’s title hopes, leaving them third and six points shy of the league-leading Roosters.
They have five games left, one more than Lake Macquarie, and will look to bounce back against a Cessnock side coming off the bye and aiming to get away from the bottom of the table.
Player-coach Andre Gumprecht, striker Sean Clerke and attacking weapon Jarrod Penfold were missing last week but assistant coach Matt Moncrieff said they will all return against the Hornets.
Moncrieff said the club had 14 players missing throughout the grades last week and first-grade lost Skii Webster to illness in the second half, but they were in good shape for round 18.
“We’ve got everyone back on deck for the first time in a long time and we’re all fit and ready to rock and roll,” Moncrieff said
“We’re ready for the run in because we haven’t given up on the minor premiership yet.”
Cessnock are looking for a third straight win after downing Toronto Awaba and Wallsend before having the bye.
The wins got them out of last place but they are back there after the Stags’ victory over Belswans.
Coach Stephen Thomson said Zac Thomson was suspended on yellow cards and Josh Bower would likely return to take his spot at left back.
Thomson wanted his side to gain some redemption against Kahibah and finish a tough season on a high over the next month.
“They’re a fair squad and press pretty high up the park, so we’ll have to deal with it a bit smarter than we did last time,” Thomson said of Kahibah
“We went down a man and got pumped 7-2. We’ll have to be better and more focused and try to press them higher up the park and put some pressure on them.
“We’ve got five games to go so hopefully we can get a couple more results and build on for next year.”
Thornton Redbacks FC v South Cardiff FC
Sunday, July 10, 2.30pm
FRESH will be best for Thornton Redbacks when they try to keep theirs finals hopes alive with victory over South Cardiff at Thornton Park on Sunday.
Thornton have had three losses and a draw over their past four games, including a 2-1 loss to Wallsend last start.
Fifth-placed Thornton are on 19 points, nine behind fourth-placed Wallsend, and have five games to make a push for a spot in the top four.
South Cardiff are sixth, a further three points behind, and backing up from a 3-1 win over Cooks Hill.
Thornton lost 3-2 to Belmont Swansea midweek last week before the loss to Wallsend, in which the Redbacks were made to pay for their missed opportunities.
Coach Darrel McAllister said he had tried to let his players recover this week and would look to find the right mix to take on the Gunners.
“After three games in eight days, I’ve tried to freshen them up a bit and see how they come up from it,” McAllister said.
“We’ll see if we can get the freshest people out there. Against South Cardiff, it will probably be an up-tempo game, which will be a bit different to Wallsend, so we’ll try and get some energy out there.
“There’s 14 or 15 to pick from and it’s about picking the right ones for each game. That’s the challenge because we’ve got it wrong a couple of times and then we’ve changed things at half-time.
“We’ve haven’t lost a second half through this recent run, so we’ve got to get it right in the first half.”
He said striker Tallan Martin was out again with injury but the rest of the squad should be available for what looms as a must-win game.
“Wallsend have got to play all the other top sides, but we probably need a bit of a miracle,” he said of their finals hopes.
“We’ve just got to start winning. We’ve been in a bit of a slump at the moment.
“In saying that, we’ve gone through a tough passage of games – Lakes, Belswans and Wallsend. Now we’re coming into some games against teams we’d like to think aren’t going to through as much at us. Hopefully, we can finish on a high.”
South Cardiff coach Andrew Packer said his side had also needed a light week after being hit by illness and fatigue.
Emmanuel Okumu is available again after suspension but Packer said David Hecimovic had performed well in his attacking position out wide and would keep the spot.
He said his squad should be full strength for the trip to Thornton, who they beat 1-0 in round two.
Singleton Strikers FC – Bye