PHOTO: VALENTINE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Match of the Round
South Cardiff FC v Belmont Swansea United FC
Sunday 21st May, 2:30 pm at Ulinga Oval
South Cardiff will be looking to hang on to their spot in the top four when they take on a spluttering Belmont Swansea at Ulinga Oval on Sunday afternoon.
These two sides each won their home games against each other last season – Belswans with a 3-1 win at Blacksmiths in Round 10, and the Gunners prevailed 1-0 in the return Round 21 leg at Ulinga Oval. More recently, they played out a 1-1 draw in the third round of FFA Cup action just over a month ago, with Belmont-Swansea progressing on the day via penalties.
They say form is temporary but class is permanent, and it’s a saying that Belmont-Swansea will be hoping holds true this weekend as they aim to claw their own way back into the top four. Two losses on the trot have Belswans sitting in sixth on the ladder, and a win over South Cardiff will propel them back into the top four.
Belmont-Swansea has a poor record on the road so far this season, with only a solitary win from their four matches away from home – contrasted by a mixed bag of results at home from the Gunners, who have won two and lost two at Ulinga in the league this season.
This match is tough to call on – South Cardiff snapped a three-game losing streak against Singleton last weekend, while Belswans went down 3-1 to a domineering Thornton side. The Gunners edged their way into the top four with the win last weekend, and coach Denis Fajkovic will use this as a motivating force for the weekend.
Interestingly, the two sides have scored the same amount of goals so far in the league – 18 in total. The Gunners have shared their goals around, Troy Runge and Antonio Ahmataj can boast five goals apiece so far this campaign. Belswans have relied heavily on Tega Marcus up front for their attacking output, the striker has scored 10 of their 18 goals this season.
Belmont-Swansea coach Josh Rufo denied having South Cardiff’s ‘number’ despite their penalty shoot-out win in the Westfield FFA Cup.
“I think it’s going to be another really competitive game between two sides looking to get their seasons started,” Rufo said.
“We’ll approach it no differently, we obviously want to win the game but I think we’ll go there and have a bit more intensity in our game than what we have over the last couple of weeks.
“We’ve got a couple of injury concerns but it’s nothing we can’t deal with.”
Toronto Awaba FC v New Lambton FC
Saturday 20th May, 2:30 at Lyall Peacock Field
Fresh from the bye, Toronto will be fired up and keen to grab their third win of the season over a battle-weary New Lambton.
The match will be New Lambton’s third in six days, off the back of a tough loss at the hands of Cooks Hill in Round 10 last weekend, and a closer contest against Broadmeadow Magic in the Westfield FFA Cup on Wednesday night. Toronto paints a stark contrast; Saturday’s match will be their first in 13 days.
Toronto will have gone nearly a month since their last victory – the 4-3 upset over Belswans on the 23rd of April the last time they took three points from a match, and coach Adam Rutledge will be hoping they can snap that poor streak at home this weekend.
Last time out, the Stags came within ten minutes of securing three points for the third time this season but fell late to a resurgent Cessnock side. There were murmurs of discontent on the day, with some players urging the side forward to extend their lead and make sure of the result while others were happy to defend the two-goal lead.
2-0 is a scoreline that New Lambton knows only too well – they took only 21 minutes to blow it last time out against Cooks Hill. They went down despite scoring four on the day, Justin Maddalena and Alex Ihlow now seemingly cemented in the Eagles line-up after returning from university placements which restricted them from training with the first team squad regularly for a number of weeks.
The Eagles haven’t won in the league in their past three starts, however, will have been buoyed by their four goals last time out against Cooks Hill and the Westfield FFA Cup win over Kahibah. The heavy loss to Broadmeadow on Wednesday night won’t have dismayed the squad too much and they’ll be keen to score their first league win which could push them as high as sixth.
Cooks Hill United FC v Singleton Strikers FC
Saturday 20th May, 2:30pm at Newcastle Athletics Field
Singleton will be up against it in their quest to contain a rampant Cooks Hill side when they travel to the Newcastle Athletics Field on Saturday afternoon.
The Strikers enjoyed the better of Cooks Hill last season, taking all three points away from home in Round 11 before sharing them at Howe Park in the final round of 2016. Both sides have been bolstered with youth aplenty this season, however, Cooks Hill have enjoyed the better of the results.
Cooks Hill have scored five wins on the trot at an average of nearly four goals a match – an ominous sign for any side facing them and may be encouraged against a Singleton side who have conceded eleven goals from their last five fixtures. The Cookers were without captain Cal Gallagher last time about against New Lambton, but didn’t struggle for goals in his absence.
Their attack has been the talk of the town, and rightly so – Cooks Hill have looked dangerous going forward in every match they’ve played this season, with 23 of their goals going to attacking trio Lee Ashton, Nick Russell and Cal Gallagher. Coach Graham Law will be happy with his side sharing the goals around and will be hoping their good form can continue this weekend.
Singleton will have to contend with the loss of Sam Ford again this weekend, who departed the club during last week to make his mark at Weston. He departs as both player and coach of the under 19’s, in what is a blow to the club. Coach Dave Willoughby had already been dealing with his absence due to injury, so his loss may have more of an impact on their future depth rather than immediate results.
It’s the results where Singleton have lacked though, and they need someone to stand up and make a positive impact this weekend. They’ve lost their last five matches on the trot, with wins against Toronto and Cessnock, along with the triumph over West Wallsend in the Westfield FFA Cup the solitary shining lights of their season so far.
Brad Millar did his best last weekend, but his side couldn’t take advantage and will need to do better across the 90 minutes if they’re to have a chance at taking three points on Saturday.
Thornton Redbacks FC v Wallsend FC
Sunday 21st May, 2:30pm at Thornton Park
Thornton host Wallsend on Sunday afternoon, no doubt looking to bounce back from a missed chance to jump to the top of the ladder on Wednesday night.
Wallsend took all six points in the clashes between these two sides last season, with a 5-2 win at Thornton Park in Round 6 backed up with a 2-1 victory in the return leg at The Gardens in Round 17.
Thornton had their chance to rocket to the top of the ladder on Wednesday night, but couldn’t take the three points against a resilient Kahibah side and now need a win at the weekend to guarantee they keep hold of second place. The Kahibah loss is the single blemish on an otherwise perfect home record – it’s a slight the Redbacks will be keen to make amends for this weekend.
Nathan McAllister holds the mantle of the league’s leading goal scorer, with thirteen goals in his side’s nine matches to date, and the players around him have played their part as well – Jamie Subat has popped up for four, and Jack Halverson has created and scored his share; marking a dangerous front third for Wallsend to contend with this weekend.
The Red Devils snagged a 1-0 upset win over Kahibah last weekend to mark their second win in their past three attempts. An early goal meant they had to show some resilience to hold on to the tight scoreline for more than three-quarters of the match, a quality which coach Chris Gallagher hailed following the victory.
The young Red Devils have struggled to put the ball in the back of the net this season, with only 15 goals to show from their 9 outings so far. On the flipside, a paltry 14 goals conceded means Wallsend boast the third-best defense in the league (behind Kahibah and Thornton) – but this will be tested by a free-scoring Thornton outfit.
Wallsend coach Chris Gallagher acknowledged Thornton was a challenge, but one he feels his side is prepared for.
“We’re always confident if you’re not confident then that rubs off on the rest of the group,” Gallagher said.
“All we’ve really worked on is our defensive shape and it’s starting to come together, and it’s not an easy thing to change the way these boys have been shown how to play football, which is different to how I want to play.
“I certainly hope we put in the same defensive effort (as we did against Kahibah)… Jamie Subat is a smart attacker, but I’m quietly confident the boys should be able to compete physically.”
Kahibah FC v Cessnock City FC
Sunday 21st May, 2:45pm at Kahibah Oval
Cessnock will be looking to put a horror result in their last fixture behind them when they hit the road to take on Kahibah at Kahibah Oval on Sunday afternoon.
Kahibah swept the floor with Cessnock last season, scoring nine goals in their two fixtures to take all six points on offer – and given the two sides are currently sat exactly where they finished last season, something similar may be on the cards this weekend.
After declaring he was going to take a back seat as a player this season, player-coach Andre Gumprecht has played a key role in a league-best defense – only seven of goals conceded this season for Kahibah, and a league-high obtaining five clean sheets. Kahibah will be confident of adding a sixth clean sheet to their tally this weekend against a Cessnock side who have only managed ten goals from nine outings this season.
By all reports, Kahibah’s Round 10 outing against Wallsend was a blip on the radar – long ball tactics and a red card for violent conduct to import Gocha Abshilava marking a bad day for the Green and Black. They snagged a win over Thornton midweek, a 1-0 win on Wednesday night, that pushed Kahibah to within two points off second; so a win this weekend is more vital than ever.
Cessnock were within five minutes of their first win of the season last weekend against West Wallsend but imploded to record their sixth loss of the campaign to date. Coach Lino Gatti was incensed following the defeat and will be drilling the importance of playing to the final whistle this weekend.
The Hornets remain rooted to the bottom of the ladder after nine matches and are three points adrift of Singleton who sit on six points in tenth. Their upcoming three matches look to be some of the trickiest to take points from (Kahibah, followed by Thornton and South Cardiff) – so any kind of positive result on Sunday will do a young Cessnock side the world of good.
Kahibah boss Andre Gumprecht acknowledged his side have to work harder to meet some hefty expectations.
“A bit of disappointment in our group because we weren’t able to get the win over Wallsend,” Gumprecht said.
“We’re in a situation where we need to bounce back… everyone will say on paper we are the better team, but are we able to produce it on the park?
“For us, the aim is to learn from our mistakes… we need to learn, and we’re about to learn every match has different themes and logistics, teams are not willing to give us the three points without a fight so we need to be on top of our game.”