PHOTO: VALENTINE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United FC v Kahibah FC
Sunday 23rd July, 2:30pm at Blacksmiths Oval
The top four play one another this weekend with the Match of the Round seeing Belswans hosting Kahibah on Sunday afternoon for their chance to stake their claim on first place – or let the Green and Black streak ahead.
It was a solid win for Kahibah the last time the two sides met, a 2-0 win at Kahibah Oval earlier in the season thanks to goals from Dave Hodgson and Jamie Hadlow. Belswans haven’t beat Kahibah in the league since the latter were promoted to the second tier in 2015, but their best chance may be this weekend.
Cameron Lodge has handled his push to the bench superbly, and a finish at the back post against West Wallsend last weekend was enough to grab them a valuable point. They missed their chance to take a share of first last weekend, and they can do so again this weekend with a victory; a loss will virtually rule them out of the fight for first.
Kahibah have been mixing it up tactically of late, with a shift to a Chelsea-esque 3-5-2 paying dividends – they’ve won four of their last five matches and have shot to the top of the ladder. They’re without Dave Hodgson again this weekend, but this may allow Andre Gumprecht to again experiment with his line up. Brendan Trummel got a goal in his promotion to the starting line up last weekend, and he’ll more than likely remain there this weekend.
With only three rounds left to go, Belswans coach Josh Rufo is still shying away from concentrating on the big picture.
“I think they’re top of the league, aren’t they? Nothing much changes from our end, we’re still focused on week by week and the targets we set at the start of the year,” Rufo said.
“Kahibah are a very structured, very organised team and that’s what we’re expecting from them. They’ve got some good players across the park, but again we’re not really focused on them we’re more interested in what we do.
Belmont-Swansea have won 6 of their 8 home games this season, a stat which Rufo says gives him a bit of confidence.
“I think you always want to make home a bit of a fortress, we get a decent following down there at Blacksmiths Oval so we want to make sure we can treat all our supporters to a win,” Rufo said.
Cessnock City FC v Toronto Awaba FC
Sunday 22nd July, 2:30pm at Turner Park
It’s a battle of the cellar dwellers, and perhaps a chance for Cessnock to reclaim some of the pride they’ve lost in 2017 when they host a Toronto side, fresh off their first win since June, on Saturday afternoon.
Toronto were cruising against a 10-man Cessnock last time the two sides faced off, 2-0 with under five minutes left on the clock. A double from Travas McCabe at the death, including one from the penalty spot, helped Cessnock to their third point of the season with a 2-all draw.
It’s been a long season for Cessnock. They’ve lost six on the bounce and conceded 24 goals on the way despite some good performances from the promoted Dylan Cheetham in goals. There’s been a lot of talk about the fact they haven’t won a match, but they have lost a total of thirteen in the league. It’s an embarrassing amount, but it might look a little better if they can put a ‘1’ in the win column on Saturday.
Toronto grabbed their first win from their past five attempts last weekend with a 2-1 victory over Wallsend, thanks to a brace from Josh Bruce. Inconsistency has plagued the Stags this season, and they’re yet to string two back-to-back wins together all season. They lost midweek to Thornton to cruel any chance of doing it this weekend, but stand a good chance of picking up their fifth win of the season on Saturday.
According to Toronto boss Adam Routledge, a wounded Cessnock are more than likely to be right up for the challenge.
“It scares me, to be honest… We’ll get through Thornton (on Wednesday night), the boys will be pretty battered and lead us into Saturday,” Routledge said.
“We were winning 2-0 against them with 4 minutes to go in the first round and had a 2-all draw, and that’s just attitude. If we get our attitude right, we’ll do well.”
Singleton Strikers FC v Thornton Redbacks FC
Sunday 23rd July, 2:30pm at Howe Park
Every match from here on in is a must win if Thornton are to realise their finals hopes, and they might be confident in a good result when they take on an inconsistent Singleton outfit up at Howe Park on Sunday.
Singleton were a tough egg to crack back in round 9, but Thornton found a way through and a brace from Nathan McAllister scored them a 2-0 win. The form guides would suggest Singleton have the better of the two of late, and as such a result is harder to predict this weekend.
The Strikers haven’t beat this weekends opponent in the league since 2015 when the two were vastly different sides. Singleton did, however, triumph in the FFA Cup last season, but more recently they’ve struggled with consistency. Granted, they’ve won three of their last five but the two losses were heavy – 5-0 to New Lambton, and 4-1 to Kahibah. If Singleton can find the defensive form which helped them to wins over Cessnock and West Wallsend, they’re in with a shout.
Thornton played out a marathon 70 minute second half last weekend after Gunners’ captain Corey Nicholas went down injured and blew their two goal lead. It was a huge missed opportunity to make ground on the top four, but they did move within two points with a 3-0 win over Toronto on Wednesday night. Keep an eye on fatigue though – Thornton have experience with a number of quick turnarounds this season, and game management will be key.
Despite this weekend’s opponents playing only 62 kilometres away (the second closest Northern League One team to Singleton), Strikers coach David Willoughby denied there’s a derby feel to the match.
“I don’t think there is, the derby feel comes from Cessnock… we’ve played Thornton more than some other sides, we played them in the FFA Cup last year and in a couple of trial matches but we generally don’t get the result when it’s for premiership points,” Willoughby said.
“I believe if we play to our best, we can obtain a result. We’re setting up that way, Thornton are well-organised and well-structured, the way we’re going to try and get around them is keeping the ball for long periods of time, and moving forward in our lines and making some good opportunities in their box.
“I’m not aware of anyone out this weekend, there are a couple doing their HSC trials and a couple who have come down with the flu, but we’ll see how they do after training [on Thursday] and go from there.”
Wallsend FC v West Wallsend SFC
Sunday 23rd July, 2:30pm at The Gardens
The second Wallsend derby of the season won’t mean much to the final makeup at the right end of the table, but don’t expect that to take away any of the passion or intensity in this match up in front of a boisterous bunch of old boys at The Gardens on Sunday.
An early double from the Bluebells wrapped up the points when the two sides faced off back in round 9, Westy winning 2-1 on that occasion. They were dominant on that occasion, but inconsistency has plagued them this season and the occasion might provide Wallsend with just enough motivation to put the back end of their season on track.
Wallsend did the double in the derby over their western opponents in 2015 and 2016, but they’re in real danger of being on the wrong end of the result this time around. A win could help Wallsend put some pride back into their season, and they’ll pose a big threat at the back end of this match – in their last four matches, they’ve managed three goals with under ten minutes left on the clock.
The target was ten wins, and with only two games left to go West Wallsend need six points to make sure they hit the figure set for them by coach Gary Rowe. Their form is as mediocre as Wallsend’s; both have taken seven points from their last five matches. They’d want to make sure they take a comfortable lead into the dying stages of this one though – they blew a lead late on last weekend and have conceded in the last five minutes on three occasions in their last five matches.
Wallsend coach Chris Gallagher has done his research on this weekend’s opposition.
“Similar challenges to last week, can’t be getting caught in the physical arm wrestle and try to move the ball a bit quicker, the quicker we move the ball the more likely we are to avoid that,” Gallagher said.
“We’ll set up the same way we usually do, you obviously don’t want to be trying to play out too often against them because they press hard, nice and high up the pitch and then if they don’t get the ball, they tuck in and they defend quite well and then counter.
“The key will be to try and turn them around quick, like they did to us, and then get forward get in behind… they’re fairly physical in the backline, but I wouldn’t say they’re exactly quick. If they do counter, we’ve got to break it down as quickly as possible, whether that be a foul or getting numbers behind the ball.”
South Cardiff FC v Cooks Hill United FC
Sunday 23rd July, 2:30pm at Ulinga Oval
It’s the other top four match up on Sunday – the Gunners did well to claw back a point last weekend and they too have a chance to make up some ground on Kahibah in first place with a win over a fresh Cooks Hill this weekend.
A weary South Cardiff were routinely dispatched by a rampant Cooks Hill back in round 9, a 3-0 win which maintained Cooks’, then lead, at the top. The Gunners have improved in leaps and bounds since that match and will have a potential share of first place in their minds.
The Gunners were stunned last weekend with the loss of their captain early in the second half, but pulled two late goals back and managed a draw to keep pace with first place. They lost a little of their defensive structure without Denis Fajkovic last weekend and given he’ll miss out again this weekend due to an overseas holiday the Gunners will need to find some strength at the back. Nonetheless, expect a tight Southy side ready to pinch a goal or two on the counter.
Last time Cooks Hill returned from their week off they faced South Cardiff, and as aforementioned put three past them. Time away from the pitch is likely to have allowed the Cookers to recharge their batteries once again, and focus on taking nine points from their next three. Before the bye, they’d managed eight points from their last five matches – form which has seen them slip from the top spot for the first time since they arrived there back after round one.