PHOTO: VALENTINE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United FC v South Cardiff FC
Sunday 30th July, 2:30pm at Blacksmiths Oval
A loss last weekend has knocked South Cardiff out of the top four, and they’re now three points adrift in fifth. This is a real make or break match for the Gunners, and their opponents have their eyes set on an unlikely first place finish.
Last time out, South Cardiff pinched a 1-0 win thanks to a scrappy Brett Cowling goal. It was a match which Gunners coach Denis Fajkovic said his side was ‘caught off guard (by) the long ball’, but they’ll be prepared for whatever the highflying Belswans throw at them this weekend.
Despite witnessing a horror leg break last week, Josh Rufo’s Belswans side rallied to take all the points from Kahibah and take a share of second. It is only a share though – they still sit third, and need three points to make sure they keep pace at the top. Tega Marcus extended his tally to 20 for the season last weekend, and will be keen to keep that number rising on Sunday.
South Cardiff boast some of the better away form of those in the competition, but they have to travel to Blacksmiths which has been a fortress for Belswans so far this season – they’ve only dropped four points from nine matches at home. South Cardiff dropped out of the top four last weekend, and must win this weekend if they want to claw their way back in with only two games left to go.
Gunners boss Denis Fajkovic was confident that if his side were at their best, they’d win.
“It’s pretty simple for us all the time, if we turn up and we’re in the game and we try to play, we usually get a result,” Fajkovic said.
“We’ve had a lot of different personnel, we’ve probably rotated more in the first grade squad than most in the comp have. If you look at our last game, we had seven of our usual first graders not there so that’s been an issue.”
Fajkovic said the prize of finals was ‘definitely’ enough to motivate his side.
“We’re looking to go out and win, and if we win and make the finals I’m sure the rest of the teams above us don’t want us in the finals, because on any given day we’ll beat any of them,” Fajkovic said.
“For us, it’s a challenge, and for their sake they’ll be hoping we don’t make it. If we do make it, I’m sure we can cause a bit of an uproar.”
Singleton Strikers FC v Cooks Hill United FC
Saturday 29th July, 2:30pm at Howe Park
Victory last Sunday propelled Cooks Hill back into first place, and if they’re to stay there then each match from here on in is a must win. Last time out against Singleton, the Strikers scraped a draw and shocked the competition. Can they do it again?
A missed penalty and a 30-yard bomb helped Singleton secure a massive 2-all draw last time the two sides faced off back in Round 11. It was the start of a poor period for Cooks Hill, but there’s a lot more to play for this time around.
Singleton’s finals hopes were extinguished weeks ago, but they must get a result if they want to at least match their points tally from last season. Stuart Plant took to social media to express his frustrations with his side’s performances of late, so expect the captain to have his team fired up in an attempt to repeat their Round 11 heroics.
‘Fire in the hole’ is one of the loudest parts of the Cooks Hill team song, and it seems they’ve taken it on board this season. They’ve scored 58 goals in their 18 outings so far this season – the highest in the league at an average of just over three a match. They scored three last weekend and created their fair share of chances – expect them to be just as threatening this weekend as they fight to hang on to top spot.
Cessnock City FC v Kahibah FC
Saturday 29th July, 2:30pm at Turner Park
Kahibah did it tough last weekend – a loss which knocked them out of top spot, and a shocking injury to a key midfielder. They have a shot to keep up the heat on Cooks Hill this weekend, with a must-win match against Cessnock.
This weekend, Cessnock will come into this one similar to how they did last time back in Round 11 – off the back of a 2-1 loss. However back in May when they last played, Kahibah ran out 5-1 winners and most would expect a similar result on the weekend.
Results don’t lie, and for Cessnock they tell a miserable story in 2017. Anchored to the bottom of the ladder with only four draws to speak of, 17 goals for and 59 goals against mean they hold the mantle of worst attacking and defensive records in the competition. Their goal against Kahibah last time out was an own goal, and it’s difficult to see them shocking the competition on Saturday.
Kahibah’s defence has been the highlight of their season so far. In fact, they’ve only conceded 18 goals in their 19 matches this season – that’s one more than Cessnock have scored all year. Of the sides vying for a spot in the top four, they have one of the easiest runs in on paper, but motivation will be key if Andre Gumprecht’s side is to take maximum points from their remaining fixtures.
Gumprecht was well aware just how big a role motivation will play on Saturday.
“Going to Cessnock and looking at the table would be a mistake, I know for a fact that on the day they can be very challenging,” Gumpecht said.
“You need to have everyone on the task and on the ball to be able to overcome that challenge, we seen last weekend that minor incidents can throw your whole plan out the window… concede a goal early, lose a player to injury, and you need to adjust and think on your feet.
“It’s important to focus and be clear from the start, scoring an early goal would help but if you’re unable to do that then it can spring a very nasty surprise and this is what we’re trying to tell the boys, and I’ll be highlighting that.”
New Lambton FC v Toronto Awaba FC
Sunday 30th July, 2:30pm at Alder Park
Despite New Lambton’s lofty ambitions at the beginning of the season, a logjam of matches spelt their demise mid season. They have a chance to improve on their points tally from last year, while Toronto will be looking for six wins in a season for the first time since 2013.
It was a convincing New Lambton performance last time the two sides faced each other – they emerged 3-0 victors back in Round 11, which was a good result after losing their last two against Cooks Hill and Broadmeadow.
This time around, New Lambton had the luxury of the bye to rest up last weekend, but were beat 1-0 by a determined Thornton side on Wednesday night. They look destined to finish eighth, the same place they finished in the Zone Premier League last season, but they could take a step towards moving on up with a win today.
For Toronto, Sunday looms as their last chance to grab five wins in a season for the first time in four years. 20 points back in 2014 was their highest tally of the past four seasons, and a win on Sunday will see them match that tally. They could do with tightening up at the back if they want the three points though – 54 goals in 19 matches means they boast the second worst defensive record in the competition.
New Lambton boss Andrew Packer said his side have pulled up well from their midweek clash with Thornton.
“The guys played really well… unfortunately we didn’t take our chances when we had them and it was one of those ones that got away from us,” Packer said.
“Everyone has come through okay, but Nic Pepper won’t play because he’ll be with his under 15’s team who will be playing for the minor premiership at the same time and we felt like it was the best thing for him to be with his team on Sunday.
“Toronto will definitely be up for it, I think they’ve got a few decent players in their team and it’s a big game for them to be honest, everyone wants to finish higher than where they are… I’m sure they’ll want the three points this weekend, but we’ll be up for it being Old Boys Day.”
Wallsend FC v Thornton Redbacks FC
Sunday 30th July, 2:30pm at The Gardens
Two wins in four days has seen Thornton shoot all the way up into second – not bad for a side who were sitting fifth just last Saturday. Wallsend are a tough unit though, and the Red Devils will be out to spoil the party on Sunday afternoon.
Up until the last encounter between these two sides, Wallsend had conceded 14 goals in their previous nine games. Since the 2-1 win over Thornton in Round 11, they’ve gone on to concede a further 25 goals in eight matches.
A derby win last weekend against West Wallsend was crucial for Wallsend. They have the chance this weekend to go ahead of their western opponents with a win, but it looks an unlikely outcome given the Redbacks have a lot to play for. Wallsend are without Kyle Macorig, who will serve a suspension after receiving a red card last weekend.
Thornton backed up a 3-0 win over Singleton last weekend with a solid midweek win over New Lambton – 1-0 on Wednesday night. They have jumped way up into second, and could move into first this weekend if Cooks Hill fail to take full points from their encounter with Singleton. Expect the Redbacks to be well up for this one.
Wallsend coach Chris Gallagher identified one attribute as key to a potential result for his side this weekend.
“Concentration. If everyone concentrates and does their job, we should get a good result,” Gallagher said.
“We can affect the title race and the semi finals positions from where we are with great effect if we do our job… Thornton create a lot of chances, they’ve got some really good goal scorers and a lot of good players.
“Jamie Subat knows how to find the net and always sits on the back stick, Nathan McAllister is the same and so is Jesse Smith, their work rate is really good but we know that if we get a chance we can break them down at the back.
“Hopefully we can have another performance like we did against Westy, [where] everyone dug in and have a go, and we should do okay.”