PHOTO: VALENTINE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Match of the Round
Thornton Redbacks FC v Belmont Swansea United FC
Sunday 6th August, 2:30pm at Thornton Park
In regards to the final make up of the top four, this match is perhaps the most important of the season. Both could finish as high as first, or as low as fourth depending on results at Thornton Park and elsewhere – so what’s going to split these sides on Sunday?
Thornton were dominant victors when they ran over the top of Belswans back in round 10 – a 3-1 win, with Nathan McAllister grabbing a double on the day.
With a flurry of late form, the Redbacks managed to win their catch up games and jump into second spot before last weekend’s matches. They’ve won their last four matches on the trot, scoring eight and conceding none in that time. Thornton are on a hot streak, and with a potential minor premiership looming they have it all to play for.
Speaking of form, Belswans aren’t in a bad patch themselves. One draw and eight wins from their last nine matches has them comfortably inside the top four, but they are at the bottom of said four. A win today could also take them as high as first, however it’s an unlikely scenario – not a bad motivator, though.
This weekend also brings the league’s two highest goal scorers together. Belswans’ Tega Marcus has 20 from his 18 appearances so far this season, and leads the charts. Thornton captain Nathan McAllister is next best with 18 goals from as many appearances, but Marcus looks the more likely to take the golden boot.
Thornton coach Darrel McAllister wasn’t downplaying the importance of Sunday’s match.
“it’ll be an interesting game, we’re one point in front and the boys are all looking forward to it,” he said.
“There are a few things riding on the game so it’s a pretty exciting game really… to get three points we’ll have to be at our best, they’re probably the form team at moment. Last time we played them we were eight points in front of them, this time we’re one point in front.”
McAllister also spoke about the chance to finish top of the table.
“Cooks Hill play the day before which means we’re in a position where we don’t really know what we’re playing for at the moment, we will on the day… the boys aren’t using it [first place] as a motivator just yet, but they’re hoping New Lambton can do us a favour,” he said.
“We’re in a position where we’re relying on someone else, so we’re hopeful but we are realistic.”
West Wallsend SFC v Cessnock City FC
Saturday 5th August, 2:30pm at Johnston Park
The closest a struggling Cessnock side has come to a win all season was against West Wallsend back in round 10. Can they produce a full 90-minute performance and pull off an unlikely first win at Johnston Park on Saturday?
The Hornets were just moments away from their first win of the season back in the middle of May, when the last two sides met. However, Westy pulled off one of the most incredible comebacks in recent NEWFM Northern League One history and scored twice in injury time to win 2-1.
The bye may have come at just the right time for West Wallsend last weekend and will have given coach Gary Rowe enough time to ponder where his side have gone wrong of late. They’ve only taken a point from their last three encounters, a slump which means they’ll miss out on Rowe’s target of ten wins for the season. A win seems certain this weekend.
Cessnock battled hard last weekend, but it’s tough to tell if the tight 1-0 defeat to Kahibah was due to Cessnock’s hard graft, or Kahibah’s uninspiring style of play. Regardless, the young Hornets will still have the memories of their last clash with West Wallsend fresh in the mind. Watch for Cessnock to try to outplay Westy, and avoid any physical confrontation.
West Wallsend coach Gary Rowe was confident Old Boys Day at Johnston Park would give his side a lift.
“We’re looking forward to the match, it’s [Old Boys Day] a special day every year and we’re looking to go out and finish the season on a high,” Rowe said.
“Normally aginst Cessnock it’s be a tough one, but being Odl Boys Day we’re certainly not lacking any motivation, we don’t want to go out there and put on a rubbish performance in front of all of those guys and the lads know you have to lift and go that little bit harder.”
Rowe was also disappointed to not hit his target of ten wins for the season.
“We didn’t perform very well in the games we should have been winning and in hindsight that let’s you down, we let ourselves down with our application and our effort and it’s quite frustrating, but hopefully we can get a win on the weekend and put us a point off our target,” he said.
Cooks Hill United FC v New Lambton FC
Saturday 5th August, 2:30pm at Newcastle Athletics Field
The Cookers haven’t finished on top of the league during their time in the Zone Premier League, or indeed the NEWFM Northern League One. A win against New Lambton would tie it up this weekend – but will they crack under pressure?
There was no shortage of entertainment the last time these two sides met – Cooks Hill had overcome a 2-goal deficit by half-time, and went on to win 5-4 in a tit-for-tat battle at Alder Park.
This is a huge match for Cooks Hill – a win, and the minor premiership is theirs. Anything else, and it’s suddenly out of their hands. Regardless of results, the Cookers’ will finish the season with the most goals scored by any team – 61. With the likes of Lee Ashton (13 goals), Nick Russell (10 goals), and Cal Lewis and Gallagher (both 9 goals), be prepared for a flurry of goals.
It was a season which promised much early on for New Lambton, but a poor patch in the middle and a lack of depth was too much of a challenge to overcome in their first year in the second tier. They’ll have been buoyed by their ability to score goals last weekend, but equally so their worrying ability to concede them. Shoring things up will be key, but they’re never short of a goal either – they’ve averaged just over 2 a game this season.
Cooks Hill coach Graham Law was keen to draw attention to the achievements of the entire senior club.
“If we win, then what better way to win it than on a day when your 19s and your 23s also win the comp as well… our 17s can still win the comp, too,” Law said.
“We can have every senior grade win the competition this year, and I think that’s quite an achievement for the club.”
Law wasn’t taking this weekend’s opponents lightly, no matter the difference on the ladder.
“If there’s one team that’s in a false position on the ladder this season then it’s New Lambton, I think they’re much better than the ladder shows,” he said.
“They try to play football and I think it’s the ideal game for us, New Lambton won’t turn up and try to play two lines of five… last time we played them they played with three strikers, and I know Andrew Packer he’ll want to finish the season on a high.
“In the first 20 minutes, New Lambton will come out as if they’re playing a grand final and if we can manage that spell in the game, I don’t have any doubts our boys will kick on and win the competition.”
South Cardiff FC v Singleton Strikers FC
Sunday 6th August, 2:30pm at Ulinga Oval
The Gunners had their finals hopes quashed last weekend, and they’re now playing for pride. Singleton have been doing just that for a couple of weeks – can the Strikers’ youngsters put on a show and cause an upset?
It was a straightforward day out for the Gunners back in round 10, when they travelled to Howe Park. Corey Nicholas, Joey Grujevski and Antonio Ahmataj scored goals in the 3-1 win.
South Cardiff teetered on the edge of finals football for weeks, but a run of matches in which they played the top four sides consecutively harnessed only two points for the Gunners and sent them crashing out of contention. This weekend will be an opportunity for the side to post their highest points tally since 2011, when they managed 33 points in the NBN State League.
Singleton are set for their worst finish to the season since 2014, but it hasn’t been without its highlights. The emergence of youngsters like Brad Millar and Tristain Muir, both former Weston juniors, will encourage the club but more importantly they’ll be looking for good performances from the pair to finish their season on a high.
It’ll be a story of defences on Sunday. South Cardiff’s is the third best in the competition (only 25 goals conceded), and while Singleton hold the record of third worst with 46 conceded, Cooks Hill coach Graham Law said last week that goalkeeper Stuart Plant was the only thing between his side and 10 goals. The Strikers may struggle to break down Southy, but Stuart Plant will do his best to deny the likes of Antonio Ahmataj and Brett Cowling.
Kahibah FC v Wallsend FC
Sunday 6th August, 2:30pm at Kahibah Oval
Wallsend were knocked down a peg last weekend, and their only target for the rest of the season is to affect the finals race as best they can. They can play a big part this weekend, and Kahibah will need to pull up their socks and improve – fast.
A plucky Wallsend side pinched a 1-0 win over Kahibah last time the two sides played back in round 10. Luke Alexander scored early on the day and the Red Devils dug in – can they do the same and put a dent in Kahibah’s faint title hopes on Sunday?
Every side in the top four can look back on their season and say ‘could have, would have, should have’. For Kahibah, a loss against Belswans a fortnight ago means they sit third now, instead of first but a win today could secure them first place – if results elsewhere go their way. Kahibah have conceded only 18 goals from their 19 matches this season, and they’ll be keen on another shutout this weekend.
Wallsend won the derby against Westy a fortnight ago, before being rolled by Thornton 3-0 last weekend. Their goal for the remainder of the season has been to spoil the party where they can, and a win against Kahibah this weekend could known the Green and Black to fourth on the ladder. Wallsend are middle of the road in terms of goals scored and conceded, and may struggle to score on Sunday.