PHOTO: VALENTINE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Match of the Round
Cooks Hill v Kahibah
Saturday 8th April, 2:30 pm at Newcastle Athletics Field
Round five’s NEWFM Northern League One Match of the Round takes us to Newcastle Athletics Field for a clash of the heavyweights as the high-flying Cooks Hill take on the much fancied Kahibah.
Neither side has had the issue of catch up games midweek to contend with and will come into this one firing despite perhaps lacking a little match fitness. The last time these two met was in round 12 last season and a vastly different Cooks Hill were thoroughly dismantled by Andre Gumprecht’s side – 6-1.
Much has changed for Cooks Hill since that match and it hasn’t gone unnoticed that they’ve started this season with a bang under the tutelage of Graham Law. A number of strong signings have really bolstered the squad, and Lee Ashton currently leads the goalscoring charts with six goals to his name.
Encouraging for Law will also be the performances of his under 23’s side, who have scored 21 goals in their opening three fixtures thanks mainly to the efforts of Asher Beasley, whose goal tally already sits in the double digits.
Kahibah, on the other hand, has only played a single match so far this season as the wet weather wreaks havoc with schedules throughout the region. Their solitary fixture was a 2-2 draw with New Lambton where they controlled much of the possession and the chances, but failed to see out a lead not once, but twice in the match.
Ash Ilfield was crucial in the middle of the park for Kahibah last time out and coach Andre Gumprecht said following the draw with New Lambton, his side was visibly weakened when the midfielder went off with an injury. His fitness and performance will be crucial in ensuring Kahibah are effective in possession and keeping Cooks Hill out.
Cooks Hill coach Graham Law was keeping his cards close to his chest ahead of this one.
“I’ve seen at training this week, the guys are starting to get very familiar with each other and we have a strong team together,” Law said.
“I’m very pleased with the 23s, they’re really strong and it’s keeping my first graders on their toes, the standard at training is so high because the 23s are pushing hard.
“Kahibah have some very dangerous players, if you give them time and space on the ball they’ll hurt you… they’re obviously the league favourites for a reason.”
West Wallsend SFC v Thornton Redbacks FC
Saturday 8th April, 2:30 pm at Johnston Park
Thornton will be hoping to kick back into gear when they travel up the freeway and face the Bluebells at Johnston Park on Saturday afternoon.
Mid-table defined these sides last season, with Thornton enjoying the better of the results in 2016. Both teams will be looking to make their mark with a win this time out after the last time they met at Johnston Park was in round 16 last season that ended in a 2-all draw.
West Wallsend have endured a mixed start to 2017, with a strong win over Toronto and soured by heavy defeats at the hands of Cooks Hill and New Lambton. Taking chances on offer is crucial to any side, but will be more so this coming weekend against a Thornton side who scored freely in round one. Ryan Cole has been a key creator and scorer for the Bluebells but given Thornton’s strength in attack, the likes of Bryson and Bailey Cox in the back line will be crucial.
The Bluebells will be keen to get their season on track with a win in this one. Some good football has been stunted by lapses in concentration and unfortunate errors at crucial moments, and coach Gary Rowe will have worked hard to rectify these mistakes and will be hoping it all comes together this weekend.
Thornton will play their first competitive match in four weeks following three washouts and a bye and are sure to be down on match fitness, although a trial match with Hamilton would have helped somewhat. Good game management from coach Darrel McAllister will be crucial in managing some of his elder statesmen and getting the most out of his side.
The Redbacks have a good squad, and McAllister showed he knows how to get the best out of them in their round one win over Cessnock. Maintaining their fluidity in attack and keeping the pressure on the West Wallsend defence will be important, as will the experience of the likes of Nathan McAllister and Jamie Subat.
Toronto Awaba FC v South Cardiff FC
Sunday 9th April, 2:30 pm at Lyall Peacock Field
The struggling Stags will hope they don’t get blown away by a soaring Gunners side when the two clash at Lyall Peacock Field on Sunday afternoon.
Both sides struggled big time in 2016, finishing at the wrong end of the table. The last time they faced off was in round 16 last season, the Gunners went away from Lyall Peacock with a 2-0 victory.
An unknown at the beginning of the season, the Gunners have stormed in as a dark horse after impressive wins against fellow big guns Wallsend and New Lambton. Their strength from set-pieces has snagged them three of their five goals so far this campaign, and the delivery of the likes of Denis Fajkovic and Cam Treweek will again be important for the Gunners.
Toronto have struggled so far in 2017, having shipped eight goals in only two appearances. The lack of game time wouldn’t have helped matters for the Stags, but given Sunday’s match will be South Cardiff’s third in 8 days Toronto may be confident of having an edge in match fitness. Toronto captain Nick Roberts and Blake Glennie will be crucial in the middle of the park for the Stags in this one.
Gunners coach Denis Fajkovic is looking to build on his side’s win over New Lambton last Saturday night.
“I’m always looking to improve on the previous week, but I haven’t seen much of Toronto so we’re just going to go out and play our own game, not much will change,” Fajkovic said.
“It never helps not playing games consistently, so match fitness wise if they haven’t played in three weeks then we may have a bit of an advantage.”
Cessnock City FC v Wallsend FC
Sunday 9th April, 2:30 pm at Turner Park
The way these two sides handle recovery after their respective mid-week games for both sides will be telling when they clash at a resilient Turner Park on Sunday afternoon.
The two couldn’t have had more different seasons in 2016 – Cessnock finished rock bottom and Wallsend finished fourth on the way to their second Grand Final win in as many years. When they last faced off in round 16, Cessnock grabbed a shocking 4-2 victory and will be hoping they can upset the scales yet again.
Wallsend hasn’t enjoyed much of the start of their 2017 campaign, recording a win and two losses so far. Cessnock showed a lot of resilience in defence when they faced Belswans last weekend, and the likes of Trent Milton will have to be at their best up front against a competitive Cessnock side.
Wednesday night’s match against Belswans was shaping as crucial for Wallsend early on, and they went down 2-0. There had been a lot of talk in the build-up to this one, and how Wallsend bounce back from the result may say a lot about where their season will head.
The return of Jason Zechel to the ‘Nock proved a masterstroke for the Hornets when they faced Belswans in round 4. An early goal helped secure a point for Cessnock and he, along with fellow attacker Max Wallington should have scored a swag of goals but laboured on the way to a 1-1 draw. If Cessnock coach Lino Gatti can get his strikers firing this weekend, the Hornets may pick up their first win of the campaign.
Cessnock enjoyed sitting behind the ball and hitting Belswans on the counter in their last match, and if Wallsend look to dominate the game in a similar fashion the Hornets may have some success in exploiting the space in behind. Using the pace of Wallington and Zechel, along with Travas McCabe will be crucial for Cessnock.
New Lambton FC v Singleton Strikers FC
Sunday 9th April, 2:30 pm at Alder Park
Poor results for both of these sides will spur each on to improve when New Lambton take on Singleton in their first match at home in the 2017 season.
New Lambton’s recent promotion means this round five encounter will be the first time the two sides have faced off in a competitive fixture and is set to be a well-contested fixture between the two relatively young teams.
The Eagles came crashing back to earth after a high-flying start to their maiden season in the second tier of local football following a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of South Cardiff last weekend. Two goals from set pieces highlighted perhaps a lack of concentration and complacency among the ranks following their good start, and coach Andrew Packer will need to stamp this out and get his side back to their best.
Singleton bounced back from a below-par start to the season in their last outing at Turner Park with a 3-1 victory over Cessnock. Circumstances beyond their control meant a jolted start in that fixture, and following last weekend’s bye, the Strikers will be keen to get back out onto the pitch and kick start a bit of a good run of form. The youth of Singleton will be fit and firing for this one, despite nearly two weeks off.
Packer was keen for his Eagles to get their season back on track.
“With a result like the one against South Cardiff you need a good response, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the match and it’s up to the boys to go out and put in a good performance,” Packer said.
“We have got some good things in place, we won’t be changing too much, we’ll go out and play our normal game but obviously there’s things we need to be doing much better.”
Singleton coach David Willoughby has no concerns his side will struggle following nearly two weeks off.
“We got together over the weekend and had a bit of a hit out, we’ve been training and we’re good to go,” Willoughby said.
“We improvised last week against Cessnock and we did well, hopefully, we can build on that this weekend… New Lambton are a good side, a well-organised unit and they’ll be tough to beat.”