Photo: Valentine Sports Photography
Match of the Round
South Cardiff FC v Thornton Redbacks FC
Sunday 30th April, 2:30 pm at Ulinga Oval
South Cardiff will be hunting the chance to go within three points of top spot when they look to knock off fellow early surprise package Thornton in the Round 8 NEWFM Northern League One Match of the Round at Ulinga Oval on Sunday afternoon.
The Redbacks took all three points the last time these two sides faced off in round 18 of last season, Darrel McAllister’s side picking up a 3-0 win over what was a side coached then by Andrew Packer – currently of New Lambton.
South Cardiff have been on a hot streak as of late – only a single loss so far this season at an average of just under three goals scored a game has them sitting pretty in second place and only two wins from sitting level with Cooks Hill in the first place. An immaculate home record so far in 2017 is something the Gunners will be looking to extend.
South Cardiff also have the best defensive record in the league so far – two clean sheets and only four goals conceded in their five matches this season. Up against one of the most potent attacks in the league, South Cardiff know they’ll need to be tight at the back if they want to continue to rise up the ladder.
Thornton have had a disrupted start to the season, and are still catching up a swag of washout games. Wednesday night’s big win over Toronto in their round four catch up match means they’ve taken nine points from a possible twelve points in 2017 – and taking three more this weekend will catapult them into the top four.
Concerning for McAllister will be the way his side capitulated in their loss to Cooks Hill – an early 2-0 lead turned into a 4-2 defeat against 10 men.
On the positive side, the first twenty minutes were a good display of free-flowing, confident attacking football for the Redbacks, and if they’re able to produce that for 90 minutes they’ll cause some major problems for South Cardiff. McAllister said this weekend, his side will look to improve their mental game.
“Apart from making poor decisions at different times, our discipline in parts even.”
“So that’s a major concern, mentally how we react to adversity… you seen the reaction (last week), it wasn’t much at all.”
Singleton Strikers FC v Kahibah FC
Saturday 29th April, 2:30 pm at Howe Park
Kahibah will be on the road for one of the longest away trips in the league when they travel up the Valley to tackle Singleton at Howe Park on Saturday afternoon.
The last time these two sides faced off was at Howe Park – and it was the home side who’d keep the three points in Singleton with a 2-0 win in round 20 last season, and the Strikers will be hoping for a similar upset win this time around.
Singleton were second best in their loss to West Wallsend last weekend; tightening up at the back while looking for some creative inspiration will be key if the three points are to stay in Singleton.
In a boost for the Strikers, the Bruzesse brothers are set to remain in the region for another week and will add some quality to the young side. Sam Ford is also a 50/50 chance of turning out for Singleton on the weekend, and his inclusion may be a much-needed boost for the Strikers. In addition, Nathan Hall may also be in line for a return to the first-grade side after his demotion to 23s last weekend.
Kahibah squandered a slew of chances in their round seven loss to South Cardiff, and couldn’t break down a resolute Gunners defence despite boasting the likes of Dave Hodgson and Jarrod Penfold amongst their ranks. 14 goals from Kahibah’s five matches so far this season is a decent return, and a similar strike rate may be necessary to get them over the line against Singleton.
The defensive structure is key to what Andre Gumprecht is doing at Kahibah, and he’ll be pleased with only six goals conceded from their five matches so far this season. Given Singleton’s woes in the top half of the middle third and beyond last week, Kahibah will be confident of a shutout on Saturday afternoon.
Singleton coach David Willoughby wasn’t oblivious to how different a test this weekend’s opponents present.
“Massive challenge this weekend… we’re going to change the way we go about pressing Kahibah,” Willoughby said.
“We’re probably going to let Kahibah have the ball a lot in their own half and manage the space, and make sure we can minimise the opportunities and balls inside our own box.”
Cessnock City FC v New Lambton FC
Saturday 29th April, 2:30 pm at Turner Park
Cessnock will be out to improve on their last performance when they clash with the high-flying Eagles at Turner Park on Saturday afternoon.
It’ll be a chance for both sides to get their respective club records against one another off in good fashion – the two sides haven’t faced off before in a competitive arena, and all signs point towards an entertaining clash between the two sides.
Cessnock showed a lot of promise in their 3-1 defeat to Cooks Hill on Easter Sunday, but some quality finishing and defensive lapses ultimately cost them a shot at three points and a massive upset over the league leaders. A 5-1 defeat against South Cardiff in a round four wash up will have dented the confidence of the Hornets, who will need to lift again if they have any chance of knocking off New Lambton.
The Hornets have scored the least goals of any side in the league so far this season – six goals to their name, half of those scored by new signing Jason Zechel. Cessnock has a number of capable men up front – Max Wallington and Brodie Williams are two who pose a threat, and they’ll have to start firing if Cessnock are to pull themselves off the bottom of the ladder.
The Eagles win over Wallsend last weekend was a tale of two halves – the first a game of force backs, and the second of a strong, confident side capable of playing positive football. Andrew Packer suggested following the match their mentality in the first half was due to wanting to take the match to their opponents at home, so it’ll be interesting to see how they decide to line up against a side with the second most goals conceded in the league.
New Lambton will be without their captain Dan Luther after the defender suffered a collapsed lung in their 2-1 win over Wallsend last weekend. Last weekend’s hero Harry Benbow will come into cover the back, and the Eagles will be hoping he can play a big part in tightening up things at the back of the park.
Belmont Swansea United FC v West Wallsend FC
Sunday 30th April, 2:30 pm at Blacksmiths Oval
West Wallsend will have to be wary of a wounded Belmont Swansea side when the two sides clash at Blacksmiths Oval on Sunday afternoon.
Belswans picked up the win the last time these two faced off in round 18 of last season, a 3-0 win from a side that went all the way to the Grand Final under the tutelage of Brad Paul.
Belswans will still be reeling from a shock 4-3 loss to Toronto last weekend, but have had all week to recover and work on their shortcomings in the lead up to this one. Of course, a red card in that loss had an impact on the result and coach Josh Rufo will be looking forward to hopefully keeping a full complement on the park on Sunday afternoon.
Belswans missed the chance to jump New Lambton and South Cardiff to the second spot on the ladder, and as a result currently, sit in the fifth spot after six games played. A win here would keep Belswans well in the running early on – and the key to the result will again be the performance of Tega Marcus up top. With seven goals to his name so far this campaign, some more clinical finishing may just prove the difference.
The Bluebells picked up on their second win of the campaign in round 7’s tight victory over Singleton, but know they have a number of areas they need to improve on if they’re to replicate that success. Finishing was their biggest stumbling block in that match, and the likes of Ryan Cole will need to step up to the plate if West Wallsend are to get a result.
West Wallsend stumbled midweek – a 3-0 defeat to Kahibah in their round four catch-up match means they need a result here to pull themselves up from the wrong end of the ladder. Backing up for their third match in eight days will be a challenge for the Bluebells and given Belswans have had a relatively steady run into this game, fatigue may have an impact on the final result in this one.
Wallsend FC v Toronto Awaba FC
Sunday 30th April, 2:30 pm at The Gardens
Two sides out with a point to prove will clash when Wallsend take on Toronto Awaba at The Gardens on Sunday afternoon.
The last visit to The Gardens wasn’t a happy one for the Stags – hit for six by eventual champions Wallsend in round 12 last season.
Wallsend played a game of two halves last time out against New Lambton – sucked into playing a game over the midfield in the first half, before camping in their own half and eventually conceding to the Eagles’ onslaught. It’s likely to be a much more open match against the Stags, and how Chris Gallagher has his troops approach this one will be key.
Wallsend have shipped a worrying 2 goals a game on average so far this season, but may be confident of improving this record when they take on a Toronto side who have only ten goals from their seven matches. A more positive mindset will be key to a positive result for the Red Devils this weekend.
It was a big win for Toronto last time out – a surprise 4-3 win over Belswans as Nick Roberts continued his good run of form with two goals to his name on the day. The Stags hit their straps last time out, but faltered in their midweek loss to Thornton. It’ll be key Toronto get a good result this weekend to get their stuttering season back on track – they’re only four points off the top four.
Worryingly for the Stags, they’ve conceded the highest number of goals in the league so far – 26 goals in their seven matches so far, an average of just under four a match. Given Wallsend have only scored 11 from their six games this season, Toronto may be quietly confident of another positive result against a Wallsend side who haven’t quite met their potential thus far this season.
Toronto coach Adam Rutledge knows how important it is he has a fully fit and firing side.
“We’ve had a torrid run with injuries, so hopefully the boys are fit,” Rutledge said.
“We missed four one-on-ones (against Belswans) … getting back to back wins, or three on the trot can help any side being there or there about.
After conceding a competition high 26 goals in 7 matches, Rutledge identified one key area of improvement.
“We definitely need to tighten up the defence.”