PHOTO: VALENTINE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Kahibah FC v Belmont Swansea United FC
Saturday 19th August, 2:30 pm at Kahibah Oval
First leg: Belswans 0 def. by Kahibah 2
Last weekend’s visitors were as ruthless in victory as they’ve been all season, and now Kahibah has the home advantage on their side as they look to shut out Belswans for another 90 minutes and set themselves up for a maiden NEWFM Northern League One Grand Final appearance.
A home fortress crumbled last weekend as Belswans were held scoreless for the first time since round 11 – which was the last time they lost at home, to South Cardiff back in mid-May.
More pressing a concern for Belswans however, is the two goal deficit they must overturn this weekend. They’re the least potent attacking side of those left in contention, despite boasting the 20-goal Tega Marcus.
Belswans didn’t exactly show their attacking intentions last weekend as they set out in a bid to avoid conceding away goals. It backfired though, as they shipped two thanks to former Belswan Jamie Hadlow.
Hadlow was the benefactor of a lucky strike and a quick counter last weekend – the latter a hallmark of Kahibah’s style on Sunday. They stuck men behind the ball and broke down whatever Belswans threw at them while getting forward quickly.
It’s a style which has worked for them all season, and with only eighteen goals conceded throughout the year, they’ve bought into the defensive outlook that coach Andre Gumprecht declared they’d take this season.
Keep an eye on a key battle between two veterans this weekend. Belswan Sean Matthews was giving Dave Hodgson some extra attention, who was more than happy to return the favour. Tensions were simmering last weekend – expect a fiery one at Kahibah Oval.
Cooks Hill United FC v Thornton Redbacks FC
Saturday 19th August, 2:30pm at Newcastle Athletics Field
First leg: Thornton 0 def. by Cooks Hill 3
They’ve been the team to beat all season, but it will take something special for Cooks Hill to be felled this weekend as they head home to see out their three goal buffer against a wounded Thornton outfit on Sunday.
The 3-0 win away from home for Cooks Hill last weekend has put them in a commanding position heading into this weekend. Three away goals mean if they score one on Saturday, Thornton must score five to win. Given Cooks haven’t been kept scoreless since round 13, it’s a scary prospect for Thornton.
They’ve not been noted for any particular set piece advantage this season, but last week Cooks Hill made them count with three goals coming as a result of the dead ball.
All the talk was about their attackers and the fact three of them are in double digits for goals scored this season. For three goals to come from three defensive players, it’s a good sign for Graham Law’s sign and a worry for Thornton.
For all the talk about their attack, one thing Law was happy with after last weekend’s match was their defensive resolve. The clean sheet was their first since round nine, and another this weekend would make a potential grand final opponent very nervous indeed.
After four clean sheets in their last five normal competition rounds, Thornton has now failed to keep it clean in their last two and conceded four in a fortnight. It’s a bad time to endure a form slump, and it’ll take a mammoth effort this weekend to shock the competition and cause an upset.
That effort will be boosted by an influx of experience, though. Jamie Subat and Tallan Martin are set to make their return after missing out through injury and travel respectively, and will each provide a steady hand in what was a young Thornton team last weekend.
The pair will need to provide goals, too. They, along with Nathan McAllister have accounted for more than half of the Redbacks’ goals this year, but McAllister is the only one to have scored in their last five outings.
Thornton coach Darrel McAllister knows his side must improve.
“We’ve come up with a few different things we need to do, at the end of the day we had six or seven chances [last week] and I don’t think their keeper made a save, so we have to do better in that area,” McAllister said.
“There are a couple of boys coming back which gives us a few good selection headaches… we had to put Liam Penglaze in the backline last weekend, Jamie Subat and Tallan Martin were out last weekend and after Nathan, they’re probably the next best three goal scorers.
“It’s about making sure the right people are hitting the target and forcing the keeper to make a save, or do better and get it past the keeper.”
With Subat, Martin, and Wade Atwell set to return to the side for this weekend’s match, McAllister was confident they’d contribute positively to Thornton’s game.
“Different people are going to approach the game differently, and I guess those guys remind people of their jobs… last week there were a few people not doing things we were asking them, and that’s where the senior people help out,” he said.
“You can set a game plan all you want, but the senior players run the game plan so we’ll set something out this weekend where we feel we can be successful.
“We’ll be having a crack, that’s for sure. We won’t die wondering.”
Cooks Hill coach Graham Law believes his side’s goal scoring form can continue this weekend.
“I’m fairly confident we’ll score a goal (given) the way we’ve played this season, and if that’s the case then they need five,” Law said.
“What I’ve said is if we lose the first goal just play the tie for where it’s at, and not the game on the day and that’s what we’ve been working on… we worked on something in training where the other team started 3-0 up to give the boys an idea of play the tie, and not the game.
“Only for us is it a 180-minute game now, Thornton don’t have that luxury so we can lose a goal and play the tie, whereas Thornton knows they can’t lose a single goal and will know themselves they want to score five.”
The two-legged semi final means that aggregate and away goals come into play, and it’s a scenario which Law thinks suits his side.
“If we lose a goal it means nothing in the context of the tie, but if they lose a goal than the tie is dead… if that comes back to bite me on the arse and we get beat 5-1, then I’ll wear that, but I think that’s unlikely,” he said.
“If they come back into this tie and win then fair play to them, they deserve to go through to the final… but we’re confident of scoring a goal, which puts pressure on them to score five away from home.”