Photo: Valentine Sports Photography
Match of the Round
Wallsend FC vs. South Cardiff
Sunday 25th March, 4:30 pm
South Cardiff will play their first game of the season when they face Wallsend in the first leg of the Gallagher Shield, this weekend after having their Round 1 match against New Lambton abandoned due to the scorching heat.
Another interesting point to note is that the match will be played at South Cardiff’s Ulinga Oval, despite the game being a Wallsend home fixture due to circumstances at The Gardens.
After winning last week 3-1 over Toronto-Awaba, Wallsend will be looking to retain their early spot at the top of the table and the most interesting match-up between the two sides will be between the two sets of forwards.
Both sides new men up-front, Wallsend’s signing Ty Goldsmith, who was quick to impress with a stunning goal in Round 1, and South Cardiff’s new star, Nathan McCallister, will both be looked upon with eager eyes and with heavy rain forecasted for the weekend, goal scoring chances may be scarce to come by.
Wallsend coach Ben Edwards suggested that taking on an opponent who missed the first week of the competition isn’t making their preparation any harder.
“We’ve just got to go in the same as last week really like we’re going into Round 1,” Edwards said.
“We know Southy has a bit of firepower.”
“Their defence is going to be strong again, but we’ve improved our attack so I’m hoping we can be a bit more potent going towards their goal.”
Edwards also admitted that despite the late change to the fixture’s ground, and ultimately losing a home game, that it won’t affect the team’s performance or approach to the game.
“Whether we’re home and away, we’re trying to not let us faze us too much this year.”
“We’re going to just try and play football and win regardless of where we’re playing.”
South Cardiff coach Denis Fajkovic said despite the team being a bit upset that they had to postpone the beginning of their season, the team is raring to go and start off on the right track.
“It’s not ideal that we didn’t get to play. I was disappointed actually.”
“I don’t think we’ll be behind the ball just because we missed the first game.”
“There’s a lot of positive vibes around the club and in the playing group at the moment and we’re all excited and just wanting to get into this comp.”
Fajkovic affirmed that regardless of what the weather decides to do this weekend, his team is ready to play football.
“For us, the way we play is pretty simple and structured, so whether it rains or doesn’t rain won’t affect us too much, it’s more about whether we actually get onto the field.”
Cooks Hill United vs. Singleton Strikers
Saturday 24th March, 2:30 pm
Newcastle Athletics Field
Cooks Hill kicked off their title-defending season last week in great fashion after defeating Belmont-Swansea in a Grand Final rematch, 1-0, while on the other hand, Singleton had a 1-1 draw in a tough away visit to West Wallsend.
For the Strikers, they’ll be hoping they can emulate the same kind of performance that they displayed last season when they visited the AthField and pushed the Cookers all the way, grabbing a point in an entertaining and hard-fought 2-2 draw.
Cooks Hill coach Graham Law admitted he was extremely pleased with his defence last weekend and believes that if his side can once again be solid at the back, then they’ll be hard to beat.
“I was really pleased with the clean sheet. That was the benchmark for us – to reduce the goals we let in last year.”
“We’re at home, so we’re obviously going to take the game straight to Singleton like we did with Belswans. But there’s no hiding the fact that defence is something that we’ve really, really worked on in pre-season.”
“I’m fairly certain that if we can keep a clean sheet, then we’ll win the game because there’s goals in my team.”
With the heavy rain expected to hang around across the weekend, Law suggested that regardless of how the weather decides to act, the Cookers will be ready for Singleton.
“I think there’s every chance the game will be on. It’s a fan-based pitch so it drains very quickly.”
“We can change our tactics up to suit any pitch we play on. It’s something that we practice.”
West Wallsend Bluebells SFC vs. Kahibah FC
Saturday 24th March, 6:00 pm
Kahibah will play their opening game of the season this weekend at Johnston Park that will also be the first night game in the competition.
Interestingly enough, Kahibah also received the bye in Round 1 of 2017 and came to win 5-0 the next week so expect Andre Gumprecht’s side to be well prepared and ready to go despite beginning their season a week late.
The last time Kahibah travelled to West Wallsend’s ‘Wembley’, the home side caused a major upset, winning 2-1, and if the Bluebells are going to replicate that victory, they’ll need to be much more clinical in front of goal than they were last weekend in their draw against Singleton.
Coach Gary Rowe admitted that the major focus for his team this weekend will be taking their scoring chances when they come.
“If we took the chances we created [last week], we’d be sitting on three points at the minute, but we didn’t.”
“Against a good side like these guys [Kahibah] we’ll get maybe 3 or 4 chances in the game and if we don’t take them, we’re not going to win the football game, it’s pretty simple.”
“It’s a matter of the boys sticking to the plan, waiting for the game to happen and taking our chances when we get them.”
Rowe also confessed that he felt Kahibah probably had the slight edge considering they didn’t play in the scorching conditions last week brought and he was expecting a tough match.
“If we hadn’t played in 38-degree heat last week I probably would have said that it would have been better for us.”
“It was probably lucky they didn’t play last week if anything.”
“They’ll be busting to play. They’ll be up for it.”
West Wallsend will also be missing young star Bailey Jensen this week, after receiving a red card late in the game last weekend.
Belmont-Swansea United vs. Toronto-Awaba Stags FC
Sunday 25th March, 2:30 pm
Both Belswans and Toronto lost their opening game and currently sit at the bottom of the table, a stat line the clubs will be very keen to get rid of.
Last season, both sides grabbed a victory over one another in matches that displayed a lot of games and close score lines, so expect another interesting tussle this time around.
After missing multiple first-grade players last week, Belswans coach Josh Rufo isn’t expecting any of those injured players to be returning, however, he’s still confident his team can build and improve on their disappointing result last week.
“We’ll learn from last week and take a lot out of it.”
“We’ve already started working on things and will address them again at training before the game this weekend.”
Rufo suggested that last week, his side weren’t good enough with their movement and usage of the ball and will be a key focus heading into this week’s game.
“We need to look to be much better with our use of the football, I think if we get that right, we’ll be fine.”
“We have a lot of clever players so if use the football well, we should be good.”
Cessnock City Hornets vs. New Lambton FC
Sunday 25th March, 2:30 pm
New Lambton will make the trip out to Cessnock this Sunday for their first match of the season and after witnessing Cessnock’s good defensive display last week against Thornton, they’ll be anticipating a tough encounter.
For New Lambton, they’ll be looking to kick-off their season on the right track, while Cessnock will be doing everything they can to try and win their first match in 637 days.
Having played all their trial matches (excluding the Ampcontrol Heritage Cup weekend) at Turner Park, the Hornets will play their eighth straight match at home. Considering the large number of new signings they’ve brought in this year, that fact can only help in familiarising them with the club.
New Lambton coach Andrew Packer said that despite playing a game less than Cessnock, he believes that his team will benefit from having the week off in Round One.
“It’s not a bad thing [missing Round One],” Packer stated.
“I think we’ll be a bit fresher and now the boys are even more keen now than they were in the first round, so it’s good.”
“I’m expecting a tough match. We had a tough game against them at their place last year even though we dominated.”
“For us, we’ll go out there and play our normal game, hopefully, score a few and win the match.”