Match of the Round
Cessnock City Hornets (4th) vs. West Wallsend Bluebells SFC (5th)
Sunday 22nd April, 2:30 pm, Turner Park
Fresh off the bye, Cessnock City will host West Wallsend in the Round 6 match of the round in a contest featuring two of the in-form teams in the competition.
Last weekend, the Bluebells stunned the league beating a lacklustre South Cardiff side, while the Hornets remarkably, still haven’t lost a game in 2018 after being unable to win one all throughout last year.
In their past four match-ups, West Wallsend may have beaten Cessnock each time, boasting a dominant aggregate of 16-4 from those matches, however, this year’s Cessnock side has already proven that they are a force to be reckoned with.
The defence might be the all-important factor though.
The Hornets have only conceded two goals so far this season, while West Wallsend has let in 14 in just five games – it’s the best defence versus the worst.
Cessnock City coach Brendan Slade suggested that their defence would again be a point of major focus for his side.
“We need to keep our defence pretty tight,” Slade said.
“They’ve got some quality players there who can hurt you if you give them space, so we need to shut them down on the ball and not give them a lot of room.
“We’re expecting a really tough game against Westy.”
West Wallsend coach Gary Rowe also agreed that the game would be a tough battle and was expecting one of their toughest tests yet.
“I expect them to be pretty confident and well rested,” Rowe said.
“Cessnock is going to be a different challenge than what we’ve faced in the last few weeks.
“The wins that we’ve had have been scrappy which was been good because, in the past, the boys haven’t scraped out any results.”
After a stuttering first few rounds of the competition, Rowe suggested that once his side’s match fitness improved, that the same high level of football would soon follow.
“We had a couple of weeks off when the rain was here, and it’s put us behind the 8-ball.”
“The boys are performing pretty well, but once we can get them, fitter, I’m confident they’ll go from strength to strength.”
Kahibah FC (9th) vs. Singleton Strikers (6th)
Saturday 21st April, 2:30 pm, Kahibah Oval
This weekend Singleton will travel to Kahibah to play a crucial match that both clubs will be desperate to win.
Both sides have shown glimpses of the football they’re capable of in the first few games of the season, but they haven’t been able to consistently showcase it and as a result, both sit in mid-table positions on the ladder that could quite easily be higher.
Last weekend, these two clubs had to share points with their oppositions despite having chances to win.
If both sides want to be in contention for semi-finals this year, it’ll be close games like they experienced in Round 5, that they will need to turn in their favour.
Singleton’s coach David Willoughby stated he was preparing for a Kahibah outfit similar to what they faced last year, rather than the one seen so far in 2018, but admitted that his team’s focus is still well and truly on their own game-plans.
“I’m expecting them to be a lot better than they have been,” Willoughby said.
“We’re focusing on moving the ball quicker and getting ourselves into better positions in the box.
“We need to be a little more clinical in front of goal.
“I’m quietly confident that if we turn up and play half as well as we played against Wallsend we’re a big shout to win.”
South Cardiff FC (10th) vs. Cooks Hill United (1st)
Saturday 21st April, 2:30 pm, Ulinga Oval
As many predicted at the start of the season, Cooks Hill is proudly sitting at the top of the table once again, however, unlike what many originally thought, South Cardiff are faltering near the bottom.
Last season the Gunners possessed one of the best defences in the league, only conceding 25 across the 20 games, while this year they’ve already let in 10 in just four matches.
Coming into the round this weekend, they come up against the best-attacking team in the competition, they’ll need to try and regain their defensive form if they are any chance of beating the Cookers.
As for Cooks Hill’s defence, since head coach Graham Law left to complete a coaching course in his native Scotland, replacement coach Glen Chapman has seemed to struggle to get the same level of intensity out of the league leaders.
The Cookers have conceded 7 goals out of their last three games (including their FFA Cup fixture against Kahibah), after originally having no goals against in their first three hit-outs.
Despite that, one of the most interesting match-ups of the game will be between the two experienced, and in-form forwards on either team in Cooks Hill’s Lee Ashton and South Cardiff’s Nathan McCallister and the defining difference between the winner and loser may stem from which attacker can take their chances.
New Lambton FC (11th) vs. Toronto Awaba Stags FC (7th)
Sunday 22nd April, 2:30 pm, Alder Park
It’s been a tough start to the season for New Lambton – off the field during the week, their head coach Andrew Packer immediately stepped down from the role, while on the field they’ve struggled and currently sit in the last place with zero points.
After narrowingly being defeated by Cooks Hill last weekend, the Eagles will head back to their home ground, Alder Park, this weekend to take on a Toronto side that has pulled off some big results in their past few games.
While after losing their first two games of the year, the Stags have gone on a three-game unbeaten streak whilst playing some top-tier sides, showing some gutsy efforts in the process.
Toronto’s captain and goalkeeper Blake Redman suggested that despite New Lambton sitting at the bottom of the ladder with no points, that they were preparing for a hard-fought match.
“To be honest, it’s teams like New Lambton that you have to be wary of and be on your game for,” Redman said.
“We need to stop turning the ball over so much.
“If we can keep the ball off the other team, it’s a big bonus for us.”
Redman also praised his side and admitted that the confidence around the club was high due to their recent performances.
“The vibe at the moment amongst the team is brilliant but we’re still just taking it each game as it comes.
“We need to start winning a few more games and hopefully keep the momentum going this weekend.
“The belief has been there since the start, it’s just been a matter of gelling together and getting that match fitness.”
Thornton Redbacks FC (3rd) vs. Belmont-Swansea United (8th)
Sunday 22nd April, 2:30 pm, Thornton Park
For the first five weeks of the competition, Belswans have struggled to demonstrate the same quality of football that got them into the past two NEWFM Northern League One Grand Finals.
Their match this weekend at Thornton might just be the testing indicator of whether they’re still a top four team.
The Redbacks’ new recruits have gelled quickly and shown a lot of classy forms to help give the club an undefeated start to the season and one of the best goal differentials in the league.
Belswans will be desperate to achieve a victory having slumped to their worst start to a season since 2007, however, their coach Josh Rufo isn’t fazed by the statistic, suggesting that critics should judge them by their end-season result and not after five rounds.
“We’re only five games in and there’s seventeen to go,” Rufo said.
“If you look at the club at 2007, and now, you’d have to be bonkers to not see the difference in the football, the players and the coaching and the level of the oppositions.
“The club has been consistently in the top one or two teams for the last few seasons.
“There’s only four points between second and last, so a lot can happen. If you win one game, you could be in the top four, so we’re not worried.”
Rufo stated that he and his team were still purely focused on improving on their own games and as a team.
“For us, we just need to play our football and focus on what we can control.”
“We need to get the little things right and get back to basics.”
Thornton Redbacks’ coach Gary Wand said that despite Belswans’ staggered to their 2018 campaign, that he was well aware of the level of high-quality football last year’s Grand Finalists are capable of producing.
“They’ll be tough,” Wand said.
“They always are.
“I think most coaches and players are waiting for them to kick into gear, but hopefully it’s next week and it’s not this weekend.”
Wand suggested that their inability to finish their chances last weekend was the reason for only achieving a draw against the Stags and that it was the one area of their game they needed to improve if they are to beat Belmont-Swansea this Sunday.
“We did quite well [against Toronto], we just have to be better finishing.”
“If we can just take our chances, we’ll be fine.”
Wallsend FC (2nd) have the bye.