Match of the Round
South Cardiff FC (4th) vs. Belmont-Swansea United (8th)
Sunday 6th May, 2:30 pm, Ulinga Oval
Belswans travel to South Cardiff this Sunday, needing a win to attempt to move back up the table into semi-finals contention.
For weeks now, fans of the league have been waiting and expecting the boys from Blacksmiths to kick into gear, however, those pundits are still waiting, and one could question whether or not we will actually see it happen at all this season.
After starting off slow, The Gunners have impressed in the last couple of weeks and have blasted their way into the top four despite sitting second-last merely two weeks prior.
Last week saw South Cardiff finally combine in the attack including their off-season signing Nathan McCallister, scoring four goals to work his way onto the top of the league goal-scoring tally and if the Gunners can gel like that again this weekend, it may be a tough day for Belswans’ defence.
South Cardiff’s coach Denis Fajkovic admitted he was very impressed and happy with the way that McCallister had been performing and the quality he adds to the side, particularly in recent weeks.
“We’ve got a lot of mobility up the top now. Nathan helps obviously because he’s a classy player, but I think we got frustrated in games before because we were trying to force something that didn’t work,” Fajkovic said.
“Now we’re working our game around Nathan and combining with his strengths and it’s working dividends.”
“He’s been a massive addition for us.”
However, Belswans coach Josh Rufo stated that his side’s focus was shifting back to the fundamentals and the basics heading into this weekend, confessing that he was only worried about his own team’s game-plan.
“We just need to go back to the very basics. Football is a very simple game,” Rufo said.
“All the fancy tactics mean very little if we can’t do the basics.”
“I’m only interested in what we can control and taking it each match as it comes.”
Rufo also said that the addition of some new names to their roster might help to ignite his team but admitted that it all relied on how his team works together.
“We’ve added Clayton Poole, who hasn’t played for a couple of years, but is looking really sharp.”
“They’ve got some players of note, and we’ve got some players of note – does that really matter though? It all depends on how we play as a team.”
West Wallsend Bluebells SFC (5th) vs. Wallsend FC (3rd)
Saturday 5th May, 1:00 pm, Johnston Park
Due to the Hyundai A-League Grand Final, the first Wallsend derby of the season was moved to an earlier timeslot and although many will be looking forward to the Newcastle Jets game, later on, there is no denying that this game featuring two of the oldest rivals in Northern NSW football will be one of the most exciting clashes to happen this weekend.
West Wallsend is fresh off the bye but prior to that, won their three last consecutive matches, the first time ever since 2013, making confidence at the club at an all-time high. However, the Red Devils are a side in great form too and are still yet to lose a match this season.
Wallsend’s newfound offensive weapon Ty Goldsmith has been causing havoc for opposition defenders and has contributed greatly to his side’s impressive goal-scoring record.
Wallsend’s coach Ben Edwards suggested that although the Wallsend derby is a massive event for the club, that they weren’t preparing for it any differently than a normal game.
“Nothing changes. There’s a bit more in it because you never want to lose a derby, but in the same token, we don’t want to lose any match.”
“I think they’ll be like us, fresh off the bye and ready to go again. They’re in-form so I’m sure they’ll make it very difficult for us to get a result, especially with it being at Westy.”
Edwards also praised Goldsmith for his recent performances and expected him to once again be a handful for the West Wallsend defenders.
“With Ty it’s an unknown every week. He’s always dangerous and can just make goals out of nothing.”
“I’d imagine they’ll be wary of that, but I think he’ll be dangerous no matter what he does.”
West Wallsend coach Gary Rowe stated that although he is aware of the attacking prowess that Goldsmith brings, he isn’t going to be giving him any special treatment and instead he’ll be cautious of every Wallsend player on the field.
“We won’t be giving him any more attention than we would give anyone else,” said Rowe.
“You don’t score five goals in a half against anybody unless you’ve got multiple weapons, so we would be silly focusing any of our time on one player.”
“If we focus all our attention on Ty, it’ll just make it easier for their other boys, so no, we won’t be giving any special attention to him.”
“I expect it’s going to be really difficult.”
New Lambton FC (11th) vs. Singleton Strikers (6th)
Saturday 5th May, 2:30 pm, Alder Park
Experienced head coach Jim Foley will get his first crack at coaching his new side this weekend when the Eagles face the Strikers at Alder Park on Saturday.
After a disastrous start to the season, New Lambton has looked like a side with renewed energy and motivation in the past couple of rounds but this weekend they’re coming up against a team that has been undefeated in their past five outings.
Although New Lambton comfortably won both of their matches against Singleton last season, this year the Strikers are showing signs of being a semi-final calibre team and have begun to put the competition on notice.
New Lambton’s new coach Foley praised his new squad for their intensity at training but admitted from his early viewings that defence was the key area they needed to fix in order to save their season.
“The boys have shown me a tremendous will to impress and to work hard and to do their best for the club. That’s a very pleasing start,” said Foley.
“We need to prioritise our defence and become a lot stronger all over the park. The whole team needs to function better defensively.”
Foley admitted that he wasn’t giving much of his oppositions’ game-plans too much focus and instead was focusing on his own squad and ways to maximise his young team’s full potential.
“I’ve not seen Singleton play but I don’t know I want to focus on any of our oppositions. I think it’s important that we concentrate on ourselves and try and get our game right.”
“We’re not expecting to change everything overnight, so we’re just taking it one game at a time.”
Thornton Redbacks FC (2nd) vs. Kahibah FC (10th)
Sunday 6th May, 2:30 pm, Thornton Park
One of the only two undefeated sides remaining in the competition, Thornton have experienced a fantastic beginning to 2018 whilst their opponents this weekend, last year’s semi-finalists Kahibah, have been struggling immensely – two sides on the opposite side of the spectrum.
Kahibah has won the past three matches against the Redbacks and if they want a chance of salvaging their season, they’re going to need to make it four in a row.
After boasting the best defensive record in 2017, Kahibah’s defence now looks to be their weak-point having already conceded 17 goals, one less than the total they conceded in all of last season.
It won’t be any easier this week either as they come up against a team who has one of the better-attacking stats. Thornton is currently averaging more than two goals a game as well as undoubtedly having the best defence in the league.
Thornton Redbacks’ coach Gary Wand admitted he was well aware of the potential Kahibah possesses despite the fact that they’ve had a staggered start to the year.
“As a coach, they’re [Kahibah] a team you’re just expecting to jump into gear,” Wand said.
“They’re just having one of those seasons but hopefully they won’t jump into gear against us this weekend.”
“We need to be more intense and ‘want it’ a bit more. We need to move the ball better and want the ball more and we need to be better right across the park.”
Cessnock City Hornets (7th) vs. Toronto Awaba Stags FC (9th)
Sunday 6th May, 2:30 pm, Turner Park
After a demoralising defeat at the hands of South Cardiff this weekend, Toronto makes the trip to Turner Park to face Cessnock in a match where collecting all three points could be vital for the rest of the season.
Before their bye in Round 5, Cessnock was sitting near the top of the table, posing the best defensive record and no losses to their name.
However, following just three weeks and two losses later, the Hornets are surprisingly sitting towards the bottom of the table despite looking like one of the top sides in this league.
Toronto on the other hand, have at times played some entertaining, high-quality football, but haven’t displayed it on a consistent basis and currently acquire the worst goal differential in the competition of -14 (the next lowest is -4).
Although Cessnock has struggled offensively and occupy the equal-worst attacking record in the competition, Toronto will need to fix up their leaky backline if they want any chance of taking all three points.
With both teams sitting in a mid-table position, this game on Sunday can easily be considered a ‘must-win’ for a chance of semi-final intentions.
Cooks Hill United (1st) have the bye.