PHOTO: SPROULE SPORTS FOCUS
Match of the Round
Charlestown City Blues v Maitland Magpies
Sunday 25th March, 2:30 pm
Lisle Carr Oval
Two of the most fancied sides and best recruiters managed slim wins in the first week of competition, but each faces a different challenge this Sunday.
Charlestown had to battle for their three points against a ten-man Hamilton Olympic side, holding onto their lead and getting their campaign off to the best of starts.
It was a different story at Cooks Square Park last Saturday however, with Maitland trailing Weston until the 85th minute before Matt Comerford helped the Magpies to a resounding comeback victory.
Since Maitland were promoted to the NPL back in 2015, they haven’t been beaten by the Blues – three black and white wins, and three draws reads the form guide.
Their most recent encounter was a 1-all draw at Cooks Square Park, back in round 13 of last season. Matt Thompson and Rene Ferguson scored the goals on that day.
It was Ferguson who proved instrumental last weekend securing the Blues three points with the help of a goal from Scott Smith. Charlestown has no troubles in creating chances in their front third with the addition of Kane Goodchild who set up each of the chances last weekend.
The challenge for Charlestown this week will no doubt be the pace of Maitland, and the onus will be on two of the most experienced heads in that back five – Ljubo Milicevic and Danny Ireland – to marshal the defence and prevent the likes of Comerford and Ryan Clarke getting in behind.
That is where the Magpies do so much damage – the speed of those two guys alongside the tricky feet of James Thompson and Josh-Dutton Black has the potential to send any defence in the league crazy.
Time will be of the essence for Maitland this weekend though after last weekend’s slow start nearly cost them any points at all. A late rally was enough to save the day, but it’s a pressure which the side would surely rather avoid if at all possible.
Of more comfort will be the solidity of Maitland’s defence in last week’s win. The inclusion of Grant Brown and Alex Read to the backline worked wonders, as Weston were restricted to two meaningful shots on goal. They’ll face a much sterner test this weekend.
Key: This one really will be a battle of attack – the speed of Maitland versus the experience and the pure class of Charlestown. A high-scoring one, perhaps?
Adamstown Rosebud v Hamilton Olympic
Saturday 24th March, 6:30 pm
The return of a former coach to Adamstown for the first time since their departures last season, and two sides who will be looking to kickstart their seasons – get set for a cracker of a Saturday night.
Defeat for a ten-man Hamilton outfit to a rampaging Charlestown last week isn’t the way they would have hoped to get their season underway.
Meanwhile, in his first competitive match as Adamstown coach, Shane Cansdell-Sherriff was able to inspire his side to come back from two goals down late in the second half to earn a solitary point against the Jets Youth.
So it’s mixed fortunes coming into this one, but past fixtures between these two are pretty one-sided with four wins for Hamilton and just one for Rosebud since the latter was promoted to the NPL in 2014. There have been three draws.
New recruits are aplenty at both clubs this year, particularly Adamstown and although it’s early days there are a few standing above the pack. Connor Heydon scored from the spot last weekend and looked dangerous both in that match and in the Ampcontrol Heritage Cup.
Former Magic man Ben Higgins is marshalling the defence this season, which didn’t concede once in the Ampcontrol Heritage Cup but shipped two last weekend. He’ll be important against a dynamic Hamilton offence.
Two goals last weekend, one from Jed Honery and the other from Rhys Cooper weren’t enough to knock over a Charlestown side who poached some of Olympic’s best, and it is the other end of the pitch which Olympic will be looking to focus on this weekend.
After conceding just 55 goals in the past three NPL seasons at a crazy average of under one a match, the defence has been the cornerstone of Hamilton’s play for quite a time. With a new coach comes new ideas, but Olympic fans will be hoping the tightness at the back can persist.
Leo Bertos (work), Blake Green and Stuart Musalik (injury) miss out for Hamilton this weekend, while Jake McGuinness and Jacob Bailey are out due to suspension.
One to watch will be that new coach – Peter McGuinness returning to Adamstown Oval for his first competitive fixture since departing the club midway through last season.
What the coaches said:
Peter McGuinness (Hamilton)
“There were far too many turnovers [last weekend against Charlestown] and when you’re trying to play football and the turnovers are too high, you get caught out of position. We need to be better with the ball in build-up play so we don’t turn over possession too easy and allow the counter-attack.
“I went and watched Adamstown last weekend, and they’ll give 100% and I expect them to play a little bit from the back, a pretty competitive game. They seemed out of it, the Jets were probably well on top of them last week in the first half, should have had a number of goals but didn’t take them… it won’t be easy this weekend.”
Key: Adamstown managed to fight back late from two goals down last weekend, but Hamilton may not be so forgiving. Can Rosebud start stronger?
Weston Bears v Lake Macquarie City
Sunday 25th March, 2:30 pm
Rockwell Automation Park
Tipped to be somewhere around the wrong end of the ladder come August, this season’s first trip out to Weston is shaping up to be an early indicator as to who has the best chance of upsetting the form guide.
Round one was disappointing for both the Bears and Lakes thanks to losses, but the circumstances of each were vastly different.
Weston surrendered their one-goal lead in the final ten minutes of the first Coalfields derby of the year to go down 2-1 to Maitland at Cooks Square Park.
In the sweltering Lake Macquarie heat, the Roosters succumbed to the magic of Broadmeadow on Sunday shipping six goals on the way to their heaviest defeat since an 8-2 loss to the Jets Youth class of 2012.
Of last year’s clashes, it’s Lakes who claimed dominance over Weston with a win in round 12 and a share of the points in the opening round of the season, where they did surrender the lead twice to draw 2-all.
Weston boss Steve Piggott bemoaned his young side’s mental strength and ability to close out games on a number of occasions last season and would have been dismayed to see his side surrender three points once again.
What was plain to see on Saturday night at Maitland was the impact the recruitment of some of the game’s more experienced heads is having, with Nathan Morris immense in his organisation at the back while Josh Maguire was the side’s main outlet going forward.
The return of Jordan Jackson from suspension, and potentially Kew Jaliens from injury this week will give Piggott more options in defence, given the pair will likely slot into the back three and possibly push the likes of Chris Hurley out onto the wing.
They’ll be up against a Lakes side this weekend who are stinging after a battering at the hands of Broadmeadow Magic on Sunday. They shipped six goals, including three in the final ten minutes on a scorcher out at Macquarie Field.
It’s not the best start for Nick Webb in his tenure as Lakes boss, but as he showed with Adamstown at the back end of last season he has the ability to get his boys back up out of the dust and fighting again. Some cooler conditions will no doubt aid his cause this weekend.
What the coaches said:
Steve Piggott (Weston)
“We’ll see how people move on Friday, but there may be a change in formation with us this weekend… the rain has hampered us football-wise but not workload-wise, so we haven’t been able to have a good chat about last weekend and letting the game slip but they [Weston] know they dropped the ball.
“We played them [Lakes] in the Heritage Cup, they had a couple of chances and they didn’t take them and were probably hard done by for me. For them, they can only bounce back after that 6-0 loss, there’s two teams that lost first round and it’s no secret that none of the NPL sides that played in the Heritage Cup did any good last weekend.”
Key: Disappointment abound for both sides last weekend, but for vastly different reasons. Who’ll bounce back best?
Valentine FC v Newcastle Jets Youth
Sunday 25th March, 2:30 pm
It’s a big day in store for Sunday afternoon as the young Jets travel to Valentine as they play their first match of the season at Croudace Bay Complex for the first time.
After years of woe playing out of a shared pitch at Cahill Oval, Phoenix has moved to the interdistrict home of Valentine Eleebana and will hope the grass is greener.
Of course, they had the better of the young Jets on both occasions last season with a 1-0 win in round eight and a 3-2 victory later on in the season.
Valentine had the bye last weekend, but for the Jets Youth, it was frustrating as they ceded a two-goal lead in the final ten minutes to share the points with a plucky Adamstown outfit.
An inability to see out the match from a winning position is an unfortunate reality for younger sides lacking a couple of experienced heads, as is the case with the young Jets.
In fact, the Jets Youth surrendered points after being ahead on four occasions last season, but a number came after opening games with early goals. If they can continue the early goals and incorporate the ability to grind out a win, they may be one to watch this weekend.
Jets Youth are also likely to be without Angus Thurgate and Mario Shabow once again this weekend, two of the higher-profile names on the PPS this season which are likely to play a role in the senior side’s trip to Adelaide on Friday night.
For the home side, it’s new beginnings, with a change of home and new players aplenty.
Valentine has picked up former NPL NSW striker Daniel Ott whose form may make or break their season given the departure of electric striker Jalon Brown, who has returned to the US. Brown contributed more than a third of Phoenix’s goals last season.
Luke Willard will potentially miss out this weekend with a slight hamstring strain, while the league will have to wait another week for Ott who looks like missing out due to work commitments.
Starting the season with the bye is usually a curse no coach wants, but it will has given Valentine an extra week to work on their shape and fitness among other things, and have no doubt Phoenix will come out firing on Sunday.
What the coaches said:
Darren Sills (Valentine):
“We’re keen to get started, the bye was actually good for us given our trial form wasn’t that crash hot, a lot of people away and a few injuries, so it was actually a blessing in disguise to have that week off. We went as a group to watch the Adamstown v Jets match last weekend in hot conditions, which our boys didn’t have to play through.”
“It’s hard to get a gauge on the Jets, there was a bit of man against boys [last weekend against Adamstown] and that aggression probably in the end held against the Jets Youth, who I thought should have won… but we’re not looking to be aggressive, we just want to play football, we like to play attacking footy.”
Key: The Jets are traditionally fast starters, while Valentine is just getting their season underway. Will Phoenix be up to pace this weekend?
Broadmeadow Magic v Lambton Jaffas
Sunday 25th March, 2:30 pm
Two of the league’s big boys go head to head on Sunday when Jaffas head over the road to Magic Park to take on Broadmeadow.
Both sides come into this one off the back of big wins, but big for different reasons.
Magic put six past Lakes in sweltering conditions on Sunday afternoon, with James Virgili, in particular, running riot.
Lambton surrendered a two-goal lead and then scored with virtually the last kick of the game to secure a 4-3 win over reigning premiers Edgeworth.
It’s Broadmeadow who have usually had the better of the clashes between these two sides, winning three of their past four games against Jaffas in the league including a 3-1 victory last July, with Kale Bradbury scoring two on the day.
Broadmeadow has been tipped for big things despite some quiet recruitment on the team that finished fourth in the league last season, and after last weekend murmurs of a Magic resurgence are getting louder.
The pressure was set to be firmly on the shoulders of James Virgili, Kale Bradbury and John Majurovski this season to deliver for the boys in red, and the trio delivered last weekend: four goals, two goals, and four assists respectively.
If Lakes were a rollover in the blistering heat however then Lambton will prove to be far from that, after Jaffas’ own fun in the sun seen them edge out the Eagles for the fourth time on the trot.
It was a performance which highlighted much of the talk which surrounded their 2017 season, in particular, the four goals scored on Saturday indicative of their seemingly unstoppable ability to score.
The goals scored statistic is a particularly interesting one – since the start of the 2017 NPL NNSW season, Lambton has only failed to score in one match, a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Edgeworth in the FFA Cup. In fact, they’ve scored more than a single goal in over three-quarters of those matches.
Ryan Griffiths was near unstoppable last Saturday with two assists and a goal of his own, and while Ben Hay bossed the midfield they’re just two of a number of outstanding Jaffas’ players. If they’re on their game again this weekend, they’ll be tough to stop.
What the coaches said:
James Pascoe (Lambton)
“There were reasons for us letting go of the lead last weekend, we’re in a situation for this first month of this season where the bodies out there aren’t all at the same fitness level, so it’s very difficult to play the way we want to play, which is to dominate teams with the football for 90 minutes. We have to balance how we can get to the end of the 90 with a strong, experienced first grade team out there.”
“There’s a healthy respect between us and Broadmeadow and it doesn’t matter what form either takes into a Magic Jaffas encounter, it’s always very tight and that’s probably the closest derby for us and likewise for them, so it’s one of those games which brings out the best in both teams.”
“I think Magic will find themselves with a much tougher task this weekend than last weekend, but I do think they have one of the strongest, most balanced squads in the league.”
Key: Broadmeadow and Lambton can both score goals, everyone knows it. Will it be a matter of who goes forward best, or who keeps them out?
Edgeworth have the bye