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Match of the Round
Broadmeadow Magic v Edgeworth Eagles
Sunday 1st April, 2:30 pm
It’s an Easter Sunday battle for the ages, as the perennial premiers head to Magic Park to show the competition they’ve got what it takes to knock the contenders down a notch.
The last time these two sides met was a match marred in controversy. The second leg of their semi-final last season which ended in 2-all on aggregate with Broadmeadow believing that they had won on the full-time whistle, thanks to the away goal.
However, the away goal rule didn’t count in extra-time, the match went to penalties and Edgeworth ended up going through to the grand final.
Goals, goals, and more goals look like defining Broadmeadow’s season even in the early stages.
They boast two of the league’s highest goal scorers, James Virgili with 4 and Kale Bradbury with 3, and looked rampant against Lambton despite not managing to steal the three points.
John Majurovski dropping deeper in the second half last weekend seemed to help the Magic men get forward with more effectiveness, but expect them to throw everything at the Eagles this weekend.
Round two handed Edgeworth the bye and the chance to observe the rest of the competition, and it will have proved interesting viewing for coach Damien Zane.
His side fought back late against Lambton in their round one outing, with the introduction of Dylan Holz late on proving a masterstroke and he managed two goals to level things up – but they ultimately lost right on the whistle.
It will be a case of how good is the Eagles’ defence this week – they only conceded 14 goals all season in 2017, but have already let through four in one match. If they want to show the league they’re still in the mix, Edgeworth has to keep Magic at bay.
Lake Macquarie City v Charlestown City Blues
Friday 30th March, 2:30 pm
It may be a long Good Friday for Lakes as they play host to the league leaders, Charlestown, as they look to continue their early form and nab their third win of the season.
A washout prevented these two sides from playing their match on the weekend of round 14 last season, but it was Lakes who triumphed in the rescheduled fixture with a 2-0 win.
Last season was the first time these two sides were in the same competition since Lakes were relegated from the NPL back in 2014, and results were fairly even back then too – in their last six matches, Charlestown has won three, Lakes two, with one draw.
It’s struggle street for Lakes at this early stage in the competition, who have scored only once – last week against Weston, from the boot of the Bears’ Nathan Morris.
The situation may be difficult to rectify this weekend too, given only two sides have conceded fewer goals than Charlestown so far this season.
Lakes have been unlucky enough to play in two of the hottest game days so far this season, however, but with temperatures on Friday set to reach as high as 31 degrees it may be another hot, tough slog.
The visitors this weekend are riding high at the moment – the Blues are clear at the top of the league just two rounds in, after wins against Hamilton and Maitland.
This weekend presents a different type of challenge for Charlestown, in a game, they’re widely expected to win they’ll have to make sure complacency doesn’t creep in.
Scott Smith is tied with Magic’s Kale Bradbury as the second highest goal scorer in the league but isn’t the only threat in a front line which is looking decidedly lethal with the likes of Rene Ferguson and Kane Goodchild always threatening.
Maitland Magpies v Adamstown Rosebud
Friday 30th March, 2:30 pm
Cooks Square Park
This is a rivalry which stretches back to these clubs’ time in the NEWFM Northern League One, then First Division, and with some interest in the action in the dugout this season this is a Good Friday clash not to be missed.
Adamstown had a poor 2017 but finished their season on a high with a 2-1 win over a Maitland side which were well out of the running for the top four by the time round 22 came around.
The two sides have shared the pitch at NPL level seven times since Maitland’s promotion to the competition in 2015, and Adamstown have had the rub of the results in that time – they have won five, Maitland two.
The return of Michael Bolch to the dugout this weekend is sure to be a welcome boost for the Magpies after he served the remainder of his touchline ban over the past two weeks.
He has a knack for getting the best out of his players, and it’s a win which the Magpies need after going down 3-1 to Charlestown last week.
Ryan Clarke and James Thompson played at the front end of the Maitland offence last weekend, and this weekend will need to make more of their chances if Maitland is to nab their second win of the season.
Despite going down last weekend, Adamstown has shown enough in this early stage to suggest they may be better than what many suspected this season.
They’re a side which hosts a number of former Maitland players too, with the likes of Jordan Elphick and Matt Sokulsky taking to the pitch while former defender Shane Cansdell-Sherriff now patrols the technical area.
Finishing chances will be key to Rosebud’s hopes this weekend, and thus the likes of Chris Berlin and Connor Heydon will be heavily relied upon if Adamstown is to pick up their first win of the season.
Hamilton Olympic v Valentine Phoenix
Friday 30th March, 6 pm
Darling Street Oval
Injury-hit already at this early stage of the season, Valentine will need to dig deep in order to do the job against a Hamilton side who were unfancied by many at the start of the season but are showing signs they’re not to be taken lightly.
The last time these two met in round 20 of last season, Hamilton won 2-1 to help rubber-stamp their place in the top four and simultaneously put Valentine’s hopes on their final leg.
It’s been seven years, and nine matches since Valentine last beat Hamilton. That was a 3-2 win at Cahill Oval in 2011, but it’s been even longer since they’ve triumphed at Darling Street Oval. You have to go back all the way to 2009, and a 6-2 win in round 12 of that year.
For Olympic, it’s their third evening match from three so far this season in front of what is likely to be a big crowd at Darling Street Oval for Good Friday.
Interestingly, despite being associated with that mid-evening match for a number of years Olympic don’t have the best record there lately, having lost the previous five 6 pm kick-offs at Darling Street.
Their control of possession was vital in last weekend’s win over Adamstown, but their ability to counter quickly has led to two of their three goals so far this season and is a useful trick up the sleeve.
It’s an injury-hit Phoenix side this weekend, without Zac Sneddon and Chris Brown who look to be sidelined for two weeks (hamstring) and six-to-eight weeks (knee) respectively.
They were inhibited last weekend thanks to the two early substitutions due to injuries to the aforementioned players, and this weekend may be able to play with a little more freedom should they avoid the same fate.
Daniel Ott was out last weekend due to work commitments, but his likely inclusion for Valentine this weekend may make a huge difference. Coach Darren Sills described him as a ‘back-to-goal’ striker prior to the beginning of the season, so the players running off him will be just as important.
Lambton Jaffas v Weston Bears
Saturday 31st March, 2:30 pm
Arthur Edden Oval
Lambton has secured good results against two of the toughest sides in the league in the opening fortnight of the competition, and face a different type of challenge this weekend when they host Weston on Easter Saturday.
The home side definitely has recent history on their side this weekend, the last clash between these two sides ended in a 5-0 victory for Lambton in round 14 of 2017.
In fact, Weston hasn’t beat Lambton in their last five matches, and only once at Arthur Edden Oval (a 3-2 win back in 2014) since Jaffas were promoted to the top tier back in 2013.
What’s clear in the early stages of this season is that Jaffas are fast starters – they’ve let two-goal leads slip in the final fifteen minutes in both of their matches this season.
Last week it was Magic who stole a point from them and could have had all three if not for their inability to finish a flurry of chances in injury time, and it is game management which is still key for Lambton this weekend.
Experience is something which Lambton have in droves, and they’ll be looking to make the most of that against a young Weston side this weekend.
The Bears will have to make the most of those young legs this weekend as the match wears on, given they too let a lead slip in the first round against Maitland but won it late against Lakes in round two.
It’s a side which may be boosted by the return of experience this weekend, with Kew Jaliens in line for a return to the side and his first NPL appearance in Weston colours.
The win against Lakes was only their second NPL win since August 2016, and as a result, the club will be buzzing and quietly hopeful of producing a huge upset over Lambton this weekend.