HUNTER SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Match of the Round
Singleton Strikers (3rd) vs. Wallsend FC (8th)
Sunday 1st July, 2:30 pm, Howe Park
It’s been a tough couple of months for Wallsend – they’ve struggled to get on the field due to wet weather, and when they have, they’ve mostly encountered losses – but after grabbing a mammoth 10-2 victory over Toronto on Wednesday night, confidence will have grown as they confront the challenge of travelling to Howe Park to face a strong Singleton side.
The Strikers are on the verge of qualifying for the top four for the first time in their club history, but after going on an eight-game undefeated streak, they’ve now only won one match from their past four, and they haven’t had much success when facing the Red Devils in recent history.
Since Wallsend was promoted back to the NEWFM Northern League One in 2015, Singleton has only managed one victory in their seven fixtures.
Another stat that swings in Wallsend’s favour is the fact that despite their six-game losing streak, they’ve only been kept scoreless on one occasion this year compared to Singleton’s total of four, and the Strikers have scored three goals when playing at home.
Wallsend coach Ben Edwards said his team knew they’d have to be at their best to beat Singleton.
“I’m expecting a similar game as last time,” Edwards said.
“It’s always a tough trip up there so we’re going to need to dig in and have a good crack if we are to get anything out of it.”
“We’re not focusing on anyone in particular because they are dangerous all over. We just need to show up to play or it might be a long day.”
Singleton’s coach David Willoughby admitted his team needed to focus on their possession and making sure they control the ball better.
“We are expecting a well organised Wallsend this week,” said Willoughby.
“We will need to be better in keeping the ball and executing in the front third.”
“Wallsend have a number of threatening players, especially in attack. We will need to minimise the time those players get on the ball.”
Thornton Redbacks FC (2nd) vs. Toronto Awaba Stags FC (11th)
Saturday 30th June, 2:30 pm, Thornton Park
Thornton will host last-placed Toronto this weekend in a fixture where they’ll have to be victorious if they want any chance of pressuring Cooks Hill for the premiership.
Mathematically, Toronto are still able to make the finals, but given their results so far this season and their recent form, a miracle may be all that can save them now.
The last time Toronto beat Thornton was back in early 2015, and after coming off a huge 10-2 loss during the week – the second time they’ve conceded double digits this year – they’ll need to showcase much better form, especially in defence, if they want any chance of success this Saturday.
Nevertheless, given the side is playing with nothing to lose, a fearless Stags side might just prove to be incredibly dangerous for the Redbacks.
Thornton coach Gary Wand said he was expecting Toronto to throw new experiments at them but that his focus was still on how his team were going to perform.
“Toronto have nothing to lose so they can look to try a few things out,” Wand said.
“Blake Glennie’s teams always try and play so I think they will be a different team to the first round.”
“I’m more concerned with how we will be though.”
“We need to work on our finishing. We created a lot of chances last time we played them, but we didn’t take them. If we can take our chances, it will make things a lot easier on ourselves.”
New Lambton FC (10th) vs. Cooks Hill United (1st)
Saturday 30th June, 4:30 pm, Alder Park
On paper this match is a complete mismatch – Cooks Hill has been in fantastic form and have gone ten weeks without a loss, while New Lambton have won just two of their past six.
Luckily for pundits though, matches are not won on paper.
Although Cooks Hill have won all matches played between these two in NEWFM Northern League One history, New Lambton have managed to find a large number of goals against them – in fact, the most of any other club with a total of eight over the three games.
New Lambton will be hoping their freshness can act as a factor as they have played two less games this season than the league-leaders, and they’re also coming into this one off the back of a mid-week 3-1 victory over Cessnock.
However, coach Jim Foley was well aware that taking on the defending champions will be no easy feat.
“We’re playing the leaders of the comp and I’m sure they hold that position for good reason,” Foley said.
“Our main aim though at present, is to stay focused on the development of the principles that we believe in.”
“We can’t be overly concerned with our opponent’s strengths at the moment.”
Cooks Hill coach Graham Law said after watching New Lambton play in their mid-week match, he was impressed but aware of what the Eagles may bring.
“I was at the game on Wednesday night and was impressed with their work rate,” Law said.
“But my boys have shown me all season they can match teams and have adapted superbly to playing a ‘Grand Final’ every week.”
“Riley Taylor is a player that always catches my eye, but respectfully, I feel it’s up to New Lambton to come up with a game plan to stop us – not the other way around.”
Kahibah FC (9th) vs. Belmont-Swansea United (6th)
Sunday 1st July, 2:30 pm, Kahibah Oval
Both Kahibah and Belswans have met in the past two seasons’ finals, but this match between them could easily be considered just as important.
The Green and Blacks will host a travelling Belswans side, who are knocking on the door of the top four after a slow start of the year, however, a victory last week for the home side now sees them potentially jump into the finals mix, making this game crucial for the two clubs.
Belswans have one of the better records at home in 2018, but away from home, they’ve been the worst in the league having only achieved one point and just three goals when not playing at Blacksmiths.
However, it’s the polar opposite for Kahibah as they have struggled immensely at home this year and have only picked up two points at Kahibah Oval so far.
Belswans’ coach Josh Rufo made clear that despite Kahibah winning last weekend and looking to make a late charge, his team’s focus was still fixed purely on themselves and their own game.
“We are only focused on what we can do and what we can control,” Rufo stated.
“We need to be better in the front third and be more clinical in front of goal.”
“In terms of the match, I’m expecting a really competitive game – both teams have a lot to play for.”
South Cardiff FC (5th) vs. West Wallsend Bluebells SFC (4th)
Sunday 1st July, 2:30 pm, Ulinga Oval
West Wallsend travels to Ulinga Oval to face off with South Cardiff this weekend and after the Bluebells picked up a 3-2 mid-week victory over Kahibah to jump into the top four, the importance of this match has become vital.
Although the Gunners have a game in hand, the Bluebells now lead them by one point meaning a win for either team will put them in the drivers’ seat in the pursuit for finals.
When these two teams faced off earlier in the season, West Wallsend pipped South Cardiff 2-1, and if they want any chance of doing that once again, stopping the league’s leading goal-scorer Nathan McCallister, will need to be at the top of their priority list.
These two teams have played games all throughout the season where they’ve both shone and bombed, and if they don’t play at their best, their hopes of finals may just fly out the window.
West Wallsend coach Gary Rowe said his side’s defence would need to be strong if they are to win against the Gunners.
“They’re going to be tough to break down as they always are,” Rowe said.
“We need to be vigilant defensively and stop them from having time to play.”
Cessnock City Hornets (6th) have the bye.