Match of the Round
Thornton Redbacks (3rd) vs. New Lambton FC (9th)
Saturday 4th August, 2:30 pm, Thornton Park
It’s been four straight weeks Thornton haven’t managed a victory, and if that trend continues this weekend when New Lambton come to visit, their chances of qualifying for finals may prove to be rather slim.
The Eagles are coming off the back of two consecutive victories and although finals are off the table for them, they’ve already begun building their strength across the park under Jim Foley in preparation for next season.
Last time these two faced off the points had to be shared, but the Redbacks have demonstrated great form when playing at home. They’ve lost two games but hold the best home-attacking stats in the league but it’s their defence that will need be better if they want to take all three points.
In Thornton’s first twelve games of the year, they averaged just a conceded goal a game, but in their most recent six, are averaging almost three.
Thornton coach Gary Wand admitted his team needed to perform much better than what they did against Wallsend.
“Last weekend, that first half was pathetic,” Wand confessed.
“For a game that meant so much, and for us to perform like that, it was disgraceful.
“Our defence and attitude need to change.”
Wand said he was expecting his team to ‘fire-up’, and that if they don’t, it might cause the end of their season.
“We need to improve our willingness to defend as a team.”
“We have to be desperate. If we get beat this weekend, we’re as good as gone.
“After being around 2nd for 75-80% of the year, we can’t let it slip now and let it all go to waste.”
Singleton Strikers (7th) vs. Cessnock City Hornets (8th)
Saturday 4th August, 2:30 pm, Howe Park
Both these teams’ finals hopes came to a disappointing end last weekend after only managing draws.
This year though both Cessnock and Singleton have exceeded their expectations and will be looking to finish off with a bang and attempt to finish as high as they can to solidify their great seasons.
For the Hornets, pride and history is on the line this weekend, as well as they, haven’t beaten Singleton since Round 1 in 2014, and it’s been even longer since they’ve won at Howe Park – the last time coming in Round 16, in 2011.
At home though is where Singleton has struggled. They’ve only conceded 10 goals in the nine matches played Howe Park, but have only managed to score five, and it’s been their lack of offence that has ultimately been their downfall.
Cessnock too has experienced their woes in front of goal, having only scored in one of their past four games, and being kept scoreless on five occasions this year – equal with Singleton for the most in the competition – meaning executing any chances each team get will be the key to victory this weekend.
Cessnock’s coach Brendan Slade said that despite officially bowing out of the finals race last weekend, that his side is still motivated and raring to go.
“All the boys are still pretty keen to win this game, they want to finish as high up the ladder as we can,” Slade said.
“Our second half last week against Belswans was probably one of our best halves of the season, so we’re looking to start in that way.
“We’re just trying to focus on our game really. There are no injuries in our camp, so we’re looking good.
“We know we need to concentrate on just keeping possession.
“Our 23s have made the finals and have been going really good, and the boys are really wanting to play off the back of their success.”
Kahibah FC (10th) vs. South Cardiff FC (6th)
Sunday 5th August, 2:30 pm, Kahibah Oval
When South Cardiff travel to Kahibah this weekend, one team has it all to play for, while the other already has their spot booked down in tenth.
South Cardiff had the chance to move back into the top four last weekend but conceded a late goal against Singleton which now potentially sets up the final round match against Thornton as a top four-deciding bout – but first, they must beat Kahibah.
If matches were decided purely on recent form, Kahibah would be down and out as they’ve now gone five games winless, and have only won one from their past 11.
However, the last time they faced the Gunners, they pushed them all the way in a close loss away from home. Home hasn’t been their favourite place in the world in 2018 though, as they still haven’t been able to pick up a win when playing at Kahibah Oval.
Then again though, South Cardiff do possess the second-worst performances in the league when playing away so it could be anyone’s game this weekend.
Toronto Awaba Stags FC (11th) vs. West Wallsend Bluebells (4th)
Sunday 5th August, 2:30 pm, Lyall Peacock Field
Toronto host West Wallsend this Sunday, and although they’ve engraved their name on their first wooden spoon, they do have the potential to knock a dent into their opponents’ finals hopes.
West Wallsend’s attack shone against Cooks Hill last weekend, but their defence couldn’t cope with the onslaught, and this weekend’s game could once again be a high-scoring one if they show the same holes at the back as Toronto’s defence has been the worst in the league since West Wallsend conceded 98 in 2014.
Toronto’s form has been nothing but terrible though having lost their past nine fixtures, however, their last victory did coincidentally come against the Bluebells.
West Wallsend is up against second-placed Belswans in the final round, and if they fall this weekend, it’s an uphill battle to retain their finals position.
Wallsend FC (5th) vs. Cooks Hill United (1st)
Sunday 5th August, 2:30 pm, The Gardens
Wallsend hosts the back-to-back premiers this weekend and is in need of a win to gain a top-four spot, but their task is not at all easy as Cooks Hill currently sit 12 games unbeaten.
The Red Devils are just one point outside the top four, but considering that the other three teams who are also in the finals race play the bottom three sides in the league, anything but a result might, in fact, leave them behind.
In the reverse fixture, Cooks Hill put on a clinic against Wallsend, beating them 4-1, although in recent weeks Wallsend has found their offensive powers once again, setting this up as a match between the top two attacking teams in the competition.
An interesting part of this match is also how it will impact the Golden Boot battle. South Cardiff’s Nathan McCallister currently leads on 16, however, Wallsend’s Ty Goldsmith, and Cooks Hill’s Lee Ashton and Nick Russell, all sit just behind on 15 goals.
Cooks Hill’s coach Graham Law said his team’s focus is purely fixed on themselves and preparing for finals.
“We just need to keep our own personal levels up for the finals,” Law said.
“Respectively, since winning the comp we haven’t been giving the other sides any real thoughts. We’re just focusing on making sure our own game is at the level it needs to be.”
Law said that the team is definitely aware of the hotly contested Golden Boot race, but said there was no specific focus on it, which includes any special plans to stop Goldsmith.
“Lee [Ashton] and Nick [Russell] are both keen to win it which I don’t mind.
“They’re both very unselfish players, so having a personal goal like that is no detriment to the squad.
“He’s [Goldsmith] a great player. He’s someone who you can’t give too much space or he’ll make you pay.
“We’re not really making any special plans for him. If he can’t get the ball, he can’t score.”
Belmont-Swansea United (2nd) have the bye.