Match of the Round
Cooks Hill United (1st) vs. Wallsend FC (5th)
Saturday 19th May, 2:30 pm, Newcastle Athletics Field
With coach Graham Law’s return to Cooks Hill last weekend, the league leaders proved once again why they’re the team to beat and this Saturday they come up against a Wallsend side that’s only won one game from their past five outings.
This match will mark Cooks Hill’s seventh match at home at the AthField, and the Cookers are yet to even drop a point whilst playing there, however, the Red Devils have already shown this year that their attack can be deadly when it’s firing.
That may be difficult for Wallsend though, following injuries to Ty Goldsmith, Matt Williams and Travas McCabe who collectively have scored 10 of the team’s 17 goals this season as they play a team who have only conceded two goals this season at the Newcastle Athletics Field.
Wallsend coach Ben Edwards suggested that although his injured players are still not officially ruled out of this weekend’s clash, the next few weeks’ focus will be on younger reserve players stepping up to replace their hurt stars in order to scrape out results.
“I won’t risk them at this part of the season – We’ve still got a long time to go so I’d prefer saving them for the second half of the season,” Edwards stated.
“Hopefully some of the young blokes put up a performance that stands up and shows that they want to be in first grade and then we’ll try and reset when they [the injured players] start coming back.”
When asked of the impact Law’s return will have on Cooks Hill, Edwards joked saying, “I was hoping we had them when he was away” and confessed that he was ready for one of their toughest games of the year.
“I’m expecting them to be quality as always.
“They’re a team that when they get a chance, they take it.
“Hopefully we can outwork them in the midfield and put the pressure to stop that ball getting to their attack up front.”
West Wallsend Bluebells SFC (4th) vs. Toronto Awaba Stags FC (11th)
Saturday 19th May, 2:30 pm, Johnston Park
Fresh after their bye, and with a brand new head coach, the Stags will be looking to give West Wallsend their second loss at Johnston Park this weekend in the hope of elevating from the unwanted position of the last place on the ladder.
After Adam Routledge stepped down from the coaching role at Toronto midway through last week, their centre-back and former coach of Cooks Hill, Blake Glennie, has been thrusted into the top job at the club and has a lot of work to do if he wants to resurrect their disappointing season, specifically their defence as they’ve already let in 32 goals resulting in an average of four conceded goals a game.
For West Wallsend, their tremendous four-game winning streak came to a screeching halt last weekend against Cooks Hill, and with only two points between them and 7th placed Cessnock, a win will be crucial if the Bluebells wish to retain their spot in the top four.
Both these clubs have proven their offensive potential with at least four players in each side scoring multiple times this season, meaning if the defences don’t perform well, don’t be surprised to see a large, high-scoring score-line.
New Lambton FC (10th) vs. Thornton Redbacks FC (3rd)
Sunday 20th May, 2:30 pm, Alder Park
For the first time this season, the Eagles moved on from the last place following their draw against Kahibah last weekend, and although they play at home this weekend, they host a side that has shown incredible performances so far this season in Thornton.
In their four matches away from home this season, the Redbacks have only conceded two goals and currently boast the best attacking and defensive records in the competition.
New Lambton’s recently appointed head coach Jim Foley, admitted that he’s still in the learning process of each of his players’ strengths and weaknesses, but praised their positive attitudes and dedication.
“It’s very much a work in progress,” said Foley.
“I’ve made progress in learning more about each of the boys and learning what makes them tick, and how we might best work collectively to get the best out of the team.”
“I cannot fault the effort and commitment of the players. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the quality that some of them have and I’m optimistic that in time, we can demonstrate that once we learn how to work together.”
Foley stated that although he still wasn’t too familiar of his opposition and their powers, that the main focus was on his side learning to better combine with one another and that if they could do that, they were in with a chance of winning.
“I expect them [Thornton] to be one of the more difficult teams in the competition. Their position on the table and their results to date would suggest that.”
“The focus is on how we develop and how we work as a team.”
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t win, but we’re going to have to do things very, very well.”
Cessnock City Hornets (7th) vs. Singleton Strikers (2nd)
Sunday 20th May, 2:30 pm, Turner Park
Neither of these sides has qualified for this division’s top four in the history of their respective clubs, however, in 2018, both Cessnock and Singleton have shown performances worthy of semi-final football.
Singleton currently sits in second place, one of the highest positions they’ve ever sat on the ladder and have only lost one game so far this year as they sit on a current seven unbeaten streak.
For Cessnock, they showed some great initial form but have now only achieved one win from their past five games and it may only take one victory for them to be nesting back inside the top four once again.
Cessnock’s coach Brendan Slade admitted that his side was in for a tough battle and suggested that their defence, particularly Greg Anderson and Tom Stewart who have been one of the best defensive pairings in the competition so far, would again need to thrive if they were to win this weekend.
“We’re going to have to shut them down and not give them so much space with the ball, Slade said.
“We’ll have to keep it pretty tight at the back and try and keep it simple.”
“Greg and Tommy [Stewart] just clicked straight away, and we’ve been working on our defence from Day 1. We definitely didn’t want to concede as many as we did last year.
“He’s [Greg Anderson] been huge for us.”
The Hornets played National Premier Leagues (NPL) giants Lambton Jaffas on Wednesday night in a mid-week FFA Cup fixture, however, despite that, Slade was confident that the short turn-around wouldn’t affect his team.
“They’ll definitely back up well.”
“The boys strive themselves on their fitness – their always in the gym and doing cardio – so I expect them to bounce back pretty well.”
South Cardiff FC (6th) vs. Kahibah FC (9th)
Sunday 20th May, 2:30 pm, Ulinga Oval
Both these sides have shown glimpses of high-quality football, however, haven’t been able to showcase that level on a consistent, week-to-week basis and as a result, sit outside the top four unlike where many would have predicted at the beginning of the year.
Last weekend, Kahibah picked up their first point in four weeks despite arguably being the more dominant team and there’s no doubting that they’ll need to start picking up victories soon if there’s any hope of the side making their fourth straight semi-final appearance.
In the five games played at Ulinga Oval this year, the Gunners have only lost one and they’ll be looking to continue marking their home ground as a hard place to visit with a win.
The Green and Blacks weren’t able to defeat South Cardiff all last season and if they’re able to reverse that statistic, it may be the boost the side up into the top half of the table.
Belmont-Swansea United (8th) have the bye.