Match of the Round
Maitland Magpies v Broadmeadow Magic
Saturday 18th August, 6 pm at Cooks Square Park
Moved back to Saturday 6 pm, from it’s original Sunday 2:30 pm kickoff, this weekend’s Match of the Round will have huge implications for the top four.
Now at the same time as Hamilton’s do-or-die clash with Weston, this means that the sides in the top four will be decided by 8 pm Saturday night.
Maitland will know they can’t afford a result similar to the last one they got against Magic – a 0-0 drawback in Round 11.
The Magpies are on a fruitful run, of sorts. They haven’t lost in their last eight matches, but have won only three. It’s been enough to stave off Hamilton so far – but only a win this weekend will guarantee they play finals football.
Last weekend shaped as perhaps their biggest potential stumbling block, but Maitland navigated a poor Lambton outfit and Sean Pratt scored the winner in the 1-0 victory.
Maitland has only played one other evening match at Cooks Square Park this season, and that was against Weston back in round one. They won that one, but can they manage a win in this one?
One thing which may encourage them is the fact that Broadmeadow may have bigger fish to fry. On Magic’s mind will be their upcoming FFA Cup Round of 16 clash, against NPL Victoria outfit Bentleigh Greens on Tuesday night.
They may also rest players, the likes of Shane Paul and Luke Virgili, who are teetering on missing out on that clash should they pick up yellow cards this weekend. They were substituted early last weekend, in the disappointing 3-0 loss to Hamilton.
It was a match in which they looked to be missing the creativity of the likes of James Virgili and Mitch Oxborrow. With the latter set to appeal Oxborrow’s five-game ban, if overturned he could feature on Saturday night.
Lake Macquarie City v Lambton Jaffas
Saturday 18th August, 2:30 pm at Macquarie Field
Guaranteed a spot in the finals, Lambton only needs a point this weekend to ensure they face Magic in the semi-finals.
Defeat opens them up to a slip to fourth – and such a win for Lakes would see them finish a respectable eighth on the ladder.
Nick Webb’s side scored first but were pipped to the post by Lambton last time the two sides met. The home side on that day, Jaffas, won 2-1.
Lakes met the league leaders and now premiers last weekend, and narrowly missed out on a point after Edgeworth rallied late and the old-guard helped down the Roosters 1-0.
With a potential eighth-place finish on the line, one lower than last season’s seventh, a win this weekend would see Lakes finish the season with six league wins under their belt.
The carrot for Lakes this weekend is a potential Golden Boot for Sam Walker, who has scored 15 of Lakes’ 33 goals this weekend. Just behind him are James Virgili and Kale Bradbury of Magic, both on 14, with a tough game at Maitland for them.
A finish in the top three seemed a sure thing for Lambton before last weekend, but the 1-0 defeat to Maitland has left them needing at least a point to secure their place.
Failure to get the job done this weekend could see Jaffas slip to fourth, should Maitland win, and that would set up a semi-final showdown with last year’s grand finalists Edgeworth.
It was nearly back to full-strength for Lambton last weekend, with Pat Brown and Bren Hammel the two biggest names to miss out. It’s a good time to have all the troops back on board, and they’ll need to get the job done this weekend.
What the coaches said
Nick Webb (Lakes)
“(I’d describe the season) are one of missed opportunities, we’ve played some extremely good football all year but some defensive lapses and times when we haven’t taken our chances have cost us dearly. When you look back at some games when we haven’t taken advantage of our dominance…we could have been up in the semi-final race.
“It’s really positive for next year. A lot of these guys, it’s their first season as an NPL player so we’re definitely going to be stronger. That doesn’t take away from the fact that this year could have been a massive stepping stone forward, but we’ll look forward to next season.
“Lambton are well-coached, well-structured, team. They’ve probably got the best roster in the competition, so no matter who they put on the paddock or who comes off the bench it’s 100% quality. We’re under no illusions that it’s going to be a tough match, but last time we played them at Lambton we outplayed them and we expect to do the same again.
“Sam Walker is one goal clear in the [Golden Boot race], he could have had one last weekend but there was an unbelievable save by Edgy keeper Josh [Low]…another twenty times and it would have gone in. He probably only needs one more goal to seal it, but there’s no pressure on Sam. We’d love to see him win the Golden Boot because he’s been outstanding.”
Newcastle Jets Youth v Charlestown City Blues
Saturday 18th August, 2:30 pm at Lisle Carr Oval
All but assured of remaining in their places of fifth and sixth on the ladder, Jets Youth and Charlestown will play for little but pride this weekend.
One can only hope this encounter is as fiery as the last time these two sides met – a frustrated Charlestown went down 1-0 to a resilient Jets Youth back in round 11.
Some eyes at Charlestown on Saturday afternoon might be directed towards the younger grades. The under 16’s Jets Youth locked up the under 18’s premiership last weekend, and despite being in fourth place the under 18’s could still clinch the title in 20’s.
Those who pay close attention to the top grade though will have been happy with last weekend’s result, a come-from-behind 2-2 draw with Weston.
It’s a result made all the more remarkable considering the taxing schedule which they’d endured in the preceding fortnight. With almost a full week’s rest under their belts, expect a strong performance from the young Jets.
While still technically in the running for the finals, Charlestown would require both Maitland and Hamilton to lose and would need to overcome a goal difference of 17. A tall, and virtually impossible, task.
Fresh off the bye this weekend, it couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Blues after they might have looked to build some momentum after round 20’s 4-0 win over Valentine.
One thing Charlestown will have on their side this weekend is a good home record. In ten matches at Lisle Carr Oval, they’ve won six and boast the second highest points tally at home.
Hamilton Olympic v Weston Bears
Saturday 18th August, 6 pm at Darling Street Oval
Finals football is on the line, and all Hamilton can do is fight for the three points and hope they’re enough to see them sneak in.
For Weston, it’s their final game under Steve Piggott and thus a chance to send him out on a high note.
A late Kane Treble cameo pinched all three points for Hamilton last time out, Olympic running out 2-1 winners at Rockwell Automation Park back in May.
These last few weeks have been pressure-fuelled affairs for Hamilton, with nought but a win good enough to ensure they keep up with Maitland and give themselves a chance at finishing fourth.
Their slip-ups have been matched by Maitland, but there was no slip-up last weekend in their comprehensive 3-0 win over Magic on Sunday.
Practically back to full-strength and with it all to play for on Saturday night, Hamilton will go into this one as favourites. They won’t know until full-time whether a win will be enough, but it’s all they can fight for.
It was a story of the rear-guard last weekend, with both Weston’s goals coming from defensive men. Callum Bower and Jordan Jackson both scored, with Nathan Morris teeing the pair up from set-pieces.
That same rear-guard also let the three points slip, as Jets Youth fought back from two down at half-time to draw 2-2. It’s the third time they’ve lost this season after scoring first.
They’ll certainly look to avoid conceding first, as any side would. Weston more so – they’ve taken just three points after going behind in matches this season.
What the coaches said
Peter McGuinness (Hamilton)
“I’m sure Weston want to send Piggo out on a good note, I’m sure they’ll handle themselves quite well. It’s the last game of the year…they’ve had a couple of years with Steve, so I’m pretty sure they’ll give everything they’ve got.
“It’s always good, the Old Boys Day… I’m an old boy of the club, and I’m sure they’ll have a jolly good time, maybe a few lemonades or something. It always inspires you, when you’ve got the older crew that’s been around for a couple of years and you know they’ve been successful.
“I thought we were very good the week before [last] against Lambton, so I look at that, a good performance against Lambton where we never gave up…and then I look at what we did last week, they [Magic] really had no answer and I’m pretty chuffed with how we played.
“They executed how we wanted to play really really well, and I don’t see that changing. I don’t see our attitude towards the game change, this team that we’ve got at the moment is 19 games old, with all the new personnel, and we’ve really started to get going now. Hopefully, we sneak in [to the finals] because confidence is around the place… I expect a humdinger, to be honest.”
Valentine Phoenix v Edgeworth Eagles
Sunday 19th August, 2:30 pm at CB Complex
With the premiership secured and celebrations had, this weekend will be a test run ahead of what’s sure to be a tough finals adventure for Edgeworth.
Things at the other end of the ladder are also tied up, and Valentine is doomed to finish last. Could they redeem themselves, just a little, this weekend?
It was a late Will Bower goal which secured Edgeworth a 1-0 win in an evening match-up at Jack McLaughlan Oval back in round 11, the last time these two sides met.
Nothing but a win would do last weekend if Valentine was to avoid the wooden spoon, but they weren’t able to manage three points and went down 3-2 to Adamstown.
That means no matter the result in the round’s only Sunday afternoon match, Valentine will finish bottom. On 11 points currently, it’d be the highest points total a side has finished bottom with since Lakes (12) back in 2014.
Of course, the big talking point last weekend was that shocking injury to Phoenix youngster Connor Motherway. Valentine assistant Sam Girffin believes his side was rattled by the dislocated knee, but they’ll have minds back on the job this Sunday.
This weekend could well be a last-hurrah for something of a club legend in Daniel McBreen. Set to miss the finals to allow him to travel with the Guam national team in a coaching capacity, the 41-year-old may soon decide enough is enough.
That’s not to say he doesn’t still have plenty to offer – just look at his 84th-minute winner last weekend against Lakes to make sure the premiership stayed at Jack McLaughlan Oval for the fourth season in a row.
It’s an incredible feat, the first time a club has managed it since Highfields Azzurri back in 1991-95. Given they’ve already made the finals, expect some rotation among the Edgeworth ranks this weekend. Will Bower is back from injury and Jamie Byrnes into the starting line-up, but there are still question marks over Aaron Oppedisano.
What the coaches said
Damien Zane (Edgeworth)
“We’ll give guys a break that need it, but the team we put out I’ll expect to win. Pat Wheeler and Dom Bizzarri were given a week off, they’ve really been major parts in what we’ve done this year. Tyson [Jackson] and Adam Cawley, I’ll see whether I might bring them off the bench.
“It’s a chance, really, for a few guys to put their hand up and be part of the finals series, show me that they can do a job whether it be starting or off the bench. Dylan Burston is one that comes straight to mind, he’s been playing really well and deserves a bit of a crack. And Jose [Atayde] has shown he’s quickly become part of a group anyway, so he could be looking at game time in the finals series.
“We’ve played Valentine in the league and in the Cup and it’s been 1-0 both times, and both times they were tough matches. I’ve said it all year, it’s the big moments that have decided games. There hasn’t been a great deal separating top and bottom.
“I imagine they want to end the year on a high, so we’ll expect a tough match and we’ll be having a good crack.”
Adamstown has the bye.