Match of the Round
Merewether United vs. Warners Bay
Sunday 14 April, 2.30pm, Myamblah Oval
This week’s Match of the Round sees defending champions face last year’s premiers, back on the park for the first this season since last year’s epic 4-3 grand final battle to crown a stellar 2018 Women’s Premier League season.
For Merewether and Warners Bay, who many predicted to be two of the favourites heading into the new season, circumstances leading into their finals rematch have been less than ideal.
Merewether fell to Wallsend in a 3-1 comeback by the Red Devils last weekend, while the Panthers tasted defeat for the first time at the hands of an undefeated New Lambton outfit.
Now, both star-studded squads are heading into the contest at Myamblah Oval looking to bounce back after their Round 5 disappointments.
It’s not going to be an easy task, Merewether coach Cass Koppen said ahead of her team’s home fixture, considering how “classy” the Panthers have been in the past few years.
“We know what to expect from Warners Bay, they’ve been at the top end of the table for the last few seasons for a reason,” she said.
“The team isn’t daunted, but our main focus is working through the squad’s injuries and absences because we’ve had a lot of those over the start of the season. We have yet to play with a full strength side.
“That’s no excuse however, the girls were pretty gutted after losing last weekend, especially after being in control. I don’t need to prepare the girls after that, they just have to remember the feeling of losing and they’ll use that as motivation to get a result on the weekend.”
Player-coach and midfield metronome Cassidy Davis said there was a similar feeling in the Panthers’ camp, but believes “sticking to our own game” will be the key to unlocking a victory against their grand final rivals.
“We’ve refreshed this week, had some fun and refocused as a squad after a tough run of games over the past few weeks,” Davis said.
“We’ll do what we can, and stick to our game. You can’t worry about other teams too much, and if we do what we want to do in the game, I’m sure we can get a result.”
Warners Bay, who played a host of their early season games in just 12 days in the last fortnight, now has a seven day break between fixtures heading into the clash with Merewether. It’s an advantage Davis says will be vital to potentially collecting three points come Sunday afternoon.
“The fatigue definitely set in last week, so I think the girls having this seven days to go in the lead up to Sunday will be really important, especially with that full week in training,” she said.
“When everything catches up to you it’s hard to play for that full 90 minutes and reach your potential. I’m confident the girls can get back to that high gear this weekend after the preparation.”
This match will be live streamed across the Herald Women’s Premier League Facebook Page and BarTV Sports’ Facebook and YouTube channels courtesy of BarTV Sports.
New Lambton vs. South Wallsend
Sunday 14 April, 2.30pm, Alder Park
Another major clash in the fifth round of the league comes in the match between table-topping New Lambton, and South Wallsend.
There may be six points between the first placed Eagles and the travelling Southy squad, but with a game in hand the Wolves are looking to keep pace with the finals hopefuls battling it out for a place atop the Herald WPL standings.
While a win is always the focus when coming up against undefeated sides, Cas Wright said her South Wallsend team were aiming to see “where [the] team is in relation to the frontrunner.”
“For us, this game is about seeing where we are towards the end of the first round robin, and where we need to be come finals time,” the Wolves boss said.
“Strong and steady is our focus.
“We need to bring what we can do to the table, make sure we’re switched on, and if the girls play as well as they can play then we’ll give New Lambton a good run for their money.”
Keelan Hamilton, who has already guided his Eagles outfit to five straight wins in 2019, including against Merewether, and more recently Warners Bay, said he’s prepared for “another tough match” when New Lambton welcomes the Wolves in the gate at Alder Park.
“They’ve got some good results to start the season, and will no doubt have plenty of confidence from their big win last Sunday,” he said.
“It’s for sure another tough match for us”.
With big names littered on either side of the contest, one returning face for the Eagles has already given the squad a welcome boost, Hamilton said.
Tara Andrews, who after missing Round 5 has netted five goals more than her closest competitor on the leading goal scoring charts with fourteen, returns for New Lambton ahead of their home match.
“Her return to the squad will give us a big boost,” Hamilton said, but revealed her move back into the forwards won’t change his team-based focus.
“We’re looking to focus on how the team functions, how we can be more efficient with the ball, and try to control the game a little better than we did last week.
“We believe if we can do that, we can control possession and give ourselves a good chance to get points in the fixture.”
Football Mid North Coast vs. Wallsend
Sunday 14 April, 2.30pm, Fairmont Gardens
After two straight wins, including one on the road against the Rosebuds, Football Mid North Coast again return home, welcoming Wallsend to Fairmont Gardens on Sunday afternoon.
Mick Grass’ young squad has finally clicked with how the Middies boss set out to set up, according to the club helmsman, with the proof in the pudding after two back-to-back 2-nil victories against Thornton and Adamstown.
Now they face Wallsend on level points, after the Red Devils delivered fans one of the biggest scalps of the season last weekend, recovering from a 1-nil deficit against defending champions Merewether to score a 3-1 victory.
With both teams flying high on their recent success in past weeks, Grass knows it’s going to be a “cracking game of great footy”, but said the two-goal win from Wallsend over the Llamas last weekend “came as no surprise”.
“I thought Wallsend were going to get that result against Merewether, they’ve got a really good team on paper and they’re going to be pretty close to finals come the end of the season,” the Mid North Coast coach said.
“That said, I think we can match them, and I have no doubt we can get a result. Our confidence is rising with every match we play, despite any negative results early on.
“The girls are becoming more used to the competition, and the recent wins just add to that.”
Red Devils’ coach Brad Jones also knows that confidence will be a key factor in the upcoming Round 6 battle, and expects Mid North Coast to come out the gates flying.
“They’re going to be a challenge, they’re riding that high on confidence as well,” he said.
“Both our teams are going to try and play some great football, so I think it’s going to be a really interesting game.
“We’re definitely in a good space, buoyed by our confidence from last week. We’re going to go out now and attack, attack, attack. I’m really looking forward to proving that last week wasn’t a fluke.”
Jones also confirmed Olivia Kennedy had been ruled out with a broken ankle after her late injury but said the squad had “a number of good replacements lined up.”
For the Wallsend coach, who has so far led his side to two wins in four, the match at Fairmont Gardens will show the entire league where both teams are in their season.
“There’s some major implications for us both as we near the end of the first round, both teams are on similar points and people are looking over the fence saying “What are these two teams doing?” so that makes this a moment where both teams need to step up in a big way,” Jones said.
“The coach at Mid North Coast will know that, and he plays a good brand of football too, so we both have a chance to stake a claim to be part of the run-in for finals.
“No one is taking this game lightly, and we need to absolutely be on our game if we want all three points.”
Thornton Redbacks vs. Adamstown Rosebud
Sunday 14 April, 2.30pm, Thornton Park
The final match of the Herald Women’s Premier League’s sixth round sees two teams converging at Thornton Park after similar starts to the season.
The Redbacks and the Rosebuds have both yet to taste victory in their 2019 campaigns, with Adamstown’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of inner-city rivals Merewether two rounds ago the closest either has come in their combined ten fixtures.
Now, both teams meet with a “need for points” as they edge ever closer to the end of the first round robin, and Buds coach Paul Devitis believes each squad will “go for it” in their quest for that first win of the year in the top grade.
“If you look at the table, we both have a need for points, so it’s going to be a pretty desperate game from the start I think. It’s going to come down to who takes their chances better,” he said.
“We’ll both be going out there for those three key points.
“I’m very confident with the girls and I know that they can get up after some results haven’t gone our way this year. We’re going into the game going for the win, and it’s up to the girls now to put it all together for 90 minutes.”
Devitis has turned his eyes to his team’s attack to potentially claim those key points. The Buds boss has tipped Jessica Terry – who took to the field to replace injured Chelsea Lucas last weekend – as a focal point this Sunday at Thornton Park.
“We’re bringing Jess in to replace Chelsea, they have a similar style and Jess is a great dribbler so she’s going to bring some of that flair up top for us,” he said.
“It’s a big loss to lose Chelsea the way we did, she’s been one of our best players this season, but Jess did really well when she came on last week and she can kick on now.
“The team also has Annika D’Amico as someone that has scored a few goals for us this year, and she’s coming back into the team for us. She’s been a focal point, she’s a natural goalscorer with a lot of talent, and she links with Elodie [Dagg] well.
“Elodie and her are really good friends off the field as well as on, so they link up really well together. Elodie is a key player for us, so the two of them can bounce off each other and I think they can prove the difference. It’s about how everyone steps up now after the first few rounds of results.”