Match of the Round
South Wallsend (3rd) vs Adamstown Rosebud (7th)
Sunday 5 May, 2.30pm, Walker Fields
It’s a clash of two styles and trajectories for South Wallsend and Adamstown when they meet at Walker Fields this Sunday afternoon in the Herald Women’s Premier League (WPL) Match of the Round. After a rocky start to their first round, the Wolves have settled and are firing on all cylinders against their recent opposition.
Since their 6-1 defeat to Warners Bay a month ago, South Wallsend have been on the warpath. They have clocked up three wins in four games and only lost in a tight 4-3 struggle with the undefeated league leaders. Those were the only four goals they’ve conceded in a month too, with the Wolves finding the back of the net a massive 23 times in four outings.
Now they prepare to battle another defensive outfit in Adamstown, who locked the Panthers to just a goal in each half last weekend.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge, after last week when Warners Bay only got two, we took notice,” Wolves boss Cas Wright said.
“Our main focus will be looking to shut down any conceding of goals on our end and working on the structure against the Buds.
“They’ll come out like Middies did last week quite strong, and I know they’ve had a few close games so they’re not one to take lightly at all.
“We’re changing our shape and structure this weekend so I’m looking forward to how that works too.
“These changes can be the difference between some goals, and no goals, so I’m looking forward to seeing it in action.”
Just as Wright described, it will be a tough challenge for the Rosebuds too. They face the form-team when it comes to scoring, in what may be the biggest challenge for their defensive prowess yet. Devitis knows that well and will be looking to his recently reunited strike force to make the difference at Walker Fields.
“We have Chelsea [Lucas] back in the starting lineup after a substitute appearance last weekend, she’s had a great season so far and can always have an impact,” the Buds coach said.
“Even coming off the bench against Warners Bay gave us a big lift.
“She’ll combine with Jess Terry, who had her best game of the season for us last week, so having those two together in attack should give us an extra spark. They bring a lot of strength to the team, and create a lot of chances.”
Adamstown has yet to collect a competitive point from their first seven games of the season, and Devitis said he’s turning his attention towards “getting results on the board.”
“We didn’t get the result last weekend after a good performance, but we got a lot of confidence from it, and we need to kick on,” he said.
“Every game we’re playing now we want to get something out of, whether it’s one point or three. We just need to get that first point, and then hopefully it rolls on from there.”
New Lambton (1st) vs Football Mid North Coast (6th)
Saturday 4 May, 2.30pm, Arthur Edden Oval
After a confidence-boosting 5-nil victory over the defending champions last weekend, New Lambton is set for another positive in the form of returning Westfield W-League striker Tara Andrews.
The Newcastle Jets star rejoins the Eagles’ attack after a two-week absence from the team, and coach Keelan Hamilton has confirmed she’ll play “at least some role” in the game against Mid North Coast at Arthur Edden Oval.
“Tara is a huge part of our squad, and what we’re trying to do, so we’re looking forward to having her back,” he said.
“We’ll assess how she’s feeling coming back in after the time away, so we’re not sure what capacity she’ll play in the match, but we’re thrilled to have her back.”
After a rocky run against the defensive Redbacks just a fortnight ago, New Lambton will look to avoid a similar run-out after their big win last weekend. Hamilton doesn’t believe there’ll be another opening like that, however, as the team’s mentality “continues to sharpen” in 2019.
“We’re feeling confident after our good start to the season, we had a good run out last week and we’re looking to continuing our run this weekend,” he said.
“There is always that little bit of danger of letting the foot off the pedal, but we’ve matured as a side so I think we will be better prepared to deal with that. We had a scare against Thornton but I don’t think we’ll have that again on Saturday.”
While Hamilton is confident he and his squad can avoid that Redbacks-like scare, Football Mid North Coast coach Mick Grass is planning on giving the Eagles just that when the travelling side arrives at Arthur Edden Oval on Sunday afternoon.
“If we can stop the goals flowing against us, we’re halfway there about accruing points against the better teams,” he said. “We want to get the team focussed for as long as we can, and if we can do that we can keep teams locked up.
“We’ve worked pretty hard to rectify the issues we’ve been having over the last few weeks, and I think we’re going to give a much better account this time around. It’s just those small ten minute gaps that we drop off, and if we can keep that concentration, we’ll be in the game for the full 90 minutes against New Lambton.”
Wallsend (4th) vs Warners Bay (2nd)
Sunday 5 May, 2.30pm, Wallsend Park
Wallsend welcome Warners Bay to their Cowper Street field this weekend with their four-game winning streak on the line against the second placed team.
After a mixed start to the season, the Red Devils have locked four wins away in a row. Despite coming into the season billed as a potential fifth-placed candidate, Wallsend has gone above and beyond, winning five of their seven games to march right into the finals mix.
Now they face one of their toughest challenges yet in their streak – the premiers from 2018. Warners Bay also have confidence behind them, after winning two on the trot to re-right the end of their first round.
Both teams have impact players across the park, and Wallsend coach Brad Jones believes the contest is going to come down to personal one-on-one duels across the park. For him, that’s where the game will be won or lost on Sunday.
“There are some battles we’ve identified that we’ve got a positive advantage in, and our game plan is simply going to be to maximise those duels and get the best out of them,” he said.
“We’re heading into the game very confident we can cause an upset, that’s for sure.”
Jones knows that while the individual battles may be the key, focusing too much on the Panthers’ danger-women will only sting the home team. If you look too hard in one direction, another league best player will be waiting to take advantage.
“If you spend too much time worrying about what Cass [Davis] is going to do, Tara [Pender] will just rip you apart,” Jones said.
“If you spend all your time focussing on what Tara might do in the middle, Nadja [Squires] pops up and destroys you.
“The game will be about everyone getting their jobs done in their own personal battles. If we can do that, and get our own brand of football onto the park against them we’ll do well. Our first game against them showed we can match them football-wise, and we just have to keep switched on against their best players.”
While Warners Bay are armed to the teeth with stars like Davis, Pender, and Squires, the Red Devils are without explosive midfielder Libby Copus-Brown, who was rushed to hospital from the field last weekend. While it’s a “massive loss” for the side, Jones accepted that “that’s just football”, and turned his attention to others that can fill the gap.
“It’s a big loss for us definitely, but in the same breath, the thing we have in our squad is depth. It’s a chance for other players to step up in Libby’s absence and take that leading role.”
Thornton Redbacks (8th) vs Merewether United (5th)
Sunday 5 May, 2.30pm, Thornton Park
The Battle at Thornton Park on Sunday afternoon may be between the last placed Redbacks and the defending champions, but it’s clear both sides need a victory after recent results have gone against them.
Thornton are yet to collect a point in the 2019 season after seven straight games have gone against the young side.
It’s close to a place their coach Alan Primmer expected them to be considering they were returning to the competition and focusing on development, but not one any team wants to sit for too long.
On the other side of the park, Merewether have struggled in recent weeks with injuries, absences, and just bad luck.
Coach Cass Koppen opened fire on her side after a 5-nil loss to New Lambton, putting her players on notice and calling on “heroes to step up to create” in their games.
The run of form – three losses in four games against some of the league’s top sides – have put Merewether nearly at panic stations, with Koppen declaring last weekend the side are “so far away” from contesting the premiership.
While desperation may not be the only tune of the day when the two sides meet, the match will be a fiery one regardless. With both teams sitting with their backs to the walls in regards to their respective objectives, expect a thrilling contest with both teams looking to gather as many positives as they can.