Match of the Round
Wallsend F.C vs Thornton Redbacks
Sunday 31st March, 6:45 pm, The Gardens
Round 4 of the NEWFM Northern League One is already here, with the first three rounds flying by while providing plenty of highlights and quality moments.
The Match of the Round sees Wallsend F.C host Thornton Redbacks at The Gardens, with both teams desperate to claim their first win of the season.
The Red Devils are coming off a heavy 4-1 defeat to Belmont-Swansea last round, while Thornton has missed the past two weeks due to the bye and a wash-out.
Both outfits played two compelling fixtures between them last season, with the Redbacks hammering Wallsend 6-1 before the red and white responded with a highly-entertaining 5-4 victory in the corresponding match.
Thornton’s Jake Millsteed has an impressive record over Wallsend, scoring four goals from two games against Sunday’s opposition.
Wallsend will be raring to get a win with three tough away matches to come against New Lambton, Singleton and Cessnock while Thornton will also be wanting the three points ahead of hard games against South Cardiff, Kahibah and Belswans.
The first two games of the season haven’t gone to plan for the home side and coach Jesse Pryce said his squad have got to take some accountability.
“We need to take some ownership and start playing for each other again,” Pryce said.
“Thornton are going to be fresh and we can’t afford to take anyone lightly.
“We could potentially have a new signing, but we might make some changes and keep trying as we’re finding the goals it’s just down the other end that we need to fix up.”
Thornton have only played the one game in their Round 1 loss to Cooks Hill, and coach Gary Wand said his players are eager to get back on the pitch.
“The boys are very keen. We’ve missed out because of the bye and a wash-out, so we just want to implement stuff we’ve been working on in training,” Wand said.
“Three points would be great, Wallsend are always tough, but it’s still very early days of course.”
Cooks Hill United vs Cessnock City Hornets
Saturday 30th March, 2:30 pm, Fearnley Dawes Athletic Field
Ladder leaders, Cooks Hill United, will host Cessnock City at the Fearnley Dawes Athletic Field in another interesting match-up in Round 4.
The Cookers have shot out of the blocks in the first three rounds and came from behind to down Singleton 2-1 last start, while the Hornets also rallied late to draw 2-2 with Toronto.
Cessnock currently sit in seventh and have yet to register a win in 2019, with history also against them, as Cooks Hill won their previous two encounters convincingly, 5-0 and 3-1 while prolific goal-scorer, Lee Ashton, netted a hat-trick.
The home side has another two games at the AthField before a bye and will be looking to keep their winning run going while Cessnock will be trying to steal a crucial three points before they host West Wallsend next round.
Cooks Hill will be without Tyler Curran due to suspension while the Hornets will welcome back Jake Peters and Klaudon Ahmataj.
The black and white will be full of confidence heading into this game with coach Graham Law saying his players know each other inside and out.
“They’re very experienced and been together a while, the key thing is we treat each team with the same amount of respect as with last week Singleton really showed up and we had to respond,” Law said.
“Cessnock had a credible draw against Singleton from what I saw but we will have our game plan and we will want to turn up and win.
“I’m very pleased with all of our grades and I have no hesitation in slipping in any of our Under 23’s into first grade as they’re creating great competition for spots.”
Toronto Awaba Stags vs Kahibah F.C
Saturday 30th March, 7:15 pm, Lyall Peacock Field
Kahibah F.C are riding high after their first win of the season last round and will be up against the improving, Toronto Awaba at Lyall Peacock Field.
The Stags’ achilles heel has been their ability to close-out games, having led in both their matches in 2019, only to end up with the one point out of a possible six.
The green and black knocked over top four contenders, South Cardiff, last start and showed they’re going to be a tough team to beat this season to set-up an intriguing affair on Toronto’s home track.
Both side’s shared victories against each other last season, with Toronto winning 4-3 before Kahibah returned serve with a 4-1 rout.
Toronto’s Nick Roberts will be critical for the home side having already grabbed two goals this campaign and knocked in three against Saturday’s opposition last season, while Kahibah’s Rhys Tippett will look to continue his form in front of goal after netting twice against the Gunners.
It’s still very early in the season for the away side and coach Andre Gumprecht is looking forward to seeing how his side back-up their last performance.
“Spirit is very high and the enthusiasm which is creating a good team environment but we want to put in another great performance and follow the game plan,” Gumprecht said.
“We will pay the opposition the respect they deserve and Toronto will be another fair challenge for us.
“We won’t need to change a lot although Riley Ferguson could be out with a groin injury.”
West Wallsend vs Singleton Strikers
Sunday 31st March, 2:30 pm, Johnston Park
Singleton will be on the road again, coming up against West Wallsend who’ll be searching for their first win of the season at Johnston Park.
Last round, the Bluebells went down to New Lambton 4-3 after leading during the game while Singleton will be out to build on their fourth position on the ladder, after showing promising signs in a narrow 2-1 loss to Cooks Hill.
West Wallsend had the edge over their upcoming opposition last season with a 3-0 victory and a 1-1 draw.
Singleton are playing their third straight away match and will likely be without key players Jordan Phelan and Hayden Nicol, while West Wallsend will welcome back captain, Jarrod Olivieri and their new signing, Tom Sparre, will be making his second appearance.
Last year’s grand finalists have put high expectations upon themselves this year and coach Brendan Slade said they’re not far off finding their form.
“We just need to be a bit more clinical in front of goal, we dropped the intensity in our last two games so we need to work on keeping our shape,” Slade said.
“Singleton will be tough, they could get on a role and definitely be a top-four side, they’ve got some quality players.”
The Strikers still sit inside the top four after the opening rounds and coach David Willoughby knows they will be coming up against a fired-up West Wallsend outfit.
“They’re a powerful side, tactically astute and as we know there’s no easy game in this division, but we just need to be consistent and take our chances,” Willoughby said.
“It’s a bit disappointing, for our travellers to have so many away games but it doesn’t bother us, we just need to be good enough on the day.”
South Cardiff Gunners vs Belmont Swansea United
Sunday 31st March, 2:30 pm, Ulinga Oval
The second-last match of Round 4 sees South Cardiff play home to Belmont-Swansea in another cracking fixture.
Both clubs have come into the new season as title contenders and will want to pick up a vital three points against a potential rival.
Belswans have continued their scintillating 2018 form, winning their opening two games this season including a 4-1 win over Wallsend last start, while South Cardiff suffered a setback against Kahibah.
The reigning premiers just beat their upcoming opposition to the top four spots by a single win last campaign and triumphed 2-1 last time out against the Gunners.
The loss against Kahibah certainly will have been a reality check for the South Cardiff squad after their strong opening round win and captain-coach, Denis Fajkovic, said they’ve learned a lot from the defeat.
“They set up really well against us but we learned that teams will prepare heavily and sometimes games will go against us,” Fajkovic said.
“Belswans, from my perspective, where the best team last year and Mick’s doing a great job there, but it will give us a chance to pick up a great win and prove that we are a quality side.”
Belswans are sitting strong in second spot on the ladder and coach Mick Stafford said he still wants to see improvement.
“It was a solid win against Wallsend, four different goal-scorers was pleasing as we want more of the boys scoring,” Stafford said.
“Corey Wilson, Chris Gazzard and Mitch Cook will be back available, so it’s going to be hard to get everyone in, but it shows we’ve got quality depth at the club.
“Southy are one of the favourites so it will be tough and they’ll be looking to bounce back, I think we go in as underdogs.”