Competitions

NPL Northern NSW Round 4 Preview

March 28th, 2019

 SPROULE SPORTS FOCUS

 QUENTIN CONNERS

 

Match of the Round

Adamstown Rosebud vs. Broadmeadow Magic

Saturday 30 March, 5:30pm, Adamstown Oval

Coming off a big Red and Blue Derby victory, defending champions Broadmeadow travel to Adamstown Oval this weekend to face a side who is still yet to gain a point so far this year.

Last week saw the Rosebuds get dismantled by a top of the table Lambton side, but have still shown glimpses of classy football. That seems to be the issue though – only glimpses.

Finally getting that win on the board for Adamstown is exceptionally hard though as their history against Broadmeadow is completely against them. They haven’t been able to beat Magic in their past 29 league games – the last time they won was all the way back in May 1999.

Broadmeadow’s side is full of superstars and two of those men, Luke Virgili and Jon Griffiths, were both included in the NPL NNSW Team of the Week for Round 3 for their past performances.

Despite going down big to Edgeworth in Round 1, Magic successfully bounced back with their gutsy 1-0 win over Hamilton, and once again looked more like the team that dominated last year to win the Grand Final.

Adamstown captain Ben Higgins is expected to return for the Buds after missing last week due to the birth of his son, and he’ll be doing his best to re-organise his backline in an attempt to stop his former Broadmeadow teammates.

If Rosebuds lose this weekend, it’ll be their worst start to a season since 2007 where they lost the first six matches of the year, but if they can manage to claim points off their local rivals, it may just be the boost they need for the rest of the year.

 

Newcastle Jets Youth vs. Valentine Phoenix

Saturday 30 March, 2:30pm, CB Complex

It’s been a terrific start to the year for the Newcastle Jets Youth but this weekend’s match against Valentine may just be one of their tougher tests.

That may be a big call considering they’ve faced Charlestown City and Edgeworth so far this year and still haven’t lost, but the Phoenix side they’ll be squaring off with has just had two weeks off and as a result, will be focused and raring to get out of the gates quickly.

In 2018, the two matches these two with one another were absolute thrillers that went down to the wire. The first match saw a last-minute Kent Harrison goal to snatch victory for the Jets, while in the second tie, Valentine managed to work their way back from 2-0 down, with a goal in the last minutes sealing the draw.

In their past five games, both sides have won two, and drawn one, so if those games are anything to go by, fans could be in for a tight contest on Saturday.

Valentine’s Ben Hay and Luke Willard starred in their last outing, but it was their defence that proved the key and it’ll to be once again as they take on a young Jets team who have been clinical in front of goal and dangerous when looking to create chances.

Jets Youth coach Labinot Haliti said he was pleased with how his team had performed over their first two matches, but needed to make sure they didn’t lose their concentration.

“At the moment, we’re looking good,” said Haliti.

“It’s a good start, but we’ve got to take each game at a time.

“We had tough games against them [Valentine] last year…but it’s all about us.

“Each game and each week, it’s all about getting these young boys to understand what professional football is like.

“In the past two games, we’ve had different players out and in, and they’ve done the job. The most important thing for us is that every member of the squad knows their job…if we’re getting all 20 players in the squad on the same page, I think we’ll be on the right track.”

 

Maitland FC vs. Lambton Jaffas

Saturday 30 March, 6:00pm, Cooks Square Park

In their first game of the year, the ‘El Clasicoal’, Maitland weren’t able to walk away with any points, something they’ll be fixed on changing this weekend when they host Lambton.

The Jaffas have had a brilliant start to the season having won their first two matches by large margins, placing them at the top of the table, however, their mid-week catch-up game against Hamilton Olympic, which they drew 1-1, raises the question of whether fatigue may come into the equation.

With the Magpies only playing one match so far this year compared to Lambton’s three, it’s vital for them that they quickly begin to chalk some wins on the board as they are at risk of falling behind the top four pack early on.

These two were both semi-finalists last season, going down to the two Grand Finalists, but traded victories in their regular-season matches at one another’s home ground.

Many matches have been played between the Magpies and the Jaffas throughout their history and the results show that it’s been neck-and-neck most times they’ve played. In the 30 games played, Lambton have successfully won 11, Maitland have 10, and 9 draws have occurred with Maitland only scoring four more goals as well.

Lambton’s coach James Pascoe said that due to having a mid-week game, the approach and preparation for the weekend’s match would be a little different, however, he believed his side would be ready to go.

“We’ll see how the boys pull up and see how we decide to approach it,” Pascoe said.

“I haven’t seen too much of them [Maitland]. I saw a bit of their game when they versed Weston, but we’ll just go play our game and they can worry about us.

“I really upped the intensity and volume training last week and I think it showed a little bit against Adamstown, and hopefully it matches up with the load of the coming week.

“I’m really confident the boys will handle the load.”

The Jaffas currently hold the best attacking record in the competition having scored 10 goals from eight different goal-scorers, and although Pascoe was pleased with his team’s efforts, he also confessed that there were still areas to improve.

“It’s fantastic that you don’t need to rely on any one person,” said Pascoe.

“One thing we haven’t done yet is keep a clean sheet, so that’s something I’m keen to do sooner rather than later.

“We’ve just to keep our heads down and keep working hard.”

 

Hamilton Olympic vs. Charlestown City Blues

Saturday 30 March, 6:30pm, Darling Street Oval

Charlestown City travel to Darling Street Oval this weekend fresh off collecting two back-to-back wins while their opponents, Hamilton, will be entering their third match in six days with only one win to their name.

Olympic took on the Jaffas during the week in a catch-up match, and although they mustered a 1-1 draw, the fact that they’ve played so many games in such a short space of time, means that Charlestown may be the livelier.

The Blues smashed Lakes last Sunday and what will please coach David Tanchevski most is the fact that his side were able to score so many top-class goals which was an area that really downed them much of last year.

Scott Smith sits at second-best goal-scorer of the league with three to his name, and his efforts last week saw him selected in the NPL NNSW Team of the Week alongside his teammates Peter McPherson and Riley McNaughton.

Hamilton’s defence has been one of their more stronger attributes this year but have looked to struggle in taking their opportunities up front when they come despite doing well to put the ball into dangerous areas.

Only two points separate the two sides on the table last year and also composed a victory each, which is exactly what happened in 2017 as well.

Pete McGuiness, Hamilton Olympic coach, admitted that their eye had been fairly fixed on their mid-week match, but was confident that wouldn’t deter his squad’s performance on the weekend.

“I haven’t thought too much about the weekend due to our mid-week game,” McGuiness confessed.

“Playing Wednesday night is not so bad physically. The boys got through last weekend [against Magic] and pulled up pretty good.”

In 2018, Olympic’s offence proved to be one of the best in the league, but their defence lacked in comparison to the top four. McGuiness said that has been a major focus for his side coming into start of this season.

“If you look at our stats from last year, we conceded far too many goals…we’re very mindful of not conceding this year,” McGuiness said.

“I was pretty happy with how we set up defensively…we’ll just see if we can add a bit of flair to that when we’re going forward.”

 

Lake Macquarie City Roosters vs. Edgeworth Eagles

Saturday 30 March, 7:30pm, Macquarie Field

The defending premiers will battle Lake Macquarie City in the final game of the round and as both haven’t picked up wins in their past two matches, look for this match to have an air of anxiety around.

The Roosters have been poor in their first two games having lost both by rather large margins where they’ve already conceded a total of nine goals.

On the other side of the field, the Eagles began their 2019 campaign in style after pummelling Broadmeadow 6-1, but have since dropped points to Charlestown and the Jets Youth and coach Damian Zane will be fixed on that not happening this Saturday night.

Edgeworth have had a decent string of luck when facing Lakes since they were promoted to the NPL NNSW, only dropping points on one occasion and, on numerous times, managed to break the Roosters’ hearts late on. In their last four matches played against one another, Edgeworth have scored four goals in the last ten minutes to either steal a draw or grasp the win and neutral fans will be hoping for more late drama once again.

Zane made clear that he was aware of the importance of their fixture with Lakes this weekend in keeping inside with the top four, especially considering their recent performances have been substandard.

“We’ve got a few out this match, so it’s a massive game,” Zane said.

“We’re doing it a bit tough, but we can get back on track with a couple of wins.

“I don’t think we were anywhere near our best on the weekend, but we still had something like 25 shots to 9…If you’re not playing at your best but still making plenty of chances, the tide will turn.

“When you’ve got 2 of the best players in the league [Josh Evans and Pat Wheeler], missing from your defence, it’s hard. We’ve just got to ride this patch out. We conceded five goals in the first two games last year and how did that end up? We conceded less than 20. I’m not too fazed.

“I’m not too fussed but a win this weekend is important.”

One of the players Edgeworth will be missing this weekend is their new striker and top goal-scorer in the league, Oliver Smith who was painfully stretchered off during last week’s game with a leg injury. Zane stated though that the injury doesn’t seem to be all too bad and is hoping he won’t miss too many games.

“He’s been at training and is walking around, so we’re hoping it’s not as serious as it originally looked,” Zane said.

“It’s looking a lot better than first thought.

“He’s come down here to play and is doing really well, so fingers crossed.”

 

Weston Bears have the bye.

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