Match of the Round
Lake Macquarie City Roosters (11th) vs. Newcastle Jets Youth (6th)
Saturday 6 April, 7:30 pm, Macquarie Field
It’s been a wretched start to the year for Lake Macquarie as they’ve already encountered two wash-outs, and in the two games they’ve actually been able to take the field, they’ve been played off the park by big margins.
This Saturday they host the Newcastle Jets Youth in a chance to pull their season back on track before it begins to get too far away from them, however, that won’t be an easy task.
The young Jets may have only played two matches as well but are still yet to lose this season despite facing top sides Charlestown and Edgeworth, and they’ve not lost to the Roosters since 2014.
2014 was the last year that Lakes featured in the top division until 2017, and since their return to the NPL NNSW, have lost three times and drawn once to the Jets with a staggering 26 total goals being scored across the four matches.
That could be an indicator that there’ll be a plethora of goals being scored in this one, however, Lakes coach Nick Webb will be focused on making sure they’re only scored by his team as the Roosters have already conceded nine goals in just two games.
Their defence will need to be much sturdier when they come up against the likes of Maki Petratos, Mat Barkho and Kieran Hayes but Webb made clear that his team were focused on being “better in every aspect, not just defence.”
“To defend against any team, you have to defend from the front and backwards from there,” Webb said.
“It’s easy just to blame the backline for goals when you’re leaking like that.
“We failed in a lot of areas either up the front, or in the midfield, allowing runners to go without picking them up, and not pressuring the ball quick enough, or whatever it may have been.”
The Jets Youth have surprised many this season in their first two matches and Webb is admittedly one that has been impressed and is aware of the challenge they possess this weekend.
“They [Jets Youth] move the ball around really well,” said Webb.
“They’ve turned into a counter-attacking team and have got a couple of dimensions to their play these days, whereas before it was quite predictable, I’d suggest. Labby [Labinot Haliti] has certainly turned that tide for them.
“The boys [Lakes] are definitely looking to turn the tables. We’ve been training very well and are looking to take on a Jets team that will be very tough.”
Broadmeadow Magic (4th) vs. Maitland FC (9th)
Saturday 6 April, 5:00 pm, Magic Park
The last time these two met it was part of a gruelling and drama-filled semi-finals series that ultimately saw Broadmeadow progress and win the subsequent week to lift the championship – an image that surely must have left a little sour taste in Maitland’s mouth.
The Magpies return to Magic Park this Saturday where they won the most recent, second-leg of that fixture, and haven’t lost at in their past three appearances there which included that infamous 7-0 flogging over Broadmeadow in 2017.
Magic have been strong in their recent outings though picking up two close victories against Adamstown and rivals Hamilton, while the only match Maitland have played so far this year resulted in an ‘El Clasicoal’ defeat.
Maitland’s form away from home has been impressive though as the only team who has been able to win when hosting the Magpies in the past year has been Weston. Coach Mick Bolch will be hoping that in 2019 his team can continue that great away record by avoiding defeating this weekend.
Without Matt Comerford in the side this year, Maitland struggled to create and convert chances in their only match of the season, but the more important area of their game may be attempting to shut down Broadmeadow’s midfield.
It makes for a mouth-watering contest as the likes of Matt Thompson, Carl Thornton and Mat Swan come up against Mitch Oxborrow, Jon Griffiths and Justin Broadley, combined with the rest of the top-quality squads these two own.
Edgeworth Eagles (5th) vs. Hamilton Olympic (7th)
Saturday 6 April, 6:00 pm, Jack McLaughlan Oval
So far in 2019, Edgeworth and Hamilton have both played three games and their records thus far have been identical – one win, one draw and one loss – meaning this one could go either way.
Olympic began their campaign with a tight win over Weston, however, since then have come up against strong opposition in Broadmeadow and Lambton away from home and in both of those games, they’ve failed to take three points.
The Eagles also started extremely well with a massive win against Magic, before then going down at home to Charlestown and sharing the points with a determined Jets Youth team.
In their league matches last season, Edgeworth gained the victory on both occasions, however in their four meetings before that, haven’t been able to beat Hamilton, losing three and drawing one.
A notable omission for the Eagles will be that of their star forward Oliver Smith who is recovering from a leg injury, but they welcome back their veteran defender and captain Josh Evans.
That will make things difficult for Hamilton, especially considering they’ve only scored once from open play this year, and it came from a quick free kick, but they’ll be confident that with tidy forwards such as Scott Pettit, Jed Hornery and the agile Jarryd Sutherland that they can finally begin knocking in some goals.
These two have an extensive history facing one another, and the 48th match between Edgeworth and Hamilton should be an absolute cracker.
Charlestown City Blues (2nd) vs. Adamstown Rosebud (10th)
Sunday 7 April, 2:30 pm, Lisle Carr Oval
So far this year only Adamstown has played all four matches, which, although means they’ve played a lot more football than their rivals, has meant that due to losing all four games, they’re well behind the rest of the competition.
This Sunday they travel to Charlestown fixed on finally tasting victory however, they’ll be up against a squad who have looked clinical since losing to the Jets Youth in the opening game of the season and sit in second spot.
One of those wins was against the defending premiers Edgeworth, and the other was domination against Lakes. Scott Smith has scored three times over those two matches, and the rest of his attacking cohort have looked in good stead.
The Rosebuds may be sitting with no points from four games, but the majority of their performances haven’t been deserving of that record including some stand-out performances from midfielder Matt Sokoulsky and goalkeeper Benn Kelly.
They’ll need to start winning if they are to keep in touch with the rest of the competition and Charlestown coach David Tanchevski is cautious of what they can bring to the table this week.
“We’re expecting a tough game from Adamstown,” Tanchevski said.
“Unfortunately, they haven’t picked up any points, but they’ve put in some good performances and been very close on a number of times.
“I thought they were a bit unlucky to not get any points from the weekend against Magic.”
The Blues may have missed out on playing last weekend due to the rain, but Tanchevski confessed his side were raring to go as a result and are confident they can continue their momentum.
“We’re pumped to get on the field this weekend… The boys are looking pretty sharp,” admitted Tanchevski.
“I thought we had two good defensive displays against Edgeworth and in the Lake Macquarie game.
“We’ve been pretty happy with our performances…we’re just trying to continue on from that.”
Weston Bears (3rd) vs. Valentine Phoenix (8th)
Sunday 7 April, 2:30 pm, Rockwell Automation Park
Weston enjoyed a week off last weekend due to the bye, but their opponents Valentine, haven’t taken the field since Round 1, and it’s that unpredictability that helps makes this match an enthralling fixture.
Weston have impressed so far this year with two wins next to their name, but they’ve typically and historically had trouble when facing the Phoenix.
Until this year, the Bears were the only side that Valentine had beaten since July 2017, and since Valentine’s return to the top flight in 2016, Weston is still yet to collect a victory having drawn once and lost the other five games.
It’s been a long time since Valentine have kicked a ball though as their only game came in Round 1 when they defeated Adamstown, while the Bears have been able to play two extra matches in that time which may prove a factor throughout this fixture.
Weston’s Zac Sneddon will be coming up against his former club and is coming off the back of some decent form alongside his other centre-half partner Nathan Morris.
Sneddon’s replacement Ben Hay was superb for the Phoenix in their opening match as was Luke Willard and Brenton Olzomer up front which all makes for an enthralling battle in that area of that park.
Valentine co-coach Sam Griffin echoed his team’s frustrations about being unable to play much in the first part of the season and declaring that his team are “bouncing”.
“They’re [Valentine] very ready to play a game and can’t wait to get onto the pitch,” Griffin said.
“They’re bursting out of their skins and are very excited.
“It’s probably a good thing that Weston had a bye on the weekend. That might take a bit of momentum out of their sails after their win over Maitland the week before. But we’re full strength and ready.”
After putting in a strong defensive performance against Adamstown in their only match of the year, Griffin stated that defence would once again be a priority for them heading into this match, and throughout the year.
“A lot of research and work is on ‘how do we shape up against them’ and ‘what’s the best way to keep a clean sheet’,” Griffin said.
“Every week that is our first thing and we just have to back that our front guys are good enough to take the chances that we get.”