Match of the Round
Lambton Jaffas (2nd) vs. Weston Bears (3rd)
Friday 19 April, 4:30 pm, Arthur Edden Oval
In a huge Good Friday clash, top four participants Lambton and Weston do battle at Arthur Edden Oval in a fixture that will be hard to predict given both sides’ recent form.
The Bears have remained undefeated since their first round loss against Hamilton with their only other points dropped coming in the dying seconds against Valentine, however, their opponent is still yet to taste defeat and have looked like one of the premiership contenders early on.
Braedyn Crowley and Michael Kantarovski have been stand-outs for the Jaffas so far this year with five goals to the name of the former, while for Weston, they’ve been sharing the load right across the team possessing six different goal-scorers already and displaying a strong sense of unity across the park. However, Lambton would be foolish not to keep a special focus on Dutchman Jason Tjien-Fooh who’s been extremely dangerous so far this year.
The Bears haven’t enjoyed their visits to Lambton’s home in the past few years having experienced two 4-1 losses, a 5-0 drubbing, and who could forget that 2015 match that saw them squander a 3-0 half-time lead to lose 4-3.
After scoring three goals to beat the Jets Youth last weekend, Weston will be confident in their attack, but they meet one of the best defensive teams in the competition, as Lambton have only conceded three so far, and have yet to concede experience a game where they’ve conceded more than one.
Despite that, Jaffas coach James Pascoe has been pleased with his team’s performances at both ends of the field stating they “always aim for a balanced performance.”
“Obviously goals win games, but the more often we can keep a clean sheet, the more often we are to hopefully win a game of football,” said Pascoe.
“They [attack and defence] go hand in hand, we don’t look at one aspect more than the other.
“It’s been a decent start, but we also haven’t versed any of the so-called ‘big teams’ maybe apart from Olympic and we only managed a 1-1 draw against them.”
Pascoe and his team are mindful of the strong start the Bears have experienced, but he said they weren’t paying to much attention to their opponents, instead of focusing on themselves.
“I think Weston is going along fine. They’ve had similar scorelines to the teams we’ve played against as well and I think it’ll be a decent contest,” Pascoe said.
“Our complete focus is on our game.
We played them in a pre-season game so we’ve had a look at them close-hand, but it doesn’t matter who we play, we always focus on ourselves.”
Maitland FC (8th) vs. Edgeworth Eagles (1st)
Friday 19 April, 2:30 pm, Cooks Square Park
Coming off the back of their first victory of the season, Maitland host defending premiers Edgeworth for their toughest task yet.
Heading into the ‘Battle of the Birds’ this Good Friday, the Eagles have only lost one game so far this season and as a result, currently, sit atop of the table though they have played two more games than that of Lambton behind them.
Edgeworth have won their past three consecutive games scoring ten goals across them, while for the Magpies, after experiencing a frustrating start to the year due to washouts and the bye, they’ve played three fewer matches than their opponents this weekend and have received a win, a draw and a loss leaving them to play catch-up.
Last season saw Edgeworth collect a victory when they visited Cooks Square Park, in fact, Maitland hasn’t defeated the Eagles since being promoted back to the NPL NNSW in 2015.
If the home team wants to change that, new attacker Joel Wood will need to continue his form in front of goal as he’s been able to grab three from three games. However, Edgeworth’s young frontman Will Bower has also been in red-hot form having scored four from his last three and currently sits in top spot in the Golden Boot race.
Edgeworth’s coach Damian Zane isn’t fooled by their low spot on the table suggesting that the Magpies will be battling near the top come season’s end.
“I thought Maitland recruited very well and I tipped them to be one of the teams fighting for the premiership,” Zane said.
“I think their start looks slower than it actually is… It’s going to be a tough game.
“We’re travelling along fairly well, I think. It’s a massive game. We can put some distance between us and them and then refresh next week in the break.”
Posing the best offensive record in the league with a big 19 goals, Zane has been extremely pleased with his team’s efforts in front of goal and their determination to place themselves back in premiership-fighting contention once again.
“I’m a big believer in not relying on one or two to score goals,” Zane said.
“This year we haven’t worked as hard on the defensive end, that side comes more naturally. I think it was important we got goals and improved functioning in that area.
“I thought we were playing fine in patches. We were still creating lots of chances, but on the defensive end, and in general, I thought the intensity was a bit off from what we’re about. The boys responded though. They know when it’s time to knuckle down.
“We’re making better decisions in front of goal. I always challenge my forwards to get goals and assists. That’s what counts. There’s no use not being effective.”
Lake Macquarie City Roosters (11th) vs. Adamstown Rosebud (10th)
Friday 19 April, 2:30 pm, Macquarie Field
The second Good Friday clash of the day sees Adamstown travel to Speers Point to face the hapless Lakes side and although these two both lie at the bottom of the ladder, it provides a perfect opportunity for either to get their season back on track with a win against a fellow struggling side.
The Rosebuds have played all six games this year and unfortunately, have only recorded one win but their opponents this weekend are still yet to collect any points to their name having lost all five of their games.
Both teams have displayed disappointing defence – Adamstown is averaging 3 conceded goals a game, while the Roosters are almost averaging four.
Since returning back to the top flight of Northern NSW football in 2017, Lakes are still yet to lose to Adamstown and have been able to post a high number of goals (11 goals from their four games).
Roosters’ captain Sam Walker and his offence have struggled to fire and recapture their goal-scoring form from last season, however, the more interesting battle will be taking place in the midfield as multiple promising youngsters clash – Charlie Cox and Campbell Ross against Matt Sokoulsky and Judd Duncan.
Although Lakes are rooted to the bottom of the ladder without any points, coach Nick Webb is confident his side can work their way back up the ranks stating they’re “not talking about rebuild at this stage”, but he did confess, their attack needs to be stronger.
“We should have had points in our last three games, but it’s just our finishing that’s let us down at this point,” Webb said.
“We’re certainly creating enough opportunities to win games, and it’ll turn. I’m confident if we can get on a run, we can finish much better than we did last year.
“We’re over-committing. As we’re having three or four chances, on the fifth and six one we’re sending in another player forward to try and help out, instead of staying disciplined.
“At the end of the day, if we score a couple of goals we take the pressure off. I don’t think we’ve lead yet, we’ve chased the game every week. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when we finally take the lead.
Webb said he knew how Adamstown would most likely approach the game on the weekend, and that if they don’t fix their worries, the Rosebuds would hurt them.
“They’re going to sit in and try and get us on the counter and we’ve been very poor in that situation, so we’ve got to fix that bit,” Webb said.
“They’re a young side, and Shandell [Cansdell-Sherriff] has got them working very hard for each other which is a good thing, we’ve just got to match that.”
Hamilton Olympic (4th) vs. Newcastle Jets Youth (5th)
Saturday 20 April, 2:30 pm, Darling Street Oval
Coming off the back of a big win that boosted them into the top four, Hamilton will host the Newcastle Jets Youth on Easter Saturday who sits just one goal behind them on the table.
The young Jets managed to stay undefeated after the first three matches but lost their first last weekend when they took on Weston, however a victory this Saturday would see them re-enter the four and regain that same confidence they oozed.
Despite finishing lower on the ladder, the Jets defeated Hamilton in both matches in 2018, but prior to that, Olympic hadn’t tasted a lost since May 2013.
Hamilton’s Scott Pettit picked up a delicious hat-trick last week to take his overall tally to five, but fellow attacker Maki Petratos from the Jets has also been in some terrific form as has shot-stopper Noah James.
Olympic have only won four of their last 13 league games at home since the beginning of 2018, so they’ll be hopeful of pleasing the home crowd and starting to make Darling Street more of a fortress for visiting teams.
Broadmeadow Magic (6th) vs. Valentine Phoenix (9th)
Saturday 20 April, 5:00 pm, Magic Park
In the final match of the round, Valentine face the tough challenge of visiting Magic Park, and after suffering a large defeat in their last outing at the hands of Lambton, a win is vital if they want to stay in the mix.
Their opponents are fresh from the bye and have only been beaten once so far this year which came all the way back in Round 1 against Edgeworth.
Phoenix don’t have the best of records when facing Broadmeadow though – the last time they defeated Magic was back in July 2016 where they won 2-1 with a stoppage time goal – and it’s been even worse when competing at Magic Park as their last victory there came back in 2010.
Valentine may have only played three games, but their three recorded goals stand as the equal-worst attacking average in the league and forwards Brenton Olzomer and Luke Willard will be keen on finding their feet in front of goal sooner rather than later.
On the other side of the field, despite possessing one of the most formidable forward combinations in the competition, Magic’s strikers have struggled to fire on all cylinders so far this year. Only two of their goals haven’t come from a set-piece situation, while John Majurovski and James Virgili have only scored one apiece.
Regardless of that, coach Ruben Zadkovich said he isn’t too worried with how his forwards have been combining and is confident that if they “keep creating those chances, goals will follow.”
“We’re well below our peak performance but that’s alright at this time of the year,” Zadkovich said.
“Not many of our goals at the moment are coming from open play, a lot from set pieces and that’s usually because when your camped in the other teams half and you’ve got all the momentum, they’re going to give corners, fouls and free kicks away and we work on that and we work on the finer detail.
“The other thing is that teams learn and adapt as well and we’ve come up against a few teams that sit back in a defensive block and that limits space and time for our front boys.”
Zadkovich said that with his team coming off the bye, the Magicians were excited to get back onto the field but are preparing for a tough clash.
“The bye is a little bit frustrating, we’d rather play games, so the boys will be definitely keen and will be chomping at the bit ready to go,” Zadkovich said.
“They’re [Valentine] a quality side with some dangerous individuals.
“They’re coming off a weekend where their performance wasn’t too strong against Lambton and they won’t be happy with that so we expect to cop the rebound of that.
“So long as we just got to keep picking up points and keep ourselves in the mix, we’ll keep improving.”