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Warners Bay v Merewether
At John Street Oval
Sunday, May 28, 2.15pm
Last start: Warners Bay beat South Wallsend 8-1 last round; Merewether beat Wallsend 1-0 in round 10.
Last time the met: Merewether won 2-1.
Position on ladder: Warners Bay first, 27 points; Merewether second, 27 points.
Squad news: Warners Bay will be at full strength and have also picked up wide player MJ Mason from Wallsend and defender or wide player Zoe Jones from the Emerging Jets. Merewether are without key midfielder Jane McDonald and captain Lori Depczynski through unavailability. Depczynski has been in Spain playing for Australia in the women’s World Futsal Cup.
What the coaches say: Warners Bay player-coach Cassidy Davis was not expecting to have to motivate her charges too much ahead of this one.
“Everyone is very keen to play,” Davis said.
“Obviously we are both on top of the ladder and are both fairly good teams; top-of-the-table clashes are always tough and it’s going to be an intense game.
“I think it’s going to be about who is mentally stronger because last time they were. They are always a team who fights until the end.”
Davis also said the inclusion of Mason and Jones would add some healthy competition for spots in the squad.
Merewether coach Cassie Koppen expected this game “to be played in the spirit of a final”.
“I don’t think there’s any point in sugar coating it,” she said.
“Obviously we need to win. We know the minor premiership is going to come down to one or two games this season, and this is one of them, and it’s going to be the same for Warners Bay.
“So this match is going to be a do or die.”
Bottom line: A top of the table battle pitting the competition’s best defensive side against the league’s most potent attack. These two sides appear the only ones capable of securing the minor premiership and the outcome of this game could determine that. The last time they met, Merewether won 2-1 in a controversial match in which all goals came from penalties and United goalkeeper Alison Logue was sent off. Warners Bay are on a roll, scoring 28 goals in their past four outings, whereas Merewether are coming off the bye and a not-so-great performance in a 1-0 win over Wallsend in their last outing. Jane McDonald’s absence will be felt but United have plenty of depth. In all, there will be five Westfield W-League Newcastle Jets players on show in Davis, Jenna Kingsley and Brooke Miller for Warners Bay and Rhali Dobson and Grace Macintyre for Merewether. This could go either way but it promises to be a great outing for spectators.
Thornton v South Wallsend
At Thornton Park
Saturday, May 27, 2.15pm
Last start: Thornton beat Wallsend 1-0; South Wallsend lost 8-1 to Warners Bay.
Last time the met: South Wallsend won 5-0.
Position on ladder: South Wallsend fifth (eight points); Thornton last (three).
Squad news: Sophie Milton’s early return to Thornton proved a huge boost for the Redbacks last weekend but she is in doubt through possible unavailability for this one. The hosts are also still without goalkeeper Danielle Redding, who is sidelined with a broken finger.
South Wallsend are still without suspended midfielder Maddie Searl but get back Stacey Day, Gemma Pearce and Taylor-Lee O’Neill. Naomi Abbott and Erin Wilson are also a chance to make their returns.
What the coaches say: Thornton coach Robbie Richardson said there would be a simple game plan this week: to just keep building on their first win of the season.
“It’s just consolidating at the moment and we’ll go from there,” Richardson said.
“We just need to get all the basics right. But I’m happy with how things are going; the girls have a renewed confidence in themselves and we’ve just got to keep building on that.”
South Wallsend coach Gary Wilson said the return of several key players will give his side confidence but he expected an equally confident Thornton.
Bottom line: This may be the fifth-placed side against the bottom team but it is poised to be a tough encounter and two of the top-four positions are still wide open. The returns of Pearce and Day will give South Wallsend a much-needed lift. Both sides need a win to keep alive their finals hopes. Cannot see Thornton turning the tables on South Wallsend but don’t expect it to be a blow-out scoreline this time.
Mid North Coast v Wallsend
At Taree Zone Field
Sunday, May 28, 2.15pm
Last start: Mid North Coast lost 6-0 to Adamstown last round; Wallsend lost 1-0 to Thornton.
Last time the met: Two-all draw.
Position on ladder: Mid North coast fourth, 10 points; Wallsend sixth, six points.
Squad news: Wallsend are still without striker Kally Lewis and have lost MJ Mason to Warners Bay. Mid North Coast welcome back Sophie Jones, Shannon Day, Britt Hargreaves and Imogene Tomasone, who have been playing for Australia at the World Futsal championships in Spain.
What the coaches say: Mid North Coast coach Mick Day said the return of the four girls from Spain will have them back to full strength this weekend.
“We have great respect for the Wallsend players and their coaching staff and hope to correct the mistakes we made last weekend,” Day said.
“Keeping focus and intensity will be key for us.”
Wallsend assistant coach Strat Kapalos said this week remained the same as every other, with the Red Devils needing “to start converting good possession into points”.
“Mid North Coast play a good brand of football and we will need to focus for the entire game if we want to come away with much-needed points,” he said.
Bottom line: Both teams are desperate for points to keep alive their seasons. Both sides have plenty of quality and have proven in other games this year they are capable of matching it with every team in the competition if they play to their potential. This should be a tight encounter between two well-drilled teams. Scoring has been Wallsend’s biggest issue and coming up against the league’s stand-out goalkeeper in Imogene Tomasone will not help their cause in front of goals. Mid North Coast will be boosted by the return of Shannon Day and Sophie Jones. This could go either way but the hosts probably hold the advantage in this one.
Adamstown – bye
Points table: Warners Bay 27, Merewether 27, Adamstown 14, Mid North Coast 10, South Wallsend 8, Wallsend 6, Thornton 3.