Match of the Round
Newcastle Olympic v Warners Bay FC
Darling Street Oval, Sunday 3.40pm
Newcastle Olympic can further strengthen its position on top of the Herald Women’s Premier League table with a win on Sunday, though coach Harmonie Attwill does not expect it to be as easy as it sounds.
“You can never be complacent against Warners Bay. We know we need to turn up,” she said.
“We’ll approach the game the same way we normally do and be positive with our play and try to exploit Warners Bay through the midfield.”
Taking stock in recent weeks, Attwill praised her side’s ability to respond despite a raft of injuries, including to captain Sophie O’Brien.
“Considering some of the adversities we have faced, I think the players’ ability to constantly improve and move forward [is good],” she said.
Warners Bay coach Craig Atkins will call on his side to “work hard for each other” when they tackle the competition heavyweights away from home. The Warners Bay mentor is confident his side have the capability to knock over the pace setters.
“When it comes to game day you have put in all the hard yards at training but you also need to enjoy your football,” he said.
The extension of stay-at-home orders in Greater Sydney has left the Panthers without Tara Pender for at least another fortnight, while Zoe Horgan remains out injured.
Marion Dunbabin could return on Sunday, while Lilly-Jane Babic, while unlikely, remains an outside chance of minutes against Olympic.
“We always enjoy coming up against Olympic. We know the intensity they come with and how hard they start,” Atkins said.
“We’ve got to be out of the blocks nice and quick against them. We’re planning for a nice fast start against them, those first 20 minutes will be critical.”
The lockdown measures affect just the one player from Olympic with Jade McAtamney unavailable for selection. Stacey Day is also unavailable due to work commitments.
Reflecting on the middle third of the season, Atkins lamented his side’s inability to finish while noting a need to be “more critical in that final third.”
“The first third of the season was most certainly better than that middle third. We just struggled to find the back of the net. That is something we have been working on,” Atkins said.
“We are playing some good football. We’re knocking it around well and we are putting ourselves into good areas, we just need to be putting it in the back of the net.”
New Lambton FC v Adamstown Rosebud JFC
Alder Park, Friday 6pm
Will Friday night football at Alder Park be the setting for New Lambton’s first win of 2021? That is the result coach Maddy Searl will be hoping for when her side takes on Adamstown Rosebud.
“Friday night we will need to be focused and ready to take it to Adamstown,” Searl said.
“We need to remain disciplined for the full 90 minutes, stick to our game plan and take our chances.”
The Eagles unveiled Sophie Nenadovic as their newest signing last week, with Searl hopeful the W-League player can bring a much-needed boost to the struggling side.
Nenadovic has been a regular with Manly in the NSW National Premier League Women’s competition but, with the postponement of that competition due to the latest coronavirus outbreak, the 23-year-old made the switch to the Eagles.
“Sophie is a very important signing. She brings a lot of experience to our side. Culturally, she is the ideal Eagle,” Searl said.
Adamstown coach Ryan Campbell has his sights locked on a return to the Buds’ own style of play, something the mentor believes they have moved away from in recent times.
“We are just focusing on us and being able to get back to our own style of play,” Campbell said.
Leia Puxty and Jemma Lawson will both miss the match due to state government imposed restrictions, with Campbell confident his side can accommodate the loss of the pair.
“Our aim is to make the finals. I believe we will need to get about 15 points from the final eight matches in order to do this which is a difficult task but not impossible,” he said.
Adamstown are fifth on the table, equal on points with fourth-placed Warners Bay. With the Panthers and Maitland facing difficult matches against Newcastle Olympic and Broadmeadow Magic respectively, Adamstown could end the weekend as high as third with a win.
“Maintaining possession for longer periods of the game will ensure we have a better performance and also help to ensure we don’t allow their quality attacking players a chance to affect the game,” Campbell said.
Friday night’s match is scheduled to get underway at the earlier time of 6pm, with the WPL first grade game played as a double header alongside New Lambton’s HIT106.9 Northern League One men’s first grade clash with South Cardiff.
Maitland FC v Broadmeadow Magic
Cooks Square Park, Saturday 3.40pm
Maitland will be out to secure another major scalp when they host second-placed Broadmeadow Magic on Saturday.
“We haven’t really threatened against the top teams so far. We haven’t played poorly but the score lines haven’t been what we like,” Maitland coach Keelan Hamilton said.
“We’re just hoping to improve on our last performances against those teams and keep working on our own football.”
Chelsea Gay is likely to return for the Magpies while Airlie Gray and Madison Gallegos remain sidelined. Gallegos suffered a grade two hamstring tear during the side’s State Cup campaign, with the defender likely to miss an extended period.
“It is an opportunity to test yourselves and be the first team outside of Olympic to knock Broadmeadow off,” Hamilton said.
“We have full respect for [Broadmeadow] but we’re not scared of them.
“I don’t see it being won or lost an any single area. I think it will be one of those games where we need to perform right across the park and we have to be very detailed in how we perform.”
Magic remains without Kirstyn Antoni and Katie Olivera due to stay at home orders for Greater Sydney, while the side will again be without coach Jake Curley.
The extension of lockdown restrictions will leave Magic without the trio for at least another fortnight, although according to Curley, it is of minimal disruption to the squad.
“I design the training sessions and send it to the coaching staff who in turn run the sessions,” he said.
“We have a group chat where I advise the girls some tactical stuff with regards to pressing and identifying areas we can hopefully exploit.”
Another factor outside the Magic mentors’ control has been the constant drizzle of the last fortnight, with wet weather proving a frustrating obstacle.
“Our approach this week has been disrupted due to field closures. The girls did a gym session at Urban Base Fitness on Wednesday and hopefully will be on pitch Thursday night,” he said.
Three points on Saturday would increase the margin between Magic and Maitland to 16 points, while a loss would see it reduced to 10 points.
“For us, it’s important to keep creating and finishing the chances we have throughout the game,” Curley said.
Mid Coast FC v Charlestown Azzurri
Taree Zone Field, Sunday 3.40pm
With last weekend’s action washed out, Mid Coast will be out to implement a new strategy on Sunday, one coach Mick Grass hopes will take the side to the next level.
“We have a few new concepts going on with the group at the moment. We want to try and get them engrained into our psyche,” Grass said.
“If we execute some simple things, whether it be the first touch or the first pass, I think the standard of our football looks pretty good.
“It will either be won or lost for us based on our simple errors.”
Simple errors have cost Mid Coast this season, with Grass hopeful of an improved performance on Sunday. Charlestown edged out 2-0 winners the last time these two sides met.
“Last time we played them there wasn’t a lot between the two teams and we were just the ones that made errors that were capitalised on the most,” Grass said.
“We have probably started to nail down in regard to our standards and just keeping those standards high.”
A win on Sunday will ensure Charlestown remain within reach of finals football, while a loss could see them drop as many as seven points behind fifth-placed Adamstown.
Coach Niko Papaspiropoulos welcomes back a number of key players including Isabella Ramzan-Levy. Ashleigh Gavin and May Bailey remain unavailable, with Bailey expected to return for next weekend’s clash with Maitland.
“It has been the story of our season. Our most recent performances the girls have been playing well, getting a bit of that mentality and cohesion on the pitch,” Papaspiropoulos said.
Lori Depczynski will likely feature off the bench as she recovers from injury, with the side’s finals hopes dependent on the next few results.
“This is the only game that matters as of now. Winning on Sunday and then you look onto the next one,” Papaspiropoulos said.
“It has been tough every week which is good. You get a lot more out of competitive games.”
As for what it will take to knock over seventh-placed Middies, Papaspiropoulos hopes for a performance that is “disciplined in defence, effective in possession and controlling of the momentum of the match.”
“A little bit of confidence and match fitness has returned for a couple of girls. They are starting to believe that we can play good football and that we are quite a tactical side,” he said.