Match of the Round
Maitland FC v Adamstown Rosebud JFC
Cooks Square Park, Sunday 3.40pm
The race towards finals football takes another scintillating turn this weekend with fourth-placed Maitland hosting third-placed Adamstown Rosebud.
Both sides have played 15 games so far, with fifth-placed Warners Bay still with a game in hand against Mid Coast. That game takes place on Saturday.
The margin between third and fifth is just three points, with only the top four on the table progressing to finals football.
The added pressure of a nearing finals campaign is of little concern to Maitland coach Keelan Hamilton, who maintains a consistent approach.
“Our approach is just to make sure we just take the game head on. At this time of year, sometimes mentality can count for more than some of the tactical stuff,” he said.
Airlie Gray and Madison Gallegos remain sidelined for the Magpies, who Hamilton says will need to deliver in both attack and defence on Sunday.
“Tactically, a good performance is one where we are consistent with our approach in terms of when we are in possession of the ball we want to try and retain it where possible,” he said.
“I thought we did that really well in the first half last week [against Charlestown]. Our decision making on when we should retain possession and when we should penetrate was really good.”
Sunday’s match is followed by a match up away from home against Warners Bay before Maitland host second-placed Newcastle Olympic in round 19.
“We are still six weeks away from the semi-finals and it is so tight. I don’t think it is decided at all this weekend,” Hamilton said.
Maitland have won both meetings between the sides so far this season including a 6-2 thrashing at Cooks Square Park in round three and a last-gasp 2-1 victory in round 10.
Adamstown coach Ryan Campbell will be hoping for a “high tempo” performance from his young side, with the mentor confident the Buds can overcome the Magpies.
“I am expecting Maitland to be well organised and to have a plan as to how to break us down,” Campbell said.
“We will just approach it by playing our style.”
Leia Puxty and Jemma Lawson both return for the Buds, with Campbell presented a welcome selection headache after being forced to scramble in recent time.
Charlestown Azzurri v Broadmeadow Magic
Magic Park, Friday 8pm
Charlestown Azzurri will need to deliver their best performance of 2021 if they are to knock over top-of-the-table Broadmeadow Magic on Friday night.
Sixth-placed Azzurri are winless in recent weeks, with the side’s chances of finals football becoming more mathematical with every passing loss.
“This week, because we came off three games in six days last week, we will have a rest Thursday night and give the girls some time to recover before the game,” Charlestown coach Niko Papaspiropoulos said.
At a glance, Azzurri will need to win all five of their remaining fixtures if they are to qualify for September football. But that scary statistic is not of great concern to Papaspiropoulos.
“We just need to focus on what is in front of us first which is the game this weekend. The other games are not important until we get past the first one,” he said.
“We will have to be at our best. We will have to be very disciplined, we will have to be very solid defensively and to make the most of our opportunities.
“We will need to be efficient. Tactically, it will be about negating their goal threats going forward.”
Broadmeadow coach Jake Curley will be forced to watch from the comfort of his living room for at least another four weeks after Sydney’s stay-at-home orders were extended.
Both Curley and the experienced Kirstyn Antoni reside on the Central Coast.
Now at the top of the Herald Women’s Premier League table, Curley is confident his side’s position will not change their approach.
“I think this group of girls are an extremely motivated group who I am confident won’t get complacent and will fight in every game we have left,” he said.
“We know the season is in our hands and we need to work hard to achieve the goals we set at the start of the season.”
Azzurri will be no easy task for Magic with Charlestown full of experienced players.
“A good performance for us will be finishing the chances we create,” Curley said.
“I think the girls were happy with the result on Friday night [against Olympic] but they know every game we have left to play is a key game in the season.”
New Lambton FC v Newcastle Olympic
Alder Park, Saturday 3.40pm
Life without Jade McAtamney for Newcastle Olympic will continue for at least another four weeks after Sydney’s lockdown measures, which include the Central Coast, were extended.
It comes as Olympic look to bounce back from just their second loss of the season last weekend against the now top-of-the-table Broadmeadow Magic.
“We just have to accept that we weren’t at our best in that game and move on,” Olympic coach Harmonie Attwill said.
“It is the second loss of the season and to put that reality in perspective, there’s no point dwelling on it.”
Laura Hall is expected to be passed fit for the match having missed last week’s loss with illness, while goalkeeper Nat Wiseman is clear to play after copping a head knock in Friday’s loss.
As for what it will take to ensure three points against New Lambton, Attwill noted her side will need to convert when attacking opportunities arise.
“For the squad, our ability to be physically strong from the backline through to the midfield will be important, as well as capitalising on opportunities we create,” she said.
At the other end, the Eagles will be out to score the biggest win of their season when they take on the defending champions.
The Eagles recorded their first win of the campaign last week against Charlestown Azzurri in a mid-week catch up game, before falling at the hands of Warners Bay on Sunday.
Mid Coast FC v Warners Bay FC
Taree Zone Field, Sunday 3.40pm
Fitness will prove crucial for both Mid Coast and Warners Bay, with the two sides to battle it out over two days in a grueling double header.
The Panthers head north on Saturday to take on Middies in their rescheduled round three fixture, before again making the trip to Taree Zone Field on Sunday.
Warners Bay coach Craig Atkins will be hoping for a continuation of the form that saw them knock over New Lambton last weekend.
“The girls knew it was only a matter of time before we kicked into gear and it was nice for that to happen on the weekend,” Atkins said.
“We’ve been trying to work towards that 90-minute performance and it was pretty close there against New Lambton.
“We just continue to focus on those real positives from the weekend and those things we did really well.”
Mattiese Loretan will feature in her last game for the club on Saturday before jetting out for the United States on Monday. Loretan is headed to Laramie County Community College in Wyoming.
“She has been around the club for a few years and a great person to have around the club. We will miss her but we wish her all the best,” Atkins said.
There is no shortage of talent to fill the void left by the Panthers’ regular with the consistency of captain Elodie Dagg a shining light for the fifth-placed side.
“Elodie Dagg is consistently great. She was outstanding on the weekend, she scored two and hit the cross bar twice,” Atkins said.
Tara Pender remains sidelined for the Panthers due to COVID-19 restrictions. Pender, who is based in Sydney, will miss at least another month of football.