Wallsend v Merewether
Sunday, April 24, 2.15pm
At The Gardens
Last start: Wallsend led Thornton 4-0 before their round-six match was abandoned after 25 minutes due to torrential rain; Merewether are coming off the bye.
This match shapes as a blockbuster as unbeaten Wallsend go head to head with defending champions Merewether.
The match is the first of three in a week for Wallsend, who replay their round-six match with Thornton on Wednesday night before taking on South Wallsend in round eight.
By the end of that week Wallsend could find themselves on top of the table if results go their way.
This match is also the first of a tough run for Merewether, who meet unbeaten league leaders Adamstown in round eight before duelling with a fast-improving Warners Bay in round nine.
Wallsend coach Marc Hingston was playing his cards close to his chest ahead of the showdown but said he would use a different structure and suggested Jenna Kingsley, Shannon Day and Sophie Jones would have new roles this weekend.
Both should be raring to go as neither side has played much football in at least a fortnight – Wallsend had the bye then got through just 25 minutes of their match with Thornton last weekend before it was abandoned due to torrential rain and Merewether are coming off the bye.
Merewether coach Cassie Koppen did a reconnaissance mission to Thornton to watch Wallsend in action and acknowledged they had some danger areas.
“I watched them briefly on the weekend and obviously they’re clinical in front of goal and have got skill in midfield and up front,” Koppen said.
“We’ll need to make sure we close them down early and don’t give them any time on the ball.
“We also need to go in with confidence. We definitely have the team to win but our biggest threat at the moment is probably ourselves and having self-belief.”
Wallsend will be at full strength while Merewether players Bronte Walters, Nicki Jones, Hannah Sunasky and Ellie Withers are all carrying injuries.
South Wallsend v Thornton
Sunday, April 24, 2.15pm
At Walker Fields
Last start: South Wallsend lost 5-0 to Warners Bay; Thornton were trailing Wallsend 4-0 when their round-six match was called off due to inclement weather.
From the outset this match may look to be a dogfight for the bottom of the table, but both sides have plenty to play for and this one should prove a hard-fought battle.
Both sides have made slow starts to the season and have sustained some heavy knocks in recent weeks.
South Wallsend have conceded 12 goals in their past three outings. Thornton have leaked 15 and were trailing Wallsend 4-0 last weekend before their match had to be abandoned after 25 minutes.
Confidence is down from both sides and a win could prove a turning point as the competition heads into the second round of the preliminary season.
“This is a pretty important game for us and Thornton are going to be coming out a bit the same,” Wallsend player-coach Elyce Bates said.
“We need to win and we’re assuming they’re in a similar position.”
Bates said she will tinker with the system and emphasised the importance of ensuring there was “team unity”.
“The older ones need to take on a guiding role for those younger players; for some of them it’s their first year and they’re doing well but it is only the club’s second year in this competition and we’re also in a building phase,” Bates said.
South Wallsend skipper Laura Byrnes was forced from the field with a shoulder injury last weekend and remains in doubt for the Thornton clash.
Thornton coach Alan Primmer said the next week, in which they play three games in eight days, should “be a real indication of where we’re at”.
Mid North Coast v Warners Bay
Sunday, April 24, 2.15pm
At Taree Zone Field
Last start: Mid North Coast’s match with Adamstown last weekend was postponed due to inclement weather and they had the bye the weekend before that; Warners Bay defeated South Wallsend 5-0.
This shapes as a battle between a side who have really hit their straps in recent weeks and a side who have struggled to get any kind of momentum in the past month.
Warners Bay made a slow start to the season but have registered back-to-back 5-0 wins in their past two outings and are gaining in confidence and cohesion with every match.
Meanwhile, Mid North Coast have had a disrupted few weeks. They had the bye after losing 6-0 to Wallsend in round three then gave a strong account of themselves in a 1-0 loss to defending champions Merewether in round five but were unable to continue their momentum against ladder leaders Adamstown last weekend as their game was called off due to bad weather.
“That is probably what has hurt us most; we got flogged 6-0 by Wallsend, had the bye then come back reasonably strong against Merewether before the Adamstown game,” Mid North Coast coach Matt Baker said.
“But we’ve just got to knuckle down and do the best we can and I know everyone out there with give 110 per cent.”
Warners Bay coach Leon Davis was pleased with the way his side have been playing but remained wary of Mid North Coast at home.
“Obviously it is a home game for them and they seem to play with more enthusiasm at home,” Davis said.
Toria Campbell is in doubt for Warners Bay with a corked thigh and the match will be the last for consistent performer Maddie Smith for five weeks due to unavailability.
Adamstown have the bye
Herald WPL Points table: Adamstown 13, Merewether 12, Wallsend 8, Warners Bay 7, Thornton 3, Mid North Coast 1, South Wallsend 1.