Match of the Round
Newcastle Olympic v Charlestown Azzurri
Darling Street Oval, Saturday 3.40pm
Newcastle Olympic will look to record its fourth win on the trot when they host an embattled Charlestown Azzurri on Saturday.
Olympic were four-goal winners over Maitland in a heated match at Cooks Square Park last Friday night. Coach Harmonie Attwill is confident her side can ignore any sideline antics as they chase a second premiership in consecutive years.
“Last round we were able to show determination to complete the job against Maitland at home,” she said.
Charlestown is one of two teams Olympic are yet to sight this season. The second, Adamstown, they play next week to round out the first full circle of the competition.
“This week we will be looking to our midfield to play a key role and as always continuing to build as we move toward the final games of round one,” Attwill said.
“Defensively we aim to keep a clean sheet and have our backline contribute positively in attack at times as well.”
A call on the final line-up for Saturday will be made closer to kick-off but for Attwill she has been presented with a good problem rather than a growing injury ward.
“All players are available so selections will be a difficult one,” she said.
Charlestown head into Saturday’s game with a new leader at the helm. Michael Lee stepped down as coach for personal reasons last week, with Herald Women’s Premier League stalwart Lori Depczynski steering the side against Broadmeadow Magic.
This week, Niko Papaspiropoulos will take on the role of head coach, with Depczynski expected to return to the field in coming weeks as she recovers from injury.
“The club is supporting us to do what is best for us in the long run. A bit of change isn’t that big of a thing in the long term,” Depczynski said.
“Everyone is keen to put their boots back on for the weekend and get back out playing.”
Injuries and player availability have proved the biggest hurdle for Azzurri, who sit sixth on the table with one win and three losses.
“I think we just need to get some confidence back and start keeping possession better. And doing something worthwhile when we do have the ball,” she said.
“I think we took a step towards that on the weekend [against Warners Bay].”
New Lambton FC v Maitland FC
Alder Park, Friday 6pm
To call the start of the season a tough one for New Lambton would be a gross understatement, with the challenge in front of coach Maddy Searl an Everest-like climb.
The Eagles are floundering in last place on the table, having conceded 21 goals and only found the back of the net once. They also had coach Greg Lowe part ways with the club for personal reasons.
Now, Searl has the toughest job in the competition.
“It’s been a hard few weeks for the squad and now we have a short turn around. It’s really tested our depth,” she said.
Brooke Miller returns for the Eagles, while Georgia Minors remains at least a few weeks away from returning. Lisa Crane is out with a knee injury.
“We have to play our own game. The girls need to focus on their job, stay positive and confident. The squad is excited to be back at Alder Park for the second time this season,” Searl said.
Maitland have not been immune to the early season injury cloud either, with Sophie Stapleford and Kaitlin Radstaak yet to return. Both will be given the week’s training to prove their fitness before a final call is made.
“For us to get success we need to perform at our best. We need to retain and use the ball effectively and we need to remove the errors from our defending,” Maitland coach Keelan Hamilton said.
Having joined the competition at season’s start, Maitland sit seventh on the table with one win. Hamilton described the opening five rounds as “on the whole, okay.”
“We haven’t got the results we wanted but we’ve had a tough draw and shown we are competitive and a decent side when we stick to our process,” he said.
“Equally we have shown that we still have some refining and improving to do in a number of areas if we are going to put pressure on the teams above us.
“We’ve missed having our captain and vice-captain in Sophie and Kaitlin for multiple games but for a new club and young squad we’ve shown some good signs,” Hamilton said.
“A complete performance will be one where we take our chances in the front third and remove defensive errors at the other end.”
Warners Bay FC v Adamstown Rosebud JFC
John Street Oval, Sunday 3.40pm
Warners Bay can move five points clear of Adamstown on the table with a win over the Buds on Sunday. The Panthers sit third, two points clear of Sunday’s opponents.
“We know it will be a very intense and competitive game so we need to be completely prepared in all aspects,” Warners Bay coach Craig Atkins said.
“We know we still have plenty of improvement in us so the focus will be to keep working on those few things to try and hopefully execute them better this weekend.”
Ryley Field, Elly Cook and Sian Keating all suffered injuries in last weekend’s match against Charlestown, with the final make up of Atkins’ side to be determined closer to kick-off.
According to the Panthers mentor, execution in the final third could prove the difference.
“We will need to stay focused for the whole game and ensure our intensity matches Adamstown,” he said.
“We are happy with where we are so far in the competition but there is still a long way to go for us which is important and the girls know this as well.”
Ellen Hughes will likely return for Adamstown as the Buds look to continue the form that saw them challenge competition heavyweights Broadmeadow Magic last weekend.
“This weekend [against Warners Bay] we will work on being more composed playing through pressure,” Adamstown coach Ryan Campbell said.
“We had to play more direct against Magic so hopefully we can be a bit controlled this weekend.
“The girls were happy with how they competed on Saturday and weren’t far off a result.”
Imanee Burke will miss the game through injury, though the return of Hughes will bring a much-needed boost for the Buds. Hughes scored five goals in 14 matches last season.
“[Hughes] should be fit and available for some minutes off the bench in the game which is exciting,” Campbell said.
Adamstown are fourth on the table after five rounds with two wins, two losses and a draw. They are two points shy of third-placed Warners Bay and three points clear of Mid Coast FC.
“Results wise we would like to have been better although this is an area to focus on,” Campbell said.
“The girls have been competitive in every game except a 20-minute period against Maitland so I am confident we can improve our results in the second round.”
Mid Coast FC v Broadmeadow Magic
Taree Zone Field, Sunday 3.40pm
Mid Coast FC coach Mick Grass will hope for big things from his side when they take on table toppers Broadmeadow Magic on Sunday.
At home for just the second time this season, Mid Coast are expected to run out with the same starting 11 as the side that defeated New Lambton last weekend. The only question mark surrounds the fitness of Ginger Harrison, while Jess Watts remains unavailable.
“We’re a bit disrupted this week with several players missing training for various reasons but [we’re] still positive in our pursuit of improvement,” Grass said.
Sunday’s match will be the first time this season they have played consecutive matches, with their round one and round three matches postponed.
“Approaching this week’s game we’ve identified where our strengths and weaknesses have been over our first three games,” Grass said.
“We have adopted a strategy which can hopefully get us close to the competition leaders.”
Asked to reflect on the first five rounds of the competition, the Middies mentor was cautiously optimistic about his side’s chances.
“Considering the pre-season we had, I thought our performance in the first match was fantastic but we haven’t reached that level since,” he said.
“Hopefully in the coming weeks we can get all of our troops back on deck and find a consistently higher standard of play.”
Broadmeadow were lucky to escape with the points last weekend, scoring a narrow 1-0 win over Adamstown. Coach Jake Curley said that nail biting result had proved inspirational for his side.
“I think after the match on the weekend [against Adamstown] everyone is excited to get back on the pitch and improve the areas we weren’t great in, including myself,” he said.
“The approach this week at training will be on intensity and quality. I thought we lacked a little bit of intensity at the start of the game versus Adamstown.”
Erin Wilson and Lucy Kell are expected to return in coming weeks for the women in red, though will not be fit to play on Sunday.
“A complete performance for us will be to create and finish our chances and try to dominate possession,” Curley said.
Magic have five wins from five matches to start the season, having scored 19 goals and conceded just three.
“There’s been patches where we have been really good and our goal is not to have patches but to have solid performances over the 90 minutes,” Curley said.
“With so many new players it takes time but that’s to be expected.”