PHOTO: Valentine Sports Photography
Wallsend v Adamstown (4 v 1)
At Johnston Park, West Wallsend, 2.15pm
Sunday, August 7, 2016
Last three starts: Wallsend: beat Merewether 5-2 (h), lost 3-1 to Warners Bay (h), defeated Thornton 6-0 (a). Adamstown: beat Mid North Coast 4-1 (h), beat South Wallsend 4-1 (a), beat Thornton 7-0 (h).
Head to head: Played three times. Drew 1-1 in round two, Adamstown won 6-2 in round nine and 4-0 in round 16.
Position on ladder: Adamstown first (46), Wallsend fourth (30)
Match stats: Adamstown have the equal-best attacking record in the league. They have scored 61 goals and share the honour with Warners Bay. Rosebud, however, have by far the most miserly defence, conceding just 18 goals this season. In comparison, Wallsend have scored 54 goals and leaked 31.
Players to watch
Adamstown: Captain Clare Cummings is fearless at the back and potent when she drives forward. Rhali Dobson has scored 22 goals in her return to the WPL this season and Rosebud teammate Jasmin Courtenay has proven a more than handy acquisition in the middle of the park and has chimed in with 15 goals of her own. This will be Lauren Allen’s last appearance before she heads back to the United States on scholarship and the strike weapon will be looking for a big finish.
Wallsend: Jets duo Jenna Kingsley and Libby Copus-Brown joined Wallsend this season with big expectations. They have really started to find some form in recent weeks. Kingsley has scored 18 goals this season and Copus-Brown has been tearing teams apart with attacking raids of her own. Co-captains Laura Hall and Keely Gawthrop control the middle of the park. Hall is the unsung hero of any team with her dependable tireless and tidy performances. Gawthrop held Wallsend together as they struggled through a baptism of fire in their maiden WPL season last year. Now she gets to lead them into their first finals appearance.
Wallsend are yet to beat Adamstown this season, but as they prepare to host the minor premiers coach Marc Hingston believes that could play in their favour.
The Red Devils will go into this two-legged home-and-away semi-final as the underdogs.
They looked the strongest team on paper at the start of the year and have produced some sublime performances this year but consistency has been their biggest downfall.
They have made a mockery of some of the lower-ranked sides and drawn with all of the top-ranked teams but until last weekend had not beaten any of the top three.
Hingston said a convincing 5-2 win over third-placed Merewether in the final round of the season proper was all the confidence they needed heading into this battle.
“The biggest thing for us was beating a top-three side; you could see the girls lift after that and gain a new level of confidence,” Hingston said.
“A lot of finals football is mental and I think we are in a good head space ahead of this weekend.”
Hingston remained wary of Adamstown, who scored a combined total of 10 goals against the Red Devils in their past two meetings.
“You can’t give them an inch,” he said.
“We haven’t beaten Adamstown yet but hopefully that plays into our hands in terms of having that desire to beat them.
“And this comp has a history where what happens in the season does not always happen in the finals. It is all back to zero now.”
Adamstown have travelled virtually untouched on their way to the minor premiership this year.
They succumbed to both Merewether and Warners Bay in the space of a month at the start of the final round but bounced back with some confidence-boosting efforts of their own.
Adamstown were devastated 8-0 by Valentine in the semi-finals last year and several Rosebud players from that day will get the chance to exorcise their demons this weekend.
Adamstown coach Ben Herron lamented the bye last round, which means his side will have not played for a fortnight when they take the field.
“We had a club game against ourselves last weekend to keep the legs ticking over,” Herron said.
“But the girls are in a good mood. After the week where we dropped two games, they have been switched on.
“We’ll approach the game like we have all year and that is focusing on ourselves and what we want to do.”
Both sides are at full strength.
Merewether v Warners Bay (3 v 2)
At Adamstown Oval, 3.15pm
Sunday, August 7, 2016
Last three starts: Merewether: lost 5-2 to Wallsend (a), beat Mid North Coast 5-1 (a), defeated South Wallsend 2-1 (h). Warners Bay: beat Mid North Coast 4-2 (a), lost 4-2 to South Wallsend (h), defeated Thornton 8-0 (a).
Head to head: Played three times. Merewether won 3-0 in round two, 3-3 draw in round nine, Warners Bay won 2-1 in round 16.
Position on ladder: Merewether third (35), Warners Bay second (38)
Match stats: Merewether are the defending champions while Warners Bay captured the wooden spoon last year. This game is United’s home leg of the semi-final. Warners Bay have scored 61 goals this season for the equal-best attacking record with Adamstown. That is 16 goals more than Merewether but United have conceded just 22, compared to the Bay’s 27.
Players to watch
Warners Bay: Midfielder Cassidy Davis joined her sisters at Warners Bay this season after Valentine folded and has been key to their success. The Newcastle Jets W-League player is involved in everything. She works hard in the middle of the park, distributes the ball to key areas and can score from anywhere. Her Jets teammate Adriana Jones has been unstoppable this year and made a late charge for the league’s leading goalscorer honour with a heap of goals in recent weeks. She finished the season with 26 goals to her name. Defenders are the quiet achievers of every game but the work of steely centre-back Laura Rapley has not gone unnoticed this year. Defensive midfielder Nadja Squires is as tough as they come. She is a fierce competitor and will be determined to atone for Valentine’s grand final loss to Merewether last year when she was Phoenix captain.
Merewether: Jamee Ellis and Lori Depczynski form a formidable central defence pairing. But as good as they are in defence they are equally potent in attack. Ellis is lethal from the set piece and can score from range. Midfielder Jane McDonald has probably played in more finals football than anyone on this pitch. She was key to their championship success last year and has the ability to control the tempo of this match and turn the game in an instant. Imogene Tomasone is arguably the best goalkeeper in this competition and has proven the difference for United in many tight games.
Both coaches agree this battle is going to be won in the middle of the park.
Merewether won the battle the first time they met, the second encounter was fairly even, then Warners Bay dominated when they last played. But midfield maestro Jane McDonald was out that day and will return calm and composure for this game.
McDonald and steely central defender Jamee Ellis are both nursing ankle injuries this week but are expected to take the field Sunday.
Merewether are still without striker Hannah Sunasky, who is away with work commitments.
Warners Bay have lost Jemma House, who returned to the United States this week on college scholarship, and her loss in the middle of the park will be felt.
United coach Cassie Koppen said they would “mostly focus on our own capabilities”.
“We have shown if we can play to our potential we can beat anyone in this league,” Koppen said.
“We have lost games more through our own fault, I don’t think we have been overly outplayed, so we need to be switched on from the start.
“They’ve got some players with a lot of experience. We’re experienced in we’ve played in the league for a number of years and played finals football last year but we are still a very young side and that shows sometimes with our decision-making.”
Warners Bay coach Leon Davis will be away this weekend and daughter Cassidy will take the reins in his absence.
“We expect Merewether to be physical, they are relentless, and we just have to match them,” Davis said.
“This is finals football and you have to turn up.
“We have to be mentally ready, physically ready and we have to dominate the midfield because that is where their strength lies.”
Warners Bay have all four grades in semi-finals this weekend.