Match of the Round
New Lambton (1st) vs Warners Bay (2nd)
Sunday 26 May, 2.30pm, Alder Park
All eyes will be on Alder Park this Sunday afternoon as New Lambton and Warners Bay lock horns in the Herald Women’s Premier League match of the round.
After a narrow loss to South Wallsend last weekend, the Panthers now know they have to collect three points against the league leaders if they want to keep pace with the runaway Eagles. While the race for the title will not be decided this weekend, a victory for New Lambton would give them a nine-point buffer above last year’s minor premiers, with a game in hand. It’s not a chance that’s been lost on coach Keelan Hamilton.
“If we are successful in getting a result this weekend one consequence of that will be getting a little buffer at the top, which would be great,” he said.
“It would be a little naive to have not looked at Warners Bay’s recent results either, however, and we know this is going to be a big game for them for a few reasons.
“The occasion doesn’t change anything for us though. If we want to win the premiership we just have to keep winning games. We’ve got to the halfway point of the season in a good position, which means the premiership is potentially becoming a reality.
“We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing and getting results.”
Despite all the pressure that comes with a top of the table clash, the Eagles boss said he was also just “excited” to see his side come up against the star-studded Panthers on Sunday afternoon.
“We also look forward to these games, our matches against Warners Bay since we’ve come into the competition have always been a big occasion,” Hamilton said.
“Sunday is going to be no different, and I’m sure it’s going to be another tough and exciting fixture in our history.”
Sunday afternoon also has the potential to turn into a shootout between the two sides, with the most dangerous scorers in the competition on either side of the park. New Lambton’s Tara Andrews leads the way with 19 goals in six appearances, while the Panthers’ Jenna Kingsley has notched just one less in her ten outings.
Both sides have scored 52 goals in the first half of the season, though New Lambton has a game in hand over Warners Bay to potentially break that attacking deadlock.
Merewether United (4th) vs Wallsend (5th)
Sunday 26 May, 2.30pm, Myamblah Oval
Another tight table battle in the Premier League comes this weekend between Merewether and Wallsend, as the two sides meet in a contest for the fourth finals spot halfway through the year.
The form chart between both sides could not be of starker contrast – Merewether has won three straight, conceding just one goal along the way and slotting 19 of their own. Star winger Rhali Dobson, has scored 7 of the side’s 19 in those games.
Conversely, the Red Devils have explained a slight slide down the table, losing control of fourth off the back of three losses in a row against the top three sides in the competition. After leaking twelve goals in their last three performances, Brad Jones has called upon his defensive line to “focus” against Dobson and the Merewether offence.
“Rhali scored four last week, and it doesn’t really need to be said what a threat she is, no matter what time it is in the match, or where she is on the park,” Jones said.
“The backline is going to need to be focused against Merewether, a really good defensive effort is what’s going to stop their star players this Sunday.”
While some of Jones’ focus lies in a potential upswing of defensive form against the defending champions, he also has his eyes fixed on his attack. Specifically, the Wallsend coach is watching his young star Georgia Little.
“Georgia has been very good for us over the last few weeks, and she’s on the fringe for Newcastle Jets selection in the W-League so Craig Deans is watching what she has been doing this year,” Jones revealed.
“She’s taken a step up into a senior role with our side, and putting her best foot forward. I think it’s time for Georgia to stamp her authority of the game in a big way, she’s looked great in training, so I’m expecting a big one from her.”
For Merewether, the potential buffer a victory over Wallsend is all-important. After a shoddy start to their title defence in 2019, United have a chance to move nine points clear. With confidence on their side, Koppen believes her side can deliver.
“We’ve managed to string some really good performances together consecutively now, and that’s something we’ve been looking for all year. Confidence is starting to appear, and with competition coming back to the squad as well everyone is lifting as they’re playing for those all-important eleven places,” she said.
“Last time we played Wallsend we lost the midfield battle, but our midfield three has drastically improved since last time. It’s very important for us to win that battle in the midfield because that will let us get forward and win the game.”
South Wallsend (3rd) vs Thornton Redbacks (7th)
Sunday 26 May, 2.30pm, Walker Fields
South Wallsend welcomes Thornton to Walker Fields this weekend after both sides collected season-boosting wins against their table-rivals last round. Now, each squad will be looking to capitalise on potential movement in the standings. For the Wolves especially, consolidating the three points from their Panthers triumph will be key, coach Cas Wright said.
“For us, it’s all about consolidation of gameplay, and looking forward to keeping a clean sheet across the second round with no losses,” she said.
“Our usual strengths across the park should ensure we are at our best without conceded goals.
“It was a good result [for the Redbacks] in their game against Middies last week, so we will expect them to come out firing.”
Coming out firing is just the plan that Alan Primmer has in the back of his mind. After giving Kirstie Power-Walford a fond farewell from Thornton Park last weekend, her final fixture this weekend gives the side another “special occasion.”
More than that, Primmer said, he feels the lifted effort of the side of the past few weeks puts them in a good position. The only cog in the works for the Redbacks may be the absence of Anais Moore (ankle). Jen Jongbloed will step back into defence for the weekend.
“Jen will have a different role this weekend, she was up top against Middies last week to provide some harassing attack in the game, but now she’ll likely rotate back to defence to cover for Anais being out,” Thornton coach Alan Primmer said.
“I’ll be looking for another big performance from her this weekend as well.
“I think we can get the upset, if we can continue to put in the effort we’ve developed since last time we played Southy and compete until the last whistle it’s a possibility.
“We just have to minimise those small moments we have sometimes that cost us, and if we can keep those out of it then we can go with them for some time, I believe.”
Football Mid North Coast (6th) vs Adamstown Rosebud (8th)
Sunday 26 May, 2.30pm, Wayne Richards Park
Football Mid North Coast return home after five weeks on the road and welcome Adamstown north in another key battle in the Herald Women’s Premier League when it comes to ladder standings.
The Round 12 fixture at Wayne Richards Park marks the first time Mid North Coast have turned out in front of their home fans since their 4-0 loss to Wallsend at Fairmont Gardens back in the sixth round, and Mick Grass said he “couldn’t be keener” to have a Newcastle-based side travel the other way again.
“It’ll be good to get back home this weekend after those five weeks straight away,” he said.
“The five weeks have really taken their toll on my players, it’s not something we really expected to throughout the season for so long. Without having the travel involved this weekend I think we will fire up, having three, four, five hours on the road really knocks the players around every weekend.”
Despite a disappointing result against Thornton last weekend to round out their five-week run of heading south, Grass said his side was “lighthearted” heading into their Buds challenge.
“We know we just have to try and get the job done this weekend, we have to start the game with 100 per cent effort and continue the game in the same way, there’s no negotiation in that,” he said.
“You cannot get results if you have moments of halves in football where there’s no effort at all. We want to get back to good football this weekend, and if we do that then there’s no doubt we can get a result out of this game.”
Travelling Adamstown helmsman Paul Devitis is of a similar mindset as his side bundles into the bus and journeys to Port Macquarie this Sunday. Getting back to “the football we’re both capable of” will be the theme of the afternoon, the Buds boss said, and it will come down to who can click together faster on the park come kick-off.
“After last weekend’s results I think both teams will be going out there looking to impress,” Devitis said.
“Mid North Coast are a great footballing team and we’re expecting a very tough game. They were very impressive against us in the first round, and we are wary of their passing game.
“We will need to shut down their spaces more effectively this time around, as well as look to keep hold of the ball much better than we did last weekend.
“Both teams are in need of the win so I expect all players on the pitch to be desperate to win their personal duels, and that will go a long way to determining the outcome of the game.”