Match of the Round
Merewether United (4th) vs New Lambton (1st)
Sunday 23 June, 2.30pm, Myamblah Oval
Round 15 will see Herald Women’s Premier League (WPL) powerhouses Merewether United and New Lambton face off in the Women in Football (WIF) Round.
The WIF Round is part of rebel Female Football Week (FFW) in paying recognition to all the wonderful women in the game and their remarkable contribution and will be live-streamed courtesy of BarTV Sports from 2.30 pm on Sunday afternoon.
Last time these two faced off in 2019, the Eagles came away with a 5-0 win at Alder Park that shocked Merewether and saw question marks raised over the team’s title potential this season.
Since then, United have answered the call. One defeat at the hands of the Panthers two weeks ago has been the only black mark on their otherwise perfect winning run. The defending champions have scored five victories in that time and scored 32 goals while conceding just five.
New Lambton, of course, has also been on a surging run of form. One locked score against the Wolves saw them drop two points – their first of the season – but outside of that, they have been unstoppable. Now, for the first time in 2019, both teams come into their contest firing on all cylinders.
While the Eagles have been on their high-flying run, Keelan Hamilton admits there’s a chance that Merewether could prove a tricky fixture in their undefeated streak.
“There’s potential for Merewether to beat us, and take points off us, just like any team in the competition could,” he said.
“Until the fixture has actually been completed it’s very hard for you to say you’re going to win, there’s always that chance it goes against you.
“Merewether had a very good result last week, and they’ll have plenty of confidence. Add to that we’re undefeated, and that puts a big target on us for teams that want to be the one to best us.
“That said, we’re feeling good. We had a good result too, and we want to carry that second half performance into the game on Sunday.”
United coach Cass Koppen also knows the fixture is a possible three points up for grabs. While she doesn’t quite think a win could slow the Eagles after their two undefeated rounds in a row, the confidence boost any team would get from beating them would be a massive boon for her side heading into the final leg of the season.
“Of course we’re looking for the win, but it’s really just to get that mental advantage going into the finals,” Koppen said.
“New Lambton has had one of the most consistent starting elevens across the top four teams, and they have a lot of confidence built up with their experienced players in the squad. They have a lot of W-League stars.
“They also have a lot of players that have been in the Premier League very long too, and that confidence can go both ways. If we can grab an early goal, we can dampen that confidence they’ve been thriving on, and can get an upper hand if we make them chase us.”
The key battle in the televised match, Koppen believes, there will be the class of her midfield as they look to control the tempo of the high-profile match.
“We have a very new-look midfield this year, and they’ve really recently found a lot of their form and got those combinations together really well. That’s our engine room, and they are just improving every single week.
“Tayla [Braithwaite] is out this weekend, unfortunately, but I think they will bring the same energy and talent with Tamara Nash slotting in to replace her. Tamara played a lot of midfield last season, and there won’t be a disruption with our engine room at all.”
Adamstown Rosebud (6th) vs Warners Bay (2nd)
Sunday 23 June, 2.30pm, Adamstown No.1 Oval
Adamstown has hit a purple patch of form in recent times, collecting four precious points from their last three fixtures. Now they face the challenging arrival of Warners Bay at No.1 Oval, just as the Panthers look to hit high-gear for the third round.
With control of second place now firmly back in their pockets, incoming Warners Bay coach Craig Atkins believes the focus of the squad must turn towards what they can do to sustain their form. If the team can “take each week as they come,” he said, the team can secure that top two seed heading into the finals with ease.
“Now that we’re back in second the message is to focus on ourselves completely, we know what we can achieve as a squad and if we keep focus on ourselves and what we need to improve week in, and week out, then second place can be ours at season-end.”
With a strike-force armed to the teeth with national talent like Jenna Kingsley and Tara Pender, as well as creative outlets in Cassidy Davis and Nadja Squires, Warners Bay can certainly back up their bid for second.
Adamstown boss Paul Devitis is also well aware of what the Panthers bring to the table in regards to attacking quality. It may not be the only battle of the weekend, but the Buds coach knows that points could be won or lost in the skirmish between line-leading Kingsley, and his centre-back duo of Isabel Lauina and Elly Cook.
“Issy and Ellie are in a very good bit of form, and have been rocks for us in recent weeks, so them up against Jenna should be a quality contest for sure,” Devitis said.
“Looking at their squad, they have a fantastic forward group, and they get a lot of their opportunities through those guys. Alongside Issy and Ellie, our entire back four is going to have to be very on their game if we want to get a result. The 1v1s out wide especially will be key to the game as well, I believe.”
Despite Warners Bay boasting one of the most dangerous attacking outfits in the league – Kinglsey (24), Squires (10), and Davis (8) all sit within the top ten goalscorers – Devitis revealed his side wasn’t going to sit back in the clash.
“We know that we can compete with them, it was a close game last time out and that gives us confidence. We won’t look to soak pressure because that just doesn’t go well,” he said.
“The team has to stick to their guns and just play football, we get a lot of periods in our games where we do dominate possession and we want to be on the front foot at home and create our own chances. If we do that, we can be in with a chance.”
Adamstown Rosebud will be supporting the WIF round by wearing their pink and black strip with purple goalkeeping kits.
Football Mid North Coast (8th) vs South Wallsend (3rd)
Sunday 23 June, 2.30pm, Taree Zone Field
Football Mid North Coast (FMNC) welcome third-placed South Wallsend to the Taree Zone Field this weekend as they looked to snap a nine-game losing streak in the third round of the Women’s Premier League.
It’s been a struggle for the Middies to break their mid-season form line. After defeating Adamstown 2-0 in the fifth round, the northern squad moved to a 2-3 record in sixth. Since then, points have eluded them. The closest they have come in recent weeks was a 1-nil loss to the Buds in their reverse fixture.
This weekend, they come up against the third-placed team in the Wolves. South Wallsend’s form-line problems have been much shorter, but it may be the perfect time for the Middies to stage a grand upset in the Herald WPL. After a 5-1 win over Thornton, the Wolves have seen a number of their players fall from the squad through injuries and absences.
A 1-1 result against New Lambton heralded as positive by the entire league considering the Eagles had yet to drop points ahead of that Round 13 clash, was then followed by a 4-0 defeat to Merewether. Three days later, the midweek catchup against Wallsend saw them tumble to a 3-2 loss against their rivals.
FMNC have struggled to find the back of the net, having scored just two goals in their last seven outings, but if they were to snap that negative attacking record it could be this weekend.
The last time South Wallsend kept a clean sheet was nearly a full round of fixtures ago. One thing’s for sure, however – both teams will be desperate for a result, and the contest in Taree is sure to be a cracking contest as three vital points lay on the line.
Wallsend (5th) vs Thornton Redbacks (7th)
Sunday 23 June, 2.30pm, The Gardens
Thornton travels to The Gardens on Sunday afternoon to face a Wallsend outfit burning with confidence after they bundled up arch-rivals South Wallsend in their midweek catchup clash at Wallsend Park.
Knocking over the second-placed team to lock them back into third always seems an uptick of form for the winning team, but for the Red Devils downing their local rivals in a “proper derby battle” has lit the pyre. It’s a confidence Brad Jones hopes he can channel into even more three-point results in the next few weeks.
“The door is open for us now to have a bit of a run at this thing, we’ve shown that we’re right amongst it after our most recent results, and we want to keep that going this weekend,” the Wallsend coach said.
“We’ve been doing well against teams for 60 minutes this season, and then we get run over the top of by teams like New Lambton, Warners Bay, and Southy.
“On Wednesday we just said “We’re not going to accept that anymore,” and the girls showed that they had embraced that fully. We got over that hurdle, and now we have to do it again against Thornton.”
The 3-2 win over South Wallsend moves the Red Devils just six points behind Merewether in fourth place, and 15 points clear of the three-way battle to avoid the spoon. It may still be mathematically possible for Wallsend to slip back into that scuffle, but for now, they’ve buoyed themselves within touching distance of the playoffs.
“Anyone who thinks we’re a guaranteed three points for any reason can do so at their own peril, we can easily capitalise on teams that think we’re going to be a quick win,” Jones said.
“We’re bringing a lot of confidence into the game against Thornton now, we just have to repeat the performance from Wednesday. We know now that we can play like that, and if we can get that consistency with it we can knock over any team in the competition.”
Wallsend FC will be supporting the WIF Round hosting a bbq for match day, having young girls from surrounding clubs walk out onto the field with the players at the start of each of the four Herald WPL games as well as sharing profiles within their match day program.