By Renee Valentine
Wallsend v South Wallsend
Match of the Round
Sunday 2pm at Wallsend Oval
Encounters this season: Wallsend won 4-2 in Round 1; South Wallsend won 2-1 in Round 8
Last start: Wallsend lost 6-0 to Adamstown last Saturday; South Wallsend beat Warners Bay 2-0 last Sunday
Position on the ladder: Wallsend seventh (9 points); South Wallsend fourth (16 points)
South Wallsend coach Marc Hingston rates this match as “probably the biggest game of the season so far for both teams”.
South Wallsend want to consolidate fourth place before they play competition heavyweights Merewether and Valentine while Wallsend must win to keep alive their top-four aspirations.
“I think we may have put Warners Bay to rest last week,” Hingston said.
“If we could win this weekend it could put Wallsend to rest too.”
Hingston felt another win this weekend could give them “some breathing space” as they prepared to take on Merewether and Valentine in successive matches.
But he acknowledged Wallsend had some dangerous players and suggested ball retention would be vital.
Wallsend interim coach Hayden Botham echoed his counterpart’s thoughts, saying, “We are eager to get some points – this is a must-win game”.
The visitors will be without in-form goalscorer Abbie Heffernan and Caitlin Daley for the clash.
Defender Ashleigh Vickery remains out for the hosts and under-18 centre-back Jasmine Wellings comes into the senior squad.
Adamstown v Valentine
Sunday 2pm at Adamstown No.1 Oval
Encounters this season: Adamstown won 4-0 in Round 1 and 3-1 in Round 8
Last start: Adamstown beat Wallsend 6-0 last Saturday; Valentine lost 4-0 to Merewether last Sunday
Position on ladder: Adamstown first (31 points); Valentine third (25 points)
Adamstown are set to play Mid North Coast on Saturday in a rescheduled fixture, making this the second match of a weekend double-header.
Rosebud coach John Jiggins was expecting to have a few players out for the match with Mid North Coast but hoped to have most back on deck to challenge Valentine.
Jiggins said defender Kate Lindsay (ankle) and Mikaela Howell (groin) are in doubt through injury and several players are scheduled to sit university exams on Saturday.
But Emily Bouwlins returns to the squad after missing games through unavailability and Jiggins said the weekend “will be a challenge for us”.
Valentine were outplayed by an on song Merewether team last week but Jiggins was not reading too much into Phoenix’s poor performance.
“You can’t take anyone softly – you’ve got to go in to each game with a full focus,” Jiggins said.
“Mid North Coast have a lot of confidence and they are not easy-beats. We beat them 3-1 last time but they were a hard team to break down.
“The bottom line is we take each game as it comes.”
Valentine have not been able to train since the loss to Merewether and women’s football manager Terry Campbell said they will get a better gauge on how the squad is shaping up when they train tonight.
Campbell was expecting another tough battle against the other competition front-runners.
“They are one of the favourites for the competition and it is going to be hard,” Campbell said.
Hannah Brewer is expected to be unavailable and Laura Austin in doubt for Valentine through injury.
Merewether v Mid North Coast
Sunday 2pm at Myamblah Oval
Encounters this season: Merewether won 2-0 in Round 1 and their Round 8 match has not yet been played
Last start: Merewether beat Valentine 4-0 last Sunday; Mid North Coast beat Thornton 3-2 last Sunday
Position on ladder: Merewether second (31 points); Mid North Coast fifth (14 points)
This will be the second match of a tough weekend double header for Mid North Coast, who are set to play Adamstown on Saturday.
Mid North Coast have won their past three matches to surge into fifth place and Coach Matt Baker will be instructing his side to take it to the league heavyweights.
“It’s going to be a tough weekend … but we’re going down to win both games, there’s no question about that,” Baker said.
Merewether remain unbeaten and were impressive in downing third-placed Valentine 4-0 last weekend but Coach Cass Koppen is under no illusion that her side will be coming under fire as the competition enters the final round.
“There is still a full round to go and we are not getting ahead of ourselves … there are a lot of points still to be won and lost and I think we’re going to have to withstand a lot of pressure between now and finals time,” Koppen said.
Koppen was wary of Mid North Coast, who just a few weeks ago were rooted to the bottom of the table.
“I haven’t seen them since the first round and they actually put up quite a good performance,” Koppen said. “They’re the kind of team you can’t take lightly.”
Mid North Coast will be without Courtney Fullbrook while Merewether should be at full strength.
Merewether’s rescheduled match against Warners Bay set down for last night had to be postponed.
Thornton v Warners Bay
Sunday 2pm at Thornton Park
Encounters this season: Warners Bay won 6-2 in Round 1; Thornton won 5-1 in Round 8
Last start: Thornton lost 3-2 to Mid North Coast last Sunday; Warners Bay were beaten 2-0 by South Wallsend last Sunday
Position on ladder: Thornton sixth (12 points); Warners Bay eighth (8 points)
Thornton coach Alan Primmer believes consistency will be the key to success for his side as they enter the business end of the season.
The Redbacks’ inconsistent results have them fighting to keep alive their semi-finals hopes and they must win this weekend to stay in touch with South Wallsend and Mid North Coast.
The Redbacks have lost key defender Riley Pursehouse (knee) to injury for the rest of the season and Primmer has a few players in doubt through HSC commitments.
“We got the sad news today about Riley,” Primmer said. “She is one of our rocks at the back and was what we missed a bit on the weekend.”
Primmer expected Warners Bay “to be really desperate, as hopefully we will be”.
“We need to put a couple of good games in back-to-back… we seem to get points then not back it up,” he said,
Thornton were scheduled to play their fourth game in 11 days last night but their rescheduled clash with Wallsend was postponed.
Warners Bay will be without Corinne Gale and Taylah Smith and interim coach Darren Sylvester rated Maddie Smith as a “50-50 chance” to play.
Points table: Adamstown 31, Merewether 31, Valentine 25, South Wallsend 16, Mid North Coast 14, Thornton 12, Wallsend 9, Warners Bay 8.