Match of the Round
Adamstown v Merewether
Sunday 2pm at Adamstown No.1 Oval
Meetings this season: Merewether won 1-0 on April 11; drew 1-1 on July 1
Last start: Adamstown beat Mid North Coast 2-1; Merewether defeated Warners Bay 5-1
Position on ladder: Merewether first (45 points); Adamstown second (38 points)
They have been neck-and-neck for the most part of this season in the race for the Premiership but Merewether took a stranglehold on the season’s first piece of silverware when they made the most of a tough 12-day schedule this month in which they played five games.
They took 13 points from a possible 15 in that punishing period while Adamstown suffered two losses – 2-0 to Mid North Coast and 2-0 to Valentine.
Merewether remain unbeaten this season with 14 wins and three draws from 17 outings and will seal the Premiership with victory over Rosebud this weekend. The win will put them 10 points clear with both sides having three matches to play in the season proper.
But United coach Cassie Koppen said their main focus was keeping their unbeaten streak intact.
“We really want to stay undefeated until the end of the season and a win would be a confidence-boost heading into the finals for us,” Koppen said.
“We want other teams fearing us and not wanting to play us in the finals.”
Koppen said her charges were looking forward to playing at what she rated as the “best ground around” and expected Adamstown to apply plenty of pressure by playing a direct game.
Adamstown coach John Jiggins suggested Merewether would be favourites and “deserved to be” and his biggest concern was not being able to field a full-strength side.
Rosebud have been missing several key players in recent outings and this weekend are still without Mikaela Howell and Kate Lindsay. They have lost Lucy Hewson and Bec Miller to season-ending injuries and this will be Marly Harrison’s last game before she leaves to play college football in the United States.
They will however welcome back Taylor Kelly and Emily Bouwhuis this weekend while United will be without skipper and steadfast defender Lori Depczynski and prominent goalscorer Ellie Withers due to unavailability.
Valentine v Warners Bay
Sunday 2pm at Baxter Field
Meetings this season: Valentine won 6-2 on April 12; Valentine won 4-2 on May 31
Last start: Valentine beat Wallsend 8-2; Warners Bay lost 5-1 to Merewether
Position on ladder: Valentine third (37 points); Warners Bay last (12 points)
Valentine were earmarked as the “best team on paper” before this season even began but made an inconsistent start to the season.
They appear to be hitting their straps now and sent a clear warning to their competition rivals that they were intent on being in top form come finals time with an emphatic 8-2 win over Wallsend last weekend.
Last-placed Warners Bay, under the guidance of new coach Leon Davis, are focused on finishing their maiden season in strong fashion.
They held league leaders Merewether to a scoreless draw in recent weeks but have struggled for numbers in their past couple of outings.
Tulia Palozzi and Corrine Gale are both in doubt due to injury and Davis will assess the rest of the squad at training tonight.
He was expecting a tough match against a side he rated as the “best technical side in the competition” and was simply asking for more improvement from his young team.
There will however be some family pride at stake with two of Davis’ daughters, Airlie and Greer, playing for Warners Bay and another in the opposition’s camp in Cassidy.
Valentine coach Casandra Wright was quietly confident of another strong showing this weekend but acknowledged Davis had Warners Bay on the improve.
She said they wanted to “keep the momentum going” and were not looking beyond this weekend’s hit-out.
Phoenix welcome back defender Cecelia Love, who was one of Phoenix’s most consistent players last season but has been out all season this year with a knee injury.
Mid North Coast v South Wallsend
Sunday 2pm at Fairmont Gardens
Meetings this season: South Wallsend won 3-0 on April 12; Mid North Coast won 4-0 on May 31
Last start: South Wallsend drew 2-2 with Thornton; Mid North Coast lost 2-1 to Adamstown
Position on ladder: Mid North Coast fourth (20 points); South Wallsend fifth (17 points)
South Wallsend coach Marc Hingston rates this match as their “grand final” but will again take an understrength squad into battle this weekend.
Hingston has struggled to field a team in recent weeks due to a high injury toll and unavailability and is without shot-stopper Bec Saunders, Caitlan Daley and Meg Hewitt due to unavailability. Taylor O’Neill has succumbed to an ongoing knee injury and inspirational skipper Laura Hall is in doubt with an injury of her own.
They will however welcome back strike weapon Abbie Heffernan and utility Danielle Nicol and Hingston will rely heavily on his under-18s squad.
A win this weekend would put South Wallsend back on level terms with fourth-placed Mid North Coast with two rounds remaining, although Mid North Coast still have a game in hand over their counterparts.
“This is our grand final,” Hingston said. “If we win it we’re still not guaranteed to make the semi-finals but it gives us every chance.
“They play with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and play a good brand of football but like us they can be a bit hit and miss. Hopefully we can catch them on a bad day.”
Mid North Coast coach Matt Baker has had his squad on light duties this week after their weekend double-header with Merewether and Adamstown but he expects to have his full complement available on Sunday.
“The most important thing this weekend is to win and put ourselves in a position where they [South Wallsend] have to win two to catch us and we have to lose two,” Baker said.
Wallsend v Thornton
Sunday 2pm at Wallsend Oval
Meetings this season: drew 3-3 on April 12; drew 2-2 on July 15
Last start: Wallsend lost 8-2 to Valentine; Thornton drew 2-2 with South Wallsend
Position on ladder: Wallsend seventh (13 points); Thornton sixth (14 points)
This is the first game of five in two weeks for Thornton, who back up on Wednesday night against Warners Bay. They then play Mid North Coast in Round 20 before ending the season proper with matches against second-placed Adamstown and third-placed Valentine.
Wallsend’s season appears over – they are seven points adrift of fourth-placed Mid North Coast and finish their season with back-to-back matches against league front-runners Adamstown and Merewether.
Thornton will be desperate for points to give themselves a chance to overhaul Mid North Coast and South Wallsend before the season proper ends but the Red Devils are intent on finishing the season strongly and taking some scalps.
It has been a baptism of fire for the Herald WPL newcomers but they have shown some positive glimpses and will prove a tough assignment for the Redbacks.
Thornton coach Alan Primmer said they are not looking beyond this weekend and “the main priority is to make sure we get maximum value out of it”.
“The result of Sunday has a big bearing on everything,” Primmer said.
“Both times the games have been close … it’s about just making sure we do the little things right and don’t let them into the game.”
Thornton are still without senior players Sophie Milton and Naomi Abbott through unavailability and Primmer said he would again call on younger players to fill the breach.
Wallsend will be at full strength, welcoming back defender Ashley Vickery.
Captain-coach Keely Gawthrop said the Red Devils had worked on their formation this week and were planning to “bring something new to the table” against Thornton.
Points table: Merewether 45, Adamstown 38, Valentine 37, Mid North Coast 20, South Wallsend 17, Thornton 14, Wallsend 13, Warners Bay 12.