All games Sunday, August 2 at 2pm
Match of the Round
Valentine v Merewether at CB Complex
Meetings this season: Merewether won 3-2 on May 13 and 4-0 on June 14
Last start: Merewether lost 3-1 to Adamstown; Valentine beat Warners Bay 4-3
Position on ladder: Merewether first (45 points); Valentine third (41 points)
The last time these two sides met Merewether declared their premiership intentions with a 4-0 win in a dominant, one-sided display. But things have changed a lot since then.
Merewether lost their cloak of invincibility last weekend when they sustained their first loss of the season, going down 3-1 to Adamstown.
Meanwhile, Valentine have not dropped a point since their four-goal loss to United and can issue a warning of their own ahead of the semi-finals by reversing the result this weekend.
Phoenix coach Cassandra Wright expected Merewether to be fired up after their loss to Rosebud but said “my girls have a point to prove”.
“For us to win sends a clear message to the rest of the teams ahead of the finals and we are looking to send that message,” Wright said.
Wright was confident Phoenix could beat the league leaders but said execution was going to be key.
Merewether coach Cassie Koppen said her side “really need to respond to the loss and to come out strong” against a side she rated as “our hardest opponent”.
United will welcome the return of captain Lori Depczynski and attacking weapon Ellie Withers after they missed last round. Phoenix were without several key players last weekend but Wright expects to have close to a full complement on Sunday.
The match will continue A Goal For Sophie fundraising efforts, which should prove an added motivation for Phoenix.
Mid North Coast v Thornton at Fairmont Gardens
Meetings this season: 2-2 draw on April 26; Mid North Coast won 3-2 on June 14
Last start: Mid North Coast beat South Wallsend 4-1; Thornton drew 3-3 with Warners Bay last night
Position on ladder: Mid North Coast fourth (23 points); Thornton fifth (18 points)
Finals time is still a fortnight away but for all intents and purposes this game may as well be a final for the implications of the result.
If Mid North Coast win they will seal their first WPL semi-finals appearance but a loss will keep Thornton in the hunt for fourth place.
Finishing fourth however has been made a harder task for Thornton, who again forfeited the lead in a 3-3 draw with Warners Bay last night.
The Redbacks have been left to rue missed opportunities in recent weeks and last night led 2-0 after 20 minutes then 3-2 at the break before sharing the points with Warners Bay.
“We continue to leak goals and that continues to hurt us,” Thornton coach Alan Primmer said.
“It is desperation stakes now … we are going to need to be defensively switched on.”
Mid North Coast coach Matt Baker acknowledged fourth place was theirs to lose.
“If we win we’re there,” Baker said. “If the girls turn up and play like they have for the majority of the back half of the season then we’ll make it extremely hard for Thornton.”
Thornton’s Sophie Milton was back in action last night after missing the past few games. Both sides are expected to be near full strength on Sunday.
South Wallsend v Warners Bay at Walker Fields
Meetings this season: South Wallsend won 3-1 on June 3 and 2-0 on June 14
Last start: South Wallsend lost 4-1 to Mid North Coast; Warners Bay drew 3-3 with Thornton last night
Position on ladder: South Wallsend sixth (17 points); Warners Bay last (13 points)
This match appears a survival of the fittest contest with both sides struggling for numbers.
South Wallsend held a commission on fourth place for several weeks but will not finish in the top four after being decimated by injury and unavailability in recent weeks.
‘’We’re just trying to hang in there and finish the season on a positive note,” a frustrated South Wallsend coach Marc Hingston said.
“If we get close to 11 players for a warm-up then that will be a win for us.”
Warners Bay coach Leon Davis said his squad were like the walking wounded and he would not know who was going to be fit until closer to the match.
They will be without Corinne Gale, who was sent off against Thornton last night, Airlie Davis is in doubt with a neck injury and there are several other ongoing injury concerns.
There is still plenty to play for though as a win would elevate Warners Bay to within a point of South Wallsend.
Davis credited his side’s effort to play the last 35 minutes of last night’s clash with only 10 players, saying he was proud of the way “they really dug deep”.
“I really admire their determination, several are playing through injury and are really aiming up,” Davis said.
“They’re still improving with every game and they are in good spirits.”
Wallsend v Adamstown at Wallsend Oval
Meetings this season: Adamstown won 5-0 on May 13 and 6-0 on June 13
Last start: Adamstown beat Merewether 3-1; Wallsend lost 5-3 to Thornton
Position on ladder: Adamstown second (41 points); Wallsend seventh (13 points)
Adamstown have scored a combined two-match tally of 11 goals against Wallsend this season and will be buoyed after becoming the first team to take down league leaders Merewether last weekend.
Rosebud are looking to continue their good form ahead of the semi-finals in a fortnight but will not go into this game with complacency. Rosebud coach John Jiggins said they will “do what we always do and that is respect the opposition”.
Wallsend cannot make the top four but captain-coach Keely Gawthrop said there was plenty of motivation driving them.
“Only two or three games ago we were playing to make the semi-finals, now we’re in contention for last place and it is somewhere we don’t want to be,” Gawthrop said.
She acknowledged they had two tough games to finish the season in Adamstown then Merewether but was hoping to give the competition’s pace-setters a “good run for their money” to finish their maiden WPL season in positive fashion.
Adamstown are still without Mikaela Howell, Lauren Allen in unavailable and Marley Harrison played her last game last weekend but Kate Lindsay made her long-awaited return from injury against Merewether last weekend and Jiggins expected “she’ll be better for that run”.
Points table: Merewether 45, Adamstown 41, Valentine 40, Mid North Coast 23, Thornton 18, South Wallsend 17, Wallsend 13, Warners Bay 13.