Match of the Round
Wallsend (4th) vs Adamstown (7th)
Sunday 21 April, 2.30pm, Wallsend Park
The Match of the Round for week seven sees Wallsend welcome Adamstown to Wallsend Park in a major clash in the Herald Women’s Premier League. The battle – which marks the final weekend of the first lot of fixtures – will be key for both teams’ seasons, as the clubs look to show their capabilities for the continuing season.
For Wallsend, who have won two back-to-back games, including a vital 3-1 victory over defending champions Merewether, the match at home to close out the first round robin is all about “capitalising” and making sure their string of victories can set them in good stead for the middle run of the season.
The team is in a “good space” after scoring seven goals, collecting six points, and conceding just one in the past fortnight according to coach Brad Jones. He knows it’s crucial to keep confidence high heading into the middle third of the campaign, and that’s what he’s targeting come 2.30 pm Sunday.
“Confidence in this competition counts for so much and if you get that little bit of momentum by stringing a few wins together it can give you a good leg up in the big matches each week,” Jones said of potentially stretching his club’s streak to three straight.
“It’s key we capitalise on where we are at the moment so that we can gather that momentum and keep turning our good performances into points.
“We’re not taking Adamstown lightly at all, I think the Buds have been unlucky in their past few games and have deserved more. Some might consider us favourites, but they’re well capable of causing an upset and we cannot underestimate them at all on Sunday.”
Rosebuds boss Paul Devitis agrees the clash is not one to be underestimated and said he knew Wallsend was going to be a “force” in 2019 considering their recruitment and plans.
“Last year we had three really tight battles with them in the WPL, and then again in the State Cup, so we know that they’re a tricky fixture, and we’re expecting a very tough battle,” Adamstown’s coach said.
“We’ve been training well and the vibe in the sheds has been really positive. Our game plan is going to come down to our defensive qualities, and the midfield battle. If we can match their intensity and win those one-on-ones that will determine it.”
Devitis believes two of his commanding figures in the Rosebuds outfit – Maggie Quinn and Elodie Dagg – will play vital roles in the upcoming contest against the hosting Red Devils, especially after news revealed Buds offensive outlet Chelsea Lucas would miss the match.
“Maggie and Elodie always lead by example in the middle of the park, so they’ll be big in helping the younger girls if the going gets tough. We want to definitely get a result out of this game so that we can end our first round of the season on a high.”
Warners Bay (2nd) vs Football Mid North Coast (6th)
Sunday 21 April, 2.30pm, John Street Oval
Although Warners Bay sits in second in the Herald WPL, and Football Mid North Coast are placed sixth after the first six weeks, it’s the travelling northern side that comes to John Street Oval with the form behind them on Sunday afternoon.
After four straight victories to start their season, the Panthers have had a difficult two weeks. First, they tumbled to a defeat at home at the hands of the league leaders, and then just a week later sat on the wrong side of a 4-3 epic against Merewether.
Conversely, Mid North Coast have reaped the rewards for Mick Grass’ focus on development and strategy for his side. Although their most recent outing saw them fall 4-0 at home to the Red Devils, ahead of that result they bagged two wins in a row. Now the Middies sit just three points outside a finals position with the end of the first round looming.
Whilst their opponents could be a dangerous prospect for the recovering Panthers, player-coach Cassidy Davis revealed her team would only be focusing inward. For Warners Bay, who find themselves six points adrift of first place, getting their mentality ironed out is the next key step for the defending premiers.
“There’s nothing we can change about the last two games, and our run in with them, so we’re just planning to focus on our own mentality heading forward,” Davis said.
“Our main goal now is to fix the problems we’ve identified in the past few weeks and grab three points to head into the second round. We’re focusing on leaking fewer goals, and a change in formation this weekend may help us tidy that up moving forward.
“The team spoke about what we felt went wrong in the New Lambton and Merewether games, and Antonio watched the video of the game last weekend, so between us, we’ve figured out what we want to do going forward.”
While Warners Bay’s form table lends itself to a little confidence for the away side, coach Grass believes his young side is facing a “tough game” at John Street Oval. For the Middies boss, defence is the name of the game as his side look to stop “leaking points” through goals.
“We’re expecting a pretty torrid performance at John Street Oval, we know Warners Bay are likely going to be looking to bounce back after their last few weekends,” the Mid North Coast coach said.
“It’s going to be a very tough game for us.
“The team has been preparing with defensive aspects ahead of the game, we need to stop leaking points like we have been over the past few weeks so that’s the goal.
“Sam [Bestwick, club captain] will marshall our troops in defence well I think, and we’ll aim to keep things as quiet as we can at the back all game.”
Thornton Redbacks (8th) vs New Lambton (1st)
Sunday 21 April, 2.30pm, Thornton Park
This weekend, the “big guns come to town” at Thornton Park. At least, that’s the feeling Thornton boss Alan Primmer and the Redbacks have as they host New Lambton on Sunday.
For Primmer, a defensive focus is key as they come up against the only undefeated side left in the Herald WPL. While the Redbacks have struggled to score goals, the Eagles have been unstoppable in front of the net. Although Warners Bay lead the overall count with 34, New Lambton has netted just two less in their first six games.`
In a boost for Thornton, however, Tara Andrews has been confirmed away for the coming weekend, with her 14 goals disappearing from the starting lineup. After a busy Westfield W-League season with the Newcastle Jets that led straight into the WPL, it’s been revealed the deadly striker will be “recharging her battery” for two weeks.
Despite Andrews’ absence, Thornton’s coach knows the tie won’t be any easier than if the Jets striker was taking to the field.
“New Lambton took the competition to a totally new level last year, and they’ve taken it to another again this time around,” Primmer said.
“It’ll be interesting to see how we shape up against them, technically it’s the last game of the first round [Thornton have a game in hand] so it’s a good point to see where we’re at with development.
“It’s important we get something out of this weekend if we can. Three points would be amazing, and sensational, but an improved 90-minute effort is what we’re mainly aiming for.
“We’ve been competitive for 60 or 70 minutes in most of our games this year, but when we switch off we can get hurt. We need to make sure we get to that 90 minutes against New Lambton, or they will show us what they’re best at.”
Staying sharp and on-focus was the same message Keelan Hamilton issued to his undefeated New Lambton side ahead of their journey to Thornton Park on Easter Sunday.
For the pace-setting Eagles, keeping complacency out of their style and plans are a long term focus, and Hamilton knows his squad has what it takes to stay level every single weekend.
“We continue to prepare the same, our long term focus is totally on development for the side, but we have to balance that with turning up every Sunday with the right level of preparation and desire,” the New Lambton coach said.
“The girls have shown a lot of desire so far, and there’s so much football to be played, so there are no concerns in terms of complacency for us on our end. If we don’t perform to our ability there’s always a good chance we’ll get beat. We have to gun for a positive result.”
Hamilton also said there’s no cause of celebration within the New Lambton camp yet, but said he may have “laughed” if someone had told him the team would be six from six nearly two months into the campaign.
“If you’d told us ahead of the season we’d get to the end of the first round undefeated I would have laughed at you,” he said. “If we can get three points, and can talk about remaining undefeated heading into the second round, that would be great for the whole team.”
South Wallsend (5th) vs Merewether United (3rd)
Sunday 21 April, 2.30pm, Walker Fields
With both teams coming into the seventh round of the WPL off the back of goal-fests last weekend, the Sunday afternoon match between South Wallsend and Merewether is sure to be an end-to-end affair.
For South Wallsend, anguish follows them into the match at home at Walker Fields. After leading New Lambton 3-1 at the 70th minute, the Eagles pulled off a great escape to nick all three points out from under the Wolves’ noses.
That disappointment is behind the team now, coach Cas Wright revealed ahead of the match against United. For the Wolves boss, the greatest sting against the Eagles was a “just not having that final twenty minutes” for what they have been working on.
“The girls are feeling a lot more positive, and while we did acknowledge it was a loss, the progression forward takes us in good stead against Merewether,” Wright said.
“The team is looking forward to that, and hopefully we can execute for a full 90 minutes this weekend so we can cement a place in the top four.
“Merewether plays a different game to New Lambton, so we’ll be looking to change our strategy accordingly. We’ll go in with a specific game plan that we’ve laid out, and look to shut down their key structures. Our focus is to capitalise on our strengths just like last week.”
While Merewether mentor Cass Koppen has her side heading into the contest flying high on confidence after winning the grand final replay last weekend, it’s all bad news on the absences and injuries front for the Llamas.
Koppen revealed the Easter weekend sees Rhali Dobson, Tamara Nash, Nicki Jones, and Tayla Braithwaite all out for the round, while Rebecca Stuart (ill) is also unavailable. Notably, star keeper Alison Logue (away) has also been confirmed out for the champions, and Koppen pointed to under 17s ‘keeper Taylah Gray as a likely replacement.
“We are going to have to play a little differently considering some of our central key players are out,” she said.
“It’s yet again another different starting lineup, and likely a formation change, and we’re going to have to do whatever we can to get those three points. We’ll be relying on experiences like this we’ve had in the past, and a heaping of guts and determination.
“Southy are going to be just as hard as the last few matches, there’s a lot of W-League players on the other side of the park. To nearly beat New Lambton shows they’re capable of beating anyone in the competition, and we’re going to be struggling for numbers again so that’s going to make it hard.”