New Lambton 3 lead South Wallsend 1
Sunday 25 August, 2pm, Lisle Carr Oval
New Lambton hold the power of the tie in their hands as the premiers travel to Lisle Carr Oval to face fourth-placed South Wallsend, but there’s still “everything to play for” in the semi-final, according to both club’s coaches.
Tara Andrews led the way at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility last weekend, scoring the Eagles a 3-1 lead. Maryjane Mason pipped one back for the Wolves to give her squad a lifeline, but overcoming a two-goal deficit is a tough ask against the league leaders.
Even tougher for South Wallsend, the three-goal haul for Andrews last Sunday evening were all away goals, meaning if New Lambton find the back of the net even once – a feat they’ve achieved 115 times in 22 games in the Premier League – the hill becomes a mountain.
Despite the advantageous lead the Eagles carry into the knockout game’s second leg, Keelan Hamilton is once again preaching calmness to his playing squad.
It’s a message he issued ahead of the final premiership run in the regular season. New Lambton took that command onboard, and held firm to finish the season flying to the league’s first spot. Hamilton is hoping the team can deliver again.
“We’re not exactly guarding against complacency [because of the lead], but rather we’re making sure we don’t get ahead of ourselves in terms of worrying about a grand final, or thinking about the outcome too much before we’ve played,” said Hamilton.
“On Monday night we had a talk about ignoring the chance at the final at all. Until we’ve achieved that and got to that milestone we won’t think about it. South Wallsend are a great side with lots of talented players, so we have a lot of hard work to do this weekend.”
Cas Wright has a similar challenger ahead of her – the Wolves are going to have to put in the hard work on Sunday afternoon at Lisle Carr Oval if they want to keep their 2019 season alive. With injuries still rife in the squad, the second leg is looking tough for South Wallsend.
“We have a few players in doubt with heavy knocks from Sunday’s game, and honestly they may not recover in time,” Wright revealed. “In saying that, I’m confident in the squad we have to give New Lambton a challenge.
“We may need to draw on different players to complete a starting eleven. We are making some structural changes to try and elevate a few gaps that we encountered last game. The girls are in high spirits though, and excited to put our best team forward.
“We want to try and change the result from last weekend. We know our strengths and we will look to play and endorse our style of football,” Wright added.
Warners Bay 1 led by Merewether United 3
Sunday 25 August, 4.30pm, John Street Oval
Warners Bay trail by two goals as they welcome Merewether to John Street Oval for the second meeting in the semi-final battle, but home field advantage and a “slight tweak” in strategy will set the Panthers on the right path, says coach Craig Atkins.
“We’re very confident we can turn around the result from the first leg, we know we can bounce back and the girls are pumped up for the game,” said Atkins. “The whole team is looking forward to getting out on the park and continuing the game, that’s for sure.”
A late penalty goal for Jenna Kingsley has kept Warners Bay just two goals behind the Llamas, after United bounce to a 3-0 lead at Myamblah Oval. With Merewether’s midfield strength rolling on, Atkins says he’s looking to his own centre-park players to shine.
As well as that, a returning Nadja Squires is set to bolster the squad. She will link well with permanent threats like Cassidy Davis, Tara Pender, and Sophie Stapleford, Atkins said.
“These girls are going to be key for us this weekend, they’re all raring to go. On top of that, getting back to John Street is something the whole squad is looking forward to,” he said.
“The surface at our home ground is quality, it’s in really good condition, so we’re looking forward to getting back to the way we play. We want to be a 100 times more intense than last weekend. We weren’t hungry enough last game, and have made adjusts to fix that.”
While Merewether boss Cass Koppen is in a stronger position with her squad’s two-goal lead, she knows her midfield – including in-form goalscorer Leah Guiffre – and defensive commander Nikki Jones must continue to be at their best against the Panthers.
“A two-goal buffer is a really dangerous score, so it’s essential for us to weather their storm and make sure we’re playing at the best level that we can,” Koppen said.
“Our midfield will be key, as well as Nikki [Jones]. Nikki especially had a great game against Tara Pender, who is one of the best players in the league. That battle is really important for us. If they stand up, we can play our own game against Warners Bay.
“We flipped a 3-2 loss against them from two weeks prior, and got the 3-1 win. That’s given us a lot of confidence in our ability going into the game, and we have a lot of finals experience too. I know the squad can get the job done in these type of situations.”
Both Warners Bay and Merewether are expected to be at full-strength heading into the do-or-die final meeting between the two Premier League heavyweights this year.