HIT 106.9 Northern League One Round 12 Preview: Belswans, Eagles to meet in potential title decider

June 17th, 2022

 Jacob Briers, Andrew Parkinson

Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United v New Lambton FC
Blacksmiths Oval, Saturday 3.30PM

Belmont Swansea United could take a huge step towards the Northern League One premiership when they host fierce rivals New Lambton on Saturday.

The Eagles travel to Blacksmiths Oval six points behind Belswans, though the reigning premiers have two games in hand.

A win for New Lambton would put them within touching distance of the leaders, though a defeat would put Belswans’ lead out to nine points with six rounds to play.

Belswans are on an eight-game unbeaten streak stretching back to round three when they suffered their only defeat of the campaign so far – a 2-1 loss to New Lambton.

Joel Caldwell and Riley Taylor goals cancelled out Josh Maguire’s effort that day at Alder Park but Belswans coach Mick Stafford does not believe that result will have any bearing on Saturday’s clash.

“[We’re] looking forward to a battle against New Lambton. Both clubs are in a really good position and it should be a great game at Blacksmiths,” Stafford said.

“I wouldn’t take much out of that first game [against New Lambton] for us. We lost two of our better players with head injuries in the first half and we’ve moved forward from that, as have [New Lambton] who are on a good run as well. It’s going to be an interesting and tough encounter.”

New Lambton and Belmont Swansea United have been the dominant forces in the division in recent years alongside Cooks Hill United who were promoted to the top flight NPL Men’s NNSW competition this season.

New Lambton have won the last two Northern League One premierships, while Belswans won the 2018 and 2019 championships as well as reaching two more grand finals in 2016 and 2017.

Belswans and the Eagles are also blessed with one of the competition’s star players in Kane Woolston and Taylor respectively. Woolston has scored the most goals in the competition with nine already this season and is widely regarded as one of the best strikers in the league. While Taylor was the league’s players’ player in 2020 and 2021 and was also Northern League One player of the year last season.

But while acknowledging the importance of their marquees, Stafford said a team contribution would be needed against a quality New Lambton side.

“[The star players] will be helpful for both teams but speaking on our behalf, we’re more than just a one-man team,” Stafford said.

“There’s plenty of guys in our group that go unheard of that do the same, if not more, work than Kano up top. But across the board, you’ll find that the 22 players on the field this weekend all deserve to be there and are some of the better players in the league.

“I’m hoping the game provides a showpiece for the league. This time of year, with the two better clubs at this stage going head to head, it should be a great afternoon at Blacksmiths on Saturday.”

New Lambton coach Tom Davies has been keeping an eye on Belswans in recent weeks and said his side would not back down in the face of the hosts’ trademark physical approach.

“Both sides know each other, obviously facing each other in round one and both teams have been in relatively decent form since we played that game,” Davies said.

“It’s a matter of sticking to our guns, being up for the fight and getting the little details right throughout the game in key moments which we’ll talk about at training. We’re very much looking forward to it, as will Belswans.

“I’ve been keeping an eye on them, watched a few games here and there. I watched them against Kahibah on the weekend. Both teams will know what to expect. Over the last year or two we’ve had some good battles, so I’m expecting it to be similar this weekend.”

New Lambton’s defence has been a key to their success following an unusually slow start to the campaign. The Eagles have conceded just nine goals in their nine matches so far, the equal fewest in the competition alongside Thornton.

New Lambton have won their last five matches in a row conceding just one goal in the process, a statistic not lost on Davies.

“[Goalkeeper Alex Bozinovski] has been great but the players in front of him helps a lot. It takes 11 players to make sure we have that clean sheet,” Davies said.

“Overall the defending has been really positive particularly from the strikers and the midfield which has allowed at times the defence and the goalkeeper to take a bit of pressure off themselves but also gives them confidence in the team.”

New Lambton have a fitness query over Tom Siderovski, while Stafford said a number of his Belswans players were either already ruled out or in doubt.

Singleton Strikers v Cessnock City Hornets
Civic Park, Saturday 2.30PM

Singleton coach Mick Jarvis said he will not be taking anything for granted when the Strikers host struggling Cessnock on Saturday.

The Hornets arrive at Civic Park having lost their last six matches in a row to completely negate a bright start to the season.

Singleton edged the round three encounter between the sides 2-1 at Turner Park in what was a hard fought contest. Which is why Jarvis is wary ahead of Saturday.

“I would’ve assumed [Cessnock] would be higher up [the table]. They were tough when we played them. The results haven’t really reflected where I thought they’d be,” Jarvis said.

“Leading up through the last three games, I thought we were starting to build into something but on the weekend I was pretty disappointed with our performance [against South Cardiff]. We just weren’t good enough and we can’t afford to be heading down that path.

“I’m not taking anything for granted just because they’ve lost six games in a row. Any team in this competition you take for granted will surprise you. I’m certainly not going in thinking it is going to be an easy match, that’s for sure.

“I expect it to be a tight tussle. We only won it in the dying minutes at their ground. It will be nice to start getting some good performances going at home. I think we’re one from four at home. It would be nice to get some performances together in front of the home crowd.”

Cessnock coach Brad Miles is again battling injury and unavailability, an unwelcome distraction ahead of a clash against a strong Singleton side striving for a top five place.

“We’ve got a few injuries again, which has been a rollercoaster for the whole year. This Singleton side has been together for a few years and they’re pretty good. We’re going to have to be a lot better than we have been if we want to win,” Miles said.

“We’re on a six-game losing streak which isn’t the best form going into the game but we’ve just got to keep working hard and get better.”

Part of that improvement is on stronger starts to matches. Cessnock have been notoriously slow starters in recent weeks, an issue Miles is keen to rectify.

“We need to start a lot faster and put a lot more pressure on teams. We just don’t seem to be competing as well as we were at the start of the year. I’m looking for better mentality to put more pressure on teams,” Miles said.

“It’s just lapses in concentration that costs us. A lot of the boys haven’t played regular first grade before. They’re only very young but that’s just an excuse. They can be better and that goal [against Thornton] shows we do have the quality. We just have to be doing it consistently.

“I’d just like to us to worry about our own game, put out 90 minutes of consistency. We’re a young team learning and we just have learn to be consistent for 90 minutes.”

Cessnock will see Isaac Peek return to their squad this week though Kyle Gillis and Zane Morphew-Watson are doubts. Quality young striker Jacob Bartlett will also play reserve grade due to work commitments.

West Wallsend SFC v Toronto Awaba FC
Johnston Park, Sunday 2.30PM

West Wallsend coach Darren Sills is delighted to finally be returning to Johnston Park but is also desperate for his Bluebells side to get their season back on track.

Sunday’s clash with Toronto Awaba will only be West Wallsend’s third match at home all season due to pitch issues. Traditionally regarded as a difficult place to visit for opposition teams, the lack of home games has been an unexpected disadvantage for the Bluebells.

“It’s been a long time between drinks so I’m very excited and relieved to be playing at home,” Sills said.

“We’ve only had two games all year there and it’s been a long spell away from home. The only problem we’ve got is that we had quite a few injuries from last weekend. We’re definitely licking our wounds.”

West Wallsend will be without Bryson Cox and Brendan Frost who have suffered potentially season-ending hamstring injuries, while there are also doubts over Josh Knight (ankle), Bailey Jensen (ankle/knee) and Joel Magnee (hand).

Toronto Awaba won the round three encounter 5-2 but Sills said Sunday’s game would have a completely different look, while still being wary of the Stags’ quality.

“We had seven out that night [against Toronto] so we can totally overlook that one. Having said that, the reverse fixture out here last year they beat us,” Sills said.

“They’ve got Pete McPherson and Scotty Smith and the young boy [Jacob] Dundas goes alright to. So there is a few things there we’ve got to address.

“[Ben] Higgins will be crucial [for us]. Now we need to get back on track again and see how we go on the weekend. It’s an important game as far as making semi-final football. We’ve still got three catch up games to go with Singleton, Wallsend and Kahibah. So there is still points to take in midweek fixtures but we need to get this one out of the way.”

Toronto Awaba will be backing up from their rescheduled round six match against Kahibah on Wednesday night, with the Stags and the Rams playing out a 2-2 draw at Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility.

Stags coach Jarrad Hiles said he hoped his side would be as ruthless in front of goal as they were in their first meeting with Westy this season.

“It’s always a tough game out there at West Wallsend’s home ground. I see they’ve had a couple of good results now as well if we take last weekend out,” Hiles said.

“I can’t remember the last time we’ve won three games in a row so it’s good for the club and confidence is high. The boys are just keen to keep going on with it.

“It’ll be a different game. That night we finished in front of goal pretty well. We converted most opportunities we created, that was good for us. But the last few games we’ve had opportunities to put a few more goals in and we haven’t taken it. So that’s critical, being ruthless in front of goals and putting away chances.

“But Westy have got Josh Maguire and Ben Higgins is quality. [Josh Carroll] is quite handy for them too. He was real busy and created a few problems when we played them. We’ll have to be on our toes and turn up with the right frame of mind and do those little one percenters well. I know it’s always a hard game out there and Darren Sills will have them fired up and keen to make amends from that first round.

“We’re doing well. The guys at the back are doing quite well and we have a good midfield base with wing backs. Hopefully we stay healthy through our game against Kahibah. Everyone is pulling in the same direction and the confidence is there, it’s high. They’ll give a good account of themselves, I’m sure.”

Wallsend FC v Thornton Redbacks
The Gardens, Sunday 3.30PM

Wallsend and Thornton will meet for the second time in two weeks at The Gardens on Sunday with the Redbacks out for revenge.

Wallsend scored their only win of the season so far against Thornton in their rescheduled round three match earlier this month, triumphing 1-0 on a cold night at Thornton Park.

It was a frustrating defeat for Thornton against the last-placed Red Devils, with the Redbacks in fourth place and looking to secure a finals spot.

Thornton co-coach Scott Winslade said correcting that poor result would be on his players’ minds.

“A little bit of revenge, I suppose. Obviously we have to go out and do exactly what we did in the first game but take our chances and win the game comfortably which we should have done in the first game,” Winslade said.

“We’ve started to take those few chances and deserved to win the last two games which is a really big thing. We don’t really want to win games without deserving it as well. Hopefully we can make it nine points out of nine on Sunday and then we go into a bit of a difficult run with the teams we’ve got to play after that.

“Our general play [against Wallsend] was not that bad just our finishing and final ball was nowhere near good enough. And fair play to them, they had a couple of chances and they took them.

“It’s turned out to be a pretty tough division this year. We were eighth a week ago and now we’re fourth. Two wins can switch everything around, so we have to keep in our mind that two defeats can do exactly the same thing.”

Wallsend coach Mick Gatt said he expected a stronger Thornton side this time around with finishing also the priority for his side, with the Red Devils only having scored two goals all season.

“At the end of the day they’re going to be a stronger side than when we played them midweek, the only game that we did win. We’re under no illusion that they’re going to be a lot better this weekend than what they were that midweek game but we’ve just got to make sure we go out there and play football and try and get something out of it,” Gatt said.

“I’ve already told the boys they’ll be working on shooting for the next two nights. There’ll be a lot of drills around shooting and finishing. We need to turn that poor stat around, that’s for sure.

“A couple of the boys got their first grade shot against Toronto and they stood up and really owned it. They’ll be back in the squad this weekend. But there’s always pressure from the whole squad. So we’re going to make a few changes and move some players around. We’ve got to turn our season around as quick as we can.

“We’ve always talked about making The Gardens a home ground fortress. But it hasn’t come to light at this point in time.

“[Thornton] are going to enjoy the return of a few players that were missing in that midweek game. We’ve just got to make sure that we keep our defence as it is and keep pushing forward.”

Wallsend will also be reeling from the news Greg Anderson has suffered a potentially season-ending knee injury. Gatt also has a number of players in doubt with illness.

Thornton though will be at full strength except for Trent Partridge who has a hamstring injury.

South Cardiff FC v Kahibah FC
Ulinga Oval, Sunday 3.30pm

South Cardiff coach Scott Taylor will be keen to avoid a repeat of their last meeting with Kahibah when they welcome the Rams to Ulinga Oval on Sunday.

Kahibah were comfortable 4-1 winners in round three as they blew away the Gunners with three quick goals to end the match as a contest.

Kahibah and South Cardiff occupy sixth and seventh places on the table respectively and will be keen to win to remain in touch with the top five.

But the Gunners will have to do it without Jock Thompson, who is out for the season after suffering a broken jaw against West Wallsend last week.

“Sunday it’s a tough game against a good side so we’re going have to be on to do that,” Taylor said.

“Probably the one game that we really got a walloping was the first half against Kahibah [in round three]. That was the biggest disappointment of our season, the first half against Kahibah. They caught us with our pants down and got a 3-0 lead on us. We’re determined that is not going to happen again.

“Obviously with the likes of Corey Fletcher and Tommy Walker we’ve got experience. We’ll use that experience. They have a bit of no error about them so hopefully they can steady us at the back.”

Kahibah coach Mat Moncrieff said he was keen to lean on his own experienced duo with veteran goalkeeper Scott Carter and former NNSW State League and Northern League One player of the year Rhys Tippett to return this week.

“When we played [South Cardiff] in the first round I don’t think they were at their best and we got a jump on them early and put the game away. We know they’re a better team than what they’ve produced against us last time,” Moncrieff said.

“So we can hope for a similar performance and similar result but we know Southy had a really good result on the weekend. Beating Singleton is no easy task. They’re obviously playing well and we’re on a bit of a slump. We need to regroup and get back into winning form so we can make sure we are there at the end of the year.

“[Scott Carter’s] experience and his organisation of the backline is what we are missing over the last couple of game. But George [Stephens] has done a fine job the last couple of games for us. He’s a young bloke on his way up and learning off Carter but Carter’s leadership from the backline is probably the big one for us.

“We’ll probably get back Rhys Tippett fully this week. We haven’t really had him all year as well. So hopefully with him and Scott back it’ll go get a long way to stop leaking goals.”

Lachlan Hodgetts is also back after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Related Topics:
Northern League One Round 12 Preview

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