Match of the Round
Toronto Awaba FC v South Cardiff FC
Lyall Peacock Field, Saturday 3pm
This weekend, two highly improved sides face off as Toronto Awaba host South Cardiff at Lyall Peacock Field.
South Cardiff will be eyeing their first three points this season after two tough openers against Belswans and New Lambton.
The Gunners started the season on a promising note. However, they were unfortunate not to get a result against Belswans, going down in the final 10 minutes, losing 3-2. But they surprised everyone last weekend by drawing 1-1 with New Lambton, putting the rest of the league on notice.
Unfortunately, South Cardiff lost 4-1 to a strong Kahibah side midweek.
South Cardiff coach Scott Taylor knows that most of this season’s games will be unpredictable, as seen within the first five weeks of the competition’s commencement.
“Looking at how the season is going, I don’t think any game is going to be a given; it’s going to be about who turns up on the day,” Taylor said.
“[We need to keep] the same endeavour and the same defensive display [we’ve had so far this season].”
Taylor recognises the pleasing result against New Lambton but demands a little more from his side if they want to keep up with the competition.
“We controlled possession good in the second half [against New Lambton]; we got a hold of the ball a lot more. We just need to get behind the defence a little more; we’ll be working on that [this week].”
Toronto will be no pushover, as coach Jarrad Hiles has his side playing quality football this season.
The Stags peppered West Wallsend 5-2 before succumbing to the high-flying Belswans, losing 2-0.
“When I reflect back on the game [against Belswans], I thought we were pretty good for 70 minutes of the match,” Hiles said.
“We’ve just got to clean up the errors in front of [our] goal and in those areas where we can get punished.
“Not much will change. We just have to win the ball higher up on the pitch, ground the ball, and play some footy.”
As both teams finished bottom three last season, the added strength of new coaches and experienced players has invigorated both camps’ atmospheres. It is leading to a highly anticipated clash.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” Hiles said.
“Southy are a completely different team to last year, [we’re] sort of going in blind.
“Knowing Scott, he’ll have them set up well and play good football. But I’m confident if we stick to our guns and keep working, we should get the three points, but it’s football [so you never know].”
South Cardiff is looking good in squad availability considering their midweek clash on Wednesday against Kahibah. The only out will most likely be Jock Thompson due to COVID-19 concerns.
Toronto, on the other hand, are a little worse for wear.
Jasper Offen went down against Belswans on the stroke of full time, dislocating his shoulder and tearing his rotator cuff. Nick Roberts also came off with a shoulder injury but should be able to play come Saturday.
New Lambton FC v Kahibah FC
Alder Park, Saturday 3pm
Kahibah want to make it three wins in a row against New Lambton, who are coming off the back of an 8-0 thumping against a thin Cessnock City in the Australia Cup
Mat Moncrieff, Kahibah FC coach, believes his knowledge of the Eagles’ playstyle and the added depth to the Rams, this season, will make for an intense clash come Saturday.
“They’re one of the top two teams in the competition, so we need to be close to our best eleven, if possible,” Moncrieff said.
“[They have] a lot of quality across the park, we just need to shut down their little combinations, play our football, and we’ll be a pretty good match for them, to be honest.
“Their coach Tom is pretty methodical in what he does, so I’m sure he’ll have a game plan and adjust to try and beat us.
“If you have a bad day against New Lambton, you’re going to get beat. But, on a good day, I think we can beat them for sure.
“They have a pretty formidable bench to try and overcome, especially at their ground.”
Riley Ferguson will play a key role , scoring three times in the last two games for Kahibah as he pushes for Golden Boot.
Lookout for a new face at Kahibah, with Moncrieff commenting on a new signing but not giving away any other hints.
“We’ve got a new signing playing on Saturday; he’s pretty impressive,” Moncrieff said.
New Lambton will want to return to winnings ways in Northern League One after their result against South Cardiff when they host Kahibah FC this Saturday.
Going up in the first half, New Lambton couldn’t seem to crack the South Cardiff keeper, and they eventually conceded an equaliser, ending the match as a stalemate.
“There are a few things to take away from the Southy game that we’ll talk about this week,” New Lambton coach Tom Davies said.
“It’s just a matter of sticking to our processes and the way we’ve been training. It’s just a matter of fine-tuning things.
“I was super disappointed on the weekend. There are just a few key moments [in the game] where we’re not being smart with our execution in the final third.”
Davies expects a tight game against Kahibah, considering their recent form.
“Should be a good game at Alder Park again. The ground is holding up okay at the moment, so it should be good for both teams playing,” Davies said.
“Kahibah are coming off the back of a positive result from last weekend, so we’re looking forward to it.
“The games are coming thick and fast now, so kind of what you want with such a delay to the start of the season.”
“It’s going to be another physical and tight game, so we’ve got to be aware of some of their strengths and try to exploit some of the weaknesses we see.”
Dylan Bozinovski is back for the Eagles after featuring for the first time since pre-season against Cessnock midweek.
Jackson O’Sullivan is still fifty-fifty at the moment with hamstring niggles.
Considering the midweek fixture, Kahibah are all available, fit, firing, and walking out of the change rooms for the third time in eight days.
Thornton Redbacks v Belmont Swansea United
Thornton Park, Saturday 3pm
It’s athe best attack verse the best defence at Thornton Park. Top goal scorers Belmont Swansea travel up the A43 to face Thornton Redbacks, who currently hold the best 2022 defensive record.
Last season, the sides played out two incredibly low-scoring games: a 0-0 draw at Blacksmiths Oval and a narrow 1-0 win for Belswans at Thornton Park.
With the trajectory of the two teams so far, you would expect another similar tight tussle.
“It’s always a tough hit out there. Gary [Wand] and Scott [Winslade] set up with good structure; they know what they are doing,” Mick Stafford, coach of Belmont Swansea, said.
“They’re always a hard team to play against, they have some quality players, but we have to learn from that and find ways to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Two of Belmont Swansea’s key players, Kane Woolston and Reece Newton, scored in a 2-0 victory over Toronto. Stafford is particularly excited to see their form continue.
“Kane [Woolston] is a quality striker, and I believe Reece [Newton] is one of the best players in the competition,” Stafford said.
“[Reece] is starting to hit his straps now with moving further up the park. It’s exciting to see those boys get around, [and also] the rest of the guys that have been doing well for us.”
Stafford showed respect to the Redbacks leading up to the fixture and highlighted the underappreciation he believes they have been subject to.
“I believe that Thornton is one of the top three sides in the competition,” Stafford said.
“They’ve gone under the radar for the last few years, and they’ve got quality players, so going up there and getting a result will be massive for our season, and it’ll be really good if we can get something out of the game.”
Thornton Redbacks coach Gary Wand speaks in a similar tone about Belswans, in the sense of having a good idea of how they play mixed with the week in week out unpredictability of their line up. He expects the game to similar to past encounters.
“[Belswans] have a good mix of experience and youth, and they’ve got a lot of depth out there at the moment, they’re clubs going well, Mick Stafford is doing a really good job out there,” Wand said.
“We’re under no illusions for how tough it’s going to be.
“They’re always top opposition, and they’re happy to win 1-0, which makes it even harder to play against.”
Wand explains how the similarities in game style will contribute to the overall entertainment of the game.
“They’re a little bit similar to us [in the way that they’re] quite happy to sit off.
But because of their experience, [Belswans] know the game goes for the 90 minutes, and they’re happy to hang in there and score at the death,” Wand said.
“You’re in for the whole 90 with these fellas, that is for sure.”
Wand has confirmed that Estatheo, despite sustaining a shoulder injury, is clear to play this Saturday.
Unfortunately, they will be without captain Jake Millsteed for roughly four to five weeks with a hamstring tear. Trent Partridge will also most likely be unavailable due to COVID-19.
In some breaking news, veteran midfielder Josh Maguire has left Belmont Swansea, joining the West Wallsend.
Cessnock City v West Wallsend SFC
Turner Park, Saturday 3pm
There are plenty of new and returning faces at West Wallsend as they look to take down Cessnock at Turner Park.
Coming off the back of a 3-0 loss to Thornton, the Bluebells have Brock Oakley, Brendan Frost, and Jayden Barber all available for selection and new signing Josh Maguire.
“We’ve signed another player in Josh Maguire,” West Wallsend coach Darren Sills said.
“I know he is at the back of his career, but [he] is an exceptionally good footballer. Good bloke to have around the club, and [I’m] looking forward to working with him.”
Sills also confirmed that Maguire would “definitely make his debut” for the club this weekend.
Obviously, with losing last weekend, the Bluebells will be working hard to correct their imperfections ahead of a crucial away match against Cessnock.
“[We’re] looking to be more clinical in front of goal; making sure we finish better,” Sills said.
“Just got to get our attitude right and ensure we still create the chances we created last week. Try to hit the back of the net.
“Cessnock are hard to beat at home. Last year, our away form was quite good, so I’m hoping that [continues] this year.”
Cessnock coach Brad Miles emphasised the need for consistency, knowing it is key to results in the coming rounds.
“We need to work on keeping our consistency up,” Miles said.
“Last week was probably the first 90 minutes we’ve played without having any lapses in concentration. hopefully, we keep that up.”
Miles knows West Wallsend has a hunger to take away three points.
“West Wallsend will be looking to get back on track again,” Miles said.
“They’re a very good, solid team and quite physical, so we got to be on our game for this one.”
West Wallsend’s squad loses Liam Simpson to a hip injury. At the same time, Sam Robson (hamstring) and Wade Ciappara (ankle) are doubtful. Also, Josh Carroll will serve his final game of suspension.
Cessnock has a case of the head cold rotating around the squad, leaving questions about who will be available for selection come Saturday.
Zac Kronholm isout this weekend after a red card on Wednesday night as the Hornets went down 8-0 to New Lambton in the Australia Cup.
Fortunately, back Kyle Gillis returns for the Hornets from a nasty collision with the Singleton goalkeeper, only rendering him out for last week.
Wallsend FC v Singleton Strikers
The Gardens, Sunday 2.30pm
At last, Wallsend will play a game at The Gardens this weekend, hosting Singleton Strikers.
The Devils benefited from recent match fitness, finally starting their 2022 campaign, due to bad weather
“That 90 minutes of football under their belt will do them good,” Wallsend coach Michael Gatt said.
“Hopefully, we should get two or three of the boys missing on Sunday that should be back. All the guys pulled up well from the Cessnock game.”
Wallsend lost 3-0 last weekend to Cessnock, with Gatt quickly skimming over the result before shifting focus to this Sunday.
“It is what it is [against Cessnock], but we move forward, rebuild tonight and go after Singleton on Sunday,” Gatt said.
“[Singleton] have kept the majority of their team, and you always have to be switched on against them. They would’ve made the finals last year if COVID-19 hadn’t stopped the competition, so you know they’ve been consistent.
“But it has been an up and down three to four rounds that have been played, so with the way it’s been, anyone could beat anyone on any given day, so we’ll see how we go.”
Despite losing, Singleton coach Mick Jarvis is confident the brand of football he’s implemented since arriving will prevail in the long run.
“That loss hasn’t put a dent in what we’ve been trying to achieve, Jarvis said.
“I’m not overly concerned [about] what we’ve been working on. I think we’ll stay on that same trajectory because when we put it together, it’s brilliant. It’s about finding some consistency.
“Once we get our full squad back, we’re fine. I suppose we’re not looking to change too much, a bit more discipline. We’ve spoken about respecting the ball and being a bit more clinical in what we do; being a bit smarter with the ball.”
It’s not just the tactical and technical employment that Jarvis and the Strikers have going for them. Fitness will play a significant role in many matches, especially this weekend, as Wallsend is still developing to optimal match sharpness.
“Our fitness is something I think we’re really going to be able to rely on this year,” Jarvis said.
“Fitness fights off fatigue, which helps me be more clinical in the games. If you’re not fatigued, you tend to play a little bit better; it helps with decision making, it helps with execution, it helps with everything.”
Both teams have complete sets of squads besides Jackson Skinner. The Singleton defender will be out for two weeks due to a straight red card.