HIT 106.9 Northern League One Round Nine Preview: Hornets look to get back on track against Eagles

May 26th, 2022

 Jacob Briers

Match of the Round
Cessnock City v New Lambton FC
Turner Park, Saturday 3pm

New Lambton coach Tom Davies believes his side is starting to build momentum ahead of their important clash with Cessnock City on Saturday.

As the league approaches what should be the halfway mark of the season, teams are starting to build some necessary momentum leading into the second half of the season. These fixtures though will be heavily congested for most clubs, some more so than others, due to the abnormal amount of postponements.

New Lambton are one of the sides building momentum, as they go in search of their seventh unbeaten match in a row against Cessnock, with the Hornets having lost their last two.

New Lambton scored a gritty victory over Toronto Awaba before blowing away Singleton in the first half of their last two matches.

A win against Cessnock would place the Eagles comfortably in second place on the table, further distancing themselves from the pack.

“[The game] is going to be a good challenge for the boys,” Davies said.

“In terms of where we’re going as a squad, we’re starting to build a little bit of momentum.

“Now that we’ve almost played everyone, it’s important [for us] to pick up three points every week but also start to really see our game plan come to the forefront now as well. That’s mainly the aim this weekend.”

It will be a difficult task for Cessnock to bounce back against the Eagles, who have been one of the more dominant teams in the competition in recent years.

“We’ll have to be on our best game to try and break them down at all,” Cessnock coach Brad Miles said.

“[The players] are up for it. They’re ready to go.”

The Hornets will have their full squad available after weeks short on players due to injury, illness and general unavailability.

The Eagles are without Dominic Smith and Jackson O’Sullivan is in doubt.

New Lambton have been successful at Turner Park over the years, with their last defeat in round one of the 2018 season.

The two sides have also already faced each other this year in the Australia Cup with New Lambton running out 8-0 winners against an understrength Hornets.

Singleton Strikers v Belmont Swansea United
Civic Park, Saturday 2.30pm

Singleton will look to bounce back from their horror first outing at Civic Park when they take on leaders Belmont Swansea United on Saturday.

The Strikers’ temporary home witnessed an inadequate Singleton first half against fellow finals contenders New Lambton to start their tenancy at Civic Park. The tides changed in the second half, with Singleton grabbing a goal back but unable to top the three goals conceded.

The stars have aligned for Belmont Swansea, entering this fixture having to play no catch-up fixtures and off the back of a 4-1 win against West Wallsend.

“It will probably be the biggest test this season [so far for us],” Singleton coach Mick Jarvis said.

“Belswans have seemed to have gone to another level this year. Especially with the depth that they have, they don’t miss a beat using their bench. They’re going to be tough for the whole 90 minutes.”

The atmosphere in the sheds for the Strikers also seems positive despite the recent loss as they aim for an entire game of solid tactical football.

“Hopefully [the players] can keep that second half performance in the forefront of their mind about what we spoke about at half-time [against New Lambton],” Jarvis said.

“The confidence I take out of it is how they responded from that discussion at half-time and taking ownership… as a playing group.

“It’s going to be an interesting tactical battle.”

Despite his side sitting comfortably at the top of the table, Belswans coach Mick Stafford believes Singleton are favourites.

“I think we’re going into the game as underdogs,” Stafford said.

“They’ve beaten us on the last three occasions, so it’s a nice feeling for the group to go up there as the underdog for once.”

Stafford believes the game will be won in midfield, creating a fierce battle where Singleton have prevailed in most recent times.

“I think [Singleton] are tougher than the table makes it out to be,” Stafford said.

“[Singleton] have some very classy players in their midfield. They work really hard and it’s always been a challenging game against them.

“I think they’ll rise against us but like I said, the pressure is on them to beat us. We haven’t won up there in a while, so if we can come away with any kind of result, I’ll be happy on the long drive home on Saturday.”

Belswans will be without Kaleb Pearson due to a broken wrist sustained in the West Wallsend game while Cameron Sullini is rated a 50-50 chance of playing.

Belswans have failed to win their last three games away to Singleton, giving Belswans even more reason to go out and get a positive result.

“I’m looking forward to the bus trip up to Singleton and back,” Stafford said.

“We’re excited to play at the new facility after some horrors at Howe Park.”

Thornton Redbacks v Toronto Awaba FC
Thornton Park, Saturday 3pm

A rejuvenated Toronto Awaba hope to stay within touching distance of a finals spot with a win over Thornton Redbacks this weekend.

With both clubs having played minimal games so far, a win is vital to kickstart their seasons.

“[Toronto] are always a bit of a bogey team for us,” Thornton Redbacks co-coach Scott Winslade said.

“They’re one of those honest sides where they grind out a result. Even on a bad day, they can still grind something out.

“[Toronto Awaba] beat West Wallsend earlier in the season and went close against New Lambton last week losing 1-0.”

Despite winning 6-3 in Thornton’s last encounter with the Stags, including a second half blitz where they scored six goals in 45 minutes, Winslade stated how dangerous and unpredictable a side like Toronto could be.

“Last year, we had a good second half against them at their place and smashed them but apart from that, they’ve always been a bit of a thorn in our side,” Winslade said.

“I don’t really know too much about them this year. They’ve obviously had quite a few okay results and stuff. It’s just tough to predict anyone at the moment, especially with the way that the weather is going.

“[Nick Roberts] always causes us a lot of issues for us. He’s very clever with what he does and he always creates some chances and stuff, so we’ll be wary of him.”

Toronto coach Jarrad Hiles is mainly thinking about how to break down Thornton’s solid defence.

The Redbacks hold the best defensive record in the competition, conceding three goals from three games.

“Like every week, it’s going to be a tough game. Thornton are a good team,” Hiles said.

“It’s going to be all hands on deck. [Thornton] set up in a good defensive block, so we just have to be patient with the ball and try and pass our way through the lines.

“We’ll have to be smart and make sure we turn up and have a go and move the ball well and be disciplined. We must not give the ball away in silly areas and make sure our defence is tight.

Toronto have been incredibly close in some results where they lost it late in the game this year.

“In most games, we’ve had plenty of opportunities. It just hasn’t fallen our way,” Hiles said.

“Against Belswans, we had some good opportunities but just couldn’t convert, so hopefully we have some luck. But in saying that you’ve got to earn your luck. We’ll go out there in a positive frame of mind.”

Thornton has mostly a full squad available, while Toronto are without Scott Smith through suspension and potentially veteran midfielder Peter McPherson.

West Wallsend SFC v South Cardiff FC
Johnston Park, Sunday 2.30pm

West Wallsend and South Cardiff will look to turn their seasons around when they meet on Sunday.

West Wallsend enter the match against South Cardiff off the back of two losses that could have easily swung in the Bluebell’s favour as second half lapses cost West Wallsend 1-0 leads against Belswans and Cessnock.

West Wallsend coach Darren Sills said that not much needed to be changed with his side.

“If we can keep creating the chances we’ve been setting up, we should start to capitalise on those and not put as much stress on our back four as we have been,” Sills said.

“We’re not going to change too much because we played quite well up to about the 70th minute mark [against Belswans].

“As far as what we need to do differently. If we do the same thing against South Cardiff and just tighten up our defence, once we do get a lead, I think we’ll be okay.”

South Cardiff have a couple of former Bluebells in their team who Sills will be quick to shut down and mitigate their involvement in the match, knowing their quality.

“I don’t know a lot about [South Cardiff],” Sills said.

“I know they’ve got ex-players of ours in Tommy Sparre and Josh West who are handy players out wide. We’ll be looking to negate anything that they throw at us.

“Other than that, Corey Fletcher, their captain has been playing alright, I’ve been told.”

The three players listed by Sills played vital roles in South Cardiff’s recent form in snagging five points from three games, putting the Gunners in seventh position one point outside the top five.

This newfound run of form is something South Cardiff coach Scott Taylor is particularly keen to grasp with two hands and take control of.

“That’s a real aim for us, [to get two wins in a row],” Taylor said.

“We shouldn’t be taking West Wallsend lightly. It’s going to be one hell of a tough game. We know that.

“But now we’ve got that victory we don’t want to go backwards. We want to move forward and get a few wins under our belt.”

Due to recent wet weather the Gunners are still yet to play a single game at home. This means that the results they conjure in the away rounds are critical for the longevity of South Cardiff’s season.

South Cardiff look to have a clean bill of health, while West Wallsend will not have a clear picture of their availabilities until closer to the match.

The two sides played out a 2-2 draw last season in their only meeting.

Wallsend FC v Kahibah FC
The Gardens, Sunday 2.30pm

Kahibah will look to keep touch with the leaders when they travel to The Gardens to take on struggling Wallsend on Sunday.

Last season saw the two sides each win 4-3 in their respective home game against one another in a fixture that promises plenty of goals.

Both coaches recognised the type of game they expect.

“It’s normally a free-flowing game against Kahibah,” Wallsend coach Michael Gatt said.

“They’ve strengthened their squad, we’ve strengthened our squad. It’ll be a good challenge defensively for our boys.

“Hopefully, if it all goes to plan, it’ll be a very close match.”

Despite their undesirable results, Wallsend have shown signs of being able to dominate the flow of games and, in some cases, been unlucky not to compete better in the goals department. But ultimately goals win matches, a factor Gatt is well aware of.

“[The game against Belswans] was a massive turnaround from our guys,” Gatt said.

“It was a good game. We went to war with [Belswans] for 83 minutes, they got one goal and we just ran out of legs after that.

“But we’ve got to get a result. The boys are champing at the bit to get on the field and get some points in the bank.”

Looking at their last three results, Kahibah are one of the danger teams that could well finish high on the table. However, a lack of football might hinder the Rams’ chances at knocking the top dogs off their thrown.

Kahibah coach Mat Moncrieff and his squad are just eager to get on and play.

“I think it’s going to be 16, 18 days by the time we get on this weekend since we [last] played a game,” Moncrieff said.

“We went through a bit of a big patch of games to nothing. So it’s a frustrating time and I know most coaches are all in the same boat.”

“To be honest, I know nothing about [Wallsend].

“I know they’ve got some new signings and that they’ve had probably the worst of the stop-start than any other team in the competition by the sounds of it. But that’s about it.

“We’ve always had competitive games against Wallsend. Last year we were 3-1 [up] with 15 minutes to go and then got beat 4-3 at their ground. So, we’ll definitely have our guard up against them.”

Despite their table position Moncrieff knows Wallsend’s quality and will not let the table blindsight his team’s perception of them.

“[Wallsend] are bottom of the table but you think with the quality of players they’ve acquired this year, they’ll be more competitive,” Moncrieff said.

“Hopefully we aren’t their first win and we score some goals to continue on our decent start to the season.”

Related Topics:
Northern League One Round Nine Preview

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