Match of the Round
Cessnock City v Thornton Redbacks
Turner Park, Saturday 3pm
Jayden Ziernik and James Tassell are eager to start their Thornton FC careers on the front foot at the expense of former club Cessnock City on Saturday.
The Redbacks make the trip west to Turner Park ready to write another chapter in this hotly contested fixture, with some added spice in the form of Ziernik and Tassell.
The pair will start against Cessnock with Ziernik in particular determined to step onto Turner Park wearing black and red.
“I’m really looking forward to [the game],” Ziernik said.
“[Playing Cessnock] puts a bit of hunger in the engine. I was a part of [Cessnock] for the past three years but things didn’t work out, unfortunately. It’ll be nice to get back onto the pitch against the boys and show them what they are missing.
“I’m looking forward to copping a bit of criticism from the sideline. I’m keen to hear what [the Cessnock supporters] say, that’s for sure.”
The Redbacks are coming off the back of a disappointing 4-2 loss against Cardiff City in the Australia Cup and are looking to make amends.
“With the disappointment of the Australia Cup, we were keen to get out and make amends against Singleton. Unfortunately that didn’t happen thanks to the weather. Now we get to try that at Turner Park and hopefully put on a good show for the crowd,” Ziernik said.
“Surprisingly enough, considering where Cessnock is, a crowd always seems to make their way out there from everywhere, so I’m expecting a pretty decent turnout.”
The Redbacks will also look to shake off a dreaded round one curse, which has prevented Thornton from taking home a win in their first game of the season since 2017. Coincidently, the last time they won was against Cessnock.
Thornton co-coach Scott Winslade said Ziernik and Tassell could use their grudge to push Thornton to victory.
“[Ziernik and Tassell] will both feature this weekend. They have definitely bought a little something extra to the squad,” Winslade said.
“I’m a big believer in when you play a side, you should probably play [the former players of that side]. [It will] give us a little more of an edge,” Winslade said.
“They both have good attitudes and determination. They’re not the type of people to shrink away from this.”
Winslade confirmed Sam Rossi was still unfit for first grade minutes but should feature in reserve grade.
Cessnock coach Brad Miles said Blake Roy could lead the Hornets to a positive result.
“Captain Blake Roy has been training the house down,” Miles said.
“He has been going really good. He is a very determined young fellow and I’m looking for big things from him.”
Last season, the Redbacks defeated Cessnock City 4-1 at Thornton Park.
Belmont Swansea United v Kahibah FC
Blacksmiths Oval, Saturday 4pm
Belmont Swansea United coach Mick Stafford is wary of the quality Kahibah have recruited and is ready for a close one at Blacksmiths Oval on Saturday.
A 3-2 win against South Cardiff has given Belswans the early lead in Northern League One, sitting top of the table and the only team with points heading into round two.
“I’m expecting Kahibah to be heavily improved from the last few years. Mat [Moncrieff] is a very boisterous coach and he is passionate about his side and how they’re going to go this year,” Stafford said.
“But we will stick to what we know, rotate a few boys around and try and play [good] football again.
“It was refreshing to see the football we played [against South Cardiff].”
Kahibah coach Mat Moncrieff has his work cut out this weekend facing title contenders Belswans but is optimistic the Rams can compete against “the best team in the competition”.
“I’ve been talking to Mick Stafford a bit and he thinks he is going to win the competition. So [it’s good] we’ll be able to test ourselves against what he thinks is the best team. I’m hoping we measure up,” Moncrieff said.
“Hopefully we can walk away from Belswans with the three points, which is pretty rare for most clubs, to be honest.”
Moncrieff confirmed that Kahibah should have the entire senior squad to call upon this weekend and reiterated how fundamental former Weston veteran Robbie Turnbull would be for their success.
“Robbie Turnbull is going to be integral to what we do around the back. With everyone available across the board, it’s going to be tough to pick the first grade team. We should be quite competitive,” Moncrieff said.
The match promises to be one of real quality with names such as Josh Maguire, Kane Woolston, Rhys Tippett and Turnbull expecting to feature.
Belmont Swansea came away with a narrow 2-1 win last year at Kahibah Oval.
West Wallsend SFC v New Lambton FC
Johnston Park, Sunday 2.30pm
Football returns to Johnston Park on Sunday with West Wallsend SFC hosting New Lambton FC with the two clubs having had contrasting pre-seasons.
New Lambton remain relatively unchanged throughout their senior squad and will be clear favourites throughout the first few rounds of the competition.
They have had a successful competitive campaign so far, pulverising Metford Cobras in the Australia Cup.
“[New Lambton] are obviously the yardstick. They are a very well-coached side,” West Wallsend coach Darren Sills said
“They haven’t changed too much from what I’ve been told regarding personnel. If that’s the case, you’d like to think they are the team to beat this season.”
Sills noted that if his side could respect and recognise the opposition’s quality, they could potentially cause an upset against New Lambton, sending the Eagles back to their nest with zero points.
“We are going in [to the game] not being overly confident but I would like to see us give them a good run for their money and at the end of the day, if we can do that, we should be okay,” Sills said.
“We know what we’re up for. They have strength across the park but they have a couple of weak spots that we’ll target.”
Contrary to New Lambton, West Wallsend have had a rather unconventional pre-season.
The Bluebells lost their Australia Cup tie rather lamentably to Swansea 3-2.
In terms of the squad, left-back Josh West left the club to join South Cardiff and featured last weekend against the Bluebells, while Jed Conway and Wes Pryce were both announced recently as new recruits for Zone Premier League club Cardiff City.
On the upside, West Wallsend were able to fill the void, signing Dain Greentree, Wade Ciappara, Sam Robson and Tyler Rankmore.
“[The squad availability] looks good but we are missing a couple of guys through suspension. Josh Knight, he’ll be suspended. Other than that, we should be okay to go,” Sills said.
Last season at Johnston Park, West Wallsend lost 5-2 but managed to better the result in the away tie, falling short only 2-1. The Bluebells will be looking to go one better this time around.
South Cardiff FC v Singleton Strikers
Ulinga Oval, Sunday 3.30pm
South Cardiff are faced with another formidable opponent in Singleton Strikers this weekend following their opening round defeat to Belmont Swansea United.
The Gunners raised a few eyebrows last weekend as they gave Belswans a run for their money before ultimately falling short thanks to a Tyson Masters goal against the run of play.
South Cardiff coach Scott Taylor could only take positives from the game, stating that they could push beyond perceived limits if they keep up the fight and commitment.
“The attitude of the players was faultless [against Belswans] and just that commitment and comradery that we have moving forward [will be vital for the season],” Taylor said.
“Considering the performance that they put in, we’re looking forward to getting back out on the field.”
Obviously, it was not a perfect performance.
“Following on from what we did last week and just tweaking a few things and looking at how we can create a few more chances, [we can] worry the defenders of Singleton,” Taylor said.
Singleton Strikers were upset 2-1 by Warners Bay in the Australia Cup on Tuesday night.
Strikers coach Mick Jarvis believes that squad management will be critical for success this Sunday and the season.
“For us at the moment, it’s making sure we manage players coming into the competition that have been nursing a few injuries and niggles. We know [South Cardiff] will be very physical,” Jarvis said.
“It’s [also] about worrying about ourselves and making sure that we’re improving week to week so that we’re there at the pointy end of the season. And that’s just making sure that players are held accountable with their execution and their efforts.”
Strikers will be playing possession football this year, with Jarvis laying heavy emphasis on possession drills during training and games, believing that by taking care of the basics, the tactics should follow.
“For us, it’s making sure we look after the small things. Make sure our possession is good [and] our pass execution is high. If we don’t display that, I won’t be a happy camper since we do so much work on it,” Jarvis said.
“I expect us to be able to control the tempo of the game by utilising our good possessions.”
In terms of availability, both sides are fully equipped.
Club captain Jock Thompson returns to the South Cardiff squad, while Singleton stalwart Corey Cleaver is back between the sticks.
Wallsend FC v Toronto Awaba FC
The Gardens, Sunday 4.50pm
Wallsend and Toronto Awaba will look to put disappointing midweek Australia Cup defeats behind them when they meet at The Gardens on Sunday.
The Red Devils and the Stags will be motivated following their losses to Mayfield United Senior and Dudley Redhead United respectively.
Wallsend will be particularly keen to atone against Toronto Awaba after they lost 4-1 to Mayfield, with former Devils striker Sam Bradshaw scoring a hat-trick.
“The boys were disappointed with the result [against Mayfield]. They’ve taken it all to heart, which is good to see the passion, and the disappointment ringing home,” Wallsend coach Michael Gatt said.
“But obviously they all know we need to move on from it. We can’t dwell on [the result] for too long.”
Wallsend are suffering from a severe player shortage with eight first grade players missing in Monday nights’ cup game. They are likely to remain unavailable come Sunday due to coronavirus and its recovery.
“At this stage, we have eight first graders out [this weekend] who will still be in isolation or have just come out of it and are still recovering. We will be short troops for the first grade squad, that’s for sure,” Gatt said.
The Devils are also without their first grade and reserve grade goalkeepers through injury.
“[Jakob Keating] will be out for the next four to six weeks and our reserve grade goalkeeper is out with back spasms,” Gatt said.
That leaves the door open for either an out-field player or the under-18s goalkeeper to make a cameo appearance between the sticks.
“At this stage, it could be anybody [that plays goalkeeper]. A couple of boys fancy themselves between the sticks, so they can put their money where their mouth is and we’ll see how good they are,” Gatt said.
“It’s all fun and games for our first game of the season.”
The visitors do not have such squad issues. The only unavailability Toronto coach Jarrad Hiles made of note was Scott Smith.
“We lose Scotty Smith. He’s on holiday for two weeks,” Hiles said.
Zane Winslade though is back in the squad after being out last week.
Hiles emphasised that if the whole team put in enough effort, the result would take care of itself.
“[The squad] isn’t centred around just one guy,” Hiles said.
“We will go in, be positive and make sure we give it 100 per cent. And as long as our effort and energy is there, hopefully the result will take care of itself.
“[We have to] be up for it, switched on with the right attitude and be prepared for a battle.”