Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United v Toronto Awaba FC
Blacksmiths Oval, Sunday 2.30pm
New Toronto Awaba head coach Lino Gatti is hopeful his side can build on their recent momentum when they take on Belmont Swansea United in the Match of the Round on Sunday.
The Stags travel to Blacksmiths Oval on the back of a surprise 1-1 draw with Cooks Hill United last weekend.
Following four consecutive defeats to start the season, Toronto Awaba have shown promising signs of a revival with a 2-1 win over South Cardiff before falling to an epic 4-3 defeat to Kahibah in Gatti’s first match in charge.
Earning a point against Cooks Hill should give the Stags confidence heading into a clash with another heavyweight side, with BelSwans looking to maintain the pressure on leaders New Lambton at the top of the table.
“We were poor defensively [against Kahibah] so we tightened up our midfield and concentrated on our one v one battles [against Cooks Hill],” Gatti said.
“We were able to come away with a result against a very good Cooks Hill side.
“It was 0-0 at half-time and we found our way into the box on several occasions and made some good chances but found it difficult to get through the Cooks Hill midfield. They scored early in the second half but we got one back off a corner.
“I was very happy with the result considering where we both were on the ladder before the match.
“We have a very young side. Our oldest player is 26. I’ll look to give more of the even younger players another opportunity.
“The focus is on defending well so we are able to take our moments to attack the opposition. [BelSwans] are a much more experienced side so we need to be patient.”
Gatti, who had been working with the club’s under-18s side and youth development while assisting with first grade, was hopeful his squad were enjoying his methods and fresh approach following the departure of vastly experienced coach Steve Piggott.
Toronto Awaba will be without Jarrod Penfold and Matt Watson for Sunday’s clash.
Belmont Swansea are also coming into the game on a high having drawn 1-1 with New Lambton, showing they have enough to compete at the top end of the table this season.
New Lambton FC v Cessnock City
Alder Park, Saturday 3pm
New Lambton will look to continue their unbeaten streak when they host Cessnock City on Saturday.
The Eagles maintained a six-point lead at the top of the table following their 1-1 draw with Belmont Swansea United last weekend.
New Lambton will also be buoyed by their effort in the FFA Cup on Wednesday night. In the battle of the Eagles, New Lambton narrowly went down 2-1 to reigning NPL premiers and champions Edgeworth.
The reigning HIT Northern League One champions gave a good account of themselves in front of an impressive crowd, showing they did not look out of place against one of Northern NSW Football’s benchmark clubs.
New Lambton coach Tom Davies will look to rotate his squad against the Hornets who continue to get their season back on track. Cessnock earned a 1-1 draw with Wallsend last weekend in a match they dominated and created a number of chances.
Cessnock coach Michael Gatt said his side felt positive heading into the clash with New Lambton despite battling some injury concerns.
“We’re positive in the amount of chances that we created and that we could have been up [against Wallsend],” Gatt said.
“New Lambton are setting the competition on fire. They are still undefeated. We’ll go there and do what we do. We will look to take our chances, stay positive and push them as far as we can.”
Cooks Hill United v Kahibah FC
Fearnley Dawes Athletics Field, Saturday 3pm
Kahibah coach Mat Moncrieff says his side will be up for the challenge when they take on Cooks Hill United on Saturday.
Cooks Hill were left disappointed after Toronto Awaba held them to a 1-1 draw last weekend, despite Cooks Hill dominating possession and field position.
Kahibah endured a slow start to the season but found form last week after picking up six points from six from their mid-week game against Toronto Awaba and a dominant 4-0 win over South Cardiff on Saturday.
Moncrieff was full of respect for Cooks Hill but was adamant his side could spring an upset.
“Cooks Hill have a lot of fire power. We will try to nullify that and get into the game early,” Moncrieff said.
“Our boys won’t be giving any free rides.”
Kahibah are also battling unavailability with up to three attacking players in doubt for the match through injury, with players from the club’s strong reserve grade and under-18s sides in contention.
Thornton FC v Wallsend FC
Thornton Park, Saturday 3.30pm
Thornton co-coach Scott Winslade said his side would be wary of a vastly improved Wallsend side when they meet on Saturday.
While the Red Devils struggled last season they have shown they are a different side under Craig Tslembis so far this campaign.
Wallsend are level on points with 2020 champions Singleton and heavyweights Cooks Hill United and could climb as high as third with a win if other results go their way this weekend.
Thornton are also among the big improvers sitting third with 12 points following their 3-1 win over Singleton last weekend.
Winslade said the feeling around the team was much better than this time last year.
“We are still picking up a few injuries here and there but we are managing them better this year and are looking forward to moving forward into a busy couple of weeks,” Winslade said.
“People turn up against [Wallsend] with a different attitude as they finished last last year. They are only a few points behind us.
“We don’t want to slack off and we want to stay focused as they have given other sides a good run this year. We will be expecting a hard game.”
Thornton have four players in doubt including Samuel Rossi and Jake Millsteed, with a final assessment to be made on their availability on Friday.
Tslembis said Wallsend were frustrated they let a lead slip against Cessnock City last time out but were confident heading into the Thornton clash.
“We were a little bit disappointed we didn’t hold onto the win being 1-0 up. Setting high standards is the first thing as a coach,” Tslembis said.
“The focus this week is to ensure we are tough to break down, move through the midfield and playing more centrally.”
Wallsend are also struggling with a couple of niggling injuries.
South Cardiff FC v West Wallsend SFC
Ulinga Oval, Sunday 2.45pm
Two sides desperate for victory for vastly different reasons will meet at Ulinga Oval on Sunday as South Cardiff host West Wallsend.
South Cardiff have had a tough start to the season with only one win, which came in their opening match.
The Gunners have had a few changes in the head coach position since, with Mick Hugo stepping up for the challenge ahead.
“For us at the moment it’s trying to get some stability in the squad and hopefully move forward from there,” Hugo said.
“West Wallsend are a very experienced side with good, decent players. We will play our game and see what happens from there.”
South Cardiff may sniff an upset and a way to get off the bottom of the table after West Wallsend crashed out of the FFA Cup on Wednesday night to 10-man Zone Premier League side Dudley Redhead United.
West Wallsend had the bye in round eight and will want a response against the Gunners.
Speaking earlier in the week, West Wallsend assistant coach Geoff Blomfield said his side were fresh from the bye and had a good training session on Tuesday night ahead of the FFA Cup match.
“The focus for this week against South Cardiff will be making sure we get back on the bike. Getting results this time of year is so important,” Blomfield said.