HIT106.9 Northern League One Rescheduled Round 15 Preview: Bluebells face must-win Wallsend derby

July 28th, 2022

 Jacob Briers

Match of the Round
Wallsend FC v West Wallsend SFC
The Gardens, Sunday 3.20PM

West Wallsend have the chance to climb into the top five when they make the short trip to The Gardens to face Wallsend on Sunday.

The Bluebells are the only team in the finals picture involved this weekend as the competition plays a rescheduled round to ease the backlog of fixtures caused by the severe wet weather so far this campaign.

The match, the season’s second Wallsend Derby, will be one of six games in four weeks for West Wallsend who have three matches in hand on fifth-placed Singleton and third-placed Toronto Awaba, with two games in hand on fourth-placed Kahibah.

The Bluebells have already missed a golden opportunity to jump into the top five this week suffering a 3-2 defeat to Cessnock City in their rescheduled round 14 match on Wednesday, making a win over Wallsend imperative.

As well as bragging rights over the Red Devils and the chance to do the double on their fierce rivals, a win for West Wallsend would be an important step forward in their hunt for a finals place.

But Bluebells coach Darren Sills recognises how tightly packed the competition is.

“It’s another tough game. We’re starting to get a couple of players back, which is handy,” Sills said.

“Wallsend beat us last year and Cessnock beat us this year in the first game. Any team can beat anyone on any given day. It is very difficult to have any consistency when you’re not training or playing.

“We’re going to be turning up pretty well blind and hoping we can do the job based on our ability.”

West Wallsend arguably have one of the most experienced sides in the competition on paper with the likes of Josh Maguire, Josh Carroll and Ben Higgins in the ranks. Sills will hope his side can dig in and use their ability to push up the table and make up for the loss on Wednesday.

“They’d be fools if they don’t take advantage and perform to their abilities. If they perform to their ability, it’s a win for us. We’ve got to get [a result] because you never know what is around the corner in regard to more cancelled games,” Sills said.

“We’ll go out there treating it as a derby as a win almost warrants us to make semi-finals and that’s what we’re going to be doing.”

The difference in the round six Wallsend Derby was Maguire who scored a hat-trick in the Bluebells’ 4-1 win and is a key player that Wallsend must try to mitigate.

“Josh [Maguire] is a class player, even at his age,” Wallsend coach Mick Gatt said.

“At the end of the day, can you really try and stop a player like that? We’ll do our best but he’s just a class player that showed his ability and we’ll be doing our best to stop him. But we’ll see what Sunday brings.”

Despite the heavy 5-1 loss at the hands of New Lambton last weekend, Wallsend matched it with the reigning Northern League One premiers for most of the first half. The Red Devils will be holding their heads high coming into this Sunday’s derby with hope of a result.

But player unavailability continues to haunt Wallsend. Gatt and his coaching staff will have more headaches when it comes to adapting players into new positions this weekend.

One of the many troublesome decisions is between goalkeepers Jakeb Keating and Luke Jennings. Keating started on the left wing against New Lambton last weekend while Jennings was goalkeeper but roles may be reversed.

“It makes it hard to play a full 90 [minutes] when you, unfortunately, can’t train and when you’re down on troops. But I’ve got all faith in the boys that it will be the type of footy that we’ll be using for the remainder of the season and the start of pre-season to make sure that’s the brand we want to play next year,” Gatt said.

“With Luke Jennings hurting his shoulder late in the game, you might find that Jakeb Keating will be between the sticks and Luke Jennings will be running around on the field. That’s the way we are at the moment with numbers.

“Luke keeps telling me that he’s a field player and can score some goals, so he might get his opportunity come Sunday.

“We should have a few that have come back from Splendour in the Grass, etcetera. But we’ve lost a few. Obviously, [Michael] Wright’s tackle on Saturday will rule him out. But at this point in time, we’re going to try and use who is available.”

Thornton Redbacks v South Cardiff FC
Thornton Park, Saturday 3PM

South Cardiff will play one of their more pivotal fixtures this season when they face Thornton Redbacks on Saturday.

The Gunners are coming off a high after defeating Kahibah FC 6-4 last Friday, leaving the coaching staff checking their pulse in the competition’s most thrilling game of the season.

While Thornton are out of the finals race they are still within touching distance of South Cardiff and can pull them down into the bottom half void with a win.

“We just got to play for a bit of pride now,” Thornton co-coach Scott Winslade said.

“To be totally honest, I don’t think we can make the finals now, so it’s been a bit of an unfortunate season. We’ll start working on next year more than anything.

“But we always want to win. We’re never going to slack off to let someone else get points or anything like that. We’ll definitely be trying to win the game. What we want to do is go into the last three games and get a little run going to finish the season on a bit of a high and then it makes the start of pre-season, in December, more enticing to come back.”

Being left deprived of victory against Singleton in their 3-3 draw during the round one rescheduled fixture, the Redbacks were not able to hold onto three separate leads. Another side heavily hit with injuries and illness will continue to make it an uphill battle for the Redbacks.

“Right now, we’ve got [eight] out,” Winslade said.

“Jake Millsteed (groin tear), James Wand (quad injury), Blake Thompson, Jack Charnock, Ryan Broadley, Will Marr, James Kymetyk, Kyle Williams and Jordan Elphick are all out.

“Scott [Taylor] knows what he’s doing. [South Cardiff] got a good side and they’re coming off the back of a big win against Kahibah. I think it will be close. I don’t think there’ll be 10 goals in it but we’ll certainly be trying to leave our mark and finish the season on a high.”

South Cardiff’s most recent result was a 6-4 goal fest. So the defensive block is an aspect coach Scott Taylor will be hammering down this week in training.

And with the Gunners three points outside the top five in seventh place, their finals hopes depend on a result. West Wallsend are ahead of them with matches in hand, while Singleton have a vastly superior goal difference.

“It will be another even game, another tough game. When I watched [Thornton] last week against Singleton, they’re good on set pieces and have some height in the team, so we have to be aware of that. But they’ve also got plenty of weapons to put it to us. Hopefully we’ll be ready for the challenge,” Taylor said.

“I’ll take the six [goals] but you can leave the four in the bag next time [against Kahibah].

“Obviously we conceded four goals but sometimes games of football are like that. There have been times where we’ve looked like scoring four or five and Friday’s game was one of those where everything we hit went in the net.

“But you’ve still got to make the opportunities and if we keep making opportunities we should be putting the ball in the net. Sometimes we’ve let ourselves down this season by not doing that. But last Friday we managed to do it.”

The Gunners can still make the fairy tale finals berth. But the scenario is not on Taylor’s mind and lies heavily on results around the grounds for the remaining three weeks of the competition.

“I’m not looking at the top five. All we’ve got to do is concentrate on trying to beat Thornton and trying to get the best finish possible. Where we finish on the table is where we’ll deserve to finish, I guess,” Taylor said.

While Thornton are looking thin again this weekend, South Cardiff will have all hands on deck at Thornton Park.

Cessnock City Hornets v Belmont Swansea United
Turner Park, Saturday 3PM

Belmont Swansea United return to the football pitch after a 15-day break to face Cessnock City Hornets on Saturday.

Belswans have played a number of games more than their competition at most points throughout the season due to the sand-based soil of Blacksmiths Oval and washouts of other games. But the competition has finally caught up to them over the last few weeks.

Belswans remain comfortably in second place. They will remain there for the rest of the season, assuming Belswans win or Toronto Awaba and Kahibah lose their next game.

“I’m looking forward to another tough battle as it always is at Cessnock and we’ll definitely be pushing forward to get three points,” Belswans coach Mick Stafford said.

“I think the break was good [for us]. We all needed a refresh before the run into the finals.

“The focus will be to remain as consistent as we have been all year, to try and get our football right, be present in what’s happening and most of all enjoy our next few weeks of football which we’ve done well to deserve to be in the position we’re in.”

Cessnock’s season was permanently spoiled after their narrow 2-1 defeat to Toronto Awaba last weekend, leaving the Hornets with minimal to play for during the concluding few rounds.

Hornets coach Brad Miles is still eager to see his side play with the passion they have embodied throughout the season, especially during the first few rounds where Cessnock surprised many with their exceptional start to the season.

And this passion and drive have continued despite having nothing material to play for, beating West Wallsend 3-2 in their round 14 rescheduled clash on Wednesday.

“We’re really up at the moment,” Miles said.

“It was probably the best performance we’ve had all year. We really dominated, kept the ball and put our chances away. We could have had more but we won, so that’s a good thing.”

Belswans convincingly defeated Cessnock 3-0 in their round six clash, giving Cessnock at least some form of revenge to play for.

“[Belswans] are top shelf with New Lambton, no doubt,” Miles said.

“It’s going to be difficult but if we play like we did [against West Wallsend], I think we can upset them.

“We’ve come a long way since the first few rounds. We play them quite early and our structure is a lot better now, we’re knocking the ball around and defending a lot better. Hopefully we’ll be able to compete with these guys.

“We just have to turn up with the same attitude we did tonight and we’ll be able to compete with them.”

Thanks to the prolonged season, Zayne Morphew-Watson has made an early return from a long-term injury, featuring midweek and will again on Saturday.

Belswans’ reserve grade can clinch the premiership this weekend with three rounds to play to complete what would be one of the most dominant reserve grade seasons in Northern League One.

Kahibah beat Toronto Awaba 1-0 in their round 15 match played on 11 July, while New Lambton defeated Singleton 1-0 in their round 15 match played on 19 July.

Related Topics:
Northern League One Rescheduled Round Preview

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