HIT106.9 Northern League One Rescheduled Round One Preview: Kahibah and West Wallsend look to deal each other a blow in finals hunt

July 21st, 2022

 Jacob Briers

Match of the Round
Kahibah FC v West Wallsend SFC
Johnston Park, Sunday 2.30PM

Kahibah will look to further strengthen their hold on a finals place while denting West Wallsend’s finals hopes when they meet on Sunday.

This weekend’s Northern League One matches see four rescheduled fixtures from round one finally played after they were originally postponed due to wet weather.

That includes the match of the round between Kahibah and West Wallsend with both sides anxiously in need of a win for different reasons.

The Rams lead the finals chasing pack in third on 23 points but only five points ahead of the Bluebells in sixth.

The pack, which also contains Toronto Awaba and Singleton, have chopped and changed positions for most of the season with no side able to break away and catch the top two in leaders New Lambton and Belmont Swansea United.

But Kahibah coach Mat Moncrieff knows his side is capable of piling on the pressure further up and placing a needed buffer on clubs below.

“We’ll be focusing on shutting down Josh Carroll and obviously Josh Maguire if they’re playing,” Moncrieff said.

“Then we’ll play our football based around that. [West Wallsend] have probably had the wood on us in the first round and last year, so we’d love to get one back on them.”

It will be a big weekend for Kahibah, who also play South Cardiff in their rescheduled round 12 match at Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility on Friday night.

Kahibah’s strengths this season have been in depth and numbers. At the beginning of the season a fully fit Rams got off to a flying start. But injuries hindered the club’s table position immensely midway through.

But as Kahibah start to acclimatise to the frantic season and regain troops, they have been producing positive results.

“We’ve won four in a row now and we won four games all last year,” Moncrieff said.

“We’ve got Rhys Tippett scoring goals for fun at the moment and a few more boys are delivering, so I think it will be a good game.

“But we’re winning by one goal every week and it is not doing my health any good. But hopefully we get comfortable in one game and can make some subs based around bodies rather than trying to win [the game until the 90 minutes].”

After a poor start to the season West Wallsend have made a remarkable recovery and now find themselves in the thick of a finals race.

Alongside Kahibah, West Wallsend have been one of the more in form teams during the back half of the season. The Bluebells will also suffer from fixture congestion, expected to play six games in one month, testing the depth and fitness of Darren Sills’ squad.

“It’s going to be hard and the teams will even up more with the slippery and wet pitch,” Sills said.

“We’re a little bit down on troops again. We potentially have Dain Greentree out and are still waiting for Bryson Cox and Brendan Frost to come back from injury.

“We’ve had basically no training again. That makes it really difficult to work on anything to fix up. I’m asking the guys to go and do their own stuff during the week and hopefully they’d be doing that. But it’s not the same as actually training and working on things.”

Victory over Kahibah is vital on Sunday for the Bluebells and Sills acknowledged it as a must-win situation. Otherwise, a loss will pile more pressure on the Bluebells on top of an already eccentric season.

“We have to win the game this weekend to really get ourselves heading in the right direction. The loss against Singleton Wednesday night didn’t help us that much and we haven’t been getting any momentum in training,” Sills said.

“The benefit for us is that it will be Old Boy’s Day. I’m looking forward to a big crew there. [Westy] turned 134 years old two weeks ago and a lot of the guys [at the ball] said they would come to the Old Boy’s Day and hopefully they can get us over the line.”

While Kahibah are the home team, West Wallsend’s Johnston Park will host the clash.

New Lambton FC v Wallsend FC
Alder Park, Saturday 3PM

New Lambton have a great chance to extend their lead at the top of the table when they face struggling Wallsend on Saturday.

Besides their narrow victory over Singleton in the rescheduled round 15 fixture midweek, the Eagles’ most recent four games have been slaughters.

But despite the 16 goals scored in these games, they have only managed one clean sheet in that period, coming in the form of the 1-0 win over Singleton.

This will be a priority for New Lambton coach Tom Davies at Alder Park. But he is not bothered if they can keep winning by such astonishing margins.

“Every coach wants clean sheets and I’m disappointed that we’ve conceded an odd goal in the last couple of games,” Davies said.

“We’ve got to be more focused over the 90 minutes to make sure that we can keep that clean sheet because the backline, all the outfield players and obviously [Alex Bozinovski] our goalkeeper work hard and have deserved to get at least a couple more clean sheets. But it is what it is.

“The main thing is obviously getting the three points and if we’re scoring the number of goals we have been, then it is only positive in terms of chances we’re creating.

“But it is about continuing the processes we’ve been focusing on all season and making sure we’re mentally focused at all times to try and get those clean sheets.”

With second-placed Belmont Swansea United not in action this weekend, a win for New Lambton would take them six points clear at the top of the table.

Despite their unsavoury position on the table, Wallsend have improved in areas where coach Mick Gatt has aimed at over the last couple of games. The Red Devils have scored five goals in two games against Kahibah and Belswans.

But the increased focus on the attacking phase has cost them defensively, conceding nine and taking away zero points.

“The back line is experienced enough to know what needs to be done to rectify the goals conceded,” Gatt said.

“But if you start playing attacking football, you will concede goals. So unfortunately that’s where we are at the moment.”

“We’re transitioning from being a defensive block to an attacking block and when you can’t train, it becomes hard when you’re trying to work on it during game time.”

The narrow 4-3 loss to Kahibah was a tell-tale sign that Wallsend do not lack quality. This is a point Gatt is willing to prove as they are now solely playing for the badge and hope to cause an upset.
“Our season is done and dusted. But we’re there to do it for pride and show what we’re capable of,” Gatt said.

“But [New Lambton] are a quality side and they don’t sit on the table where they are if they were anything less. We’ve got to make sure we’re sharp, stick to our game plan and throw everything we can at them.”

Along with the respective table positions, the availabilities for each squad are polarising.

New Lambton will only have the single out through fullback Fletcher Davis, whileWallsend have a mere 17 players available.

“This was originally a spare weekend,” Gatt said.

“A lot of boys have booked holidays and whatever else, so we’re going to be down on troops that’s for sure. I think we’ve got 17 available for both games. So, there’ll be a lot of double-ups but we’ll do what we need to and go into it.”

Thornton Redbacks v Singleton Strikers
Thornton Park, Sunday 3PM

Singleton must jump back into the winner’s circle when they face Thornton on Sunday if they want to solidify a spot in the top five before the final matchday.

The Strikers were defeated by New Lambton 1-0 at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility on Tuesday in their rescheduled round 15 clash.

Singleton were not without their chances though. Several opportunities against New Lambton were missed, contradicting their recent form in front of goals meaning it is back to square one for the Strikers.

But the defence continued their excellent form conceding just once, making the goal by New Lambton only the second goal they have forfeited in four games.

Now eyes turn towards Thornton Park, where the Strikers desperately need victory to keep their season rolling.

“I suppose everybody is well aware of the fact that we’ve changed what we do a little bit, so I’m expecting a tough game [against Thornton],” Singleton coach Mick Jarvis said.

“Thornton are still one of the hardest teams to break down in this competition. If you look to play the style of football where you’re keeping that ball, they’ll be back on their heels. They’re quite strong in the back.

“All the players know the importance of this game and getting the attitude right on game day is really important.

“For us, it’s about keeping on the same path. Collectively, as players and coaches, we’re happy with the sort of football we’re playing but we need consistency and it is certainly one thing that we’re struggling to get.”

Thornton Redbacks started the season in fine form but an unprecedented string of injuries, unavailability and mass fixture rescheduling has turned their season on its head.

Over the last month Thornton have played six fixtures and only managed two points, going from finals contenders to languishing in mid table.

“We’ve got four games left, three of them against teams above us in the division,” Thornton co-coach Scott Winslade said.

“To make finals, we’ll probably need at least 10 points out of the 12. Even then, we’ll have to rely on other teams dropping points. We need to take the pressure off of us and get a good strong finish to the season. If we make finals, it’s a bonus.”

Despite the disappointing results, Winslade is looking forward to the prospect of bouncing back against Singleton and potentially causing a stir within the finals contenders.
“It’s always a close game with [Singleton],” Winslade said.

“Last year we won both games and the game this season was crazy with red cards and the like. Hopefully it will be less dramatic this time and we can push together and find a result.

“But to me, the pressure is off us now. No one expects us to make the finals, so the pressure is on [Singleton] because they need to make sure they win and get results. They got a tough run, so if they don’t get a result on the weekend against us and we do win, then we’ll be sniffing after them.”

But it is not all doom and gloom for Thornton. A mixture of returning and in form players could aid the Redback’s surge back into contention.

Young gun Zane Estatheo is starting to hit fine form. The 18-year-old’s development has been a highlight for Winslade this season, exemplified by the side’s lone goal against Kahibah last round.
Centre back Sam Rossi will also return from a minor groin injury, while fellow defender Zac Skippen is close to making his first appearance in four games since sustaining a hip injury.

Cessnock City FC v Toronto Awaba FC
Turner Park, Sunday 3PM

Toronto Awaba require a win away to a revitalised Cessnock on Sunday to get their season back on track.

The demons of Toronto’s past have made a distasteful return as the Stags enter the last few games of the competition.

Having been consistent throughout the season, a couple of painful losses over the last week have hindered the hoped comfortable conclusion for Toronto.

If the Stags lose or draw, all the hard work for a top five finished could be on the line and start a nail-biting end-of-year battle.

“It’s always a tough trip up at Cessnock, so we won’t be taking them lightly, that’s for sure,” Toronto coach Jarrad Hiles said.

“Even when I was playing, it was always a battle up there. If anything, the loss on the weekend might kick us back to reality and realise what’s required to win games. We have to do those one percenters and make sure we turn up to play.

“You have to turn up against any team. If you don’t, you’ll get punished. We’ll go in, take nothing for granted and hopefully put on a better performance.”

Toronto’s nine-year finals drought is the second longest in Northern League One among active clubs in the competition behind Cessnock, rendering a finals campaign an extra-special occasion for the Lake Macquarie-based club.

“If we’re serious about making finals, it’s a game we have to win,” Hiles said.

“If we can’t win this one, we don’t deserve to be there. But we’ve got to win all games now. I’m sure the boys will be burning to get back out there, get stuck in and have a real go at it.

“[The boys] were pretty disappointed after the game on Sunday but we’ll move on and I’m looking forward to seeing a reaction.

“I’m positive we can hold out as it’s still in our hands. It’s up to us [to make finals] and I’m sure we’ll bounce back.”

Toronto have many out across the senior squad this weekend including Jarrod Purcell, Bailey Snowden, Kristopher Cook and Flynn Fittler who is unavailable for the rest of the season.

The testament to the depth the Stags possess may swing in Cessnock’s favour and cause a significant upset turning the table on its head.

Despite finals football being almost out of the equation for Cessnock, especially considering their last few fixtures, coach Brad Miles is confident his team will continue to play to the best of their ability.

“[Toronto] got a touch-up last week, so I’d say they will be coming out all guns firing,” Miles said.

“We hit everything bar the net on the weekend [against South Cardiff]. We created a lot of chances. I was happy with the performance, we just couldn’t score a goal. It should have been six, seven nil easy. [This weekend] we want to repeat the performance but [this time] actually finish our chances.

“There is a bit of a gap between [sixth] and the rest of the group chasing at the moment. We just have to take a game at a time and finish as high as we can.”

Belmont Swansea United defeated South Cardiff FC 3-2 when they played their round one match on 2 April.

Related Topics:
Northern League One Rescheduled Round One Preview

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