Match of the Round
Kahibah FC v Belmont Swansea United
Kahibah Oval, Sunday 2.30PM
Belmont Swansea travel to Kahibah on Sunday looking to further extend their gap from the chasing pack and take another important step towards the title.
Kahibah, who are fourth after their surprise 3-1 defeat to Thornton in their rescheduled round seven match on Wednesday night, must win if they are to extend their hopes for a potential three-way title race, alongside New Lambton and Belswans.
“It’s going to be a tough game up there on that small field they have,” Belswans coach Mick Stafford said.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge. We have to keep [our] mentality strong and keep this momentum going.”
Stafford is looking forward to the match, citing an even contest the last time the teams played. But with both sides’ drastically altered fitness, tactics and mindset since the first encounter, it is likely to be another unpredictable affair.
“[Last time we played Kahibah] it was quite an even game, I thought,” Stafford said.
“We probably took our chances a bit better than they did. We showed that night that we were a lot fitter and stronger during that part of the season but where we are at now, it’s a totally different ballgame, especially at their home ground.
“Mentally, we’re strong and positive with how we want to keep rolling with the season.”
Stafford noted that the defence has been a prominent part of Belswans’ success, only conceding an average of one goal per game, the lowest in the competition.
“In this competition, if you have smart defensive structure and are hard to break down, you can go well in this league,” Stafford said.
“You need to adapt to the fields you play at, you need to be smart but the structure in defence is key. And it’s been our real success over the last six or seven games.”
Belswans will again rotate their squad seeing another mixed line-up. But both first grade and reserve grade goalkeepers will be out, leaving Stafford with a selection headache.
Kahibah coach Mat Moncrieff is out for revenge after Belswans’ 3-1 victory over Kahibah in round two.
“They beat us in the first round but we were pretty underdone, so they had a pretty good run of it,” Moncrieff said.
“I think we match up pretty good with them. We’re on our home turf, so we’ll give them a run for their money for sure.
“They are top of the table, flying high but I don’t think any of our boys seem too worried about that.”
Kahibah also have goalkeeper worries, with Scott Carter sent off in the defeat to West Wallsend last weekend, leaving him suspended for the midweek loss to Thornton as well as the clash with Belswans on Sunday.
Luckily they have a reliable backup in George Stephens to rely on.
“George was our first grade goalkeeper at the start of the year, then he got crook and we had some other dramas with the other keeper,” Moncrieff said.
“George had a blinder in reserve grade last week and hopefully he’ll step up and do the same on the weekend.”
Moncrieff said his side would prepare for an aerial bombardment given Belswans’ tactical plan in recent weeks.
“The only thing this week is that we’ve got to put extra posts up because apparently Mick plays AFL now,” Moncrieff joked.
“If he wants to get a behind, he’s more than welcome to have a behind or two throughout the game. So, we’ll just wait for his long balls all day. We’ll be practising on Friday how to deal with the long balls.”
Singleton Strikers v South Cardiff
Civic Park, Saturday 2.30PM
South Cardiff’s disappointing loss to West Wallsend midweek puts the Gunners in jeopardy, sitting 10th. But an away win over the 2020 champions will see South Cardiff potentially climb as high as fifth, proving how hotly contested the league is heading into round 11.
Last season’s fixture between saw Singleton thump the Gunners 4-0. But a vastly changed South Cardiff roster renders the loss irrelevant for coach Scott Taylor.
“Apart from probably one or two players, nobody has any recollection or knowledge of what happened last year, including myself. We’re only looking forward,” Taylor said.
A shift of focus for South Cardiff sees them try to control the pace of play. While most of their games have been tight and nail-biting, Taylor wants to start closing out games early.
“For us, it’s a case that we want to try and control the game,” Taylor said.
“We want to do this instead of waiting to get the knockout punch or getting knocked out in the final moments every week. Unfortunately, that’s where we’re at. We live in a dangerous line every week.
“Some days it’s working for us and some days it’s not. We want to try and get on the front foot and start controlling a few more games.”
Singleton Strikers coach Mick Jarvis holds little knowledge of South Cardiff, making the fixture ever more interesting.
It also means that Jarvis and the Strikers can focus on their own game without tactical distractions leading into Saturday.
“I’ve not heard much about South Cardiff,” Jarvis said.
“I’ve not been to their games. I’ve not heard too much about them other than they are getting some pretty tight results. I assume they’ve got their act together.
“For us, we need to continue down that same path and keep working.
“These sort of games, and I think the competition is that way, there’s such a fine margin now. If you don’t turn up ready to go or get out of the sheds late, you get run over. And because the margins are so fine in the competition, any small error generally makes a difference in the outcome.
“So, it’s about trying to minimise any errors and be more clinical in what we do. Hopefully, that has a positive outcome for us.”
Singleton’s first choice fullbacks Marlow Court-Kriesch and Brad Cox are most likely out, leaving big boots to fill.
Blaydan Laverick will more than likely make another first grade starting appearance. Jarvis also alluded to club man Dylan Bentley making a potential cameo with first grade concerning the fullback situation.
Other than those outs, Singleton are at full strength.
It is also Ladies Day at Civic Park this weekend. All proceeds from tickets and raffles will go to Ovarian Cancer Australia.
New Lambton FC v West Wallsend SFC
Alder Park, Saturday 3PM
West Wallsend will face their toughest test this season as they travel to ‘The Nest’, where the Eagles are out for revenge after the Bluebells defeated New Lambton 4-2 in their season opener.
It will be the third game in seven days for the Bluebells. Having won their last two, they will be looking to cap off the tiresome week of football with another victory and nine points.
“We’re going to have three games in seven days which is not ideal but it’s actually good to get some game time and match fitness into the blokes, so we’re very keen to play,” West Wallsend coach Darren Sills said.
“[Now that we have] a bit more confidence, Saturday’s game against New Lambton should be a cracker. I’m looking forward to it.
“Because [New Lambton] got beat by us and we lost four in a row after that, they are probably thinking ‘gee, how bad did we play’, but we actually played quite well that night. We haven’t played that bad recently, we just haven’t been able to finish off a full 90 minutes.”
West Wallsend’s rough start will sure be polished out if they manage a result against New Lambton. The Bluebells are eyeing off a position in the finals fight leading into the back half of fixtures.
“We really have to win against New Lambton,” Sills said.
“We’re putting ourselves in a position where we’ve got to win every game and it’s getting to the point now where we’ve got to concentrate and start making sure we get teams who are probably around us in ability and beat those guys.
“Then, with the better-quality side like Belswans and New Lambton, who are perceived as better-quality sides, we try and pinch things off them.”
New Lambton coach Tom Davies aims to extend their unbeaten run to eight, using their only defeat this season at the hands of West Wallsend as fuel to fire the Eagle’s flame.
“We’re trying to keep the momentum we’ve built over the last couple of weeks,” Davies said.
“We know it’s going to be a difficult game, challenging game. We’ve got something to prove and it challenges the group to better the result from round one.
“Just some silly errors and a number of reasons [costs us in the last game against West Wallsend]. But credit to Westy, they ended up being too good in those key moments. We’ll chat throughout the week about being focused on the key areas, where their strengths are and for us to keep making sure we keep the standard that we’ve been at for the last month.
“But we’re not going to look too much into the result in round one, it was a long time ago, but it is a little bit of motivation for the boys.”
Both sides will have a full complement of players available for selection bar New Lambton fullback Tom Siderovski, who is out for two to three weeks with an ankle injury.
Toronto Awaba FC v Wallsend FC
Lyall Peacock Field, Saturday 3PM
Toronto Awaba will play Wallsend for the second time in five days, this time at Lyall Peacock Field.
The Stags won the rescheduled round two match 2-0 on Tuesday night. On Saturday they will look to complement their three points with another in the reverse home fixture.
“We take it one game at a time. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves,” Toronto Awaba coach Jarrad Hiles said before the game on Tuesday.
“So total focus is on the [Tuesday] game. Then hopefully, we’re in a position to think about the six points on Saturday. [We need to] stay grounded but the boys are confident.”
Toronto are well on track for a historical season, aiming to make finals football for the first time since 2012. They also have not been able to escape the bottom three for six of the last seven seasons. Another win against Wallsend would make it three wins in a row and give Toronto another step towards finals.
The 2-0 win against Wallsend was the side’s first clean sheet this year with experienced goalkeeper Shayne Van As between the sticks.
A focus on the attacking phase now will see Hiles hopeful of bettering the game prior as they have done in the last three outings.
“We’re hopefully going to be ruthless in front of goals,” Hiles said,
“We could have had two or three more in that first half [against Cessnock] and really put the game to bed. But it’s another challenge to take the opportunities because if you don’t, you get bitten on the bum, and it can come back to haunt you.”
Wallsend coach Mick Gatt will hope fortunes swing come Saturday.
“We’ve got to pick up. It’s as easy as that,” Gatt said.
“We’ve got to start taking every game as if it’s the grand final. It’s good to have games in hand but if you’re not taking advantage of it, you’re going to be left behind pretty quickly.”
And being left behind they are. Wallsend remain stuck at the bottom of the table and after last night’s results with West Wallsend and Thornton’s successes, it leaves only South Cardiff within the Red Devils’ three-point grasp.
To add insult to injury, Wallsend are without some key players for the upcoming game.
“We just have to go with it and give it everything we’ve got,” Gatt said.
“A few forced changes [are needed] with Greg Anderson and Ethan Spiers out and Gui leaving. But we’ll be definitely going in there wanting to get points.
“We’ve got a couple of keen young blokes in reserves that have got something to prove that are getting the opportunity now to take that role. So hopefully, if they take it and live up to the standard that I know they’re at, they shouldn’t be major holes to fill, that’s for sure.”
Thornton Redbacks v Cessnock City
Thornton Park, Saturday 3PM
Thornton Redbacks and Cessnock City Hornets will be desperate for victory at Thornton Park on Saturday in what could be one of their most pivotal fixtures this season.
Thornton broke their winless streak on Wednesday night, beating Kahibah 3-1. They will aim to hold their position in the top five against the Hornets.
Slow starts have become a problem for the Cessnock, having played catch up in most of their fixtures. In the three most recent games Cessnock have conceded seven goals and scored none in the first half, compared to an even three goals a piece in the second half.
“We have got to start the game a lot quicker and better and turn up with the right attitude,” Cessnock coach Brad Miles said.
“We’ve just got to be more upbeat. We’re training really well but can’t convert it to game day.”
Cessnock’s five-game losing streak preceded a decent start to the season, including a draw with Thornton, who Miles appreciates and hopes they can one-up come Saturday.
“Thornton are quite a good team. [They have] a few tall lads and they’re very good in the air. [They are also] quite quick up front. And very good at the back, well organised. So, it’s going to be a tough one,” Miles said.
“I’m very hopeful. I know we have the talent to do it. I know if we turn up on the day with the right attitude, we can match most sides in this competition.”
Thornton are one of the numerous clubs enduring a heavy June schedule, so victory against Cessnock after a win and two losses already this month would be highly advantageous during this congested period of football.
“We need to win,” Thornton co-coach Scott Winslade said.
“We’re being expected to play eight games in a month. Professional teams don’t even play eight games in a month. But a lot of the clubs are in the same boat, so it’s about how we recover from knocks and injuries.
“This month is going to be a bit all over the shop. I think there’ll be some surprise results because I don’t think everyone can play six, seven, or eight games in four weeks and not pick up some injuries to bigger players or more influential people.
“Against Kahibah, we had seven outs through work and injuries already. So, I’m hoping that we can get a result on the weekend but it does come down to what bodies can we get on the field and what shape are they in.”
Cessnock have been one of the luckier sides in terms of matches. They do not have any midweek rescheduled games due to having played all of the scheduled fixtures. This consistency of playing time may potentially swing in favour of Cessnock.
Compared to Thornton’s slim looking side, a full squad to choose from should also aid the Hornets’ prospect of a rejuvenation in form.
“Cessnock is always a bit of a derby game. It’s always full-blooded. We’re expecting a tough one,” Winslade said.
“Trent Partridge will be out due to a strain sustained on the weekend. We also have a couple away with family stuff and some with niggles against Kahibah.”
The two sides have already clashed this season, with Cessnock scoring a last minute free kick to secure a 2-2 draw.