Competitions

HIT106.9 Northern League One Round 13 Preview: Strikers, Rams aim to keep in touch with finals race

June 23rd, 2022

 Jacob Briers


Match of the Round
Singleton Strikers v Kahibah FC
Civic Park, Sunday 2.30pm

Singleton Strikers will aim to turn around their home form this weekend as they eye off a crucial victory against an equally eager Kahibah.

Kahibah got the better of Strikers earlier on in the season as the Rams came away with a 2-1 victory during an extremely sloshy affair affected by the prominent rain. But being hosted at Civic Park with minimal rain forecast, both sides will look to play their best football to keep within the finals chasing pack.

Singleton’s main struggles have brewed in their defensive play this season. Another concern is their home record, with Singleton’s record at Civic Park subpar compared to recent seasons at Howe Park.

“We absolutely dominated [Kahibah] in that first half earlier in the season,” Singleton coach Mick Jarvis said.

“We looked good with the ball on the deck but weren’t good enough in transition [against Kahibah]. We need to be better in defensive transitions. We need to be better at getting numbers behind the ball and stopping sides from creating chances.

“We need to keep building on what we’ve been working on all season and it has started to come to fruition over the last week and a half.

“I’m confident but it has been a bit of a hoodoo. We haven’t won a lot of football up here in Singleton this year.

“The support we get from the crowd and everybody here at Singleton is brilliant. It isn’t like it feels foreign. It definitely feels like the home fixture. But we haven’t been able to repay those that put all the effort in behind the scenes with consistent results here. That’s something we’d like to do. There’s nothing better than rewarding those that put in so much effort with a good performance.”

Kahibah were flying high early in the season but a recent dip in form has immensely hindered Mat Moncrieff’s side. The club was eyeing off the league leaders only a couple of weeks ago but now the Rams are dwindling at the rear of the chasing pack.

The Rams aim to turn this all around come Sunday and shoot back above the rest.

Moncrieff’s men will enjoy preparations for the weekend, as it is the first week in memory that they have a whole week of training without rain or rescheduled fixtures.

“We’ve got a proper preparation this week, so I’m excited as far as that goes and having a majority of players available, it’s a rare feeling,” Moncrieff said.

“[The first game] was a dog fight and if [Singleton] finished their chances, they probably would have won the game. They have a lot of players that can hurt you and have a really robust backline.

“We’ll go in fresh and know we’re up for a really tough game against a really good squad of players. We’ll do our best to get three points and stick with the five or six in the pack trying to get one of those finals spots.

“I’m glad the majority of teams going into the last few rounds will have some sort of sniff of finals football which is what makes it a really good competition. It looks like the top two have slipped away but a few losses can peg them back to the pack.

“We had one bad week where we lost Sunday, Wednesday and Sunday and went from third on the table to seventh. It can turn around really quick. We take iy one game at a time, put our best foot forward and hopefully keep climbing the table.”

Both teams will have a full complement of players available, including Lachlan Hodgetts for Kahibah who returns from a long-term injury sustained during pre-season.

Singleton will also need to bounce back from their 4-1 defeat to Toronto Awaba in their rescheduled round eight fixture on Wednesday.


Toronto Awaba FC v Belmont Swansea United
Lyall Peacock Field, Saturday 3pm

Belmont Swansea will headline another near top-of-the-table clash on Saturday as Toronto Awaba look to make amends for their round four defeat to Belswans.

Lyall Peacock Field has morphed into a fortress for the Stags with Toronto Awaba scoring three wins, one draw and one tight 1-0 loss against New Lambton so far this season.

Now is the time for Toronto to take three points and continue their recovery from the loss to West Wallsend last weekend, propelling themselves away from the chasing herd.

Toronto will also be buoyed from their 4-1 win over Singleton in their rescheduled round eight fixture on Wednesday night.

But Belswans are no pushover, as exemplified by their position on the table and the sides’ previous encounter.

“It will be a really tough game,” Toronto Awaba coach Jarrad Hiles said.

“Belswans are flying at the top of the table and Mick Stafford does a great job. He’ll have them primed and set up to keep ticking along.

“But our boys love a challenge and we’re at home on our ground, so they’ll be up for it and keen. In the first game, I thought it was a pretty even match. It was a really good battle through the middle of the park but two errors at the back end of the game proved the difference and they were good enough to take them.

“I’m hoping we can cut those errors out, take our chances and spring an upset. We’re definitely going into it as underdogs and we’re positive we’ll do well.

“We’ve improved since that first game against Belswans. In all matches this year, we’ve played great football and push it around well. That’ll be the instructions to the boys just keep the ball down and play, move the ball, do it quickly and do it well.”

Belswans coach Mick Stafford has kept a keen eye on Toronto for a great deal of the season. Towards the start of the season he cited the Stags as one of the danger sides that could surprise everyone.

“I’m looking forward to getting back on track against a pretty good and physical Toronto team out there on Saturday,” Stafford said.

“[Toronto] have a good mix of experienced older players and some quality young guys that are keen and they’re pretty well coached with the coaching staff out there this year. They seem like they’re on the right track, which is good to see.

“We can take a bit of confidence that we got the result [in round four]. But again, it’s a different time of year, so we’ll just have to have the same mentality we did last time, where we bounce back from a loss to New Lambton and do our best to get the win again.

“We’ll continue to take it one week at a time in regard to any premiership thoughts.”

Belswans goalkeeper Daniel Bryant was sent off against New Lambton, seeing him out for two weeks. But Stafford is prepared and has a secret weapon up his sleeve.

“I’ve signed a goalkeeper, Darren Gledhill, from Belmont FC Friday night All Age J division,” Stafford said.

“He was the Swansea FC Zone Premier League goalkeeper for the last five years, so he’s quite good. He’s been training with us for a while.”


Thornton Redbacks v West Wallsend SFC
Thornton Park, Saturday 3pm

Another crucial midtable clash takes place this weekend with Thornton Redbacks hosting the in-form West Wallsend on Saturday

West Wallsend are the latest addition to the finals race, taking Cessnock’s spot as the Hornets continue to spiral down into the undesired depths of the table. The Bluebells now sit in sixth place and only one point off their opponents this weekend, hungry for a top-half spot.

But coach Darren Sills was not getting ahead of himself, staying calm and humble until the job is done.

“It’s going to be a difficult one. It looks like we might be down on some troops but I’m looking forward to playing [Thornton]. In our last two matches they’ve had the wood on us, so we need to do better,” Sills said.

“[Thornton] are very good defensively. They set up in blocks and they make it really difficult to break down. [Thornton have] conceded a couple of goals since then but they are still a very defensively structured side.

“We definitely have the players and the cattle to score a few. Our attack up front is okay but where we have our issues is the depths, particularly in the midfield and in our back four.

“We’ve lost our captain Bryson Cox and left fullback Brendan Frost with hamstring tears, so we’re scratching around trying to cover those positions. When you’re trying to manufacture those positions, that makes it difficult with guys out of their comfort zone.

“But our form is looking okay. We’ve won [four out of our last five]. We’re hopinh to build on that and try and leapfrog a couple of teams and get up the table a bit.”

Thornton have been one of the more consistent teams. The Redbacks are fourth and have also amassed four draws in nine games, the most out of anyone in the competition.

The Redbacks stole an impressive 3-0 win over West Wallsend at their sacred Johnston Park in round four. Co-coach Scott Winslade hoped his side could do the double against Bluebells and continue their consistency for another game.

“[Westy] had an up and down season, so you never know if they’re going to turn up on the day,” Winslade said.

“Hopefully it will be like last time where we played well and got the win against them on their ground. But [West Wallsend] will be out to reply from that game.

“I look forward to a good game. Whenever we play Westy it’s always a hard one but it’s always a good game to watch for the neutral. It’s everyone giving everything. It’s one of those fixtures where everyone leaves everything out there on both sides. It’s always fun to look forward to the Westy game.”

Sam Rossi, Zac Skippen and Jake Millsteed are a few Thornton players who have consistently produced. They also impressed in their round four match against West Wallsend and Winslade hopes they can yet again put on another good performance.

“The good thing with our side is we have a variation on man-of-the-match awards. Everyone seems to be stepping up but we do have a few names that are branded around as bigger players and recently they have been stepping up,” Winslade said.

“Sam, Skip and Mill have all produced when we’ve needed and we need that to continue. We need players to continue giving everything and when they get the opportunity to take it.”

Thornton will have an entire squad to choose from on Saturday apart from their number one, James Wand, who is undergoing concussion formalities after receiving a hefty knock against Wallsend last weekend.

West Wallsend came away victors 4-1 in their rescheduled round six Wallsend Derby at Johnston Park on Wednesday night, while Thornton played out a 1-1 draw with South Cardiff in their rescheduled round six clash at Ulinga Oval.


Cessnock City v Wallsend FC
Turner Park, Sunday 3pm

Eleventh host 12th on Sunday in a desperate attempt for both clubs to score a decisive win and elevate their chances of playing finals football.

Cessnock, who have played 11 games, broke their six-game losing streak last weekend, drawing 2-2 with Singleton. Wallsend also drew 2-2 with Thornton but lost the all-important Wallsend Derby on Wednesday night 4-1.

The game will also have plenty of feeling with Red Devils Tommy Stewart, Greg Anderson, Brad York and Luke Jennings all playing for the Hornets last year.

“We’re quite confident. We’re coming off a high from the weekend,” Cessnock coach Brad Miles said.

“I know we didn’t win but it was a much better performance, so we’re looking forward to this weekend.

“I don’t think I need to pump the boys up too much. They’ll be ready to go. Half of [Wallsend’s] team is from Cessnock last year, so they don’t need much motivation. They’ll be up for it.

“We have been working very hard on stuff we haven’t been getting right and on the weekend we went out and we rectified that pretty well.

“Zach Kronholm played up front last week and was very good. There’s a lot playing quite well. There are not too many standing out apart from our goalkeeper Ethan Gunther. But a good team performance is what I’m hoping for.”

Wallsend lost 3-0 to Cessnock towards the start of the season, which was not an ideal result for coach Mick Gatt considering the two sides’ table placements. Gatt’s new ‘ride or die’ mindset may prove critical for a turnaround in results.

“[Cessnock] got a decent result against Singleton, so they’ve obviously made a few changes in getting that result,” Gatt said.

“It was the first game of the season [against Cessnock]. We did nothing for the couple of months leading into it due to rain and we hadn’t even played a game yet. But the boys have wiped that out of their equation and we’re going to go in there and throw everything we’ve got at them.

“Every game we’re taking it as our final series. We have to start banking points. A few boys want redemption from the last result, having played for Cessnock the year before.”

While lagging behind the rest of the league the two sides also have a couple of injuries.

Cessnock will be without Zayne Morphew-Watson again but Kyle Gillis will return, having played reserve grade last weekend while regaining fitness.

Wallsend are without the suspended Matthew Williams after he was sent off last weekend, while Greg Anderson is still out with his knee injury.


South Cardiff FC v New Lambton FC
Ulinga Oval, Sunday 3pm

South Cardiff will look to turn their home form around on Sunday against New Lambton as they scamper to mend the 4-0 wound left by Singleton at Ulinga Oval.

Despite the inherent intimidation when facing New Lambton, it hasn’t seemed to affect the Gunners this season, drawing 1-1 with the Eagles in their round four fixture.

“It’s going to be a tough game against a class opponent who are hitting their straps,” South Cardiff coach Scott Taylor said.

“[New Lambton] are flying and coming into a big deal of form. We’re going to have to produce something special to get anything out of the game.

“[In the round four fixture] everyone was working, everybody was on the same page defensively and we kept a good shape against [New Lambton]. Everybody did their job in that defensive phase and we were looking to see what we could get up with a couple of chances. If we can keep our shape against them, we will frustrate them again.

“I’m looking forward to a good game against quality opposition. Hopefully we can turn up and give [New Lambton] a really good challenge like we did the first time.

“But inconsistent is the best word to describe us. It comes down to a lack of training and not being able to move forward and that’s not looking for excuses but it’s a stone cold fact. If you can’t get on the training field as much as you want, you’re not going to move forward as much as you want.”

New Lambton coach Tom Davies is not taking any excuses into this weekend. The Eagles are eager to turn around the 1-1 draw and take another step closer to the premiership crown.

“It’s going to be another challenge as every week is,” Davies said.

“We need to execute better than last time we played [South Cardiff] and we’re at a point where we are playing our best football. So it’s a matter of staying focused and training hard this week. Hopefully we have everyone available for the weekend.

“Everyone is fighting pretty hard for points and [South Cardiff] haven’t played too many games at home as well. So I’m sure they’ll want to be on the ball with their home fixtures. We’ll focus on what we didn’t do well in that first game against them. But we’ll look at the positive from the last couple of games, particularly Belswans and Westy and take that confidence into the weekend.

“From memory it was finishing in the final third and final passes that we didn’t do well [against South Cardiff]. We created enough chances to have definitely more than one goal but we didn’t take those opportunities in that game. The main thing is keeping to our principles and ensuring we get off to a good start.”

Brad Andrews is still a doubt in terms of availability along with Tom Siderovski, with Siderovski rated a 50-50 chance.

Related Topics:
Northern League One Round 13 Preview

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