Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United v New Lambton FC
Blacksmiths Oval, Sunday 2.30pm
Belmont Swansea United’s finals hopes go on the line when they host leaders New Lambton on Sunday.
BelSwans welcome the Eagles to Blacksmiths Oval three points behind fifth-placed Singleton following their 3-0 win over Cessnock City last weekend.
Andre Gumprecht’s side will also face Toronto Awaba, Kahibah and West Wallsend on the run in as they attempt to hunt down a finals place.
“Spirits are high [after the win over Cessnock]. But we know we need to do a lot more to be where we want to be,” BelSwans assistant coach Mick Stafford said.
“We’ll need to be a lot better than we were [against Cessnock] to match [New Lambton].
“It was probably the most intense match we’ve played all year [in round eight]. I thought we matched them that day. [But] we are prepared for a massive game against a good team.”
The sides played out a 1-1 draw in round eight. But after New Lambton’s emphatic 4-1 win over Cooks Hill United last weekend the Eagles are now flying high alone at the top of the table.
BelSwans will welcome back Cameron Lodge, with Stafford wary of New Lambton’s high intensity and work rate.
The draw in round eight was one of only three matches this season where New Lambton have dropped points.
If Tom Davies’ side can get past BelSwans, only Cessnock, Toronto Awaba and Kahibah stand in their way of winning back-to-back premierships.
Cooks Hill United v Toronto Awaba FC
No.2 Sportsground, Saturday 3pm
Cooks Hill United will be desperate to bounce back when they host Toronto Awaba on Saturday.
Cooks Hill were humbled 4-1 in their top of the table clash with New Lambton to end a special week, where the club learned of its inclusion in the NPL NNSW competition from next season, on a sour note.
The defeat saw Cooks Hill lose their 10-week unbeaten run and slip to second, three points behind the Eagles in the race for the premiership.
Toronto Awaba enter the match coming off the disappointment of their 2-2 draw with South Cardiff last week.
“We blew plenty of chances to put the game away,” Stags caretaker coach Shaun Paterson said.
“Our finishing also let us down last time [we played Cooks Hill] after we again created plenty of chances.”
The sides played out a 1-1 draw when they met in round eight.
With the Stags no longer able to make the finals the goal for Paterson is to ensure his young side continue to improve, particularly their mental toughness.
“We want to stay focused for the rest of the season,” Paterson said.
“The emphasis will be on concentrating for the whole 90 minutes of each match.”
Toronto Awaba are likely to be unchanged from the side that drew with the Gunners.
The match will be played at No.2 Sportsground, with Cooks Hill to celebrate their Legends’ Day.
Thornton FC V Singleton Strikers
Thornton Park, Saturday 3.30pm
Thornton and Singleton will look to strengthen their places in the top five when they meet on Saturday.
The Strikers travel to Thornton Park in fifth place, three points behind the third-placed Redbacks.
Thornton co-coach Scott Winslade was happy with the Redbacks’ 3-0 win over West Wallsend last weekend, with the victory giving Thornton an eight-point cushion between them and Belmont Swansea United at the head of the chasing pack.
The Redbacks will look to do the double over the reigning champions having won the round eight encounter 3-1 at Howe Park.
“It will be a different day this time around. Singleton had a few players out that day,” Winslade said.
“We picked up a few niggles [in the win over West Wallsend]. We’ll have to check on Sam Rossi’s fitness after his concussion.”
Singleton need to keep winning to stay ahead of BelSwans in the race for the finals.
The Strikers have a tricky run in. They will be unable to accrue points with their bye next weekend before playing last-placed South Cardiff and heavyweights Cooks Hill United.
The Strikers also play their rescheduled round 17 match against Cessnock City next Wednesday night.
South Cardiff FC v Kahibah FC
Ulinga Oval, Sunday 2.45pm
With neither team in finals contention the goal now for South Cardiff and Kahibah will be to get as far away from the bottom end of the table as they can.
South Cardiff have looked promising in recent weeks following their rocky start to the campaign having beaten Cessnock City and Toronto Awaba while narrowly falling to leaders New Lambton
After four weeks on the road the Gunners finally return to Ulinga Oval where they host ninth-placed Kahibah, with South Cardiff sensing an opportunity to climb off the bottom of the table.
Mat Moncrieff’s Kahibah kept themselves ticking over despite their bye last weekend, playing a trial against the Newcastle Jets youth team.
Kahibah won the round eight meeting 4-0 but Moncrieff said he expected South Cardiff to be a different team this time around.
“They have had some good results lately,” Moncrieff said.
“We’re expecting a game and a half but we’re hopeful we can still manage a win.”
Kahibah will have more players available across the board than previous weeks, with Moncrieff anticipating the best part of a full team in first grade thanks to the return of Rhys Tippett and Riley Ferguson.
The visitors are focused on getting three points against South Cardiff this weekend to stay above them on the table, with the Gunners only three points behind the Rams though Kahibah have a vastly superior goal difference.
Wallsend FC v Cessnock City
The Gardens, Sunday 5pm
Wallsend have a run of home games to finish out the season, with round 19 wrapping up with the Red Devils and Cessnock City at The Gardens on Sunday evening.
“Both teams are at the stage that they can’t make finals. We are preparing ourselves to get what we can out of the season,” Wallsend coach Craig Tselembis said.
Last time the teams met it was a 1-1 draw at Turner Park with Wallsend looking to improve defensively in their final games.
The Red Devils’ focus for the rest of the season is to take their chances and be tighter at the back to finish the season strongly. They will look to keep picking up points and be as close to the finals places as possible after being in contention midway through the campaign.
Wallsend have been disappointed with their results in the second half of the season but Tselembis said his side were still playing good football though needed to take their chances.
Darcy Hall will return for Wallsend after completing his suspension.
Cessnock coach Michael Gatt said the Hornets would look to finish the season as best they could. The Hornets are 10th, one point above last-placed South Cardiff.
“Our inability to convert chances let us down [against Wallsend in round eight] and if we were able to convert the game would have been a different story,” Gatt said.
“Our focus for the rest of the season will be to score goals and take advantage of our opportunities we have been creating because we’ve only scored 13 times this season.”
Cessnock will line up similarly to last weekend but there are question marks over the fitness of Thomas Stewart.