Match of the Round
Singleton Strikers v New Lambton FC
Civic Park, Saturday 2.30pm
Singleton will make their first appearance at their new home ground on Saturday when the Strikers host New Lambton.
With Singleton’s traditional home ground at Howe Park unavailable due to delayed council renovations, the Strikers will call Civic Park home for the entirety of the 2022 season.
The match is a replay of the 2020 grand final when Singleton ended a 28-year premiership drought to down the Eagles 2-0 at Magic Park.
Singleton come into their home ground opener off the back of a convincing 3-1 win over Wallsend FC.
Conversely, it has been a peculiar start to the season for New Lambton, with the Eagles occupying an unlikely sixth position after four games and one of four clubs to hold a negative goal difference.
Singleton head coach Mick Jarvis said despite their position on the table and results, he was aware of New Lambton’s quality and believed they remained the benchmark for the competition.
“Tom [Davies] is a very good coach. His players know their roles very well in that side,” Jarvis said.
“Everyone is looking forward to a really good, competitive game of football. And to be honest, even though New Lambton haven’t started the season as good as they probably would have hoped, they’re still the benchmark.
“Whilst there’s not an out and out top team in the competition, [New Lambton] are still a side that you want to measure yourself against.”
Working on final third execution is Jarvis’ priority for his side.
“We’re working on a few things around our execution in the final third [this week],” Jarvis said.
“We’ve been creating enough chances. We just need to work on finishing those. [There’s] no point in creating a thousand [chances] if you’re not finishing them.
“The goals that we got on the weekend [against Wallsend] weren’t well executed plays. They were created through pressure on the opposition and forcing errors and then making them pay for those errors.
“I want to be able to finish off the chances that we create through general play.”
The move from Howe Park to Civic Park is a significant change for Singleton this season and Jarvis said the ground, depending on weather, was in excellent condition for football.
“I’m just walking on the freshly cut and freshly marked Civic Park at the moment and honestly, I can’t wait to get some football played on this pitch,” Jarvis said.
“It looks really good. It’s going to suit both sides. It’s going to be an end-to-end game. Honestly, as long as both teams turn up ready to play, it’s going to be highly entertaining fixture.”
New Lambton coach Tom Davies knows his side are capable of much better performances compared to the first four games this season.
For New Lambton to take away the three points against Singleton, they are going to have to follow the game plan to counteract the Strikers’ composed build-up play.
“Obviously, there’s a few things from Saturday’s game [against Kahibah] that we’ll work on throughout the week,” Davies said.
“It’s a matter of us executing the game plan that we’ll work on throughout the week and try and touch on a few things that we didn’t do so well against Kahibah. But also look at some of the positives we did in the game.
“But the boys are looking forward to [the game against Singleton]. It’s always a challenge [when we play] Singleton away. We’re looking forward to it.”
Jackson O’Sullivan is expected to return from injury for New Lambton to give Davies a full-strength squad.
“Hopefully everybody’s available,” Davies said.
“We’ll wait and see over the week how everyone trains. I’m looking forward to [the game].
“We’ve built a good little rivalry over last couple of years.”
The last time two clubs faced off was in June last season when Singleton triumphed 2-1 at Howe Park thanks to a brace from experienced forward Joe Civello.
Kahibah FC v Toronto Awaba FC
Kahibah Oval, Saturday 2.30pm
Toronto Awaba have the opportunity to leapfrog Kahibah when they travel to Kahibah Oval on Saturday.
Inconsistent performances have hindered Toronto over the last few seasons. With one win, one draw and a loss so far, the trend remains over the Stags’ shoulder.
But with it still being so early on in the season Toronto may be able to change their fortunes quickly if they can take a good result home on Saturday.
“It’s going to be a tough game at Kahibah,” Toronto Awaba coach Jarrad Hiles said.
“[Kahibah coach] Mat Moncrieff is probably one of the smartest footballing brains going around, so he’ll have some plans and they seem like they’re doing really well.
“We know it would be a big scalp and they’re in pretty good form Kahibah so we’ll try and not get too overtaxed on looking at the ladders at this stage of the year.
“But in saying so, three points puts you right up there and that’ll be a great start for us.”
Kahibah have a lot to play for in terms of early title contention with the Rams needing to win to remain in touch with leaders Belmont Swansea United.
Moncrieff’s side have also done well considering their congested schedule.
“Saturday will be our sixth game in 18 days so that has sort of taken its toll a bit,” Moncrieff said.
“Second division of Newcastle football players aren’t accustomed to playing two games every week.
“But the boys keep turning up and putting in and all the young blokes that have been promoted to first grade have done a really good job too.
“We have to manage our bodies as best we can.”
Despite the inconsistent start for his opponents Moncrieff praised the Stags, alluding that they might meet more than twice this season.
“Toronto offer a lot of quality up front and they have some good young blokes mixed in with them,” Moncrieff said.
“I’m expecting a tough, typical Toronto outfit. They are well coached and have some really quality blokes that can hurt you if you let them.
“It will be a match and a half on Saturday and with the experience they’ve added to the squad from last year they’re definitely one of the teams that will be playing finals come end of season.”
Scott Smith will return for Toronto Awaba while Kahibah may be without up to three players due to COVID restrictions.
Belmont Swansea United v Cessnock City
Blacksmiths Oval, Saturday 4.30pm
Belmont Swansea United will host Cessnock City on Saturday in what is a surprising early season top of the table clash.
Having led the competition since round one, Belswans coach Mick Stafford and his players are looking forward to a challenge to their place at the summit.
“The group is excited to get back to Blacksmiths and continue to work hard for three points,” Stafford said.
“I don’t look at the table at all. You have to focus only on what you can control. For us that is our structure and discipline against Cessnock, other results don’t come into that mindset.”
Stafford commended Cessnock’s choice to play young prospects with the most recent success being 17-year-old Zac Brown making his debut in the Team of the Week last round.
“Congrats to Cessnock, going down the route of playing young local boys. It has been our philosophy for the time I’ve been at Belswans as well,” Stafford said.
“Their style of play is very hard to manage at times. The focus has to remain with defensive structure and patience with the ball.”
Belswans may prove to be Cessnock’s greatest test so far this season as Hornets coach Brad Miles pointed out.
“It’s going to be a good test for us. They have been a benchmark for several years now. They’re well coach, well drilled. We’re just going to have to be really on our game and go through our processes and hopefully come out the other side,” Miles said.
Many teams including Cessnock and Belswans are low on personnel due to COVID restrictions.
Clayton Williams was rated a 50-50 chance of playing this weekend as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury.
West Wallsend SFC v Wallsend FC
Johnston Park, Sunday 2.30pm
The Wallsend Derby will take centre stage on Sunday with the Bluebells hosting the desperate Red Devils at Johnston Park.
The match will be played on West Wallsend’s Old Boys’ Day, with a large and potentially hostile crowd expected for the derby.
The sides won one match each in 2021 leaving bragging rights up for grabs this season.
“I’m looking forward to it. [Wallsend] beat us at home last year but we got some vengeance back on them when we played at The Gardens,” West Wallsend coach Darren Sills said.
“I’m really looking forward to [the match] and it should be a real ding-dong battle.”
Sills identified many improvements needed to give a dominant performance at home, crediting a lack of clear cut opportunities and a leaky defence to the dire situation.
“[Wallsend] are an extremely physical side and I believe that we’ve probably improved since then even though results haven’t gone our way in the last two weeks,” Sills said.
“We look at our team on paper and go how the hell have we got the worst defence in the league. It’s terrible. It’s embarrassing that we have that many goals against us.
“We’ve conceded far too many goals and we’ve got to put balls in the back off the net and take pressure off our back four and we should be okay.
“We have to be more clinical. We have Josh Carroll back which is goo, but we lose Dain Greentree with a knee injury. He will be out for a while which is not good. But other than that the rest of us should be right to go.”
With the home ground advantage, Sills believes that it may be a deciding factor in the overall result due to the familiarity the Bluebells have with the grass conditions.
“We get back to a soft pitch at West Wallsend, so that will probably suit us a little be more which will be a lot better,” Sills said.
Wallsend coach Michael Gatt will be in charge of his first ever Wallsend Derby on Sunday and expressed how excited he and his players were heading into the fixture.
“The boys are all pumped up for it. This is what they get charged up for every year,” Gatt said.
“It’s my first one in the Wallsend Derby but the boys are all chomping at the bit to get out there and go and get the victory.”
As both clubs have started their respective seasons dismally, Gatt predicted a tight tussle with the potential for an early game of the year contender.
“It will definitely be a tight, fiery one,” Gatt said.
“From every account from the boys that have been there for the previous years it’s always a fiery one and a very competitive and vocal one so I’m looking forward to it.”
South Cardiff v Thornton Redbacks
Ulinga Oval, Sunday 3.30pm
South Cardiff will play their first home game of the season when they host Thornton on Sunday.
Yet to record a win after two matches South Cardiff coach Scott Taylor said it was crucial to secure a victory.
“It’s going to be another tussle I guess, going to be a tough game no doubt about it,” Taylor said.
“For me it’s a case of getting ourselves over the line now. We’ve proved we can fight but now it’s a case of finding a way to win.
“We’ve just got to get that first win under our belt.
“We’re not panicking, we know we’re capable of it but we just got to go out there and do it.”
Apart from winning, finishing in attack has also been a problem so far this season.
“We definitely have to improve on the quality in the final third for sure,” Taylor said.
“It’s something we’ll be looking at. The quality in what we do in that final third with decision making and then putting it in the back of the net.”
Thornton co-coach Gary Wand said he was going into the fixture blind, with South Cardiff one of the few teams Wand has not seen in action yet.
“I don’t know too much about them to be honest. They’re one of the few teams I haven’t had a chance to go and have a look at. At this stage, let’s just hopefully make them worry about us,” Wand said.
Wand said Thornton were flat against Belswans on the weekend with Thornton’s attack a focus for this week.
“We were flat on the weekend. So we’ll be looking for an improved performance as well, particularly going forward,” Wand said.
“We defended quite well but we’re just a bit flat going forward.”
Jock Thompson’s return has South Cardiff at full strength, while Thornton have Zane Estatheo and Jake Millsteed in doubt and Trent Partridge unavailable with a leg injury.