By Isaac McIntyre
Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United SC v Cooks Hill United FC
2.30pm, Sunday 10th May
The NEWFM 1st Division Match of the Round sees Cooks Hill United travel to Blacksmiths Oval to take on Belmont Swansea United, with both teams looking at the opportunity to climb out of the pack and challenge for a top four position on the ladder.
Belmont Swansea currently sit on seven points in the league, having played seven games and won only twice. A single draw also gave them an extra point, but now they are looking to turn their streak of bad luck around, having not won since the opening rounds of the competition.
Belswans feel like they deserve to be higher on the table however, and are looking to convert strong performances into points that they can put to their name, looking to climb back into a fighting position close to the fourth placed West Wallsend.
Cooks Hill have a similar aim on their mind – increase their position and prove that they can fight for a finals position with the other teams on the table. Warren Spink’s outfit has been strong in the last few weeks, turning a low-table position into a fifth place showing that has seen them lose only once in the last five weeks, with an eight goal shoot-out against Lake Macquarie.
Cooks Hill’s efforts have come from a change in the tactics that Spink has brought to the table, with the Newcastle-based-team now playing a deadly attacking form of football that sees the wings become their own, and focusing on Peter Pryce’s current form in front of the net.
“Attack,” Spink stated. “Attack is our tactic and we’re going to make sure that we constantly have the other team on the back foot.”
“Peter [Pryce] has been absolutely lethal in front of goals in the last few weeks and I want to see that high-flying form continue, so we work out tactics around making sure that we can bring the attack to whoever we’re playing.”
Paul Matthews believes that the combined outfit has a chance to change their fortunes at home.
“We return to Blacksmiths, and we’re happy with how we’re playing,” Matthews said of the Belswans’ form.
“We just have to make sure that we’re converting what are strong performances into strong wins on the scoreboard. We can’t get anywhere if we play well and then lose.”
The Match of the Round kicks off at 2.30pm on May 10th, with both teams looking to bring the full force of their playing form to bear against the other team, in a contest that will not be one to miss.
Lake Macquarie City FC v Singleton SC
2.30pm, Saturday 9th May
Macquarie Field plays host to a clash between the home side, Lake Macquarie City, and the travelling Singleton Strikers for the first game of the round.
Lake Macquarie dropped out of the top spot on the league table after a close defeat at the hands of Valentine three weeks ago, and now sit in third place with 13 points, trailing two behind the in-form Wallsend.
The defeat at Cahill Oval dropped Lake Macquarie’s form, delivering them their first loss to go with four wins and a draw, but the team still holds a game in hand over Valentine and Wallsend above them.
Lake Macquarie will be focusing on the stunning form of their attacking forces, the Walker brothers, with both Sam and Tom having created havoc for defenders in recent weeks. The injury to Tom threatened to halt the goal-scoring form, but the younger brothers Sam and Chris both took goals in the Valentine defeat that the home team’s forwards are as deadly as ever.
Travelling to Macquarie Field will be a challenge for the Strikers, with their focus needing to be on closing down Lake Macquarie’s free-flowing attack. Singleton’s Scott Bailie has turned his attention to their own scoring asset, Lloyd Wakewood, who will be the focal point of their attack.
The away side will be called upon to be the stronger defensive team however, a task that may be a tall order. The Strikers have shipped eleven goals since their last win, answering in kind with only four of their own, and Bailie has begun focus on improving the defensive qualities of the side.
“We are going to be stronger at the back,” Bailie said. “If we focus on making sure that the other side can’t score then we can have a better control on the game. We did it well against Cessnock a month ago and we won that game – we need to focus on getting that performance again.”
The top four teams will be looking to Lake Macquarie’s game at Macquarie Field, where the Strikers have the chance to stop the former National Premier Leagues side dead in their tracks, and give other teams the chance to drop them from the finals positions completely – this game could change the fortune of over half the league.
West Wallsend SFC v Thornton Redbacks FC
2.30pm, Sunday 10th May
West Wallsend return to Johnston Park to play against the Thornton Redbacks on Sunday, kicking off the second game of the day.
West Wallsend have had mixed results in the last few weeks of the competition, taking two losses and a win before they were afforded the bye weekend. Although the defeats stopped their climb up the ladder, they have retained their position in fourth place, level with Lake Macquarie.
A win for the home team could put them right back in the mix for the promotion battle, leaving them only a single point away from first place if results in other games go their way as well.
The Redbacks are not to be underestimated in the match however, with the travelling side needing a win if they are to begin their climb out of equal last place.
Four wins in a row have dropped Thornton’s confidence however, and after their strong performance in the first game of the season they now struggle to put the ball into the back of the net and claim points against the teams they’ve played.
Thornton’s Darrel Mcallister remains confident that his team can change their streak of loses into a streak of wins however, and is focusing on the team playing as a combined unit to bring their performances back to winning ways.
“We came in fourth last season, and we had finals football on our plate. We’re making a return to the form that we had last season and once that clicks the second half of the season is going to be ours.”
“We can still turn it around and I have full confidence that we’re going to start to get results for our climb.”
The match on Sunday afternoon could stop West Wallsend in their tracks if the Redbacks can find form, and an upset could see a shift in the fortunes of teams all across the ladder if one of the top teams can be overthrown.
Toronto Awaba FC v Kahibah FC
Lyall Peacock Field
2.30pm, Sunday 10th May
Toronto Awaba play Kahibah at Lyall Peacock Field after a weekend of washed out games, with the Stags looking to use the extra recovery time as a chance to change their streak of losses in the league.
The Stags currently sit in last place on the table, having struggled to finish their chances in the last nine weeks of the competition. Although they have been lauded as having “dominating performances” by many of the coaches that have come up against them, Tony Jovcevski’s outfit has been unable to finish the goals that would mean three points in the games.
Kahibah have finally clicked in the competition after a series of draws to start off their maiden outing. Andre Gumprecht’s team have now stepped up to sixth place on the ladder, having not lost a game since their opening match of the season.
Two wins and two draws have made up the eight points that Gumprecht’s side have claimed, and the team is looking to collect their third win to get three points. A win could put them within striking distance of Lake Macquarie and West Wallsend.
The match could also see Toronto Awaba break out of their rut in the season, and with a chance for both teams to step up their position on the table it’ll be a closely fought match that will prove to be a highlight of the round.
Cessnock City FC v Wallsend FC
2.30pm, Sunday 10th May
The final match of NEWFM 1st Division Round 10 sees Cessnock City return to Turner Park to face off against Wallsend, the high-flying team of the season so far.
Cessnock have had a difficult beginning to their 2015 campaign, sitting in eighth place after two wins and a draw in six games, giving them seven points to equalise Belmont Swansea’s record.
The team, led by Stephen Thomson, has been swinging in form in the last few weeks, with wins and losses coming equally over their last encounters. A bye last weekend was to give Cessnock the break they needed to change their patchy performances, but the washed out round means that all teams had a break as well.
Wallsend have defied expectations in their first season in the NEWFM 1st Division after being promoted, now sitting in second place, two points above third and two below first.
Nothing but a win will be justifiable for the team in their current form however, with boss Josh Rufo fully aware that they have to keep their performances for the rest of the season if they are to “deserve finals football in their first season”.
“It’s been a good series of wins by the team now, with a few slip-ups, but as we continue to play we have to make sure that the slip-ups are coming less and less, and all three points are coming more and more.”
“The season aims remain strong so far, with finals football the only result we’d like to see by season end.”
Both sides clash for the vital three points, with Cessnock hoping that the home ground advantage and the support of the crowd can tip the favour towards their half and lift them above to be the dominant team on the day – nothing is set in stone however, and there’s everything to play for.