Match of the Round
Cooks Hill United FC v Wallsend FC
Newcastle Athletics Field
2.30pm, Saturday 6th June
The NEWFM 1st Division Match of the Round sees a battle for the top four places taking place, with Wallsend travelling to the Newcastle Athletics Field as Cooks Hill looks to collect three points and rise as high as third place.
Cooks Hill have continued their table-climbing form recently, now only a single point outside of the top four position that they have been eyeing for their inaugural season.
United have already played twelve of their games in the season, recording five wins and two draws to sit on their 17 points, and now look to fight off competitors that are looking to drag them back down the table.
Wallsend meanwhile has held firm in their season, having played nine of their games and notched up seven wins for themselves. Only five points behind table leaders Valentine and sitting with two games in hand, the leader’s defeat to Belmont Swansea mid-week has given Josh Rufo’s team the chance they need to push for promotion.
Warren Spink believes that Cooks Hill can go the distance in the second half of the season now, and knows a win over Wallsend would be a clear statement of intent.
“We haven’t been outplayed in a game yet, and I don’t plan to have that change on the weekend,” Spink stated.
“It was a close game against Valentine and we can come out stronger from it, and I think that we can do what needs to be done to get a win and keep moving towards our goals for the season.”
A win could put Cooks Hill into the top four mix, while a win for Wallsend brings them within two points of the top place in the season, where the now-defeated Valentine may sit precariously after the 3-1 loss.
This game could put one of the two teams in striking distance of their season objectives, and with the end of the season now looming on the horizon a win will be vital here if they are to keep control of their own destinies in the race to the finals.
Singleton SC v Cessnock City FC
2.30pm, Saturday 6th June
The second Saturday game of the weekend sees Cessnock City travel to Howe Park to take on now-eighth placed Singleton.
Singleton have had a hard time breaking out of the bottom half of the table, with Belmont Swansea, Kahibah and Cooks Hill all leaving them behind as other teams loom from the bottom of the standings.
Only four wins and six losses have left Singleton a mere four points off the bottom of the table, with worry that wins for the other sides might drop them further from the finals spots that they have been seeking all season long.
Cessnock City meanwhile have had a hard time in their efforts to carve out a high finish for themselves, and have found themselves locked to the bottom of the table on goal difference.
Cessnock have already played twelve games, winning only two of them and collecting two extra points from a duo of draws. Eight losses have sent them plummeting to the bottom of the table, where a win is now necessary to break them free once more.
Cessnock’s Stephen Thomson admits that it has been hard to cope with the losses falling against them, but that the side has remained positive in the face of the defeats.
“We’re going to keep being competitive and it was great to score another few goals in the last few games,” Thomson said.
“We had 80 minutes of ball against Kahibah recently and they had ten minutes of the ball and managed to get three, so we’ll just be working on that and there’s no problems with commitment and effort and all that kind of thing.”
“We’re staying positive, we’ll stick together and hopefully we’ll be climbing higher up the table. I think that we should definitely be higher than that. It’s been a bit of a mix with all the teams on equal footing so it could go either way, and it’s just been a few lapses in concentration that has let us down at this point.”
The game is a must-win for Cessnock if they don’t want to become trapped at the bottom of the table, but with Singleton needing three points to meet their targets in the second half of the season as well, neither side is going to back down without a fight at Howe Park.
Toronto Awaba FC v Belmont Swansea United SC
Lyall Peacock Field
2.30pm, Sunday 7th June
Now off the bottom of the table, Toronto Awaba return to the Lyall Peacock Field to play against Belmont Swansea United.
The Stags have had recent success with their playing strategies, with their previous run of defeats now turning into three wins and eight losses. Those nine points have seen them lifted out of the wooden spoon position and now looking to fight their way back into the mix in the middle of the table.
Belmont Swansea meanwhile have had mixed outings recently, with four wins and two draws standing up against five losses to leave them in sixth place. Four points separates them and Kahibah in fourth place, and Belswans will be looking to return to the finals for another year, or risk taking a step backwards with the club’s targets.
“We had to give the boys a night off somewhere in the middle of these congested fixtures and it really paid off after the upset midweek,” Belmont Swansea’s Paul Matthews commented.
“Defeating Valentine has been a really massive boost for the team, and now we have to take the confidence that we’ve earned from that and continue to get wins.”
“We can still make it to the finals and I’m reasonably confident that we can give the rest of the competitors a fair sort of game, especially with what we’ve produced in the last few weeks.”
Tony Jovcevski has also taken the recent wins for Toronto Awaba in his stride, and is pleased that his coaching is finally paying off for the team.
“We have turned the corner in the season and now the second half is going to let us really show what we have become as a team and how far we have progressed,” Jovcevski stated.
“I believe that we can get a lot higher on the table than where we are now and I have full confidence in the boys to take us as far as they can with the form that we’re picking up.”
Arguably two of the in-form teams of the competition now clash at Lyall Peacock Field, with both needing another win to keep their momentum going, and all three points will create a tight battle at the field in a game not to be missed.
Lake Macquarie City FC v West Wallsend SFC
2.30pm, Sunday 7th June
With Valentine finally slipping on the run out ahead, Lake Macquarie now need a win to get back into the promotion fight, and Macquarie Field presents the perfect staging ground as they come up against the strong West Wallsend.
Lake Macquarie have found themselves seven points below their once stable position on top of the table, and if they are to return to the PS4 National Premier Leagues standings as quickly as possible, they can take nothing but wins for the remainder of the season.
Two losses and a draw have stopped City from taking every single point from their nine games, but six strong wins have kept them in the finals battle so far.
West Wallsend meanwhile have fallen from where they once stood in the top four, dropped out by Kahibah and Cooks Hill’s recent run of form.
Their results have dropped recently, with five losses now overtaking their four wins, and two draws rounding out their eleven games so far in the season. Sitting in seventh place, West Wallsend now desperately need the three points if they are to return to the finals that they were aiming for, or risk dropping further as other sides find their feet.
“We need to do lots of things if we’re going to win again, we have to fix our attitude and it changes the way that we are at the minute,” West Wallsend’s Gary Rowe accepted.
“Not being able to get onto the park simply hasn’t helped the team and we need the consistency to train and then play and put what we’re doing into practice, so we’ve been drifting away from what we were doing well.”
“We’ve had a change of personnel on the Wednesday game, hopefully that can shake things up a little bit, but apart from that we’ll be looking at working on what we’ve been learning.”
“We have a set way of doing things in the season and so it might just be that we need to change the people playing. If we can figure out the best starting eleven for our side we can return to where we were and continue challenging.”
With vital wins for both teams to return to where they have fallen from, Macquarie Field will play host to a clash of two teams looking to play their way back into lethal form, and the first of those games will need to be here on this weekend.
Thornton Redbacks FC v Valentine FC
2.30pm, Sunday 7th June
After their first defeat of the season, Valentine now look to return to form against the Thornton Redbacks away from home for the final game of the NEWFM 1st Division.
The Redbacks have been hot and cold in recent weeks, collecting a win, a draw and a loss over the last three rounds as they try to fight their way out of the wooden spoon battle. Darrel Mcallister’s outfit will be now looking to force Valentine into their second loss of the season.
Alan Hackett’s side is raring to bounce back from the defeat however, and is disappointed that they couldn’t keep up the dominant displays that they had held for so long over the season.
Valentine had recorded eight wins in the season so far, as well as two draws, with the Belmont Swansea game marring their perfect record up until Round 13. Regardless of the defeat, the promotion-aimed side are still five points clear at the top, but with Wallsend breathing down their necks.
“We didn’t turn up, and like I’ve been saying, if you don’t turn up then you’re going to lose,” Hackett stated.
“The Belswans were there on Wednesday and they wanted it and now we’re just going to have to keep going with what we’ve been doing, fix the problems that we encountered, and make sure that we can get more victories before we come unravelled.”
“We’re still on track for the objectives, but we’re taking it one game at a time. There’s a long way to go yet and we don’t want to lose sight of the games around us.”
If the Redbacks can defeat Valentine at home this weekend, the title race – and promotion to the PS4 National Premier Leagues level – could be wide open for more than half of the teams in the competition, and with half the season left to go, anything could happen from here on out.