Match of the Round
Cooks Hill United FC v Lake Macquarie City FC
Newcastle Athletics Field
2.30pm, Saturday 11th July
Cooks Hill United play against Lake Macquarie City in the Match of the Round for Round 18 of the NEWFM 1st Division, with both sides now looking for finals football.
Cooks Hill fell to a defeat at the hands of Singleton last weekend which may have put a significant dent in their finals hopes, but a win over Lake Macquarie could keep their bid – and the race between Belmont Swansea and Kahibah – in their court for the time being.
United’s season has been full of mixed form, with a run recently bringing them within a single point of finals football, but overall results in the form of six wins and two draws out of 16 games has left them five points short of the top four.
Lake Macquarie are right in the mix for a return to the PlayStation 4® National Premier Leagues next season if they can continue to take wins however, with a game in hand over Valentine and only a single point separating the two teams.
If Lakes can’t take a win over Cooks Hill this weekend that could spell the end of their run in for the time being, but a win puts them in pole-position for the top spot.
Cooks Hill’s counter-attacking football could be the key to the match, but first they must silence the deadly Walker brothers, players who have run rampant across team’s defence all season. Between Sam and Tom Walker the brothers have totalled 43 goals, taking the top two spots in the race for the golden boot.
If the Walker brothers can’t be stopped by United’s defence then this game could quickly turn into a bloodbath at the Newcastle Athletics Field, with Sam Walker looking to claim another brace in the match for more than half the games that he’s played in the season.
An upset is on the books however, with Cooks Hill’s hunger for the finals still unbridled, and the match will not be one to be missed on Saturday afternoon – a defining match in both teams’ campaigns.
Valentine FC v West Wallsend SFC
2.30pm, Saturday 11th July
The second Saturday match sees top placed Valentine come up against the plummeting West Wallsend at Cahill Oval as Valentine looks to keep ahead of Lake Macquarie City and retain their promotion spot for another round.
Eleven wins and two draws give Valentine 35 points in 15 games and the top spot so far in the tournament. A win is crucial for them however, with Lakes breathing down the back of their neck with a game in hand and a massive goal difference.
West Wallsend need the win to stop their free-fall down the table however, with the bottom of the table now only four points below them. West Wallsend have not won a game since the seventh round of the competition when they took a close victory over Cessnock City, and now look dangerously close to the being dragged into the wooden spoon battle.
Coach Gary Rowe from West Wallsend knows that his side needs stabilisation and has set the side’s focus on keeping their defence strong in the coming games, with the Valentine match the first big test of their efforts to collect points.
Alan Hackett still has his eyes on the promotion spot for his side however, and isn’t going to let West Wallsend take one over them without a fight.
“We’re taking the games weekend by weekend and that’s keeping us in the title fight. We need more wins and if we drop points in these last games then we don’t deserve to go up to the top league.”
“I have faith that we can continue to perform and now it’s just a matter of keeping in the race as the end of the season starts coming up on us. We’re keeping our eye on the other fixtures and making sure that we stay out in front – that’s crucial.”
With Valentine the favourites in the match at Cahill Oval West Wallsend need to bring an upset to the table if they are to stay in fighting shape for the last matches of the season, but Valentine’s form could be the factor here – it’s the sink or swim moment for West Wallsend now and they have to step up on Saturday afternoon.
Toronto Awaba FC v Thornton Redbacks FC
Lyall Peacock Field
2.30pm, Sunday 12th July
With the bottom of the table now behind them, Toronto Awaba now look to their match against the Thornton Redbacks, when they welcome them to Lyall Peacock Field on Sunday afternoon.
The Stags have had a difficult start to the season, with the side collecting defeats due to a lack of finishing, but a turn-around in the second half of the year has seen three points finally going the way of the Toronto Awaba outfit.
Tony Jovcevski, the head coach, believes that the Stags can go further than they already have in the league.
“We shouldn’t be on the bottom of the table – we’ve been sticking it to every team but we just can’t put it into the back of the net. If we had a bloke who could finish our movements then we could be up near the top of the table and the boys are working on that now.”
“We’re looking at surroundings, we’re looking at attacks and movement off the ball and our defence is down pat, we’re just working on shooting practice. We can do a lot of practice outside of a game day situation but it’s really not the same thing, we have to go out on the weekend and it’s a whole other situation out there.”
“It’s just a lack of experience with the side so far, we’re slowly but surely improving. This season might just be the best thing that’s ever happened to them because now they’re listening and they’re learning and this can be great development for next year.”
The Redbacks have also struggled to string wins together and make a climb up the table, but with wins over Valentine and Wallsend in the season the Thornton team has taken on a ‘giant-killer’ role in the league, keeping the top teams in check in their fixture clashes.
Darrel Mcallister also admitted that the Redbacks’ defence was the key to their game and that they needed to focus on keeping the ball out of the back of their net.
“Our defensive plays have to be our key, if we’re not constantly scoring 4-5 a game then we can’t concede at all, we know we can get one or two but if they outscore us then we get sunk in the match.”
“We’re a one or two goal team but we want to get higher than that and that’s when the wins start to roll in. We did our research for the second round and we’ve improved massively and put one over Valentine and Wallsend and made sure that we’re challenging now.”
The clash could see two of the in-form sides of the recent matches offer up a game of massive proportions, and this game is not one to be missed – both teams will be firing on all cylinders and looking for three vital points.
Cessnock City FC v Belmont Swansea United SC
Turner Park 1
2.30pm, Sunday 12th July
The middle Sunday match sees Cessnock City and Belmont Swansea United kick off at 2.30pm at Turner Park as the Belswans continue their streak of strong performances in important matches.
Cessnock City has dropped to the bottom of the table after a defeat at the hands of the Stags and now must turn it around of risk being locked to the wooden spoon as the end of the season looms ever closer.
Only two wins and four draws have collected their points so far, and Belmont Swansea will be eager to deliver the home team their eleventh defeat of a forgetful season.
Belmont Swansea meanwhile have made a surge up the table, leapfrogging Cooks Hill and coming within a single point of the finals. This massive turn-around for the team has seen them lose only to Lake Macquarie City in the last five weeks, and the team is running red-hot as the finals appear on the horizon.
Paul Matthews, Belmont Swansea’s coach, believes that the side can go all the way if they keep the strong results coming, especially if they take a win on the road against Cessnock.
“The team has gelled in together now and it took a while to come to grips with the way that we were playing,” he said.
“Over the last six or seven games they seem to have picked them up well. We were good earlier but now we seem that we can score goals now too and they’re all putting in.”
“We now have to take each game on its merits and we have to go out and deliver. I really believe that if this side gets the attitude going then we could make it. If we get there it’s amazing, we’ve proved that we can get there.”
Turner Park could be the grounds where United prove that they deserve to be the in finals once again, and if Matthew’s team can back up the 2014 finals showing with a dominant second half of the 2015 season then the side may be looking to shoot even higher in the seasons to come.
Singleton SC v Kahibah FC
3.15pm, Sunday 12th July
The final match of the weekend sees Kahibah welcome the Singleton Strikers to Kahibah Oval as the two teams look to improve their position on the ladder.
Singleton comes to the game off the back of a decisive victory over Cooks Hill, a win that might have inadvertently helped Kahibah keep their finals position for another week.
The Strikers are making their way up the table after a slow start to the season, with five wins and two draws giving them seventeen points, while seven losses in their 14 games have halted any further progress for the team.
Kahibah meanwhile are in a strong position for their first season in the NEWFM 1st Division. Still holding a game over Wallsend – the third placed side – Kahibah has won seven games and drawn four so far, losing three matches to collect 25 points.
If Andre Gumprecht’s side can continue their strong defensive performances on the pitch, especially against Singleton this weekend, then they may be able to hold their finals spot as Belmont Swansea and Cooks Hill both loom over the fourth place, and a series of wins might even put the newly promoted side into third place and a more favourable finals draw.
The match is a crucial one for both sides, but more than that it could determine the fates of many of the mid-table teams. If Singleton can take a win over Kahibah then the last spot in the finals is up for grabs for many of the sides in the battle, while a Kahibah victory could put the finals out of reach for Cooks Hill, the Belswans and more.