Match of the Round
Lake Macquarie City FC v Cooks Hill United FC
Sunday, April 24, 2.30pm
In-form Lake Macquarie welcome back utility Dan Walker from injury for the NEWFM First Division Match of the Round against Cooks Hill at Macquarie Field on Sunday.
Walker did not miss a game for the Roosters last year, in their second-placed effort, but has played only one game this year because of a hamstring problem.
The midfielder/defender last played in the scoreless draw with West Wallsend a month ago and coach Anthony Richards expects him to return against Cooks Hill this weekend.
“He’s been out a few weeks with a hamstring but he’ll be back,” Richards said.
“He’s another good player for us, so it will be good to have him back against Cooks Hill.”
Skipper Tom Walker, who has a broken wrist, is the only major absentee for a Lake Macquarie side that is in outstanding form.
The Roosters have scored 23 goals in four wins since the stalemate with the Bluebells and their 28 goals in seven games is the best in the league.
While Lake Macquarie’s attack, led by Sam Walker and his 10 goals, has been the highlight, Richards said their discipline had also been a key to success.
“That’s one thing we’re trying to pride ourselves on, not having any silly send offs or yellow cards,” he said.
“The discipline side of things is going really well.”
Lake Macquarie are second on 16 points from seven games and have stamped themselves as genuine title contenders.
Fifth-placed Cooks Hill, meanwhile, are yet to take a point off a top-four side and are coming off a 5-1 loss to leaders Belmont Swansea.
Coach Blake Glennie said his side would be unchanged.
Singleton Strikers FC v Wallsend FC
Sunday, April 24, 2.30pm
Singleton will be out to rally together at Howe Park on Sunday against a Wallsend side eyeing the top of the ladder by the halfway point of the season.
The Strikers are winless in six matches this year and were beaten 4-1 by an understrength Thornton Redbacks last week at home.
The loss followed the disappointment of conceding a last-minute equaliser to West Wallsend a week earlier.
Coach David Willoughby said after the loss to Thornton that: “Everyone was a bit disappointed with it, we got a bit frustrated with each other and we need to address that.”
Willoughby expected two additions to also help their cause.
“Stuart Plant is back in goal after a one-match suspension and Corey Cleaver returns from leave to strengthen our back four,” he said.
“Ryan Hartwell moves back to midfield. I’m not sure who misses out for Corey at this stage. I’ll make that decision at training.
“Everyone was disappointed with our performance against Thornton and the changes made will help us against Wallsend,” Willoughby concluded.
Wallsend had the bye last week and sit third on the ladder with 15 points from six games. Top two Belmont Swansea (17 points) and Lake Macquarie (16) are yet to have the bye, meaning the Red Devils are on course to lead the table if the trio stay on their winning way.
Wallsend coach Josh Rufo believed his side would top the table after the first series of byes if they continued their form from before their break.
Although scoring only 17 goals, compared to Belswans’ 20, Lake Macquarie’s 28 and Kahibah’s 25, this season, Wallsend have shown their ability to control possession and games in winning their past four matches.
Rufo said his side should be full strength.
West Wallsend SFC v Toronto Awaba FC
Saturday, April 23, 4pm
Toronto Awaba coach Tony Jovcevski expects his side to bounce back against West Wallsend on Saturday at Johnston Park after a reality check last week.
The Stags went down 6-0 to Lake Macquarie after a draw with leaders Belswans, which followed back-to-back wins.
Jovcevski said his line-up were not discouraged by the heavy loss to the Roosters but he believed it would be a “big learning curve for younger players”.
“I think because they had two good wins, then a good draw against the team coming first, some of them thought it was going to be a walk in the park,” Jovcevski said.
“In that sense, we’ll bounce back. Hopefully we’ll have some players back as well,” Jovcevski concluded.
Toronto Awaba sit seventh on seven points from six games, while West Wallsend are ninth on five points from seven matches.
The Bluebells will be without brothers Bryson and Bailey Cox, who were both sent off in the 4-0 loss to Kahibah last week. Top player Tye Jones returns from suspension for West Wallsend but Jarryd Jones is still in doubt with injury.
Coach Gary Rowe was encouraged by the Bluebells’ late fight to concede only one more goal when they went down to nine men last week but he lamented their continued disciplinary problems.
West Wallsend have regularly lost players to red cards this year and although frustrated by some of the calls from officials, Rowe said his side needed to clean up their act.
“We’re getting ourselves in some card trouble for debatable reasons, but we’re bringing some of that on ourselves at times,” Rowe said.
“When we can keep 11 on the park, I think we’re a chance.
“We should have everyone well, except for the send offs and hopefully in the next two weeks we should have pretty much everyone available, which will be nice,” Rowe concluded.
Belmont Swansea United FC v Cessnock City FC
Saturday, April 23, 2.30pm
Belmont Swansea assistant coach Mick Stafford expects the competition for places to keep his league leaders on their toes when they come up against last-placed Cessnock City at Blacksmiths Oval on Saturday.
Belswans hit back from a scoreless draw with Toronto Awaba with a 5-1 win over Cooks Hill last week to remain unbeaten and on top of the table.
Stafford said his team came through the win injury free and would likely be unchanged for the clash with the Hornets.
He believed the club’s good run with injuries and their strong under 23s side, who are second, were helping keep the top squad in form.
“It was just a good team effort and I’m pretty proud of everyone,” Stafford said after the win over Cooks Hill.
“We’ve just got good depth at the club at the moment. We had a full bench in the top two grades and I think it’s showing, the pressure being put on them to perform and keep their spots,” Stafford concluded.
Cessnock City face a tough task on Saturday given their place on the ladder with only one point.
However, coach Steve Thomson is hopeful of a turnaround with one of his strongest line-ups of the season.
Goalkeeper Steve Anderson is out with work commitments and Liam Stephenson is in doubt with a knee problem but Thomson said Cessnock should otherwise “be back to where we want to be”.
Thomson was not happy with the performance in a 2-1 loss to South Cardiff last week, saying “it was the worst I’ve seen us play”.
He said constant turnovers in the muddy conditions hurt his side and he was calling for a sharper effort against Belswans.
Thornton Redbacks FC v Kahibah FC
Sunday, April 24, 2.30pm
Fourth-placed Kahibah will be without influential midfielder Daniel Bartlett when they clash with a Thornton Redbacks side looking for back-to-back wins on Sunday at Thornton Park.
Bartlett was booked in the 4-0 win over West Wallsend last week to bring on a one-game ban on yellow card accumulation.
Bartlett has been one of Kahibah’s best in his first season with the club, which have 13 points from six games.
The news will be welcomed by an understrength Thornton side coming off a 4-1 win over Singleton.
Redbacks coach Darrel McAllister said senior players such as Tallan Martin, Jamie Subat and goalkeeper Mick Hugo remain on the sidelines and his young side would have to improve again against the class of Kahibah.
“We pressed them and were able to pinch a couple of balls to score, but other days, when you play against better backlines, you’re probably not going to get that,” McAllister said after the win over Singleton, which was their second victory of the season.
“You’re going to have to create something and that’s the test for us this week against Kahibah.”
While their weakened attack would have to lift, eighth-placed Thornton also needed to be better at the back.
“We’ve just got to get our backline in order, and we’re pretty close to that,” McAllister said.
“It’s a massive thing. We scored two against Wallsend, but then gave away two pens and gave them another with a backpass.
“There’s not too many teams who have really carved us to pieces, we’ve just gifted goals.
“We’ve probably given away six or seven penalties this year and a lot of them, they are going nowhere. We make a tackle when we don’t have to, and that’s just inexperience.”
South Cardiff FC – Bye