By Isaac McIntyre
Match of the Round
Cooks Hill United FC v West Wallsend SFC
Newcastle Athletics Field
2.30pm, Saturday, 2nd May
The Match of the Round for the NewFM 1st Division’s Round 9 kicks off at the Newcastle Athletics Field, where Cooks Hill United are set to welcome West Wallsend to the field for a clash that could change both teams’ fates.
Both sides have had their games from last weekend delayed after the massive storm that hit Newcastle halted most of the matches from that weekend, and the two teams now look to use the weekend off as a springboard to return to winning form.
Cooks Hill sit in fifth place in the season, have taken a spread of two wins, two losses and two draws, and they now sit on eight points, five behind fourth placed West Wallsend.
Although the margin is more than a single win, Cooks Hill also hold a game in hand over the fourth placed team, and if they can defeat Gary Rowe’s outfit, they could come within two points of a finals place that they have been fighting for all season.
West Wallsend have had a mixed bag of results recently as well, going four games undefeated before falling to Wallsend and Valentine two weekends in a row. Four wins, a draw and the two losses have given West Wallsend 13 points and a place in the top four.
However, if West Wallsend’s defence fail to contain Cooks Hill’s Peter Pryce, who has been on fire in front of goals for the newly promoted side, the away team could be in trouble.
“We have to focus on the attack that we’ve been developing,” Cooks Hill Warren Spink agreed.
“If we can push West Wallsend and put them on the back foot early then I think that we can take the advantage and take the three points. We have to attack, and we have to win.”
Gary Rowe’s side was already slated to have the weekend off with the bye, but now can take advantage of the postponed games that other squads will now face.
“We have to keep winning, and find that form that we had at the start of the season,” Rowe said.
“We’ve been getting lucky, and we need to find a way out of a complacent place that we’ve found ourselves in. If we can’t get out it’s going to come back and it’s going to bite us sooner rather than later.”
“This game gives us a chance to find a better attitude and a better mentality and we have to get more respect for the other performances. If we can’t do that then it’s going to be a lot worse for wear in a few weeks time, and we can’t risk losing the position we’ve carved out for ourselves on the ladder.”
The win could put Cooks Hill within striking range of the West Wallsend position, while a win for West Wallsend could take them as high as second place on the ladder, depending on how results swing in other Round 9 matches.
Valentine FC v Belmont Swansea United SC
Cahill Oval 3.30pm,
Saturday, 2nd May
The second game on Saturday sees Belmont Swansea United travel to Cahill Oval to take on the undefeated Valentine, looking for a chance to give the table leaders their first loss of the season.
Valentine have won five times in the season, drawing only twice, and now sit two points clear on 17, holding onto the top of the table with their dominant performances.
Belmont Swansea meanwhile have had a drop in form in their season, losing four straight after a solid opening with two wins and a draw. Now slipping to seventh place, the Belswans look to fight back to a position on the table they feel shows their skill within the league.
Valentine’s boss Alan Hackett believes that the talent that Valentine possesses can see the side to the end of the season easily, and not just within the first grade.
“Every player within the squad is competing for spots, and everyone has been playing to the top levels,” Hackett stated.
“Our Under 23s squad is topping their competition too, so we have two squads worth of stars to draw on, and the fighting over the 1st Grade has pushed our team even further.”
“I’ve told the other players don’t perform; there’ll be someone behind them so you have to perform and this has put us on top of the table. We’re all playing so well and that has to stay – if that stays, we stay on top of the table.”
Valentine’s dangerous goal scoring forward, Scott McGinley, will also be a threat against Belswans’ defence, and the away side will need to lock out Scott and his brother Paul McGinley if they have any hope of keeping the score-line in their favour.
After their defeat in the only game to go forward on the washed-out weekend, Belmont Swansea coach Paul Matthews must now turn his focus to stronger performances if he wants to pull the team out of the rut.
“The team is happy with how they’re playing,” Matthews stated.
“The football we’ve been playing has been good, but we’re not finishing and that’s making us suffer. The team has to make sure that we’re getting involved, we have to make sure that we’re crossing and putting the ball into the back of the net.”
A win for Belmont Swansea could change their fortunes for the better, and halt Valentine’s strong blaze up the table, but the team will have to play to their full potential and find the back of the net to cause the upset that all other teams are looking to in the round.
Singleton SC v Toronto Awaba FC
2.30pm, Sunday 3rd May
Singleton will play against Toronto Awaba this weekend when the 1st Grade match kicks off at Howe Park at 2.30pm.
Singleton have won only once in the season, with a close victory over Cessnock City over a month ago, but since they have suffered only losses with five defeats to their name. Singleton sit in ninth place on goal difference.
Toronto Awaba have remained rooted to the bottom of the table, struggling to put points on the board with strong performances that they’ve been bringing every weekend.
The Stags have lost five times in the season so far, with their only three points coming from a win over their bottom of the table rivals the Redbacks. Although they have won only once, the Stags have had good outings in the games that they have lost too, with many coaches praising Tony Jovcevski’s outfit.
A win from either of the teams will put them above the pack which is currently stuck at the bottom of the table, and Singleton will be hoping that Lloyd Wakewood will be able to carry his form from last game into the clash this weekend.
Wakewood put two past Wallsend’s keeper in the game, shining as he picked apart a strong defence from the team, but Singleton’s Scott Bailie will be looking to him to keep up the scoring form.
The game is set to be a close affair, with both teams in need of the three points to begin to climb the ladder, and both the Stags’ Jovcevski and Singleton’s Scott Bailie will be looking to lead their respective teams to glory in the match.
Wallsend FC v Kahibah FC
2.30pm, Sunday 3rd May
Wallsend welcome Kahibah to The Gardens for their game on Sunday afternoon, where Wallsend set their eyes on the first place position of the league.
The home team have won five games in the season so far, and sit behind Valentine by two points because of their two losses in their record. After two big losses to Valentine and Lake Macquarie in the first two rounds, Wallsend have yet to drop a game and have claimed 15 points from the five matches.
Kahibah have also found recent form, with boss Andre Gumprecht tinkering with the tactics of the team and leading them to a streak of remaining undefeated since the first round of the league. Many of these games have been draws however, and the team sits in sixth place with eight points, five points away from a finals position.
“To prove that we deserve to be here in the finals positions we have to keep winning,” Wallsend coach Josh Rufo stated.
“There is no excuse for dropping points while we’re playing like this, and we’ve been focusing on areas that we’ve been dropping off from lately.”
“Again, not much is going to change because we don’t really think we need to fix what isn’t broken. There’ll be fitness and the usual training but the boys have been good in the last few matches and they need to do the same things again.”
“Of course, we have been making mistakes because every team has, but we’re just making sure that once they’re made they’re gone. There is no room for silly trip-ups if we’re looking to fight for promotion.”
The game kicks off at 2.30pm, and with both teams possibly being the most in form attack and defence in the league, it will be a close game – both teams have the possibility of taking the three points that are vital to their season.
Thornton Redbacks FC v Lake Macquarie City FC
2.30pm, Sunday 3rd May
Thornton Redbacks host the final game of the NewFM 1st Division, when this side welcomes Lake Macquarie City to Thornton Park.
The Redbacks have had a series of problems in their first games of the season, having played five matches, and lost four. Their only win also came from a win over Cessnock City more than a month ago, before City began to turn their season’s fortunes around.
Last game saw Lake Macquarie fall to Valentine in their first loss of the season, falling behind the frontrunners by four points, however still hold a game in hand. Apart from the loss, Barry Ross has lead Lakes to four wins and a draw in the season, sitting on a tied 13 points with West Wallsend.
Ross is focused on taking back the top place on the ladder after losing to Valentine in Round 7, and understands that if he is to achieve this he has to keep winning.
“As long as we win our next two or three, including this game, we can take them back over when they come up with the bye. If results go our way in their games before that, all the better, but all that we can do is keep winning,” he said.
“I don’t think that our last loss last week will affect our performance,” he added.
“If anything the loss will pull our boys back and it’s going to drive us on for better performances in the future.”
The Redbacks will be hard pressed to keep out the Lake Macquarie scoring stars, including the Walker brothers that haven’t been injured, but if Ross’ outfit can’t bring their best game to the table the last match of the weekend could result in an upset that will shift the table for weeks to come.
Cessnock City FC Bye