Semi Final 1
Kahibah FC v Valentine FC
2.30pm, Saturday 15th August
With the regular season now over, the first of the semi-finals kicks off at Kahibah Oval, with fourth placed Kahibah taking the first home game as they play against Valentine in the first of the two playoff games they will be battling in.
Kahibah had a great first season after their promotion to the NEWFM 1st Division, losing only five times out of their 20 games. Many of their battles went to draws however, and they collected six of their points through locked games.
Their surge came with nine strong wins however, and Coach Andre Gumprecht’s focus of “tactically sound and technically strong football” paid off in the 2015 season.
Although a lot of the games resulted in the draws, Kahibah’s concession in front of their own goals are the second lowest in the top four, and that will be their focus of the semi-finals as they fight over the two legs to defeat the new NEWFM 1st Division Premiers.
Valentine dropped the ball in their 20 games only twice, losing six points from those two defeats, but two draws also saw them lose another four points, with these games dropping them a total of ten points all up.
Regardless, 16 strong wins coupled with their draws saw them eight points clear above Lake Macquarie City – the other favourites of the season after City dropped from the PS4 National Premier Leagues in 2014.
Kahibah needs to take the win here at home, and keep the McGinley brothers from doing what they do best – scoring goals. If Kahibah can silence the second placed side in their home match then they can go into the crucial second leg away from home able to defend and control the match.
Valentine will want exactly the opposite. A flood of goals at Kahibah Oval means that when the team returns to their home field next weekend they can simply play their goal scoring game and keep Kahibah from locking down.
If Kahibah needs to play catch-up in the second leg then Valentine may have the Grand Final appearance locked up before they even play the second leg of the Semi Finals.
Neither of these se Semi Finals in the first leg are to be missed, but Valentine and Kahibah is definitely a game you want to get a front row seat for at Kahibah Oval – goal scoring and technical prowess clash in a match that means so much to both sides.
Semi Final 2
Wallsend FC v Lake Macquarie City FC
2.30pm, Sunday 16th August
The second match of the first leg playoffs in the Semi Finals will be on Sunday afternoon at The Gardens, with Wallsend taking on second placed Lake Macquarie City.
Wallsend came within a hair’s breadth of second place in the season, which could have given them the important home game second in the playoffs, but Lake Macquarie’s massive goal difference meant that being level on points meant nothing for the home team.
Wallsend’s season was either black or white in their games however, with 14 wins and six losses, but a failure to claw back draws if they dropped in their games.
Lake Macquarie meanwhile lost four games and drew three matches, winning less than Wallsend but claiming the same amount of points – 42.
Lakes will be disappointed that they couldn’t keep up with Valentine in the last weeks of the season and dropped eight points behind, but overall Barry Ross will be happy with the side’s season as they establish themselves as one of the top teams in the league against all other sides.
Notably, Wallsend and Lake Macquarie played each other in two big games in the season, with the clash in the league seeing Wallsend take four goals and still losing to Lake Macquarie’s strong nine goal performance.
The second time they faced off, four months later, Wallsend lost once again and Lakes took all three points, but this time it was only a one goal margin, with Wallsend putting one behind and Lake Macquarie taking goals off the boots of Brad York and leading goalscorer Sam Walker.
Sam Walker has been the defining factor in Lake Macquarie’s massive goal scoring record, with 71 goals scored for the second placed team this season, and 38 goals came from Sam Walker and his pinpoint accuracy.
Also in the top five however was Sam’s brother Tom Walker, who bagged 13 goals of his own, and the two brothers will be the main focus of Wallsend’s defence if they want to keep the score line closer to the second July clash between the two teams, instead of the March 13-goal shoot out.
Lake Macquarie’s Barry Ross doesn’t feel that the side’s tactics need to be changed coming into the playoff rounds, but knows that “the last 20 games are in the past now”.
“There won’t be all that many changes, all we have to concentrate on is our concentration in defence and the manner that we control defence. The two goals that we conceded when we played against Kahibah last weekend felt like we could have stopped them, so we have to make sure we’re stopping goals in the finals.”
“Defensive execution is pretty important and even though it’s the away leg we have to score goals, we can’t sit back and let them control the tempo. The away goals are going to be pretty important in the finals so we have to maintain our attacking style and look to score a few goals over there.”
If Wallsend are to find a chance at breaking down Lakes’ defence it will be between the sticks, with the travelling team’s already-second choice keeper now out with an ACL injury from last weekend, meaning that it’s Kannon Ford heading for the hospital and Matthew Guest stepping up for the final games.
With the pressure on for the 23s keeper, it now will be crucial for him to bring the same performances that he did early in the season as a back-up keeper, and if Guest can couple a great performance with the Walkers’ attacking prowess, Wallsend may have a battle on their hands that they’ll be climbing a mountain to win.
The home field advantage at The Gardens cannot be understated however, and with Lake Macquarie travelling away from home Wallsend will be looking to keep both a clean sheet and put a few goals past Guest and his defensive line.
The second of two Semi Final first legs is set to be a great game as well, with both teams out to prove that they deserve to be in the Grand Final of the competition. With only one able to go through however, Wallsend and Lake Macquarie are going to have to bring their absolute best as they battle for the title of the best team in the league.
This is not to be a game to be missed, and will be too close to call as the whistle signals the kick off on Sunday afternoon at The Gardens.