Match of the Round
Kahibah FC v Wallsend FC
Sunday, May 8, 2.30pm
Rival coaches Josh Rufo and Andre Gumprecht are preparing their squads for their biggest test yet when Wallsend take on Kahibah in the NEWFM First Division match of the round at Kahibah Oval on Sunday.
Rufo’s Wallsend side defeated Singleton Strikers on Wednesday night 3-1 at Howe Park in a catch-up match to move to second place on 19 points from eight games. A win over Kahibah will move them to equal first with Lake Macquarie, who have the bye, on 22 points, although the Roosters have a far better for and against goal record.
First-half goals from David Hodgson and Isaac Reeves put Wallsend in front on Wednesday night before Singleton pulled one back with 15 minutes remaining. Trent Milton scored soon after for the Red Devils to put the result beyond doubt.
Rufo said the performance was much better than their effort in a 1-1 draw against South Cardiff last weekend. The win was achieved without five players from Wallsend’s regular line-up, giving Rufo a welcomed selection headache for the game against Kahibah.
Rufo was looking forward to having a full-strength side against Gumprecht’s men.
”I think this will be our strongest test yet,” Rufo said.
“Andre has played at the highest level and he has them well-drilled. They are a good side.”
Gumprecht scored an injury-time winner to save Kahibah in a 3-2 victory over Singleton last week.
The result and performance continued an inconsistent run from Kahibah, who lost 3-1 to Thornton and 3-2 to Lake Macquarie either side of a 4-0 win over West Wallsend before the lucky escape against the Strikers. They sit fourth on 16 points from eight games.
Gumprecht said he had “all players on board to play the best team in the comp”.
West Wallsend SFC v Cessnock City FC
Saturday, May 7, 4pm
West Wallsend will be called on to stick to the game plan when they clash with Cessnock City at Johnston Park on Saturday.
The Bluebells drew 1-1 with Cooks Hill last week in an encouraging result for Gary Rowe’s side, who are seventh on nine points from nine games.
Goalkeeper Tyler Warren was a standout for Rowe, who was happy to take a point on the road against Cooks Hill but not with his side’s performance.
Rowe said his side played too direct and went away from instructions to keep possession and play through the thirds.
“If they execute the game plan, we win the game,” Rowe said.
As well as strategies, Rowe also has headaches when it comes to injuries and selections.
Kieran Sasim pulled out with a groin injury in the warm-up last week and will have a question mark over his fitness, while Dom Langowski made a surprise return from a broken foot against Cooks Hill.
“He played the last half hour and he seemed to come through it unscathed which is nice,” Rowe said of Langowski.
“They said he could play depending on how the pain was, and he said it felt OK. He didn’t play very well when he was out there, so it might be in the back of his mind. We’ll have to see how he pulls up this week.”
Rowe, though, said “we’re getting a few more players back on deck”.
“Cam Aspinall has had some time in 23s, so he should be right to come back in the next couple of weeks.
“I think we should have just about everyone right to go hopefully after the bye next week.”
Cessnock City lost 6-1 to high-flyers Lake Macquarie last week after producing the upset of the season in a 3-2 win over then-leaders Belmont Swansea.
Sam Garaty was sent off late in the loss last week for a second yellow card. Coach Steve Thomson said Connor Hayden would come into the side for Garaty.
The Hornets are 10th on four points from eight games.
Belmont Swansea United FC v South Cardiff FC
Sunday, May 8, 2.30pm
Belmont Swansea coach Brad Paul expects an improvement from his side against South Cardiff at Blacksmiths Oval on Sunday after an intense week on the training paddock following their first loss of the season.
Belswans lost the competition lead with a shock 3-2 defeat to Cessnock in round eight and return from the bye in third place on 17 points from eight games.
Paul believed his side were ready to bounce back.
“The team was obviously disappointed after the Cessnock game, more in the way they played than the result itself,” Paul said.
“They thought Cessnock played well and took their chances.
“The bye came at a good time. We’re back training and the schedule last week let players manage a few niggles.
“As a result, training this week has been intense to say the least.”
Paul said Belswans missed the influence and direction of Fletcher Price against Cessnock and would welcome him back for the start of a testing part of the season.
“The boys are focused and motivated for a big four to five weeks of hard games and eager to compete with about 16 players vying for those 11 places in the starting side.
“South Cardiff pose a considerable challenge with a solid defensive record. It’s a challenge our boys are more than ready to accept.”
Gunners coach Andrew Packer was hopeful of his side “getting on a run” of good results after holding defending major premiers Wallsend to a 1-1 draw last week. South Cardiff sit eighth with eight points from eight games.
“The guys did well against Wallsend,” Packer said.
“They’ve been pretty good for the last few weeks so it was good to get a result and hopefully we can kick on from here.
“We’ve just got to back it up now week to week, and if we put in those performances, we’ll have a good crack and try to put ourselves in the finals race.
“If we play like that every week, we should get a few wins.”
Singleton Strikers FC v Toronto Awaba FC
Sunday, May 8, 2.30pm
Singleton will take encouragement from two solid performances against leading sides this week when they look for their first win of the season on Sunday against Toronto Awaba at Howe Park.
The Strikers equalised with Kahibah last round in the 90th minute before losing 3-2 in injury time. They then backed up against defending major premiers Wallsend on Wednesday night in a catch-up game and were in the contest at 2-1 down with 15 minutes to play.
A late goal gave Wallsend a 3-1 win but Singleton coach David Willoughby was pleased with the effort.
“We went well last night,” Willoughby said on Thursday.
“All players came through the game and are available for Sunday versus Toronto. There’s no team changes from the starting 11 from last night, however we might adjust our shape this week.”
Singleton have three points from eight games and are last. Toronto Awaba have seven points from eight games and lost 6-2 to Thornton last week.
Despite the final scoreline, the Stags led twice against Thornton and coach Tony Jovcevski was critical of only their failure to clear the ball at the back when under pressure.
“All we’re lacking is that experience,” Jovcevski said.
“The performance was 100 per cent better than we had the previous week against Westy.
“Our finishing was probably 50 per cent better, and our commitment and determination was right up there as well, it was just a lack of leadership at the back.
“They are only young guys and if we had an experienced head in there, it would have turned things around.”
Thornton Redbacks FC v Cooks Hill United FC
Sunday, May 8, 2.30pm
Cooks Hill coach Blake Glennie will continue to balance development with the push for results when his side take on in-form Thornton Redbacks at Thornton Park on Sunday.
After a promising start to his first season as coach, Glennie has seen Cooks Hill slip to sixth with 10 points from eight games after a draw last week against West Wallsend, which followed losses to Lake Macquarie and Belswans.
The new-look Cooks Hill side scored 17 goals in four games to start the year but have managed just four across their past four matches.
Glennie said the scoring slump was frustrating because “we’re playing good and creating chances” but he was happy with how his side were developing.
The rookie coach said he was focused on the bigger picture and long-term success of the club.
“We had a 15-year-old, Ben Frohlich, make his starting debut for us on the weekend. He’s a good young player and did really well for us,” Glennie said.
”My mentality with Cooks Hill from the outset this year was, while we want to win games, I’m trying to build a team for next year.
“And we’re starting to play some good football now and things might come together, and we’ll be right up there.
“I realise it’s a cut-throat business, but my focus now is not winning at all cost, it’s more setting up a team and getting a structure right for next year.
“In saying that, I’m happy with how we’re playing and when we get a little bit of luck, I’m sure we’ll go up the ladder.”
He said Mal Hinchliffe and Jack O’Toole were among his best players last week and he expected no changes to his line-up.
Thornton, meanwhile, jumped ahead of Cooks Hill into fifth place last week with a 6-2 win over Toronto Awaba. The victory was the third in a row and fourth in five games for Thornton, who have 12 points from eight games and are now just four points outside the top four.
Lake Macquarie City FC – Bye