Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United FC v Lake Macquarie City FC
Sunday, May 22, 2.30pm
Belmont Swansea will be sweating on the fitness of key players Joel Shearer and Luke Cook as they try to upset Lake Macquarie for the second time this season in the NEWFM First Division Match of the Round on Sunday at Blacksmiths Oval.
Belswans started the year with a 4-3 win over the strong Lake Macquarie squad and continued the bright beginning to lead the competition up until round seven.
They start the second half of the season in fourth place on 20 points, five behind leaders Lake Macquarie, after a 3-1 loss to Wallsend last week dropped them from second.
Ben Cox, Shearer and Cook missed last week’s game in which Josh Hall was an inspirational figure as the fill-in skipper. Hall played to boost the understrength side despite the passing of his father during the week and he was named Belswans players’ player for his effort.
Assistant coach Mick Stafford said after the loss that his side played with intensity and on emotion in the first half against Wallsend but tired against the experienced line-up in the second.
Head coach Brad Paul said Cox would return from suspension this week against the Roosters, but Cook and captain Shearer remained in doubt because of injury.
“We have a few players struggling with injury and we will have to wait and see what transpires at training,” Paul said.
Lake Macquarie hope to have skipper Tom Walker back in two weeks from a broken wrist but are otherwise full strength for the trip to Blacksmiths.
Corey Fletcher did not finish the 3-2 win over South Cardiff last week because of bad bruising to his leg but coach Anthony Richards expected him to back up on Sunday.
Although Richards was pleased with the performance and effort against the Gunners, the Roosters were fortunate to get away with all three points after trailing 2-1 midway through the second half.
Singleton Strikers FC v Cessnock City FC
Saturday, May 21, 2.30pm
Singleton are likely to be full strength against last-placed Cessnock City when they search for more rewards and a third consecutive victory of the season.
The Strikers upset Cooks Hill 3-1 last week to back up their first win of the year, 4-2 over Toronto Awaba and climb to eighth place on nine points.
Coach David Willoughby believed his side deserved the change in fortune.
“Results hadn’t gone our way,” Willoughby said.
“Lakes gave us a flogging, Belmont Swansea and Thornton, but outside of that, we’ve been competitive.
“It probably doesn’t look that way, but out on the park, that’s how it’s been. So it’s about time the boys started to get the reward for the effort they’ve put in.”
Singleton came out of last week’s win unscathed and were shaping up well for the clash with Cessnock, who had a 1-1 draw with the Strikers to open the season.
“We have trained well and have the same 11 to start in first grade,” Willoughby said.
“We are working hard to continue our recent positive results.”
Cessnock coach Steve Thomson will again call on Shannon Attewell to fill in at goalkeeper after a luckless run with his glovemen. Matt Zechel is suspended and Steve Anderson is out with broken ribs.
Attewell was in goals last week in a 2-1 loss to Thornton, which followed 6-1 defeats to West Wallsend and Lake Macquarie.
Thomson said last week’s match was a lacklustre and even affair in which his side paid the price for conceding two scrappy goals.
Kahibah FC v Cooks Hill United FC
Sunday, May 22, 2.30pm
Kahibah have lost influential midfielder Daniel Bartlett for the rest of the season but welcome back two players from injury for the clash with Cooks Hill United at Kahibah Oval on Sunday.
Bartlett scored four goals in seven games for Kahibah, who he joined this year from Singleton and helped to second place on the ladder on 22 points. They lead Wallsend easily on goal difference with plus 23 and trail leaders Lake Macquarie by three points.
Player-coach Andre Gumprecht said Bartlett was a loss for his side.
“We have mutually agreed to part ways with Daniel Bartlett, who has been great for us,” Gumprecht said.
“Unfortunately he needs some time off due to personal reasons.”
On the positive side, Gumprecht welcomes back Colvin Williams and Brendan Trummel from long-term injuries. Trummel has not featured this year in first grade, while Williams has made one appearance.
Gumprecht said he was “also looking to sign two new players to give the squad some depth for the second half of the season”.
Kahibah are coming off a 6-0 win over a 10-man Toronto Awaba, while Cooks Hill are aiming to bounce back from 3-1 loss to Singleton.
Coach Blake Glennie welcomes back Jack O’Toole, Tom Sparre and Zac Douglas. O’Toole and Sparre were late withdrawals with illness last week and the losses forced a reshuffle of the Cooks Hill line-up.
Glennie said some were forced to play out of position and his side struggled to adjust.
The defeat dropped Cooks Hill to sixth on 13 points, two behind Thornton and seven shy of the top four.
Kahibah thumped Cooks Hill 7-2 when they met in round one.
Wallsend FC v Toronto Awaba FC
Sunday, May 22, 2.30pm
Wallsend are focused on carrying on their second-half form from last week when they meet struggling Toronto Awaba at The Gardens on Sunday.
The Red Devils trailed 1-0 at half-time against Belmont Swansea last week but dominated the second half to win 3-1.
The result lifted them to third place on 22 points, behind Kahibah on goal difference, and only three points off the premiership pace.
Coach Josh Rufo was pleased with the second-half performance after a 3-1 loss to Kahibah and 1-1 draw with South Cardiff in their previous two games.
“The second half was probably our best patch of football over the last couple of weeks,” Rufo said.
“I think that will add a bit more confidence to the group. It was a good result.”
Rufo expected no changes to his full-strength side for the Stags clash.
Toronto Awaba lost 4-1 to Wallsend to start the season and will be keen to turn around their defensive effort after conceding 26 goals in their past five matches, which have all been defeats.
Stags coach Tony Jovcevski was encouraged by the effort last week against Kahibah, who led 1-0 on the hour mark when Toronto Awaba’s Caleb Prebble was given a second yellow card. From there, Kahibah poured on the goals for a 6-0 win.
Jovcevski said his side continued to push forward in attack after losing Prebble, which exposed them at the back.
Prebble will be suspended against Wallsend and Jovcevski said he expected to make more changes to his line-up in the search for results.
South Cardiff FC v West Wallsend SFC
Sunday, May 22, 2.30pm
West Wallsend will be without senior centre-back Michael Baillie when they resume from the bye against South Cardiff at Ulinga Oval on Sunday.
The Bluebells are seventh on 12 points halfway through the season and have a full-strength side apart from the loss of Baillie to suspension on card accumulation.
Coach Gary Rowe said Baillie would be a “tough one to replace”.
“I was looking forward to having everyone on board for the first time this year but unfortunately Michael is out,” Rowe said.
“He’s been probably our best defender this year so it will be a tough one to change and I’m not sure what we will do just yet.
“The break was really good, though. Everyone is carrying some sort of niggle this time of the year so we gave them a week off from training and I expect them to come back refreshed and ready to go.”
Rowe said his side would go through the hardest part of the draw over the next five weeks and the results “would sink us or hold us in good stead” in their push for a finals place.
West Wallsend won the round-one clash with South Cardiff 3-2 and have had a better run than the first division newcomers to sit four points clear of them.
The Gunners are ninth on eight points and are coming off an encouraging but ultimately disappointing result against leaders Lake Macquarie.
South Cardiff led 2-1 midway through the second half via long-range strikes from Liam Copetti and Cameron Herring but the Roosters struck late to win 3-2.
Coach Andrew Packer did not expect any changes to his side this week.
Thornton Redbacks FC – Bye