Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United FC v Cooks Hill United FC
Sunday, May 29, 2.30pm
Belmont Swansea coach Brad Paul wants a repeat of last week’s performance as his fourth-place side look to keep pace with the leaders with a win over Cooks Hill United in the NEWFM First Division Match of the Round on Sunday at Blacksmiths Oval.
Belswans beat Cooks Hill 5-1 in their first encounter and are backing up from a 3-2 win over then-leaders Lake Macquarie last week.
The victory left them just two points off a three-way tie on points at the top of the table.
Paul said his side produced some of their best football of the year at both ends of the pitch against the Roosters.
“I thought first half we really dominated and it was probably one of our better performances,” Paul said.
“The second half we sat back a little bit and let them into the game, which is always a scary thing.”
“But in the end, defensively we weren’t too bad, only conceding one goal from open play against them. I was pretty happy.”
“I thought we nullified their attack well all day. We had a game plan to catch them with a bit of pace and I think that worked for us pretty well.”
Paul said skipper Joel Shearer was excellent in his return from injury and his squad will be further boosted against Cooks Hill by the addition of Corey Wilson, who is back from holidays.
“There’s no real injuries and we will probably start with the same line up as last week,” he said.
Paul was keen for his side to stay with the leaders in what looms as an exciting top-four battle for the premiership.
“It’s pretty tight and it’s a good competition this year,” he said.
“I think they are all capable of beating each other on their day, and that’s good.”
Cooks Hill will be desperate to bounce back after two poor performances. After a shock 3-1 loss to Singleton, Cooks Hill went down 6-1 to Kahibah last week and they sit seventh on 13 points.
Toronto Awaba FC v Lake Macquarie City FC
Saturday, May 28, 2.30pm
Lyall Peacock Field
Lake Macquarie coach Anthony Richards will ask his side to start with more intensity against Toronto Awaba at Lyall Peacock Field on Saturday after their lacklustre first half proved costly against Belmont Swansea last week.
The Roosters gave up the outright lead on the ladder with a 3-2 loss to Belswans in which they trailed 2-0 at half-time. They now sit second on 25 points, behind Kahibah on goal difference but ahead of Wallsend, who are also on 25.
Richards said his squad were full strength, apart from injured skipper Tom Walker, but were “just a little slow out of the blocks” against Belswans.
He was hoping for a sharper start against the Stags, who they beat 6-0 first time around.
“We lacked enthusiasm in the first half and didn’t really start well at all,” Richards said.
“We weren’t really in the contest.”
“It was a bit of a dull game in the first half, apart from their two wonderful goals. It wasn’t until the second half that we got started and got a roll on.”
“We were comfortable in the second half with the way we played. We were a lot better and created some chances, but if you give good sides two goals start, you’re up against it.”
Richards said his side were injury free and Walker was likely another week away from a return to first grade after recovering from a broken wrist.
Stags coach Tony Jovcevski said his side would “have to just keep battling on” after another heavy loss last week.
Toronto Awaba went down 6-1 to Wallsend to continue a horror run since a 0-0 draw with Belswans in round six. The Stags have conceded 32 goals in six losses, including the defeat to Lake Macquarie, and scored only five goals since earning their last competition point.
They are second last on seven points.
West Wallsend SFC v Kahibah FC
Saturday, May 28, 4pm
Kahibah player-coach Andre Gumprecht expects his league-leading side to keep improving as their two new additions settle in ahead of the match with West Wallsend at Johnston Park on Saturday.
Gumprecht’s team went to the top of the table on goal difference with a 6-1 win over Cooks Hill last week and are now on a four-game winning streak.
Former Edgeworth under-22 players Riley Ferguson and Brandon Hayes debuted last week for Kahibah, who parted ways with midfielder Daniel Bartlett and have Jayden Demir sidelined with a hamstring tear.
Ferguson was impressive in midfield in the win last week, while defender Hayes played under-23s.
Gumprecht believed both would boost his squad.
“Our new players Riley Ferguson and Brandon Hayes are getting more and more used to our game philosophy and weekly game plans,” Gumprecht said.
“They are great young boys who are willing to buy in.”
The Bluebells, meanwhile, have been unbeaten across four games since the loss to Kahibah and moved to fifth on 15 points with a 1-0 win over South Cardiff last week.
Gary Rowe’s side get back the services of centre-back Michael Baillie from suspension and Kieran Sasim from injury to replace Jarryd Jones (holidays) and Sam Holt (work).
Rowe was disappointed with his side’s conversion rate in front of goals but impressed with their resolve at the back without Baillie against the Gunners.
“The best thing for me was that we defended really well,” Rowe said.
“We didn’t put [goalkeeper] Tyler Warren under too much pressure at all.”
Thornton Redbacks FC v Singleton Strikers FC
Sunday, May 29, 2.30pm
In-form Singleton are keen to return the favour on Thornton Redbacks ahead of their FFA Cup battle when they travel to Thornton Park on Sunday.
Thornton thumped the Strikers 4-1 on a muddy Howe Park in round seven amid a purple patch of form for the Redbacks, who return from the bye this week in sixth place on 15 points.
Singleton, meanwhile, are aiming for a fourth win on the trot and an early psychological edge over Thornton, who they were drawn to play in the Northern NSW last eight of the FFA Cup on June 18 at Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility.
“I’m going to turn our attention to the FFA Cup over the next couple of weeks, but we’re looking forward to going to toe to toe with Thornton,” Singleton coach David Willoughby said.
“They gave us a bit of a smacking last time up here so we’re really focused on doing well there on Sunday.”
Willoughby’s side defeated Cessnock City 6-1 last week for a hat-trick of wins, which have lifted the Strikers to eighth on 12 points.
Ryan Hartwell remains sidelined with a calf injury but Willoughby said Singleton were otherwise full strength and working hard.
“We are changing our shape to allow us to get more in the attacking third,” he said.
“Hopefully that will help us take a higher percentage of the chances we are creating.”
“We continue to work hard and the effort is now being rewarded. The players deserve the results achieved over the last three weeks and we’re looking forward to Sunday’s game against a very well-coached Thornton side.”
Thornton coach Darrel McAllister expected to have his full squad back on board after an injury plagued first half of the year.
Despite missing key players like striker Jamie Subat and keeper Mick Hugo for several matches, Thornton are sixth on 15 points, behind West Wallsend on goal difference, and eight points shy of the top four. They beat Cessnock City 2-1 before the bye.
South Cardiff FC v Cessnock City FC
Sunday, May 29, 2.30pm
Cessnock City will be without senior players Jeremie Morton and Anthony Bower but boosted by news of two signings ahead of the clash with South Cardiff on Sunday at Ulinga Oval.
Morton, the Hornets’ leading scorer, and Bower are out with injury for the last-placed side, who this week signed former West Wallsend midfielder Kyle Clarke and ex-Weston striker Max Wallington.
Coach Steve Thomson said the pair registered on Wednesday but not in time to play this weekend.
“Max played for Weston a few years ago but hasn’t played for a couple of years,” Thomson said.
“He played a trial game with us against Weston last year and scored a couple of goals.”
The recruits will be welcomed by the Hornets, who have just four points and have lost their past four games.
They went down 6-1 to Singleton last week and lost by the same score line to West Wallsend and Lake Macquarie.
South Cardiff are just four points better than the Hornets on the ladder and have lost their past three matches, although the margins have been a lot closer.
The Gunners went down 1-0 to West Wallsend last week, which followed a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Lake Macquarie.
Coach Andrew Packer was encouraged by wins in the lower grades last week but lamented a shortage of senior players in first grade.
“We were full strength but the problem is we probably need another three or four good quality players to push people in the team,” Packer said.
“That’s part of our problem, but I was pretty happy to get two wins across the four teams.
“We’ll just get back to training and sort some defensive issues out and go from there.”
Packer said he had “three or four” injury concerns this week but was hopeful of having everyone available for the home game.
Wallsend FC – Bye