Match of the Round
Cooks Hill United FC v Wallsend FC
Saturday, June 4, 2.30pm
Newcastle Athletics Field
New coach David Hodgson said Wallsend will turn to their experienced players as they pick up the pieces after losing coach Josh Rufo and centre-back Daniel Rufo ahead of the NEWFM First Division Match of the Round against Cooks Hill on Saturday at Newcastle Athletics Field.
The Rufos quit the club last Sunday and leading scorer Hodgson has been installed as caretaker coach for the rest of the season.
Hodgson, who will have help from another senior player, Chris Gazzard and lower-grade coaches, will make his coaching debut when the fourth-placed Red Devils resume from the bye in fourth place on 25 points against Cooks Hill.
Hodgson said he had thought about one day coaching but the opportunity had come sooner than expected.
He believed the club’s strong core of former National Premier League/State League players would help them “pick up the pieces and move on”.
“We’ll be looking to rely on those experienced guys,” Hodgson said.
“We’ve got guys who have played a lot of games and have a lot of football knowledge, so we’ll be relying on that to push on for the rest of the year.”
The loss of Daniel Rufo and suspension of fellow centre-back Cameron Hughes will also stretch Wallsend’s defensive stocks.
“We’ve got a couple of talented kids in the lower grades but we’ve also got some utility players in the team who can play a few positions, so we’ll probably look at doing that,” Hodgson said.
The Red Devils will also be without Gocha Abshilava, who is suspended after being sent off for violent conduct in the 6-1 win over Toronto Awaba in round 12.
Cooks Hill, who are seventh on 13 points, have had their own challenges in recent weeks.
After losing 3-1 to Singleton in round 11, coach Blake Glennie laid down the law to his side and demanded an improvement in attitude. The following week they lost 6-1 to Kahibah and Glennie made wholesale changes to his side for the game against Belmont Swansea, which they lost 3-1.
Despite the defeat, Glennie saw a turnaround in attitude, which he said was highlighted by the performances of under-19 midfielders Asher Beasley and Milan Lettau.
“There were a few issues, so I made five changes and I got the result I wanted,” Glennie said.
“People had a go. It was a really young team and I couldn’t have been happier with the effort.
“Hopefully we can go on now and repeat the effort and get a few wins.”
Singleton Strikers FC v South Cardiff FC
Sunday, June 5, 2.30pm
Singleton are battling illness and sweating on the fitness of German wing back Matthias Franz ahead of their clash with a hurting South Cardiff squad at Howe Park on Sunday.
Franz has a hamstring injury from the 2-1 loss to Thornton last Sunday which ended Singleton’s winning streak at three games. He did not train Tuesday night and coach David Willoughby said he was “very doubtful” for the Gunners clash.
Franz and UK imports Keiron Burrell and Sam Ford have helped the Strikers get off the bottom of the ladder to now sit eighth on 12 points.
Willoughby said Ryan Hartwell remains sidelined with injury, while others have battled illness this week.
“We have had a virus run through the playing group this week and Zane Hand and Derek English have work commitments,” he said.
“We are light on numbers at training. The guys who can train, we are preparing light ball-work sessions for them.
“At this stage I plan to start the same 11 as last week, however that will not be confirmed until Sunday morning.
“The players are still highly motivated and are looking to bounce straight back on Sunday against South Cardiff.”
Willoughby said the effort against Thornton last week was sensational but the bounce of the ball went against his side, who drew 1-1 with South Cardiff in round three.
The Gunners, who are ninth on nine points, are reeling after a 4-4 draw with Cessnock last week in which the Hornets scored in the final minute.
Coach Andrew Packer hoped his young side could learn from their mistakes and bounce back against Singleton.
“The guys were devastated, and we’ve had quite a few of those games,” Packer said.
“We’re creating chances but just not taking them, but we haven’t come across a team who have really dominated us.
“We’re so close to taking that next step, but we’re still very young. Hopefully they’ll learn a lot this year and they’ll be better for next year.”
Packer will look to Josh Casey, who scored twice last week, to lead the way in attack.
“Josh should have had four or five, but in saying that, he was excellent,” he said. “His work-rate and speed are great and he’s got a great touch and strike.
“He usually plays as a No.10 but I asked him to play a bit higher and he did really well. He got into some good goal-scoring positions, which was good to see.”
Toronto Awaba FC v Cessnock City FC
Sunday, June 5, 2.30pm
Lyall Peacock Field
Cessnock are hoping to get back senior players from injury as they look to build on their encouraging draw with South Cardiff in the battle of the cellar dwellers with Toronto Awaba on Sunday at Lyall Peacock Field.
Thanks to a double from Wade Attewell, including a last-minute goal, the Hornets drew 4-4 with the Gunners for just their fifth point of the season.
Last-placed Cessnock pulled off the result despite the absence of leading scorer Jeremie Morton, defenders Josh and Anthony Bower and goalkeeper Steve Anderson through injury. Coach Steve Thomson said he would have to check later in the week on the fitness of the quartet, who are carrying shoulder, back, ankle and rib injuries respectively.
Regardless, Cessnock will be on a high after last week’s result, which included stunning long-range strikes from recent addition Connor Heydon and skipper Attewell.
Second-last Toronto Awaba, meanwhile, are still in the depths of a horror form slump.
After beating Cessnock 4-2 in round three, the Stags defeated South Cardiff 2-1 and drew with Belswans 0-0. However, since that result, Toronto Awaba have lost seven straight games and conceded 38 goals.
Coach Tony Jovcevski said he was looking to make two or three changes to his line-up to turn around their fortunes.
Thornton Redbacks FC v Belmont Swansea United FC
Sunday, June 5, 2.30pm
Thornton Redbacks coach Darrel McAllister said his side are ready for the massive challenge of Belmont Swansea, then Lake Macquarie, as they look to make their charge for a top-four spot.
Thornton defeated Singleton 2-1 last week to rise to sixth on 18 points, seven points shy of the top four, and meet second-placed Belswans at Thornton Park on Sunday before meeting leaders Lake Macquarie in round 15.
Amid three defeats to start the year, the Redbacks lost 3-2 to Belswans first time around but have surged up the ladder with five wins from their past six games.
McAllister said the next two games were crucial to their finals aspirations and his team were up for the challenge.
“The next two weeks are Belswans and Lakes and it’s a massive challenge for us,” McAllister said.
“The boys are going well and we back ourselves against Belswans. We know what their dangers are, and Lakes are the same.
“They’ve got similar dangers with a bit of speed up front and guys who can score goals, but I think both sides are a bit gettable at the back, so it should be interesting.”
Thornton, though, will be without striker Jacob Bartlett (family commitments) and central defender Callan Baxter (injury) this weekend.
Belswans, meanwhile, have injury concerns over captain Joel Shearer (hamstring) and left-sided defender Jarred Noon (groin) after the 3-1 win over Cooks Hill last week.
“We have a few players nursing niggles and general soreness,” coach Brad Paul said.
“We will wait until later in the week to see how they come up before making any decisions.”
Paul said his side were not at their best last week against a young and enthusiastic Cooks Hill line-up but he was pleased with their defence.
“We kept them scoreless second half and that was the goal at half-time,” Paul said.
Lake Macquarie City FC v West Wallsend SFC
Sunday, June 5, 2.45pm
West Wallsend will back up from their biggest result of the season to try to again thwart the free-scoring Lake Macquarie at Macquarie Field on Sunday.
The Bluebells shocked then-leaders Kahibah 3-0 last week, which allowed Lake Macquarie to regain the competition front-running with a 6-0 victory over Toronto Awaba.
The result and a 0-0 draw with the Roosters first time around will give West Wallsend plenty of confidence against Lake Macquarie, who have scored 47 goals in 12 matches.
“It gives us a bit of confidence,” West Wallsend coach Gary Rowe said of last week’s win in which Tye Jones scored a second-half double.
“I’ve been saying for a few weeks that we are starting to pick up the pace a little bit, so this means the boys are starting to believe what I’m telling them, which is half the battle as a coach.”
Dom Langowski will be missing for the Bluebells after picking up a yellow card in the last 30 seconds against Kahibah to take him to a one-game suspension on accumulation. Rowe said Chris Hughes was likely to come in for the midfielder, while Kieran Sasim is out. Jarrod Olivieri and Ryan Cole did not finish last week’s match because of injuries and will also be in some doubt.
Despite the big win last week, which lifted his side to fifth on 18 points, Rowe was not raising expectations at Johnston Park.
“I said I’d be happy to finish somewhere between sixth and eighth and I’ll continue to hold onto that,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean we won’t beat some teams who think they should be beating us, but if we get sixth to eighth, I’ll be the happiest coach in the comp.”
Lake Macquarie coach Anthony Richards had concerns over Blake Green, who came off at half-time against the Stags after copping a knock, but said the former Jets Youth players should recover in time to play the Bluebells.
Kahibah FC – Bye