Photo: Valentine Sports Photography
Match of the Round
Kahibah FC v Thornton Redbacks FC
Sunday, July 17, 2.30pm
Kahibah will be without in-form striker Brendan Trummel when they try to turn the tables on a desperate Thornton Redbacks in the NEWFM First Division Match of the Round at Kahibah Oval on Sunday.
Trummel has played just six games this season but has scored a goal in Kahibah’s past two games, including the equaliser in a 2-1 win over Cessnock City last week.
Trummell is overseas and is the only loss for Kahibah, who regain Skii Webster from illness and Sean Clerke from suspension.
The match is crucial for both team’s hopes this season. Kahibah are second on 37 points, six points behind leaders Lake Macquarie, and with a game in hand on the Roosters. They finish with games against Singleton, Wallsend and Toronto Awaba after the match against the Redbacks, who beat them 3-1 earlier this season.
“We hope to learn from our first-round loss to Thornton and keep the pressure on Lakes with another win,” Kahibah assistant coach Matt Moncrieff said.
While Kahibah are safely in the top four and striving for the minor title, fifth-placed Thornton are making a last-ditch effort to catch Wallsend for the last spot in the finals.
The Redbacks are on 22 points after a 3-0 win over South Cardiff last round in which they produced their best defensive effort of the season.
Ben Henry and Jock Thompson were their best and helped Thornton record their first clean sheet of the campaign.
“When you’re coaching, you know when you feel comfortable on the sidelines and all game I felt pretty comfortable,” coach Darrel McAllister said.
“When they had a bit of ball, there were no obvious ways they were going to score. We looked pretty solid.”
Thornton, though, will be weakened at the back this week with the absence of central defender Steve Cummings, who came off with a hamstring strain in the second half of last weekend’s game.
The Redbacks finish the season against Toronto Awaba, Cooks Hill and Cessnock after the clash with Kahibah.
Cooks Hill United FC v Lake Macquarie City FC
Saturday, July 16, 2.30pm
Newcastle Athletics Field
Lake Macquarie will be guarding against complacency when they take on Cooks Hill at Newcastle Athletics Field on Saturday.
The Roosters can take another big step towards the minor premiership with a victory over Cooks Hill, who have lost their past three games to slide to ninth on 16 points.
Cooks Hill are one of five teams on 16 points and sit second-last in that group on goal difference.
Lake Macquarie held on for a 2-1 victory against Cooks Hill in round eight and have won their past six to power away to a six-point lead at the top of the table on 43. They have games against Cessnock and South Cardiff to finish their regular season after the match with Cooks Hill, who have lost six of their past seven matches.
Cooks Hill have struggled since the departure of key players and went down 3-1 to Toronto-Awaba last week.
The Roosters appear on track to take the title but coach Anthony Richards said Cooks Hill, Cessnock and South Cardiff would not be easy games.
“We’re in a good position, but there’s a lot of work to do yet,” Richards said.
“When you’re on top, everyone wants to knock you off and Cooks Hill, Cessnock and South Cardiff have been doing OK.”
Richards said there was likely to be no changes from the side who defeated Wallsend 1-0 last week.
Toronto Awaba FC v West Wallsend SFC
Sunday, July 17, 2.30pm
Lyall Peacock Field
Central defender Michael Baillie returns to bolster an understrength West Wallsend against Toronto Awaba at Lyall Peacock Field on Sunday.
The Bluebells had last weekend off because their match against Belmont Swansea was washed out. They are set to play the rescheduled match on Wednesday night at Johnston Park from 7.45pm.
West Wallsend, who are seventh on goal difference with 16 points, get Baillie back from suspension but have four regulars missing for the clash with a resurgent Stags.
Jarrod Olivieri and Tye Jones are suspended, while Bryson Cox is overseas and Ryan Cole is injured.
Cole and Jones have been key attacking weapons for the Bluebells this year, while Olivieri is another senior player, and their absence is a major blow for coach Gary Rowe.
Toronto Awaba, who are 10th on goal difference with 16 points, are coming off back-to-back wins. They downed Cooks Hill 3-1 last week and upset Belmont Swansea 2-1 the round before.
Hayden Jensen went off with a shoulder injury in the win over Cooks Hill and appears an unlikely starter against West Wallsend, but key midfielder Luke Jovcevski made a successful return from injury in the game.
Wallsend FC v Singleton Strikers FC
Sunday, July 17, 2.30pm
Wallsend will welcome the return of four players but will be without in-form attacker Trent Milton when the clash with a refreshed Singleton Strikers at The Gardens on Sunday.
The Red Devils went down 1-0 to leaders Lake Macquarie last week to stay on 28 points in fourth place, six clear of Thornton in the battle for the last finals spot.
Milton, who scored a double two weeks ago in the 2-1 win over Thornton, is suspended from the Roosters match in a blow for Wallsend, who already have Jacob Kepreotes sidelined with a ban.
However, player-coach David Hodgson, who has 14 goals this year, has Chris Gazzard, Kyle Macorig, Luke Alexander and Issac Reeves back to bolster his side, which was hit hard mid-season by departures, injuries and the loss of six competition points.
“We finally have some players available and coming back this weekend to give us some depth again,” Hodgson said.
“We get another couple of first-grade regulars back from suspension next week in Jake Kepreotes and Trent Milton, so we look like being finally back to full strength coming into the semis, if we make it.”
Wallsend, who beat Singleton 3-1 first time around, finish the regular season with South Cardiff, Kahibah and Belmont Swansea after Sunday’s game.
The Strikers, meanwhile, return from the bye and are eighth on 16 points with goal difference.
Coach David Willoughby welcomed the rest after a hectic few weeks of FFA Cup and midweek games for his side, who were ready to go for the challenge of Wallsend.
“We are well rested after our bye, everyone is fit and we trained very well on Tuesday night,” Willoughby said.
“The only regular first-grade player unavailable is Zane Hand, who suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
“Kieron Burrell is over his groin injury and champing at the bit to get back in action.
“We are preparing to minimise Wallsend’s high-tempo passing game. It should be a high-quality game on Sunday.”
Cessnock City FC v Belmont Swansea United FC
Sunday, July 17, 2.30pm
Cessnock will be out to carry on from their strong finish against Kahibah last week when they tackle third-placed Belmont Swansea on Sunday at Turner Park.
The last-placed Hornets led second-placed Kahibah last week before going down 2-1. However, Cessnock created great chances late and almost stole points off the premiership contenders.
Coach Stephen Thomson was encouraged by the finish as his side try to get off the bottom of the ladder. They sit on 11 points, five points shy of a pack of five teams.
“It was probably a game we didn’t deserve to win, but the other side were probably lucky to get away with it,” Thomson.
“We had three shots in the last 10 minutes and hit the post with one of them.”
“We made it too easy for them with turnovers early in the second half, but we could have won it in the end.”
The Hornets regain attacker Connor Heydon, who was away last week, while midfielder Ben Gowdy comes in after missing with work commitments last round.
Cessnock shocked Belmont Swansea 3-2 in their first encounter this season and they had wins over Wallsend and Toronto Awaba before the loss last week.
Belswans, meanwhile, are on 35 points, eight points behind leaders Lake Macquarie and two off Kahibah. They have a game in hand on Lake Macquarie after last week’s game against West Wallsend was washed out.
Belswans take on the Bluebells on Wednesday night from 7.45pm at Johnston Park before having the bye then games against South Cardiff and Wallsend to cap their regular season.
Coach Brad Paul said his side had no changes from their last game.
South Cardiff FC – Bye