PHOTO: Valentine Sports Photography
Match of the Round
West Wallsend SFS v Cooks Hill United FC
Saturday, July 23, 4pm
West Wallsend will zero in on their top-six goal when they meet Cooks Hill United in the NEWFM First Division Match of the Round at Johnston Park on Saturday.
The Bluebells rose out of the pack of teams on 16 points with a 1-0 win over Toronto Awaba last week and took sixth place outright.
A stunning strike from Zac Parkes lifted the undermanned West Wallsend to the win and closer to coach Gary Rowe’s pre-season aim of a top-six finish.
The Bluebells have had to overcome the loss of three competition points for mistakenly fielding a suspended player to stay in the top half of the table and they face another test of their position against Cooks Hill, who are one of four teams on 16 points.
Cooks Hill are ninth on goal difference and aiming to improve their place under player-coach Mal Hinchliffe.
The club parted ways with the first-year coach Blake Glennie before Cooks Hill’s 3-1 loss to leaders Lake Macquarie last week. It was their seventh loss in their past eight games.
Hinchliffe, a stalwart defender at the club, has returned to the role he once held to fill the breach and was pleased with the effort against the Roosters.
He was hoping to get Jack Wilson back from injury for the match against West Wallsend but they will be without Payton Tagaroulias, who was sent off last week, and Emerson Augey. Hinchliffe said other players would be taking the field in under-23s for ensure finals eligibility.
Hinchliffe was hoping Cooks Hill could finish the season on a high note.
“We’re just after another big effort but we’re still really down on numbers,” Hinchliffe said.
“There’s still been a positive vibe at training, though.”
West Wallsend were missing Tye Jones, Ryan Cole, Bryson Cox and Jarrod Olivieri last week and Rowe said his side would not have any players back. The Bluebells were to play Swansea Belmont on Wednesday night but the game was washed out.
Singleton Strikers FC v Kahibah FC
Sunday, July 24, 2.30pm
Kahibah player-coach Andre Gumprecht could look to his equal-leading goalscorer Jarrod Penfold to fill the void up front when they meet Singleton at Howe Park on Sunday.
Second-placed Kahibah, who are six points behind Lake Macquarie on 46 with three games remaining, will be aiming to keep the pressure on the league-leading Roosters when they take on Singleton, who are eighth on 16 points.
Kahibah defeated Thornton 3-1 last week and Gumprecht said they will remain without Brendan Trummel (family commitments) but may also be missing another key attacking weapon against the Strikers.
“Jayden Demir is struggling with a groin problem that will force us to have some adjustments up front,” Gumprecht said.
“Jarrod Penfold could move up from midfield to take up a front-man role. This would open a midfield position for Joshua Spencer who came off the bench last week.”
Singleton coach David Willoughby was happy with his side’s effort in a 2-0 loss to Wallsend last week but was hoping for a sharper performance up front.
That task will be made difficult with the loss of Jackson Cox against Kahibah, a game where Willoughby will aim to build experience for next season.
“The only change from last week’s team is that Jackson Cox is unavailable,” Willoughby said.
“We are looking at giving a couple of the under-19s an opportunity at different times over the next three weeks.”
“We are looking forward to the game on Sunday against Kahibah. It will be another test for us.”
“The playing group have performed very well at training with adjusting to our systems and game plan.” We are continuing to work hard to achieve our goals.
“We hope to finish off our season over the next three weeks very well. That starts on Sunday at home.”
Kahibah escaped with a 3-2 win last time they met Singleton.
Lake Macquarie City FC v Cessnock City FC
Sunday, July 24, 2.30pm
Lake Macquarie can potentially secure the minor premiership with victory over last-placed Cessnock on Sunday at Macquarie Field.
The Roosters are six points clear of Kahibah and have an 11-goal lead on for and against. Kahibah have two games remaining after the weekend. Wins for both clubs this round will mean the best Kahibah can do is potentially tie the Roosters and hope they can catch them on goals difference.
Lake Macquarie will secure the premiership if they win and Kahibah falter at Singleton.
Roosters coach Anthony Richards said skipper Tom Walker was expected to play despite coming off at half-time with an ankle injury in last week’s 3-1 win over Cooks Hill.
The Hornets, who are five points adrift of the field on 11 points, lost 3-0 to Belmont Swansea last week. Anthony Bower was sent off in the defeat and is suspended.
Lake Macquarie beat Cessnock 6-1 in their first encounter but Hornets coach Stephen Thomson said his side were capable of turning the tables.
“I really think anyone can beat anyone in this competition, and you’ve seen that with some of the results this year,” Thomson said.
“It just comes down to taking chances and playing for 90 minutes,” Thomson concluded.
Thornton Redbacks FC v Toronto Awaba FC
Sunday, July 24, 2.30pm
Thornton Redbacks will be out to put the disappointment of almost certainly missing the finals behind them when they take on Toronto Awaba at Thornton Park on Sunday.
The fifth-placed Redbacks lost 3-1 to Kahibah last week to leave them nine points and six goals behind fourth-placed Wallsend with three games left.
Thornton coach Darrel McAllister said his side needed a miracle to make the finals even before the loss to Kahibah.
“We’re just trying to win the games we have left,” McAllister said.
“We’ve had a tough run over the last few weeks, taking on the top four sides and having FFA Cup games as well.
“I’m most disappointed for the players because they realise their hopes of making the finals are over.”
He said there was great spirit in the club but some players in the side had struggled to “get up” for whole games and that had cost them in close contests.
The Redbacks have been stretched thin at the back for the game against the Stags.
Ben Henry was sent off last week for two yellow cards and joins fellow centre-backs Steve Cummings and Kieran Kerr, who are injured, on the sidelines.
Toronto Awaba are on 16 points and 10th on goal difference after a 1-0 loss to West Wallsend last week.
Coach Tony Jovcevski and Jessi Cowie were among their best last week, along with goalkeeper Daniel March.
Although frustrated with the Stags’ several missed chances against the Bluebells, the coach was pleased with the effort and looking to give the club’s promising youngsters more opportunities in the finals weeks.
South Cardiff FC v Wallsend FC
Sunday, July 24, 2.30pm
Wallsend can confirm their spot in the finals with a victory over South Cardiff at Ulinga Oval on Sunday.
The Red Devils are fourth and nine points clear of next-best Thornton after a 2-0 win over Singleton last week and
ahead of the clash with the Gunners, who held them to a 1-1 draw in their first encounter.
South Cardiff are on 16 points in seventh and lead a pack of four teams on for and against.
The Gunners had the bye last round, which followed a 3-0 loss to Thornton, and coach Andrew Packer was keen to give players new opportunities over the final rounds.
“We’ll have a reshuffle from the last game and we’re looking to see players in a couple of different positions and where they believe they play best,” Packer said.
“Everyone’s recovered from illness and so on, so fingers crossed we can finish on a positive note in the last three rounds.”
Belmont Swansea United FC – Bye