PHOTO: Valentine Sports Photography
Match of the Round
Wallsend FC v Kahibah FC
Sunday, July 31. 2.30pm
Wallsend will welcome back experienced centre-back Mitchell Cook but lose Kyle Macorig when they take on Kahibah in the NEWFM First Division Match of the Round at The Gardens on Sunday.
Cook missed the 2-1 win over South Cardiff last week because of personal commitments and makes a timely return to replace Macorig, who is suspended on yellow card accumulation.
Wallsend player-coach Dave Hodgson has five other players one card away from suspension to worry about as the Red Devils prepare for the finals.
They are fourth on 34 points and assured of playing in the semi-finals but without a chance to realistically catch Kahibah in third. Kahibah are close enough to equal on 40 points but they have a 26-goal superior for-and-against over Wallsend with two games to play.
Wallsend finish the regular season against Belmont Swansea after Sunday’s match, while Kahibah meet Toronto Awaba in the last round.
Kahibah’s slim hopes of catching leaders Lake Macquarie were dashed last week with a shock 2-0 loss to Singleton and they slipped to third when Belswans defeated West Wallsend on Wednesday night in a catch-up match. Belswans jumped to second on 41 points.
The results last week effectively mean Lake Macquarie will play Wallsend, and Belswans will meet Kahibah in the two-leg semi-finals.
Kahibah assistant coach Matt Moncrieff said key centre-midfielder Ash Illfield is available after serving a suspension but Jayden Demir remained in doubt with a groin problem after missing last week’s loss. Andrew Darr was away last week and returns.
Like Wallsend, Kahibah have potential yellow card accumulation suspensions to consider as they try to have their best side available for the semi-finals.
Kahibah won the first clash with Wallsend 3-1 but were disappointing last week against Singleton.
Cooks Hill United FC v Thornton Redbacks FC
Saturday, July 30, 2.30pm
Newcastle Athletics Field
Thornton Redbacks coach Darrel McAllister is considering long-awaited returns for two players when his side take on Cooks Hill United at Newcastle Athletics Field on Saturday.
The fifth-placed Redbacks had a 6-2 win over Toronto Awaba last week but still saw their finals hopes disappear when Wallsend had a victory to stay nine points clear with two rounds to play.
McAllister was pleased with the “good team goals” the Redbacks put together and their whole game effort.
He said Jack Halvorsen was strong on debut and it was great to see some young players take their opportunity while also scoring the win.
McAllister said the goal now was to build for next year and “try to finish on a high” after falling short of the finals.
He also hoped to have two familiar faces back in the side to take on Cooks Hill.
“We may get Jai McAllister back after being away for three months and Callan Baxter is in contention for first grade after a brilliant performance in 23’s last week,” McAllister said
“That was his first game back from a bad injury that kept him out for two months.”
Cooks Hill, who are on 19 points and eighth on goal difference, are also backing up from a win.
The 3-1 victory over West Wallsend ended a four-game losing streak and was player-coach Mal Hinchliffe’s first victory since taking over from Blake Glennie.
Hinchliffe said Payton Tagaroulias remained suspended but he expected to have everyone else on deck.
“It was a good win and hopefully, we can take that into our last two games and finish on a high,” Hinchliffe said after last week’s performance.
Cooks Hill defeated Thornton 2-1 in their first clash this year.
Toronto Awaba FC v Singleton Strikers FC
Sunday, July 31. 2.30pm
Lyall Peacock Field
Singleton will be out to take their form on the road when they clash with Toronto Awaba at Lyall Peacock Field on Sunday.
The Strikers had their best result of the season last week with a 2-0 win over Kahibah to move to sixth on 19 points.
Kieron Burrell was the star for Singleton, scoring a goal and setting up the other in a game where the Strikers lost midfielder Sam Ford early through injury and had Jackson Cox sidelined.
Coach David Willoughby was hopeful of having everyone on board against the Stags, who they defeated 4-2 this year.
“At this stage, we have all players available for selection,” Willoughby said.
“I am not sure if there will be any changes to the starting side until we check on the fitness of a couple of guys carrying niggling injuries.
“We are encouraged by our performance last week against a very good Kahibah team.
“Collectively, we hope to continue and build on our results this week against Toronto.
“It is important for us to finish the year on a positive note.”
While Singleton are on a high, Toronto Awaba are looking to recover from back-to-back losses and move out of second-last on the ladder.
The Stags sit on 16 points with South Cardiff but trail them on for and against in 10th.
Toronto Awaba beat Belmont Swansea and Cooks Hill but then lost 1-0 to West Wallsend and 6-2 to Thornton over the past month.
Stags coach Tony Jovcevski said his side had “two or three” players out suspended on yellow cards this week, continuing a tough run with unavailable players.
“We cannot get the same players together, that is the big thing,” Jovcevski said.
Cessnock City FC v West Wallsend SFC
Sunday, July 31. 2.30pm
West Wallsend will be battling illness and suspensions when they try to back up from a 3-0 midweek loss to take on last-placed Cessnock City at Turner Park on Sunday.
The Bluebells went down to Belmont Swansea on Wednesday night at Johnston Park in their rescheduled game to stay on 19 points but slip to seventh on goal difference.
Tye Jones returned from suspension in the defeat but picked up another booking and is out on card accumulation, along with Chris Hughes, for the match against the Hornets.
However, West Wallsend have welcomed back Jarrod Olivieri, Jarryd Jones, Bryson and Bailey Cox, Ryan Van Kemenade, Kieran Sasim, goalkeeper Tyler Warren and Cameron Aspinall this week.
Attacking weapon Ryan Cole is also a chance of returning from injury but defender Michael Baillie will be out suspended for the rest of the year.
Coach Gary Rowe said his side struggled on Wednesday night because of illness and the absence of No.1 goalkeeper Tyler Warren.
“We probably didn’t play that well but we had a stomach bug go through the team and three players were vomiting in the sheds before the game,” Rowe said.
“They were out on their feet late in the game and you could tell they were battling.
“We had some good patches of play but it’s hard to get players up for games now because we really have nothing to play for.”
Cessnock City last week suffered the biggest loss of the competition this year when they went down to Lake Macquarie 8-1, which sealed the minor premiership for the Roosters.
They will be keen to bounce back on the club’s Old Boys day this Sunday.
South Cardiff FC v Belmont Swansea United FC
Sunday, July 31. 2.30pm
Belmont Swansea hope to bring back skipper Joel Shearer against South Cardiff on Sunday at Ulinga Oval in a further boost after their midweek win over West Wallsend.
Shearer was expected to miss the rest of the season with a hamstring tear but coach Brad Paul said he had trained well over the past two weeks and could play against the Gunners.
He would be a welcomed addition for Belswans, who are backing up from a 3-0 win over the Bluebells on Wednesday night which lifted them to second place on 41 points, one ahead of Kahibah, who they will almost certainly meet in the semi-finals.
Paul was “fairly happy” with the performance against West Wallsend, in which Jamie Hadlow scored twice and Josh Hall bagged the third goal late.
Hadlow pounced on a loose pass at the back to score in the 37th minute then won a header against the Bluebells keeper to make it 2-0 on the hour. Cameron Lodge then set up Hall for the clincher.
“We kept a clean sheet and kept them their chances to a minimum,” Paul said.
“We played with plenty of intensity and enthusiasm. After a light run of games, we’d freshened up, and it was good for the boys.
“We played a bit differently as well, with Jamie Hadlow higher up the park, and he made a bit more of an impact.”
Kyle Wilson missed the game because of migraines but Paul expects him to return on Sunday. However, defender Luke Cook is in doubt after rolling his ankle against West Wallsend.
South Cardiff tested finals-bound Wallsend last week in a 2-1 loss and coach Andrew Packer did not expect any changes to his side, who sit ninth on 16 points.
Lake Macquarie City FC – Bye