Match of the Round
Kahibah FC v Belmont Swansea United FC
Saturday, April 2, 2.30pm
Belmont Swansea coach Brad Paul said his in-form side were focused for their second big challenge of the season, when they take Kahibah at Blacksmiths Oval on Saturday.
Both sides have made perfect starts to the NewFM First Division season and meet on Belmont Swansea’s turf after Kahibah’s home ground was unavailable.
Belmont Swansea hold sway at the top of the table on 12 points but will give up the lead if Kahibah, who have had a bye and sit on nine points with a better goal difference, get the win in round five.
Paul said his players were looking to the top-of-the-table clash immediately after their 3-0 win over Singleton Strikers last week, which he believed was a great sign.
Belmont Swansea announced themselves as genuine title contenders this year with a 4-3 win over last year’s runners-up, Lake Macquarie, in round one and Paul said the Kahibah clash was another examination of their credentials.
“The first big test came in round one and that gave us momentum into these ones, but the next big test is obviously this Saturday against Kahibah,” Paul said.
“This will put us back to best assess where we’re at, because they’ve been going fairly well as well.”
Paul hoped to have attacking weapon Josh Sutton back from a hamstring strain for the game, in which they should be close to full-strength.
“Except for Josh O’Bryan and Matt Carroll on the long-term injury list after facial operations, we are pretty much full strength,” Paul said.
“We have 16 players fighting for spots which makes training very intense and selection evenings really interesting. It’s a healthy position to be in from a coaching perspective.”
He was also pleased with the club’s depth this year.
“We’re going along OK,” he said.
“Last week was the second week in a row we’ve won all four grades, so you can’t be too unhappy at the moment.”
Kahibah continued their domination last week with a 3-0 win over South Cardiff despite missing key players.
Striker Sean Clerke returns from suspension, while player-coach Andre Gumprecht said Ash Illfield and Andrew Darr were also back this week. Colvin Williams and Skii Webster are out injured.
South Cardiff FC v Toronto Awaba FC
Saturday, April 2, 2.30pm
South Cardiff coach Andrew Packer was looking for better concentration in defence when his side meet a refreshed Toronto Awaba at Ulinga Oval on Saturday.
The Gunners lost 3-0 to Kahibah last week and sit seventh on four points from four games in their first season back in the second tier.
Although happy with most of the effort against Kahibah, Packer wanted more from his back-line after lapses cost them two first-half goals.
Midfielder Winstone Oku was then sent off early in the second half for a second yellow card and will miss the clash with the Stags.
Apart from Oku’s absence, Packer expected to have a full-strength side to choose from.
“I was very disappointed to lose and disappointed with our concentration for the first two goals but from there I was really happy with the effort,” Packer said.
“But if we are serious about finals we have to be so much better.”
Toronto Awaba return from the bye and will be confident after recording their first win of the season in round three.
The Stags defeated Cessnock City 4-2 and coach Tony Jovcevski was pleased with how his new-look side were building combinations after losses to Wallsend and Cooks Hills to start the year.
Singleton Strikers FC v Lake Macquarie City FC
Sunday, April 3, 2.30pm
Lake Macquarie coach Anthony Richards expects to have 2015 NewFM First Division leading goalscorer Sam Walker on board against Singleton Strikers on Sunday at Howe Park despite him coming off with an ankle injury last week.
Walker, who scored 41 goals last season for the Roosters, bagged a first-half hat-trick before leaving the field in the 8-3 win over Thornton Redbacks.
Richards said Walker rolled his ankle when an opposition player landed on him after he had scored two goals.
Walker banged in a third with a strike before coming off. Richards said there “there was a big egg hanging off” Walker’s ankle at half-time but he had recovered well this week and should be fit to face Singleton.
Blake Green also scored a hat-trick in the big win over Thornton.
Despite the scoreline, Richards said it was a sloppy performance from his team, who now sit fourth on seven points from four games.
Richards expected his side to face striker Klaudon Ahmataj, who left the Roosters to return to Singleton in recent weeks.
Ahmataj will be a welcome addition for Singleton, who lost 3-0 to Belmont Swansea last week to remain on two points from draws with South Cardiff and Cessnock City.
Wallsend FC v Cessnock City FC
Sunday, April 3, 2.30pm
Cessnock City will face another stern test of their defence when they come up against an in-form Wallsend looking to stay in touch of the leaders at The Gardens on Sunday.
Wallsend have one of the strongest rosters in the league but are yet to produce their best despite three wins from four games to sit on nine points, three points behind leaders Belmont Swansea.
The Red Devils, last year’s grand final winners, defeated West Wallsend 3-2 last week.
Coach Josh Rufo was pleased the performance and the chances his side were creating but he hoped they could convert more into goals.
With the chance Kahibah could join Belmont Swansea on 12 points this weekend, Rufo was hoping to make it a three-way tie at the top of the table with a win over the Hornets.
“We should have a full-strength team, and depending on other results over the weekend, if we get a good result, that could take us to the top of the table,” Rufo said.
Cessnock City, meanwhile, will be without Josh Bower, who was sent off for a second yellow card late in the 7-4 loss to Cooks Hill last week.
The Hornets were in the match at 5-3 down when Bower left the field.
The loss of Bower continues a difficult campaign so far for Cessnock City, who have battled injury and absentees to sit on one point from four games.
Thornton Redbacks FC v West Wallsend SFC
Sunday, April 3, 2.30pm
Thornton Redbacks and West Wallsend will be fresher than expected when they clash in round five on Sunday at Thornton Park after their midweek FFA Cup clash was again delayed.
The clubs were set to clash at Thornton on Wednesday night but heavy rain left the field unfit for play. It is the second time the game has been washed out. It was also postponed a week earlier when the lights at Johnston Park failed 20 minutes into the match. The game is now set down for April 6 at Thornton.
The latest washout means West Wallsend will welcome back striker Ryan Cole from suspension on Sunday.
Cole was out for the 3-2 loss to Wallsend last week and coach Gary Rowe said the Bluebells missed his attacking spark.
Rowe was disappointed with the lack of enthusiasm against derby rivals Wallsend from his squad, who held Lake Macquarie to a 0-0 draw a week earlier. West Wallsend have four points from four rounds.
Thornton, meanwhile, have endured a forgettable start to the year with three losses from their three games.
The biggest defeat came last week when they went down 8-3 to Lake Macquarie.
The Redbacks were in the match at 5-3 midway through the second half but they gave away two penalties to lose touch with the Roosters.
Cooks Hill United FC – Bye