PHOTO: Valentine Sports Photography
Match of the Round
Kahibah FC v Belmont Swansea United FC
Saturday, August 20, 3pm
Head-to-head 2017: Round 5: 2-2 at Blacksmiths Oval. Round 16: Kahibah 1-0 at Blacksmiths Oval. First Leg Semi-Final: 1-1 at Kahibah Oval.
Regular season record: Belmont Swansea: 2nd (44 points; 14 wins, 2 draws, 4 losses, 48 goal for, 23 goals against).
Kahibah: 3rd (43 points; 14 wins, 1 draw, 5 losses, 61 goals for, 29 goals against).
Kahibah player-coach Andre Gumprecht will return to the pitch and says his side will hold no fears of Blacksmiths Oval when they take on Belmont Swansea on Saturday for a place in the First Division grand final.
Gumprecht sat out the 1-1 draw in the first leg of the semi-final series against Belswans at Kahibah Oval last week.
The 41-year-old former Central Coast Mariner had a calf “niggle” and decided to rest to ensure he was right for the deciding second leg.
The midfield general backed his squad to be in a position to push for an aggregate victory in week two and was pleased with the first-leg performance despite them giving up their lead soon after scoring through Skii Webster on the hour.
Jamie Hadlow equalised 10 minutes later to bring Belswans level and give them a potentially crucial away goal.
Gumprecht, though, said he had no regrets.
“I could have played but if I got injured with it again, I would have definitely been out next week,” Gumprecht said.
“I was very comfortable and confident of the team delivering a good game at home, so I was comfortable to not play, that the boys would do the job and I’d give myself a chance to play next week.”
On last week’s effort, he said: “We had a game plan around certain scenarios happening and players were not following through with it, but still we played a very good game as a team.
“As a coach, I’m not disappointed. I’m very happy about the performance and it’s shown me the players can deliver the game plan we had, but we need to go back and analyse the video to see strengths and weaknesses and where we can adjust for next week.”
Left-sided midfielder or defender Colvin Williams is also set to return for Kahibah after missing last week’s game with an illness.
Kahibah have had a 1-0 win and 2-2 draw at Blacksmiths Oval this year and Gumprecht was confident of another positive result at Belswans’ ground.
“The performance in the first week should give us enough confidence for next week,” he said.
“And I think what will mentally fall in our favour is that we’ve played over there twice this season, so none of my players will see it as a foreign place. We know about it, we’re familiar with it and we actually do like playing there, so it’s great for us.”
Belswans, meanwhile, came through the first semi-final injury free and were aiming to sharpen up their attack for the deciding game.
Coach Brad Paul was happy with his side’s defensive effort but was hoping they would create more up front.
“I think we’ll probably go with the same formation,” Paul said.
“We’re pretty comfortable with the way we were at the weekend.
“We just spoke a little bit this week about individual performances and maybe just a few people doing a little bit more individually to help us be stronger collectively.
“We worked the other night on some little things, like how we didn’t find the mark with some passes.
“We did well until the top third, then we let ourselves down with that final delivery. So we’ve been working on that pressure passing, but we’ll go in with not much tactically different to what was happening last week and see how it plays out.”
Under 23s (1pm): South Cardiff FC v Cooks Hill United FC (South Cardiff lead 2-0)
Under 19s (11am): Kahibah FC v Belmont Swansea United FC (Belmont Swansea lead 2-0)
Under 17s (9am): Wallsend FC v West Wallsend SFC (West Wallsend lead 3-0)
Wallsend FC v Lake Macquarie City FC
Sunday, August 21, 3pm
Head-to-Head 2017: Round 2: Lake Macquarie 2-1 at Macquarie Field. Round 18: Lake Macquarie 1-0 at The Gardens. First Leg Semi-Final: 1-1 at The Gardens.
Regular season record: Lake Macquarie: 1st (52 points; 17 wins, 1 draw, 2 losses, 80 goals for, 24 goals against).
Wallsend: 4th (37 points; 12 wins, 1 draw, 7 losses, 38 goals for, 30 goals against).
Minor premiers Lake Macquarie are confident of making the most of their bigger home pitch and erasing the memory of last year’s 6-1 capitulation to Wallsend at Macquarie Field on Sunday.
The Roosters came back from an early deficit to grab an away goal and draw 1-1 with defending major premiers Wallsend last week at The Gardens.
The return leg will revive memories of last year’s semi-final series when Lake Macquarie took a 3-1 lead into their home game against Wallsend but lost 6-1 and 7-4 on aggregate as the Red Devils progressed to the grand final from third spot.
Lake Macquarie coach Anthony Richards, who was not at the helm last year, said the mental scars from that loss would be there but only about half his current squad played in that series.
Richards was confident his speedsters up front would enjoy the open spaces at Macquarie Field.
“I think we’ll get them on a nice big pitch at Lake Macquarie and run them around a little bit, and that will suit us,” Richards said.
“The field was made smaller last week, whether they did it on purpose or not, but you could see where the line used to be.
“It probably didn’t suit us because we like the free range.
“At training this week we simulated playing on Wallsend’s ground and then ours, and it’s massively different.
“It’s heaps bigger and there’s heaps more room, so we’re ready to go.”
Richards was also expecting more from golden boot Sam Walker, who scored the equaliser last week, and skipper Tom Walker in attack on Sunday.
“There no excuses but Tom and Sam Walker didn’t train last week because they were full of the flu,” he said.
“But they have both trained this week and they’ll be better for it.”
The Roosters’ only injury concern was Steve Rospigliosi, who had a quadriceps problem last week, but Richards said he had a light run on Tuesday and should be right to go on Sunday.
While Lake Macquarie go into the second week with a slight edge on the away goals rule, Richards said his side, who scored 80 goals in the regular season, would not hold back.
“I guess we don’t have to push the game too much,” he said.
“We’ve got the advantage, but we’ve played only one game this year where we haven’t scored, and that was round three against West Wallsend, so I think we’ll just play like we have and go for it.”
Wallsend player-coach Dave Hodgson, who starred last week with a ninth-minute, overhead bicycle kick to score, was confident his side could back up last year’s effort in the semi-finals.
Hodgson’s main disappointment last week was that his team missed early chances to go further ahead. He said second-half injuries to Mitchell Cook (groin), Jake Kepreotes (ankle) and Kyle Macorig (cramp) made it difficult to push for a winner late in the match.
“We lost Cooky after about 60 minutes, then Jake Kepo rolled his ankle after 60 or 70 minutes and then Kyle went off,” Hodgson said.
“Kyle is a firefighter and I didn’t realise, but he’d fought five fires in Sydney the night before and he hadn’t had any sleep for 24 hours, so he cramped up late in the game.
“It’s hard when you’re wondering what you are going to do to change the game and when you look over to the bench you have to make another forced change.”
Hodgson was confident his squad had the depth to cover any losses but believed Cook, Kepreotes and Macorig would all be right to play on Sunday.
Under 23s (1pm): Belmont Swansea United FC v Lake Macquarie City FC (1-1 after first leg)
Under 19s (11am): West Wallsend SFC v Lake Macquarie City FC (West Wallsend lead 2-0)
Under 17s (9am): Kahibah FC v Lake Macquarie City FC (Lake Macquarie lead 2-0)