Match of the Round
Kahibah v Cessnock City
Kahibah Oval, Saturday 2.30pm
Cessnock City coach Michael Gatt believes the Hornets’ late escape last weekend may provide his side with the lift they need to keep their finals charge on track.
Cessnock travel south to face Kahibah in the Match of the Round on Saturday knowing they need to keep winning if they are to feature in the NEWFM Northern League One finals.
Cessnock (15) are fifth on the table, with just four points separating leaders Belmont Swansea United (19) with sixth-placed West Wallsend (15).
The Hornets came from two goals down at half-time to salvage a point against high-flying New Lambton last weekend, a result Gatt believes will give his side the confidence to push on as the regular season reaches its climax.
“That result was a brilliant step forward. The old Hornets would have gone down seven or eight-nil after conceding a couple early,” Gatt said.
“The boys showed a lot of the heart and determination we’re becoming known for. To fight back in the second half was brilliant. I couldn’t be happier and prouder with the way we came back to draw.
“We could have stolen it a couple times in that second half [against New Lambton]. We went closest, we missed some chances but dominated the second half which was really pleasing.
“The boys have really turned our form around. We had our poor run where we dropped points against the lower sides. Obviously we’ve worked hard as a unit to get back into it.
“We got the points against South Cardiff where we were dominant, we were 1-0 down against Westy and fought back for a draw then the same with New Lambton as well. It should give us heaps of confidence going into our last few games.
“Every game is a must-win game now with the shortened season as it is. We need to take every opportunity and play as if every game is a grand final, starting against Kahibah.”
Kahibah’s finals hopes were dealt a blow when they went down 2-1 to Singleton in their rescheduled round eight clash at Howe Park on Wednesday night.
Kahibah slipped to eighth on the table, remaining two points behind the Hornets.
But a win on Saturday with other results going their way could see Kahibah climb into the finals places.
New Lambton v West Wallsend
Alder Park, Saturday 2.30pm
West Wallsend co-coach Stephen Thomson believes the Bluebells’ clash with New Lambton on Saturday will be a huge test of their finals credentials.
West Wallsend travel to Alder Park knowing they need to win if they are to maintain their strong position in the chase for finals places.
The Bluebells are sixth, level on points with fifth-placed Cessnock City. A win over New Lambton could even see West Wallsend finish the weekend as high as second if results go their way elsewhere.
Thomson said it was crucial West Wallsend secured a result to keep their finals charge on track.
“[New Lambton are] going to be hard at home. If we can salvage something out of that game we’ll be happy,” Thomson said.
“We’re definitely going into it looking for the three points. We’ll definitely be pushing, we want to play for those points. But if we can come away with one [point] it will still be a job done sort of thing.”
West Wallsend showed good character to score a comfortable win over South Cardiff last weekend on the back of a pair of disappointing results where the Bluebells dropped points from winning positions against Cooks Hill United and Cessnock City.
But Thomson said the win over the Gunners was a step in the right direction and would help them chase another positive result against New Lambton.
“The boys were disappointed [after the Cooks Hill and Cessnock games]. They know their jobs and what is expected from them,” Thomson said.
“They have been pretty much up for it each week, especially against the top sides. It was always going to be a difficult season for everyone.
“And it’s such a close competition. Everyone is beating everyone else on their day. So we need to believe in our own ability.”
New Lambton have hit a mid-season slump. It was only a couple of weeks ago the Eagles looked as though they were soaring towards the premiership.
But draws with Thornton and Cessnock and a defeat to Singleton have seen them slip to third heading into the weekend.
The Eagles will be desperate for a win to maintain the pressure on Belmont Swansea United at the top.
Singleton v Thornton
Howe Park, Saturday 2.30pm
Singleton will look to maintain their premiership challenge when they host Thornton on Saturday.
The Strikers downed Kahibah 2-1 in their rescheduled round eight clash on Wednesday night to climb to second in the table, just one point behind leaders Belmont Swansea United.
And, with BelSwans out of action this weekend due to the round 11 bye, a win for Brendan Slade’s side would send them to the top of the table heading into the final rounds of the regular season.
Singleton are on a fabulous run of form, having only been beaten once this season in round one. The Strikers have also beaten then top of the table New Lambton and drawn with Belmont Swansea in recent weeks and now have the chance to climb to the summit on their own.
Thornton meanwhile will be looking to get back to winning ways after they went down 3-1 to Cooks Hill United in their rescheduled round seven clash on Wednesday night, with Jacob Golding scoring a 90th minute consolation for Thornton.
The Redbacks have now lost three matches in a row following their impressive three-match unbeaten run.
Thornton will also know they can almost guarantee avoiding a last-placed finish if they produce an upset on the weekend, with the Redbacks four points clear of last-placed Wallsend.
Toronto Awaba v South Cardiff
Lyall Peacock Field, Saturday 3pm
Toronto Awaba will look to continue their fine run of form when they host South Cardiff at Lyall Peacock Field on Saturday.
The Stags have won three matches in a row to catapult themselves into premiership contention. Toronto Awaba are fourth on 16 points, just three points behind leaders Belmont Swansea United.
Convincing wins over strugglers Wallsend and Thornton was followed by an impressive 4-1 victory over 2019 premiers Cooks Hill United last weekend, with the additions of former A-League player Nick Cowburn and former Weston premiership-winning midfielder Rob Macbeth adding genuine quality to Steve Piggott’s side.
South Cardiff meanwhile all but had their season ended with last weekend’s 3-0 defeat to West Wallsend.
The Gunners are ninth, six points outside the top five and will need an unlikely charge from here to play finals football.
Wallsend v Cooks Hill United
The Gardens, Sunday 2.30pm
Cooks Hill United will look to keep their finals charge on track when they travel to The Gardens to face last-placed Wallsend on Sunday.
The 2019 premiers climbed to seventh, just two points outside the top five after a Nick Russell hat-trick gave Cooks Hill a 3-1 win over Thornton in their rescheduled round seven fixture on Wednesday night.
A win against the struggling Red Devils would potentially give Cooks Hill a chance to climb into the top five when they play Cessnock City in another rescheduled fixture next Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, Wallsend will look to cause an upset that would give them a chance of avoiding a last-placed finished.
The Red Devils were unlucky in their defeat to leaders Belmont Swansea United last weekend but a win over Cooks Hill could give Craig Tslembis’ side hope of finishing their season on a high.