Match of the Round
Cooks Hill United (1st) vs Belmont Swansea United (2nd)
Saturday 18 May, 2:30 pm, Fearnley Dawes Athletic Field
The NEWFM Northern League One competition has reached the midway point of the season and Round 11 is set to deliver some monumental matches that could shake up the road ahead, none more significant than the top of the table clash between Cooks Hill United and Belmont Swansea United to take place at the Fearnley Dawes Athletic Field this Saturday.
The two best sides over the course of the opening rounds will collide while both clubs have formed a great rivalry over recent years and Saturday’s match is set to add another exciting chapter to the match-up.
The boys from Blacksmiths are the last side to defeat the ladder leaders when they downed the Cookers over two legs in last year’s scintillating semi-final series, including a 3-0 rout at the Athfield to propel them into the grand final and eventual premiership glory, although, Cooks Hill does hold a greater record in recent fixtures, including a win in the regular season in 2018 while few can go past their 4-0 win over Belswans in the 2017 grand final.
Cooks Hill’s current unbeaten streak of nine games has seen them rack up 23 points and boast the superior attacking record in the league with 28 goals, however, they’ll be coming up against the best defensive unit in Belswans who have conceded only eight goals in their nine fixtures.
Last weekend’s incredible comeback over Kahibah kept the black and white five points clear at the top of the table while Belswans were held to a 1-1 draw against Cessnock and a loss on Saturday would see them slip to a damaging eight points behind the frontrunners.
Cooks Hill know the potential ramifications a win could have on their chase for their third-straight premiership, however, coach, Graham Law is adamant his side will have to be at their very best.
“They’re (Belswans) doing better this season than at this stage last season, so we know their quality and they will raise their game again and if we don’t, we’ll get beat,” Law said.
“We conceded four goals in a game (against Kahibah) but there’s no need to press the panic button, we are level-headed and we know we need to work hard to win games although I don’t see it happening regularly and obviously, I was pleased with the turnaround.
“We don’t have to win, but we definitely don’t want to lose, although that’s not in our DNA so we want to win every game we play,” Law continued.
“We work in groups of games and this game is no different but this is a potentially big game for us in terms of the title.”
A victory for Belswans would boost their confidence heading into the remaining games in 2019 to challenge for the top spot while coach, Mick Stafford, knows Saturday will be a different prospect to last season’s fixtures.
“I can’t take anything away from last year as we’re a completely different side and it’s a whole new ball game,” Stafford said.
“It’s a massive game in regards to our confidence to know we can match it as we want to be there at the very end.
“I think we’re doing really well with 18 points when we are usually slow starters, I honestly think we’re overachieving,” Stafford continued.
“We’re well structured, the boys work hard for each other and hard to break down but Cooks Hill has the best attack in the competition so it will be a good test.
Singleton Strikers (9th) vs New Lambton Eagles (6th)
Sunday 19 May, 2:30 pm, Howe Park
Two sides sitting around the mid-table will clash this round with Singleton hosting New Lambton at Howe Park, aiming to drive themselves up the ladder.
The Strikers last win came five rounds ago to leave them sitting in 9th, however, a win could see them leapfrog the Eagles if results go their way and rejuvenate their season, while New Lambton, recorded a goalless draw against Toronto Awaba last round and have slipped to four points behind the top four although a victory could have possible implications on their chase for a finals finish.
Singleton also has a game in hand on teams above them but will need to improve on their ten goals so far in the league to rise up the ladder having registered only the one strike in their last four.
The home side will also look to last season’s fixtures where they recorded an 8-2 demolition over the Eagles with Hayden Nicol scoring an outstanding four goals, while New Lambton redeemed themselves in the latest fixture between the two with a 2-1 win on Singleton’s home turf.
The Strikers season is hanging in the balance although there is still plenty of games left to achieve a high-placing and coach, David Willoughby, said they’re looking forward to returning to the park.
“I view every game as important to our season, this weekend is no different. We need to start to accumulate points and this week’s game against New Lambton is the next opportunity to do so,” Willoughby said.
“Last weekend was very frustrating not to play, not playing the game makes no difference to player availability for this weekend.
“All Jim Foley coached teams are very well drilled and disciplined, again Singleton doesn’t seem to have any easy games and we see this game as a tough test for us.”
A win for the Eagles could see them return to the pack chasing for finals football and coach, Jim Foley, said the three points could be massive towards their season.
“We’ll need to produce a very good performance to bring the three points back from Singleton,” Foley said.
“I was very pleased with our display against Toronto, we were unable to convert chances to get the win but I was pleased with the effort.
“We have another demanding week ahead but I firmly believe we will be rewarded if we consistently reproduce our best form.”
West Wallsend (3rd) vs Kahibah F.C (8th)
Sunday 19 May, 2:30 pm, Johnston Park
Johnston Park will play home to two sides looking to return to the winner’s circle with West Wallsend and Kahibah locking horns on Sunday while both teams will be striving for another consistent performance.
The Bluebells are currently on a hot streak of six games unbeaten to be sitting in 3rd spot with their latest result being a determined 1-1 draw against fellow top four side, South Cardiff, while Kahibah have only won one of their last five to be in 8th spot after their crushing 5-4 defeat to Cooks Hill after leading 4-1 with fifteen minutes to go.
The away side will look to their triumphant FFA Cup victory over Adamstown a week ago as their standard to achieve success, with star man Rhys Tippett in great touch notching four goals in his last two outings, however, the home side are no strangers to finding the back of the net themselves, registering 25 so far for the campaign, second only to the first placed, Cooks Hill.
Both teams shared the results in the previous two encounters with the Rams securing a 5-3 win in the last match between the two at Johnston Park while West Wallsend returned serve in a fixture towards the end of the 2018 season, claiming a 3-2 victory.
A win could move West Wallsend clear of South Cardiff and Thornton behind them and coach, Brendan Slade, said he’s excited to test out the club’s depth with a few players injured.
“We’ve been a bit short on troops but it’s good to see the depths we have with our Under 19’s coming along well,” Slade said.
“They’re a really good side (Kahibah), Rhys Tippett is a quality player and we’ve got to keep him quiet but in saying that they’ve got quality all over the pitch and can beat anyone on their day.
“We’ve shuffled a few players around but still striving for consistency in our line-up.”
Kahibah would have been reeling from their loss to Cooks Hill, however, coach Andre Gumprecht said he’s looking for the green and black to take the next step.
“We had an emotional rollercoaster the last week with the great FFA Cup win and then going down to Cooks Hill, but spirits are very high and we know we can be a very good team,” Gumprecht said.
“In terms of the FFA Cup, it’s the biggest success the club has had in a long time as we’ve never made the next round and a win over Cessnock (in the next round) would be massive for the club.
“It’s going to be a difficult game against West Wallsend, we need to deal with the physicality but we still have a lot of work ahead of us but we’re certain results will come our way if we start to find consistency.”
Cessnock City Hornets (7th) vs Thornton Redbacks (5th)
Sunday 19 May, 2:30 pm, Turner Park
Cessnock City and the Thornton Redbacks will clash this Sunday with both outfits starting to find their groove to prosper another huge match-up in Round 11.
The home side is in the middle of a great run of results including their historic FFA Cup win over Lake Macquarie City a week ago, while also fighting back to draw 1-1 against Belswans last round and have picked up two wins from their previous two at their favourite Turner Park.
The Redbacks come into this game having missed last round due to a postponement, but will be eager to assert themselves and claim victory with a potential top-four spot on offer after winning their last two games this season.
Both clubs have formed a compelling rivalry over recent campaigns with the away side claiming the latest victory between the two with a 3-2 win at the back end of last season.
The Hornets will need to improve on their eight goals so far in the competition – the lowest amount in the league – although, a win could see them move into the top half of the ladder and two points away from a coveted top four position heading into the back end of the year.
Thornton will be looking to rely on their experienced combinations to get them over the line although coach, Gary Wand, said he’s wary of a strong Hornets outfit.
“They’re (Cessnock) going well, they started slowly but are hitting some form and the game will have a familiar feel as most of the players are mates as well,” Wand said.
“The guys out are still long-term injuries and it was more of an annoyance not to play last weekend so we’ve had to do extra training.
“We’ve had a tough start to the year but we are within striking distance and the trick will be to keep everyone fit as you need your best players for the big games later in the year.”
Toronto Awaba Stags (10th) vs Wallsend F.C (11th)
Sunday 19 May, 2:45 pm, Lyall Peacock Field
The final game of the round sees another must-win game for both outfits as the bottom-placed Wallsend travel to play the second last team in Toronto Awaba with the two sides desperate to move clear of the dreaded wooden spoon.
The Stags are coming off a 0-0 draw against New Lambton last round achieving their first clean sheet of the season to give them a confidence boost, while the Red Devils served the bye last round and are feeling refreshed ahead of another huge game.
This fixture looms as the biggest game of the season so far for both clubs in terms of ladder position as a win for either club could kick-start their campaign heading into the remaining games of 2019, while Wallsend has the better of the previous games played between the pair with a 3-2 win and a 10-2 drubbing over the Stags in 2018, where striker Ty Goldsmith scored a remarkable five goals, however Toronto are a much-improved side this season.
Toronto hasn’t registered a win at Lyall Peacock Field since the back end of the 2017 season with their last victory on their home turf coming against Wallsend and the side will be looking to reverse the trend come Sunday.
Coach, Darrell McAllister said his side have been working hard on their attacking- third contributions to start to pick up more results.
“We’ve been working very hard on our attack but it just hasn’t clicked yet but the clean sheet (last round) was very pleasing,” McAllister said.
“We just want to be competitive, I don’t think ladder position is important yet and if we can string three or four wins together, we’re back in it.
“We’ve also got everyone back on board and now we’ve got to manage that as there are fourteen or fifteen players I’m confident in and it’s just about picking the right eleven.
The Red Devils know the importance of this next fixture towards their overall season and coach, Jesse Pryce, is determined to pick up a valuable three points.
“It’s got to be our biggest game, we need to ensure we get the points as we don’t want to finish on the spoon but we also want to leave our mark on this season,” Pryce said.
“Couple of players are coming back from long-term injuries, but we still won’t be able to play our strongest eleven but it’s a good chance for our younger players.”