Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United (2nd) vs South Cardiff Gunners (5th)
Sunday 23 June, 2:30 pm, Blacksmiths Oval
The race for the finals is well and truly on in the NEWFM Northern League One competition and with one point separating fifth from ninth, the fight is set to get even tougher.
Round 15 will be the Women in Football Round as part of rebel Female Football Week in paying recognition to all the wonderful women in the game and their remarkable contribution.
The round is also highlighted by a blockbuster fixture between Belmont Swansea and South Cardiff with both teams vying for a prized three points.
Belswans regained their winning touch last round with a 3-1 win over Wallsend to move back into second place while the Gunners went down 2-1 to Kahibah and have slipped out of the top four after New Lambton leapfrogged them with a breakthrough win against Cooks Hill on Wednesday night.
Back in Round 4, the boys from Blacksmiths accounted for South Cardiff with a 3-0 victory and will be wanting to stretch their margin over their rivals to eight points with a win and cement themselves in the top two.
A lot is riding on this fixture and South Cardiff will be fired up to re-emerge into the top four with a triumph while bridging the gap to Belswans to two points while keeping their game in hand.
Belswans have been buoyed by the addition of Ty Goldsmith to the line-up who has scored 23 goals in the past two campaigns for Wallsend and will bolster their attacking weapons. Belswans have only registered 19 goals so far this season compared to South Cardiff’s 26, although their defence is the best in the competition with only 12 conceded – averaging a goal a game.
South Cardiff have suffered back-to-back losses but still haven’t been short of goalscoring chances and will look to Dino Fajkovic and Sam Ford – who have scored 14 goals between them – to reverse the trend and reproduce their blistering attacking football.
On the other hand, Belswans Clayton Poole has been in fine form recently having played a hand in all three of Belswans goals last round and terrorised the South Cardiff defence in the previous encounter.
Belswans coach Mick Stafford said his players would be right up for this big game.
“I think we surprised them last round, but we know it’s going to be a very tough match on Sunday, the boys are also very determined especially to get a win at home,” Stafford said.
“You don’t want to be losing more than five or six games if you’re going to make the semi’s, so from the next eight games, if we only lose two, we will be where we want to be.
“He gives us a point of difference (on Ty Goldsmith), take nothing away from the boys who have gotten us to where we are, but he will give us that extra kick and I’ve been chasing him for a couple of years.”
South Cardiff are also viewing this fixture as a must-win game and captain-coach Denis Fajkovic said he expects the Gunners to roll out their strongest line-up.
“Cam Herring is coming back into the side after a couple of injuries and is a quality defender, so he is pushing for a spot, but we expect to be at full-strength,” Fajkovic said.
“Two losses on the trot hurt the playing group, but if we look at chances created we should have won those games, if we win our next two games including the catch-up, we’re into second and that’s where we want to try and finish.
“It will be a tough challenge against Belswans, they’re structurally a very good side and very good defensively. The emphasis has to be on taking our chances as we might not get as many as the previous games.”
Singleton Strikers (9th) vs West Wallsend (3rd)
Saturday 22 June, 2:30 pm, Howe Park
Last time these two sides met, the Bluebells ran out 7-0 victors in a demolition job over Singleton.
Since then, the Strikers have revived their finals hopes with a run of decent performances and almost pulled off a stunning upset against Cooks Hill last round eventually going down 3-2 while West Wallsend suffered a significant setback going down 5-1 to the in-form New Lambton.
The Bluebells have hit a bit of turbulence after going on a lengthy winning run, compounded by losing former coach Brendan Slade and the heavy defeat to New Lambton, although they will be looking to respond in style this Saturday and maintain their hold on the top four.
As for Singleton, they sit amongst the chasing pack hunting for finals football and a victory could boost their confidence even more and they’re determined to erase the memory of the 7-0 thrashing with a result against the Bluebells.
Singleton has the second worst defensive record in the league, with 25 goals against, and they’ll be coming up against the second best-attacking outfit in West Wallsend who have notched 28 goals from their 12 games.
Singleton will need to peg back that margin to improve their goal difference, and coach David Willoughby is hoping they can start that this weekend.
“This is a very important game for us, the 7-0 game gives us added motivation and add on the fact our season is on the line,” Willoughby said.
“We were poor and everything they touched turned to gold (last time against West Wallsend), we learnt we have to show up and show we’re up for the fight.
“We’ve been training well and been playing well recently, especially against Cooks Hill, a win would take the pressure of the next game to get a result.”
Kahibah F.C (8th) vs Toronto Awaba Stags (10th)
Sunday 23 June, 2:30 pm, Kahibah Oval
Two sides coming off big victories will do battle with Kahibah taking on Toronto Awaba on their home turf on Sunday.
Kahibah has put back-to-back wins together to move back into the eighth spot after downing South Cardiff 2-1 before accounting for Wallsend with a 3-0 victory midweek with two goals from Asher Beasley and another from Jamie Hadlow.
The Stags, however, had a breakthrough result against Cessnock last round, claiming all three points with a 1-0 win and maintained a slight hope of playing finals football to sit on ten points, four points behind Kahibah.
Beasley and Hadlow have hit good form lately and will look to continue to take the pressure of Rhys Tippett to find more goals for Kahibah while Toronto will be looking to back up their solid defensive performance which saw them earn a clean sheet against the Hornets.
The green and black also have two games in hand on the teams above, and coach Andre Gumprecht said it’s essential to keep the momentum going.
“We always want to win every game as we believe we can beat any opposition on the day,” Gumprecht said.
“We want to be better than last year, and if that keeps us in contention for bigger and better then I am very happy and pleased for my boys.
Thornton Redbacks (6th) vs Wallsend F.C (11th)
Sunday 23 June, 2:30 pm, Thornton Park
Thornton will return to the paddock this weekend and will take on Wallsend at home, with the Redbacks out to strengthen their position on the ladder against an under-fire Red Devils outfit.
The away side come into this one off the back of a disappointing 3-1 loss to Belswans and now sit firmly in the wooden spoon position, five points away from the nearest side.
The Redbacks served the bye last round while their latest result was a 2-1 loss to Singleton to now sit in the sixth spot, but will be determined to get back into the winner’s circle and move to 19 points on the table.
Thornton defeated Wallsend with a 5-2 victory earlier in the season where Dan Toohey scored a hat-trick on that occasion and will be looking for more of the same on Sunday.
Although the home side will have to get past young Red Devils goalkeeper, Chris Teasdale, who has impressed in recent weeks and looks to be a quality long-term option between the sticks for Wallsend while Wez Pryce has been a consistent figure for the away side having notched his fourth goal of the campaign last round.
Wallsend will be playing for pride but still hold a mathematically chance of playing in the finals but will be objectively hoping to avoid the wooden spoon and improve their poor defensive record of 37 goals conceded- the highest in the league.
Thornton has conceded as many goals as they’ve scored with 21 and will want to move their goal difference into the plus area to give them a stronger chance of making the top four.
Cessnock City Hornets (7th) vs Cooks Hill United (1st)
Sunday 23 June, 2:30 pm, Turner Park
Round 15 wraps up with a potentially entertaining match-up between Cessnock City and Cooks Hill at Turner Park.
Cooks Hill’s dreams of finishing the season unbeaten were dashed midweek, as they suffered their first loss of the campaign with a 3-0 defeat to New Lambton thanks to goals to Riley Taylor (2) and Josh Williams, although they still hold a substantial lead at the top of the ladder.
Cessnock crashed back down to earth with a tough 1-0 loss to Toronto after a string of impressive results to get them in the hunt for a finals spot and will want to test their mettle against the competition frontrunners.
The Cookers ran out 5-0 winners the last time these two played with Ash Balcomb scoring a hat-trick on that night and will want to get back to winning ways on Sunday and improve their margin at the top.
The Hornets have improved immensely since that result and are always tough proposition on their favourite Turner Park.
Cessnock captain, Greg Anderson, said his side would enjoy the challenge of taking on the top side and proving they have what it takes.
“Cooks Hill are the standouts of the competition, and they have proven that we are a different team since we last played them and have strengthened in areas where they punished us last time, so we’re looking for a more competitive contest,” Anderson said.
“The reaction was good from the squad as we knew it wasn’t the result we wanted, but it’s gone and we trained great, attention now has moved to putting in a big effort in and have a crack at Cookers.”
The black and white would have been disappointed by their result to the Eagles, but coach Graham Law said his side weren’t at all focused on going unbeaten and know they must be ready for another big game this weekend.
“Every game is of high importance to us as we know every team lifts to play us, our attitude is we treat everyone exactly the same and rise to that level,” Law said.
“Lee Ashton is away, but we’ve got a very good replacement in Marty Raines who is back fit and can play in the nine, he had a superb pre-season before breaking his hand and in his first start, he got a goal.
“We’re still 10 points ahead and we have a collective goal we want to achieve so hopefully we can extend the gap this weekend.”