Match of the Round
West Wallsend v Thornton
Johnston Park, Sunday 2.30pm
Thornton co-coach Scott Winslade believes the Redbacks have put the foundations in place to build a bright future ahead of their final match of the regular season.
Thornton travel to Johnston Park to face West Wallsend on the back of an impressive 3-0 win over finals-chasing Cessnock City last weekend, a result that guaranteed the Redbacks would avoid finishing at the foot of the table.
Despite having battled a nightmare run of injuries this season, Thornton have impressed many and frustrated plenty of others. And Winslade believes there are signs the Redbacks will have an improved 2021.
“If we had a bit of luck or the bounce of the ball now and then I think things would have been different,” Winslade said.
“But overall I think while the season has been difficult it has been a learning curve for the boys and us as coaches.
“We’re trying to build something rather than just go out there and throw a load of money at it and get players in. We’re not the richest club in the competition.
“It has been difficult at times keeping morale up. The boys obviously don’t like losing. Success wise not making the finals is not where we want to be but you have to kind of look outside that and realise we’ve got a lot of young boys coming through and the injuries we’ve had to key players in particular has been ridiculous.”
All of a sudden Thornton have their sights set on finishing as high as ninth with a win over the Bluebells.
But they will have to reverse the result of their round four clash when West Wallsend secured a 2-0 win at Thornton Park.
“After that really poor midweek evening game against Toronto [Awaba] a few weeks ago we’ve been on a good run,” Winslade said.
“We made a few changes to our formation after that and tried to work on a few things. The Cooks Hill games where we lost 3-1 I think probably flattered them a little bit. We had an unlucky red card and had four under-18s players play in that game.
“Last week against BelSwans we were right in it, again conceded from an unlucky deflection. Little things like that have gone against us but the boys haven’t stopped going at training. Which is why I think they deserved [the result against Cessnock] on the weekend.
“Hopefully we’ll go [to Johnston Park] and get a result. I think the boys’ confidence will be higher now.
“We’ll have a couple of boys back as well. Hopefully we can finish on a high and move on to next season with some kind of confidence. Also with the shorter break hopefully we can get them back ready to go and not starting from scratch again next season.”
While West Wallsend’s finals hopes ended last weekend with the Bluebells out of action thanks to the bye, the historic club will look to finish their own campaign on a bright note with a win enough to guarantee a sixth-placed finish.
South Cardiff v New Lambton
Ulinga Oval, Sunday 2.30pm
For New Lambton the equation is simple. Beat South Cardiff, win the premiership.
The Eagles enjoy a two-point lead at the top of the table over Cooks Hill United, Singleton and Belmont Swansea United heading into the final round.
A victory over the ninth-placed Gunners would guarantee New Lambton the title, an impressive achievement for Tom Davies’ young squad.
The Eagles put themselves in a strong position to secure the premiership thanks to their 3-1 win over challengers Cooks Hill United in the penultimate round last weekend thanks to goals from Riley Taylor, Tom Siderovski and Joel Caldwell.
A draw against South Cardiff would still more than likely be enough for New Lambton to be crowned premiers given their vastly superior goal difference over the chasing pack.
For South Cardiff, the match is a chance to finish a disappointing campaign on a high in front of a home crowd and spoil New Lambton’s coronation as premiers in the process.
Kahibah v Cooks Hill United
Kahibah Oval, Sunday 2.30pm
While Cooks Hill United missed their chance to secure the NEWFM Northern League One premiership last weekend the reigning premiers still have an opportunity to retain their crown.
Cooks Hill travel to Kahibah Oval to take on finals-bound Kahibah on Sunday knowing they need to win if they are a chance of scoring a fourth consecutive premiership.
Even if that goal is out of reach, three points are still vital for Doug West’s side with a win likely to be enough to avoid an elimination final.
But even that is not guaranteed. With Cooks Hill two points behind New Lambton in second place, the 2019 premiers are also level on points and goal difference with Singleton, as well as being level on points with Belmont Swansea United in fourth.
Kahibah are also only two points behind in fifth, meaning while Cooks Hill will have their sights set on a first-placed finish and a premiership, they could still find themselves playing an elimination final away from home should they suffer defeat.
Kahibah also have it all to play for. A win for the Rams could push them as high as second if other results go their way, leaving Kahibah hosting the qualifying final.
Wallsend FC v Singleton
The Gardens, Sunday 2.30pm
After guaranteeing finals football for the first time in 16 years last weekend, Singleton now have their sights set higher.
The Strikers make the long journey south to The Gardens to face Wallsend FC on Sunday knowing a win could hand them a historic premiership.
But, like others around them in the chasing pack, Singleton will also know they cannot afford a slip up.
A defeat to struggling Wallsend could see Singleton fall as low as fifth and face the prospect of an away elimination final in the first week of the finals.
The Red Devils have already been guaranteed a last-placed finish but will be keen to finish their season on a high and cause an upset.
Cessnock City v Belmont Swansea United
Turner Park, Sunday 2.30pm
Belmont Swansea United may be the dark horse to win the premiership but will not be taking Cessnock City lightly in their clash at Turner Park on Sunday.
The 2019 champions are fourth heading into the final round but could still win the premiership if a number of other results fall their way.
They also have a tricky assignment against the dangerous Hornets.
Cessnock were among the front runners for most of the first half of the campaign before a disappointing second half of the season saw the Hornets fall from finals contention.
Cessnock saw their season ended by a deflating 3-0 loss to Thornton last weekend, with the Hornets left to play for pride as they look to cause an upset and derail BelSwans’ premiership charge.
BelSwans coach Mick Stafford has not forgotten their last encounter, as Brad York’s long-range strike saw Cessnock score an upset at Blacksmiths Oval in round four.