HUNTER SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Match of the Round
Cessnock City Hornets v Cooks Hill United
Sunday 15th July, 2:30 pm at Turner Park
Turner Park could be the location for the coronation of Cooks Hill, should they triumph on Sunday.
Standing in their way is a Cessnock side without much hope of playing finals football, but instead a point to prove.
The Cookers eased past Cessnock last time the two sides met back in round six, a 3-1 win at Newcastle Athletics Field just the Hornets’ second of the season.
Last weekend the Hornets were swept aside by a rampant West Wallsend outfit, who scored four goals in the first half and didn’t concede across both to secure a 4-0 win.
It puts Cessnock six points behind Westy, in fourth, and despite a game in hand, it looks a tough ask to crack the finals this season. They’ll welcome back Blake Roy this weekend, who missed the midweek 3-2 win over Wallsend through suspension.
Cooks Hill will be missing a player this weekend through suspension – Jarryd Johnson who was sent off in the dying stages last weekend with South Cardiff. Nick Russell is also away, while Lee Ashton is set for a return.
That 2-2 draw denied them the opportunity to go within a point of winning the league. Victory against Cessnock would virtually guarantee the premiership stays with Cooks.
Cooks Hill coach Graham Law had his sums done ahead of what is potentially a premiership decider.
“If results go our way, we can clinch the comp this weekend. If we win and Thornton win, we will be 12 points clear of Thornton and they will have four games left to play,” said Law.
“[If that happens], we would have to lose all our remaining games, and they would have to win all theirs and turn around a goal difference of 20 (to lose the competition). If we win, and Thornton don’t win then mathematically it’s tied up.”
Law wasn’t looking beyond Sunday though and was expecting a tough matchup at Turner Park.
“I’ve been to see Cessnock a couple of times in the past few weeks, there has been two very different performances, so it’s difficult to get a gauge on where they’re at,” said Law.
“The games I have seen, they’ve created so many chances and just haven’t taken them. We’ll be going up there wary like we are with every team, but they’ll still believe they have an outside chance of making the semis which they do.
“I think if they win the game in hand, they’ll only be three points behind fourth which really means it’s ‘do or die’ for them on Sunday. That’s a dangerous situation for us, but we’ll go into the game as we do the others, looking to play our game and win the game.
“Really, we don’t need any more incentive than win the game and we win the comp.”
It wasn’t too bad a performance from Cooks Hill in last weekend’s 2-2 draw with South Cardiff, and Law has been pleased with their response since.
“On another day, we could have had three or four in the second half. I wasn’t disappointed in the performance at all, sometimes you have to give the opposition a bit of credit,” said Law.
“Upon reflection, I wasn’t too disappointed with not losing our unbeaten record at home. I didn’t go away disappointed from a coaching perspective, but the players were furious with themselves.
“At training this week, they were really annoyed with themselves so it’s a good benchmark when you see the players managing their own expectations.”
Kahibah FC v Wallsend FC
Saturday 14th July, 2:30 pm at Kahibah Oval
It’s one of the league’s big rivalries, but instead of their previous lofty heights in the NEWFM Northern League One, each sits some way outside the top four.
Wallsend could climb that high should they put together a fantastic run, while Kahibah has little but pride to play for.
The Red Devils will be hoping for a performance as strong up front, but maybe slightly tighter at the back than the last time they met Kahibah. The meeting was a 5-3 win to Wallsend.
Last weekend Kahibah headed out to Singleton and stepped up to the plate, a 1-1 draw against a side battling for a spot inside the top four.
By all reports, Kahibah could have taken all three points if they were more clinical in front of goal. Doing so this weekend could pull them further clear of bottom spot.
Despite the bye last weekend, Wallsend has been busy on the pitch. They managed a 3-0 win over South Cardiff last Wednesday but went down 3-2 against Cessnock this Wednesday just gone.
That loss to Cessnock is a big blow to Wallsend’s finals hopes, and they’re now seven points adrift of the top four with a game in hand on Westy in fourth. Another loss this weekend would all but rule the Red Devils out of the running.
South Cardiff FC v Toronto Awaba FC
Saturday 14th July, 2:30 pm at Ulinga Oval
Outside the top four, further than they perhaps feel is warranted, Saturday shapes as a fantastic opportunity for South Cardiff to resume their charge on finals football.
They’re up against a Toronto side which proved its resilience last weekend despite defeat – one which has virtually guaranteed them the wooden spoon.
That resilience must be forthcoming if the Stags are to avoid a fate similar to the one which befell them in their last meeting with South Cardiff. The Gunners emerged 8-0 victors on the day.
A win of a similar magnitude would be ideal for South Cardiff this weekend, who are three points outside the top four. They’ll need someone else to stumble to climb the ladder again, and goal difference might yet become vital.
A pair of penalties condemned South Cardiff to a draw with Cooks Hill last weekend, which by all accounts was regarded as two points lost rather than one gained. A similar performance this weekend would surely ensure all three.
It’s seven in a row now which Toronto hasn’t managed to claim a win, and last weekend was perhaps the closest they’d come. They led in the first half but fell to a 2-1 defeat against New Lambton.
That defeat left the Stags five points adrift at the bottom, and with the two sides above them carrying a game in hand it looks like the spoon may be heading out to Toronto. A win this weekend might change things.
New Lambton FC v Belmont Swansea United FC
Sunday 15th July, 2:30 pm at Alder Park
With the embarrassment of last place, one which New Lambton looks set to avoid, their approach this weekend will be one to watch.
Belmont Swansea scored a famous win last weekend to keep a massive unbeaten run alive – another this weekend could send them into second.
They’ll need a better result than the one they managed last time out against the Eagles, though – 2-2 at Blacksmiths Oval back in round 7.
New Lambton might be looking to prove themselves a tough opponent, imbued with confidence after they claimed a 2-1 win over cellar dwellers Toronto on Sunday.
It’s a good result for the injury-ravaged side, who will be without leading goal scorer Riley Taylor for the remainder of the season through injury. This weekend will be tough.
It’s ten games without defeat for Belswans now, a run which started all the way back at that draw with New Lambton. It’s that good form which has propelled them to third on the ladder, behind Thornton only on goal difference.
It was Thornton who they beat last weekend, triumphing 2-0 in a match which was crucial to their finals hopes. It’s given them a shot at second place on the ladder.
Belmont-Swansea coach Josh Rufo was wary of the challenge New Lambton presents.
“They’re a young, enthusiastic team so I’m expecting a very competitive match between two teams with lots of points to play for,” said Rufo.
“There’s not much risk of complacency from our end, we know how hard we’ve worked to get ourselves into this position.
“We’ll just keep reminding the team each session and each week that it’s one game at a time, and reminding them how hard we’ve worked to get back to where we are.”
If Thornton slips this weekend, Belmont-Swansea could go into outright second but Rufo believes that isn’t a big motivator.
“I think the motivator itself is more about winning on the weekend than [potentially] coming second,” said Rufo.
“The motivation is more about winning the game and making sure that we’re inside the semifinals positions.
“At this stage, we don’t have any injury concerns but that could change.”
Thornton Redbacks v Singleton Strikers
Sunday 15th July, 2:30 pm at Thornton Park
Two sides with lofty ambitions had them dented last weekend, with results which were perhaps slightly unexpected.
Defeat for Thornton put their second-place spot in jeopardy, while a draw out at Howe Park pushed the Strikers outside the top four.
There wasn’t much to write home about the last time these two sides met as they played out a scoreless stalemate in round seven. A similar result would do neither side too much good on Sunday.
Thornton’s grip on second place got just a little looser last weekend, after the 2-0 defeat to Belswans seen the side from Lake Macquarie take an equal share of second on the ladder.
Goal difference is shaping as potentially key in the race for second, and Thornton’s is good at +16. They’ve scored the second most goals (34) and conceded the equal fewest (18).
In comparison, Singleton’s goal difference is +1. Their defence is solid with just 23 goals through (4th best in the league), but they’ve scored just 24 – the second lowest output across the division.
Last weekend’s result was perhaps reflective of their goal difference this season – a 1-1 draw with Kahibah. It’s a result which denied them second on the ladder and pushed them out of the top four.
West Wallsend has the bye