Match of the Round
Cessnock City Hornets (7th) vs South Cardiff Gunners (3rd)
Sunday 21 July, 2:30 pm, Turner Park
Sunday’s Match of the Round at Turner Park between finals-rivals Cessnock City and South Cardiff is set to deliver an immense match-up that could shake up the road ahead for both clubs.
The Gunners returned to devastating form with a 4-0 rout over Singleton last weekend and in doing so, moved back into the top four while the Hornets suffered a significant setback in going down 2-0 to Wallsend.
South Cardiff also climbed up to third place on goal difference, with a confidence-boosting 1-0 win over New Lambton midweek, putting them four points above the fifth spot.
Cessnock will cherish returning to their favourite ground where they have won four straight games on their home paddock including a huge, recent victory against frontrunners Cooks Hill.
South Cardiff have scored more than double the amount of goals Cessnock have, but will be without leading goal-scorer Sam Ford due to injury, and will now look to the in-form Dino Fajkovic and Tom Butzmann to lead the attack.
The Gunners also put six past the Hornets last time they met, although the Hornets are a vastly different side since then and will be fired up to keep their season alive.
A win for the Hornets would put them within a point of the Gunners in the race for the finals, and captain Greg Anderson said the team would do everything it can to give themselves a chance.
“All we can do is push hard for the results and get the most points out of the last four games and see how other results end up,” Anderson said.
“It was a disappointing display against Wallsend, the squad has spoken about what was lacking but simply a case of being inconsistent hurt us again.
“Similar to the Cooks Hill (games), we have improved in areas where they (South Cardiff) hurt us and we have a game plan to try and get the result we need.”
South Cardiff are now in a commanding position to land a finals spot and captain-coach Denis Fajkovic said they need to keep building on another solid performance.
“The most pleasing thing is the boys showed that they have fight in them, that performance (against New Lambton) obviously sets up the Cessnock game,” Fajkovic said.
“The squad has impressed this week, we talked about all the consecutive games which have hurt us in the past, we have rotated the squad this week.
“We are happy and ready for Sunday’s challenge.”
New Lambton Eagles (8th) vs Belmont-Swansea United (2nd)
Saturday 20 July, 4:30 pm, Alder Park
The New Lambton Eagles will play host to Belmont Swansea in a big game for both outfits at Alder Park and another intriguing fixture in Round 19.
The Eagles suffered a significant setback last round with a 2-0 defeat to Kahibah to leave them in eighth while they also suffered a tough 1-0 midweek loss to South Cardiff.
As for the defending champions, they currently remain in second spot, but endured a substantial setback midweek with a 5-3 loss to the bottom-placed Toronto Awaba in one of the shock results of 2019 and the heaviest defeat of their season.
No doubt the yellow and green will be reeling from the loss but will look to get back on track against New Lambton, who they recorded a 1-0 win over earlier in the season and will be desperate to hold onto second spot with South Cardiff and West Wallsend close behind.
Belswans’ defence remains the best in the league, statistics wise, with goalkeeper Daniel Bryant holding four clean sheets since his arrival to the squad, but he will face a dangerous task in keeping New Lambton’s striker Riley Taylor quiet with the attacker locked in the golden boot race.
Back to back defeats leaves this match as New Lambton’s last chance to make a run for the finals as they sit eight points away from the four with four games left and they will be aiming to keep their season alive with a victory while desperation could trigger a positive performance.
Cooks Hill United (1st) vs Wallsend F.C (10th)
Saturday 20 July, 6:00 pm, Fearnley Dawes Athletic Field
Cooks Hill United will look to continue their lead at the top of the table and make some extraordinary history but will encounter a tough fixture against a revitalised Wallsend side at the Fearnley Dawes Athletic Field this Saturday.
The Cookers will be fired up for their Legends Day, with all grades to play on the day while the first-grade match will also be an opportunity to potentially secure their third straight premiership.
The black and white secured a determined 3-1 victory over rivals, West Wallsend midweek to set up a possible premiership-winning game at home, while a win will move them to 41 points and at least nine points above Belmont-Swansea with three games to go.
Although, the Cookers will need to be wary of a dangerous Wallsend side that has turned a corner in recent outings and is eager to avoid the wooden spoon and potentially spoil the Cookers party.
The Red Devils claimed a 3-1 midweek win over Singleton to claim back to back victories for the first time in 2019 to keep them above Toronto Awaba and onto fourteen points – tied with Singleton.
The away side will also take confidence out of their last outing against Cooks Hill, which ended in a 2-2 draw earlier in the year.
With plenty at stake for the home side, the team will be out to claim another monumental victory, while coach Graham Law said he was extremely proud of his players after their midweek victory.
“If we had lost, the competition might have still got a sniff (at the premiership), I thought we had control of the game from start to finish,” Law said.
“My players have great football brains and deserve full credit for the great result, we were on and it was a very pleasing night.
“It will be a very big day Saturday, our Zone League teams will also play before us and we call it Legends day to encompass our women’s teams aswell, it will be another tough game but the boys will be up for it.”
Toronto Awaba Stags (11th) vs Thornton Redbacks (5th)
Saturday 20 July, 6:45 pm, Lyall Peacock Field
Thornton Redbacks will travel to Lyall Peacock Filed in an aim to keep in touch with the top four, but will face a Toronto Awaba side coming off the back of an impressive midweek showing.
The Stags achieved the double over Belswans midweek, incredibly knocking over the second-placed team 5-3 to snap a four-game losing streak and now are determined to negate the dreaded wooden spoon.
Thornton was held to a frustrating 2-2 draw to Kahibah midweek, in a result that didn’t do any favours for either side while leaving them four points away from the top four, although they do maintain a game in hand.
The Redbacks do have the firepower that can trouble any team on its day, while the Stags are the first team to put five past Belswans this season to set up what could be a terrific attacking match-up.
The Redbacks will look to their last outing against Toronto to achieve something similar, when they beat the Stags 2-0 earlier this season and won’t want to lose another game in order to keep fighting for a finals spot.
Singleton Strikers (9th) vs Kahibah F.C (6th)
Sunday 21 July, 2:30 pm, Howe Park
The Singleton Strikers are now locked in a wooden spoon battle and will face the tricky task of a determined Kahibah side, playing for their season.
The Strikers suffered their fourth loss in a row midweek, going down to Wallsend 3-1 to now leave them only a point in front of the last spot and are also feeling the pinch of missing a number of first grade regulars.
Kahibah is still on the verge of the top four, but encountered a tight 2-2 draw midweek against Thornton which leaves them in sixth, and six points away from the four but they still have a game in hand against Wallsend.
The home side will welcome back regulars Jordan Phelan and Zane Hand, but need to snap out of their form slump if they are going to avoid the wooden spoon with Wallsend and Toronto putting together key results.
As for the Rams, they’ve hit consistent, good form to put themselves within touching distance of a finals spot and won’t want to let the opportunity go to waste.
Singleton’s season has shown promise with several talented players on deck, but coach David Willoughby said the side hasn’t had much luck with key personnel missing.
“We had eight first-choice players missing (against Wallsend midweek), and five players playing who don’t normally play first grade but we were competitive for long periods of the game,” Willoughby said.
“Lachlan and Hayden Nicol have been our standout players all year, they travel 50kms to get to training, and they’re at an NPL standard, they’re fantastic players, Jordan Phelan and Jake Barner have also been solid.
“We have just got to aim up and work hard for the football club.”