PHOTO: Valentine Sports Photography
Match of the Round
Wallsend FC v Belmont Swansea FC
Sunday 19th March 2:30 pm, The Gardens
A Grand Final rematch is round two’s NEWFM Northern League One Match of the Round, with both sides sure to be out looking to show they’re the contender for this year’s title.
When they last met, Wallsend prevailed 4-3 on penalties (0-0 regulation time). Both sides now field drastically different squads, with Wallsend losing the likes of Dave Hodgson to Kahibah, and former Captain Chris Gazzard has made the move across to Belswans.
This will be a key battle to watch – provided he passes a last minute fitness test, will Gazzard be given some extra attention by his former teammates?
Belswans will have an early season form on their side, a resounding 3-0 victory over Singleton Strikers last week, despite fielding a depleted side, will give them plenty of confidence. Wallsend went down 3-2 to South Cardiff last week and will be keen to make an early statement against their rivals.
Wallsend coach Chris Gallagher was looking for improvement this weekend.
“I wouldn’t say we struggled last week (at South Cardiff), I think it was more we fell into the same game plan as they had which was a bit basic but worked more effectively for them than it did for us.
“They had three maybe four chances all game, and we had more than enough. I think it’s more finishing and that lack of killer instinct that hurt us on the weekend, we’ve been working on those things this week.
“Just because we lost to South Cardiff doesn’t mean we have to change or reinvent the wheel, we’re just going to keep working away and hope what we planned comes off.”
Belswans coach Josh Rufo said he knows his side has to build on last week’s victory over Singleton.
“I think it’s going to be another competitive game but nothing really changes from how we approach it, we work just as hard and make sure our quality is there.
“We still have to work hard, turn up and play to our potential.”
Rufo said he wasn’t expecting this match to have any more fire than usual.
“I don’t know any of the players there, all the good players have left so anyone that’s there isn’t anyone that I know.”
Cooks Hill United FC v West Wallsend SFC
Saturday 18th March 2:30 pm, Newcastle Athletics Field
The performances of these two sides in round one could not have been further apart – Cooks Hill scored five goals on the way to a 5-0 rout at Toronto while West Wallsend conceded six goals to newcomers New Lambton on Monday night.
The two sides last faced off in round 20 last season, Cooks Hill beating out the Bluebells 3-1 in July last year. This season, however, it’s a new look for Cooks Hill, led by former Adamstown and Maitland coach Graham Law who has been tipped to get the best out of his numerous PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues (NPL) recruits in 2017.
Cooks dominated in their match last weekend but left it until late to put a swag of goals through Toronto on their way to a 5-0 victory. West Wallsend conceded six against newcomers New Lambton but played well in patches and with a bit of luck, it could have been a very different result.
Bluebells coach Gary Rowe says his side must improve at the back.
“They (Cooks Hill) scored seven against us in a trial match so we’re acutely aware of what they have to offer in attack.
“It’ll come down to what we do, if we defend like we did on Monday night they’ll score more than six, and if we defend with 11 across the park we won’t.”
Rowe says it’s vital his side finish their chances this time around.
“We should have won that game (against New Lambton) if we scored the three chances we had in the first ten minutes of the second half – it’s a different game as well.
“We can roll ‘what ifs’ out all day, but we can’t afford to be missing five or six chances, we should be scoring and get anything out of the game.”
Cooks Hill has a free-scoring reputation despite having played less than half a dozen matches all up in 2017 and will hope the likes of Lee Ashton and Jonas Ramspott can step up again this weekend the same way they did against Toronto and continue to score for fun.
New Lambton FC v Thornton Redbacks FC
Sunday 19th March 2:30 pm, Adamstown Oval
Given these two sides scored 11 goals between them in round one, Adamstown Oval may be the place to go for the neutral when New Lambton take on Thornton on Sunday afternoon.
New Lambton’s promotion into the NEWFM Northern League One is uncharted territory for the Eagles, and the two sides will face off in the league for the first time on Sunday.
Thornton coach Darrel McAllister was spotted in the crowd when New Lambton won their first league match against West Wallsend on Monday, and will no doubt have been worried to see the Eagles score six on their way to victory. His Redbacks scored five in their victory over Cessnock, and know they may just have to do it again if they’re to take points away from New Lambton.
Despite scoring freely against Cessnock on Sunday, McAllister said the emphasis wasn’t on scoring goals.
“Our main focus at the moment is making sure we get the other end of the park right, we’ve got a few players that’ll take care of the attacking and our main focus at training is getting our defence right.
“Had a bit of a look at New Lambton and they looked pretty sharp, they probably caught Westie off guard that other night and we don’t want to get caught off guard this weekend.”
New Lambton coach Andrew Packer said after Monday night’s match he was pleased with his side’s performance.
“We know we’ve got a lot to work on, and we’re still disappointed because we know we can do a lot better.
Packer said Maurice Bechelli acquitted himself well in Monday night’s performance and may be in line for another appearance in first grade.
“Bechelli scored on his debut and I think he got a couple in the 19s.
“We’ll see… I try to take a bit away from matches but I don’t guarantee things, he’s still got to go out and perform and train well on Thursday night.”
Cessnock City FC v Singleton Strikers FC
Sunday 19th March 2:30 pm, Turner Park
Cessnock and Singleton were both on struggle street in round one of the NEWFM Northern League One – eight goals conceded between the two sides and only one scored means they’ll both be looking for big improvements when they clash at Turner Park on Sunday afternoon.
The two sides last met in Round 12 of last season, and it was the Strikers who came away with a massive 6-1 win that day. Cessnock struggled to contain the likes of Jamie Subat at the back last weekend against Thornton, and if Singleton coach David Willoughby can get his Strikers firing the Hornets, they may be in for another long day.
Cessnock conceded five last week and scored only one against Thornton, and know they’ll have to improve across the board. Their defence looked shaky and the Hornets struggled to move the ball out of the midfield – similar problems to Singleton as they went down 3-0 to Belswans.
Singleton will be buoyed by the return of four first graders, and coach David Willoughby said he’ll be hoping for an improved performance.
“They’re boys that have been working in the group for the last eight weeks, and on Sunday we’ll keep the ball a little bit better and for longer periods of time.
“We’re going to try and keep possession and get numbers around the box, we’re going to show Cessnock the respect they deserve and generate some goal scoring opportunities.”
Cessnock coach Lino Gatti said after last week’s match he was feeling positive.
“We’ve got a couple of injuries, we’ve got a couple of new boys coming in (this) week, and all the boys (that played last week) deserve another kick in first grade.”
Toronto Awaba FC v Kahibah FC
Sunday 19th March 2:30 pm, Lyall Peacock Oval
Kahibah has signed some of the division’s highest scorers from 2016 and will be hoping the likes of Dave Hodgson and Jamie Hadlow can show just why they were brought to the club when they face Toronto this Sunday at Lyall Peacock Oval.
The two sides last met in round 22 of the 2016 season, when Kahibah comprehensively defeated the Stags 4-1. Both sides are a new look this year, Kahibah casting their recruitment net far and wide while Toronto has turned their focus inward and recruited locally.
Some coaches love the bye and some hate it, and we’ll be treated to how Kahibah will handle their first match of the season. Given they struggled in their preseason trials, Gumprecht will be hoping for a big game from his side to start their season. Toronto, on the other hand, did play last week and lost 5-0 to a rampaging Cooks Hill side.
The Stags will need to tighten up at the back if they have any chance at getting points from Kahibah this weekend. Last year’s third place finishers boast the likes of Jarrod Penfold, Jamie Hadlow and Dave Hodgson among their goal-scoring ranks and will no doubt pose a huge threat.
Youngster Sam Cresswell was in goal for Toronto last weekend and was solid despite conceding five goals in first grade. With Cresswell set to start in goal again this weekend, the Stags will be hoping he can make another big impression.
Kahibah went down to Dudley in a preseason match last week but were without a number of key personnel. Their coach, former Central Coast defender, Andre Gumprecht, emphasised before the season start’s, it’s important to get their defence right.
“You can have as many good strikers as you like but if you can’t defend then you won’t be successful, and that’s what we base our philosophy around, we want to avoid conceding goals and then focus on the attack.”