Match of the Round
Thornton Redbacks (5th) vs New Lambton Eagles (8th)
Sunday 28 July, 2:30 pm, Thornton Park
The NEWFM Northern League One has hit the pointy end of the season with several teams still in the running to achieve something special in 2019 and clubs will be ramping up the intensity with expectation increasing.
The Thornton Redbacks are one of those teams and will have an opportunity to further claim their stake for a spot in the finals when they collide with New Lambton at Thornton Park to highlight a blockbuster Round 20.
A strong month of football backed up by a come-from-behind victory against Toronto-Awaba last start has fired the Redbacks into contention for finals football and sitting in fifth, while the Eagles have spiralled down in the opposite trajectory after four straight losses including a heavy 6-1 defeat to Belmont-Swansea last round.
New Lambton will be fired up to hit back and get back to their form that saw them knock over Cooks Hill and West Wallsend, and will try and re-find some confidence to finish the season on a high.
However, the Redbacks still have plenty to play for, and sit one point outside of the top four and with key players Jye McKellar and Jake Millsteed hitting good form, Thornton will be eager to keep in touch with the playoff spots ahead of a monumental clash with West Wallsend next Saturday.
A 3-1 result in favour of Thornton was the end score the last time these two met, while both sides offer plenty going forward to set up a potentially compelling encounter.
Sunday’s fixture will have a huge significance in terms of Thornton’s season and coach Gary Wand said there is plenty of motivation to achieve maximum points.
“If they can’t get motivated for this game, then there is something wrong with them but we’ve put ourselves in a good position,” Wand said.
“As long as we win, I’ll be happy. We just need to take our chances.
“It will depend on fitness [challenging for the Grand Final]. If we can keep everyone on deck, we have a chance. Most coaches in the top four or five will believe anyone can win it with everyone available.”
The Eagles have struggled to reproduce their winning spark recently, although coach Jim Foley said he’s continually proud of his squad’s work and is hoping some of that effort can pay off.
“We want to take as many points as we can. It’s a whole lot more enjoyable when you win and try to install some confidence back into the team,” Foley said.
“The club is in a good position going forward, but things haven’t gone to plan [the last month] but I hope we learn a lot from it. I’ve been very impressed with our younger boys in particular – Jimmy Oar has been a standout and has considerable potential and Riley Taylor is also very important for us. He’s our main goal threat and always weighs up what is best for the team.
“They’re a good team Thornton, and at their ground, it’s always a tough challenge. I’m very proud of the boys, they haven’t let the results get them down and they’re still turning up.”
Belmont-Swansea United (2nd) vs Singleton Strikers (9th)
Sunday 28 July, 2:30 pm, Blacksmiths Oval
Belmont-Swansea will host the Singleton Strikers at Blacksmiths Oval, with both teams coming off confident wins but both have different focuses for this match.
The defending champions fired six past New Lambton in a half to steady themselves in second spot and will be determined to build momentum heading into an anticipated finals series.
Singleton reversed a run of four losses with a gritty 2-0 victory over Kahibah last round and will be wanting to restore some consistency in their performance and build into 2020.
The Strikers will have a tricky task in keeping Belswans striker Ty Goldsmith quiet with the front man firing in seven goals in five games since his arrival at the club, while Reece Newton is fresh off a stunning hat-trick and Clayton Poole is always a threat in and around the goalmouth.
The away team did welcome back key defender Jordan Phelan last round and will look to last weekend’s goalscorer Joe Civello as the focal point of attack to try and spring an upset.
A victory for Belswans will also see them eclipse their points tally of last season with two games to spare as the reigning Grand Final winners will look to finish in the second spot.
West Wallsend (4th) vs Wallsend (10th)
Sunday 28 July, 2:30 pm, Johnston Park
Round 20 will also feature this season’s second edition of the Wallsend derby, with both sides eager to get one over on their rivals.
The two outfits sit at opposite ends of the table and have differing motivation for the fixture, but will be putting everything into attaining victory on Sunday.
West Wallsend are fresh of the bye with their most recent result a 3-1 defeat to Cooks Hill, while Wallsend went down 4-1 to the Cookers last start.
The Bluebells will be desperate to maintain their spot in the elusive top four with a huge clash coming up against the fifth-place Thornton, while the Red Devils are in the middle of an intense wooden spoon battle and believe they can finish season 2019 on a high note.
The Wallsend defence will need to be wary of Bluebells’ striker Tye Jones who notched an impressive hat trick against Sunday’s opposition last encounter in a 5-2 victory for the blue and white, and still currently leads the golden boot standings with 16 strikes.
The away side will look to get back to their form that saw them beat Singleton and Cessnock recently, and Wallsend coach Jesse Pryce said every game has great importance.
“We’re winding down towards the end of the season, but every game is important and we want to get enough points before the Toronto game [to avoid the wooden spoon],” Pryce said.
“We want to continue to work hard. Things are starting to stick, and we want to continue this form heading into next year.
“Wez [Pryce] puts in 100% each game, Quentin Conners has also been a great improver considering where he was at the start of the season, and a few young boys have also recently impressed such as young Angus Hall. I believe big in boys working hard and earning a spot.”
Kahibah F.C (6th) vs Cessnock City Hornets (7th)
Sunday 28 July, 2:30 pm, Kahibah Oval
Two sides with everything on the line will do battle in order to keep their slim finals hopes alive as Kahibah and Cessnock lock horns at Kahibah Oval.
Both outfits maintain a mathematical chance of playing semi-final football but will view this weekend’s game as their last chance to mount a finals tilt with Kahibah sitting six points away from the four while the Hornets are a point behind.
Cessnock suffered a 2-0 loss to South Cardiff last round while Kahibah were upset 2-0 by Singleton to leave them in sixth.
The Hornets did enjoy a 2-1 win against Kahibah last time between these two sides and will be wishing for more of the same come Sunday.
The green and black still hold a game in hand to come against Wallsend and desperation from both sides could prosper an exciting game of football.
South Cardiff Gunners (3rd) vs Cooks Hill United (1st)
Sunday 28 July, 4:00 pm, Ulinga Oval
The last game of Round 20 will feature two heavyweights of the competition in Cooks Hill and South Cardiff.
A single point for Cooks Hill will see them claim an unprecedented third-straight premiership with two games remaining in what has been another outstanding season for the black and white.
Although, South Cardiff haven’t lost to the Cookers in their last three meetings and have won their last three fixtures to set up a mammoth clash.
The two sides held each other to a 2-2 draw last time they met while the black and white are coming off a 4-1 win over Wallsend last start and South Cardiff had a 2-0 win on the road against Cessnock.
The Gunners next fixtures against the Cookers and fellow top-four side West Wallsend will showcase if their championship material ahead of a possible semi-final finish and coach Chris Moylan said they always look forward to the challenge of playing the defending premiers.
“We’d like to win – we’ll go in with that goal but it will come down to belief and there is a bit of history between the two sides and a healthy rivalry,” Moylan said.
“To their [Cooks Hill’s] credit, they like to play football which suits us well and hopefully the game will be a good spectacle.
“Keeping the same eleven on the paddock will allow us to play the style of football we want to and that will be the key for us.”
Cooks Hill are on the verge of a phenomenal feat and coach Graham Law again praised his talented players but wants them to focus on a huge game at hand.
“It’s a massive game,” Law said.
“I was speaking to Zaney [Edgeworth Eagles’ coach Damien Zane] who’s aiming to go five in a row and we are on the verge of three, and we spoke about how challenging it is and how entrepreneurial you have to be with your side over so many games, but I’m all about the players and it will be a very proud moment for everyone to achieve it [the premiership].
“The motivation of losing last year’s semi is an easy thing to bring up to get the players fired up, but the boys are winners and true champions so the Grand Final is the aim.
“We know what we’re getting from Southy. We know they’re motivated to beat us and have been in good form. There’s a lot of respect and it will come down to who is the best over the 90 minutes.”