PHOTO: Valentine Sports Photography
Match of the Round
Thornton Redbacks FC v Toronto Awaba FC
Sunday 2nd April, 2:45 pm at Thornton Park
This week’s NEWFM Northern League One Match of the Round takes us to Thornton Park for the first time this season as the Thornton Redbacks take on the struggling Toronto Awaba on Sunday afternoon.
These two sides last met in Round 20 of last season and it was Thornton who took the points on that occasion in a 6-2 demolition of Toronto.
Thornton have so far only played a solitary game in 2017, a strong 5-1 victory against a youthful Cessnock in round one. It was the Redbacks’ attack on show that day, Jamie Subat and Nathan McAllister ran the show upfront and were tight at the back. The boys in red are sure to be boosted by their first match in three weeks as well as their first match at home this season no less.
Toronto are fortunate to have a little more match fitness under their belts, but not so fortunate in their results so far. 5-0 and 4-1 defeats at the hands of Cooks Hill and West Wallsend have exposed gaping holes in the Stags defensive line and coach Adam Rutledge will have had his work cut out trying to plug the leaks.
Blake Glennie was impressive for the Stags in round three’s loss to West Wallsend and his presence in the front third will be crucial if Toronto are to have any shot at getting their first points on the board for 2017.
Thornton coach Darrel McAllister was confident his attack will take care of itself.
“The focus is mainly on defence and transition at the moment and we’ve done a little about making right decisions in the top third,” McAllister said.
“I think Toronto’s results show they haven’t been too far behind at half time, and it looks like teams are scoring a few against them towards the end of the match.”
McAllister also touched on how the fortnight off has affected his side.
“We’ve been able to keep fit, we’ve had alternate venues to train at during the rain and we had a trial match with (Hamilton) Olympic last Friday night.
“So there’s no concerns about match fitness from us.”
Belmont Swansea United FC v Cessnock City FC
Saturday 1st April, 2:30 pm at Blacksmiths Oval
Cessnock go on the road for the first time in 2017 on Saturday when they head to Blacksmiths Oval in a bid to get their first points of the season against a wounded Belmont-Swansea side.
Round 19 of 2016 was the last time these two sides faced off, albeit with vastly different squads. Belswans were the winners away at Turner Park on that day, keeping Cessnock scoreless and sinking three themselves.
Belmont-Swansea were thoroughly dismantled by a strong Cooks Hill outfit in round three and will be hoping to bounce back in their first game at Blacksmiths this season. Despite the heavy scoreline in last weekend’s match, Belswans controlled periods of the match with little reward. The key for Josh Rufo’s side this weekend will be capitalising on the chances they create.
Cessnock will come into this one with considerably less rest than their opponents, due to their mid-week rescheduled match. The 3-1 loss to Singleton was their second loss from as many attempts and the Strikers were able to open up the Hornets’ defence on a number of occasions and should have scored more. The challenge for Cessnock gaffer Lino Gatti this weekend will be attempting to plug the defensive holes.
Belswans coach Josh Rufo was confident his side are capable of picking their game up after last weekend’s loss to Cooks.
“Nothing has changed, we’re just working on making sure we have a good understanding of our shape and making sure the players have a good understanding of their individual roles,” Rufo said.
“There’s a lot of importance on making sure that we’re more clinical in front of goal, and that’s every player’s responsibility.
“I’ve known Lino (Gatti) for a while and I think we’ll have to work hard… I think it’ll be a competitive game, they’ve got a good coach and a lot of young players that want to play first grade.”
South Cardiff FC v New Lambton FC
Saturday 1st April, 6:00 pm at Ulinga Oval
It’s only early on in the season but New Lambton will be hoping they can further announce themselves as contenders in their first season in the second tier of NNSWF when they travel to Ulinga Oval to take on South Cardiff on Saturday evening.
It’ll be the first time the two sides have met following New Lambton’s promotion from the Zone Premier League, and given each side’s encouraging starts to the season both will be keen to make further good impressions on the rest of the league.
South Cardiff ran out last year’s champions, Wallsend, in their opening match back on March 12 and took their chances well on the day. New Lambton have conceded four goals in their opening two matches and after scoring three in their opening fixture the Gunners may be confident of getting on the scoresheet in this one.
New Lambton haven’t been too shabby in getting up the other end and scoring goals themselves, with eight in their past two matches. The Eagles have threatened big time from set pieces – five of their goals so far have come from dead ball situations and this will be where they’ll threaten the Gunners.
New Lambton coach Andrew Packer identified a couple of areas his side will look to improve.
“We’ll be working a little on our defensive structure and keeping possession a little better would be good,” Packer said.
He also highlighted the necessity to create goals from open play.
“That’s important for us, the strange thing about it is we have quite a number of creative players throughout our first grade and 23s squad… they’re playing well but just not connecting that well yet.”
“But that will come, if we continue to score as many as we have in the first two rounds I’ll be pretty happy.”
Kahibah FC v West Wallsend SFC
Sunday 2nd April, 2:30 pm at Johnston Park
West Wallsend will play their second away game at home this season when Kahibah travels to Johnston Park on Sunday. Originally pencilled in as Kahibah’s second home game of the season, issues with Kahibah Oval mean this one has been relocated to West Wallsend.
Kahibah were outsmarted by a well-organised Bluebells outfit the last time these two sides met in Round 13 last season, West Wallsend taking all the points in a strong 3-0 victory that day.
The Black and Green finally got their season off to a start in Sunday night’s draw with New Lambton but didn’t do enough to show they’re at the standard widely expected of them this season. Two goals conceded from set pieces paints a mixed picture – solid in defence during open play, but slips in concentration prove deadly.
Coach Andre Gumprecht will have a catch-up match against Toronto on Thursday night to fine tune his defence and will hope his side’s concentration is much improved come Sunday.
West Wallsend were impressive in their victory over Toronto last weekend, the attack that looked so promising against New Lambton in round one clicked and put four goals past a struggling Stags side. Coach Gary Rowe wasn’t entirely impressed with his side’s efforts in defence, however, and improvement in this area will no doubt be a focus for the Bluebells this weekend especially after conceding another four goals against Cooks Hill on Wednesday night.
Wallsend FC v Cooks Hill United FC
Sunday 2nd April, 2:30 pm at The Gardens
This clash of the heavyweights has been identified by many as the game may be one of the best indicators yet of how Wallsend and Cooks Hill will fare in the 2017 season.
Wallsend took the points the last time these two met in Round 14 last year, but with a vastly different squad and coaching line-up, Cooks will be confident of getting the result this time around.
It was a confident performance from the Red Devils last time out when they took all the points from Singleton and a story of the Trent’s – Milton and Richards, who wreaked havoc with the Strikers defence and created chance after chance. Wallsend coach Chris Gallagher wasn’t pleased with his side’s finishing and putting away their chances will be key if they’re to nab their second victory of the season.
Cooks Hill come into this one off the back of a number of confident victories, having scored 15 goals in their opening three matches of the 2017 season. Coach Graham Law spoke after round one about imploring his side to take their chances, and the likes of Lee Ashton have responded in style. Cooks struggled in the opening fifteen minutes against Belswans last weekend, and a strong start will be vital if they’re to take points from Wallsend.
Wallsend coach Chris Gallagher said they had been working on a game plan and won’t be counting on Cooks Hill being fatigued by the time it comes to their third match in eight days.
“We’ve been working on finishing and being a little sharper, sticking to the same plan and trying to focus on our side of the game a bit more,” Gallagher said.
“From what I’ve been told they have a lot of depth, and they’re all fairly fit so we’re not going to look at it as if they’re going to be weakened or fatigued.”
“We’ll approach it as if they’re going to be full strength.”
Singleton have the bye