PHOTO: Valentine Sports Photography
Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United FC v New Lambton FC
Friday 14th April, 2:30pm at Blacksmiths Oval
Easter weekend’s NEWFM Northern League One Match of the Round sees Belmont Swansea FC at home for their third consecutive game and hoping to claim the scalp of a well-performing New Lambton FC.
New Lambton’s rise to the second tier of local football means these two sides haven’t yet faced off in a competitive fixture in their histories, and Belswans will be keen to put a dent in the good mood around the Eagles thus far this season.
Belswans enjoyed the bye in round five after a draw with cellar dwellers Cessnock and a win in the grand final rematch against Wallsend mid last week, and Josh Rufo’s men will be right up for this. A double last time out against the Red Devils from speedster Tega Marcus secured the win on that occasion, and he’ll be important again this time.
Keen to leave the mistakes of the 1-1 draw with Cessnock in the past, it’s shaping as crucial for Rufo to have his defence readied for this one. New Lambton pose a different threat to the one Cessnock do, and despite defending well against a ten man Wallsend, there are danger men all over the park for New Lambton. Expect Dan Rufo and Mitch Cook to stand tall at the back for Belswans in this one.
New Lambton bounced back from their disappointing 4-0 defeat at the hands of South Cardiff in round four in resounding fashion last weekend – a 4-2 triumph with ten men over a stuttering Singleton side. That type of victory fills a side with confidence, and Andrew Packer will be hoping that confidence feeds into a free flowing performance at Blacksmiths on Good Friday.
Alex Ihlow was strong from the bench in the victory over Singleton, scoring two goals to put the Eagles ahead and eventually secure the victory. Another cameo, or potentially a start for Ihlow may be the push New Lambton need to get over the line away from home.
The two sides do play midweek fixtures in the second round of the Westfield FFA Cup – Belswans against fellow Northern League One opposition South Cardiff and New Lambton against Zone League One opponents Stockton JSC. How each side handles the short turnaround will be crucial in deciding the winner in this one.
Belmont Swansea coach Josh Rufo was confident the short turnaround won’t affect his side.
“We rotated a number of players so we’ll have a few fresh legs for Friday,” Rufo said.
“It’s a positive result and gives us confidence going forward… the football we played last week also against Wallsend was pleasing, and it shows the potential the team can get to.
“Although it wasn’t perfect, it was very pleasing and I think it’s one of those things that will give the players a lot of confidence going forward.”
Thornton Redbacks FC v Kahibah FC
Friday 14th April, 6pm at Thornton Park
Impressive victories for two Northern League One high fliers in round five will mean Thornton and Kahibah will each be confident of securing the three points when they clash in Thornton’s first home game of 2017 on Friday night.
The last encounter between the two sides saw the Green and Black hold onto three points at Kahibah Oval – a 3-1 victory over the Redbacks, who eventually finished in fifth place. Strong recruitment from Kahibah will mean they’ll be confident of outscoring a confident Thornton side.
The Redbacks have endured a stalled start to the season – into round six with only two matches under the belt. It hasn’t appeared to affect their ability to score however, with a stunning eleven goals so far in 2017. Nathan McAllister leads the goal scoring charts so far this season with six to his name, but to lay all the credit at his feet would be a disservice to the strong front four of Thornton.
Jamie Subat, Liam Penglaze, and Jacob Bartlett are the other three members of the Thornton fantastic four early in 2017. They link up well in attack and appear to have a solid understanding of one another going forward, as well as working hard without the ball and defending from the front. Thornton’s attack may well cause huge problems for the Kahibah defence on Friday night.
Kahibah downed Cooks Hill in round five’s match of the round, a match touted as an early season clash of the titans. The Green and Black will no doubt take enormous confidence from the performance and the result, and coach Andre Gumprecht will be keen for his side to kick on at Thornton Park.
Ash Ilfield has been indomitable in the middle of the park for Kahibah so far this season, and a good all round performance for both him and Jarrod Penfold in the middle of the park will be crucial in outscoring the Redbacks. Expect a focus on defence from Gumprecht’s side, but the result may ultimately be decided not by who can defend the best, but who can show their stuff up front.
South Cardiff FC v West Wallsend SFC
Friday 14th April, 7 pm at Ulinga Oval
Disappointing round five results for the Gunners and the Bluebells will have both sides right up for this one when they clash on Friday night at Ulinga Oval.
West Wallsend took the points away from Southy when they last met in round 12 last season in a 1-0 win, and the two have changed just enough to ensure this time around it’ll be a vastly different fixture.
South Cardiff suffered a shock defeat to a previously winless Toronto last weekend, and struggled to hold back a sharp Stags attack, who could’ve really had more than the one goal. It was drastically different from their shock 4-0 win over New Lambton the week before, and coach Denis Fajkovic will be hoping for a vastly improved performance this time out.
Fajkovic is the only player coach in the league this season and looks to lead by example week in, week out. Crucial in helping link the midfield with the attack, the likes of Troy Runge and Antonio Atmataj feed off the opportunities Fajkovic assists in carving out. A similar performance to the one against New Lambton from the midfield general may go a long way in securing the three points this weekend.
West Wallsend were hit for six in their last outing and had issues with the officials on the day in what was a nightmare match – coach Gary Rowe sent from the bench along with captain Tye Jones for a second bookable offence. Despite working hard the Bluebells have little to show for their efforts so far this season, and will need to put together a full 90 minutes to take a result away from Ulinga Oval.
Jones will be a big loss for West Wallsend up front, but his side are equipped with enough talent to ensure the impact will be minimised. Jarrod Olivieri and Ryan Cole have caused problems for teams in the attacking third, and the two will need a big performance if the Bluebells are to shake off their recent malaise and secure their second win of the season.
“We gave a lot of young boys a run (in Tuesday night’s Westfield FFA Cup match with Belswans) that are on the fringe of the first grade squad,” South Cardiff coach Denis Fajkovic said.
“It’s getting really tough to pick the side now because there’s so many people putting their hand up to play, which as a coach is fantastic, you want those kind of problems.
“Young Joey Grujevski played his first game for us on Tuesday night and he was really impressive, he did well and he’s trying to prove a point after exiting the Jets system a couple of years ago.
“It’ll depend on his fitness, he played 90 minutes on Tuesday night, but if he’s fit I can’t see him not being in the line up.”
Singleton Strikers FC v Toronto Awaba FC
Saturday 15th April, 2:30 pm at Howe Park
Two sides who enjoyed vastly different round five results will clash with the same objective this weekend at Howe Park.
The last meeting between the Strikers and Toronto was a low point for the Stags – they were at the wrong end of a 6-0 demolition at Lyall Peacock Oval in round 21 of last season.
Singleton have had to wait a long time for their return to Howe Park this season, and they’ll hope a home ground advantage provides them the spark they need to claim their second win of the season. They struggled and lost out to a ten man New Lambton last weekend, and will have been told in no uncertain terms they must improve this weekend.
The Strikers will be without Sam Ford after the tricky attacker went down with a nasty ankle injury in the early stages at Alder Park last weekend, and looks set to be out for at least a fortnight. Nathan Hall is one of many youngsters in the Singleton first grade side, and the Strikers will no doubt be looking to him to step up in Ford’s absence.
It’s crucial the Stags finish their chances better than they did last week against South Cardiff. Despite the tight-run win, Toronto had half a dozen clear-cut and half chances that they could have capitalised on and closed out the game much earlier. Against a young Singleton defence, the Stags will be confident of carving out chances – but taking them is key.
Nick Roberts was one of the guilty parties in front of goal last week in his 100th appearance for Toronto. He linked up plenty of times with Michael Bru and Blake Glennie in the midfield, and making good use of the positive partnership the three appear to be building momentum and will go a long way in getting a result away from home.
Singleton coach David Willoughby was confident his side wouldn’t be considerably weakened by the loss of a few first graders through injury.
“There may be some surprise guest appearances from a couple of NPL Victoria boys in the next fortnight,” Willoughby said.
“One is a defender and one is an attacker… and they’ll help us out over the next few weeks while we get over this little glut of games and injuries.
“Looking forward to our first game at home, I think it’ll have a positive impact all round.”
Cessnock City FC v Cooks Hill United FC
Sunday 15th April, 2:30pm at Turner Park
High fliers Cooks Hill were brought back to earth with a thud last weekend but will be looking to return to form when they take on a stuttering Cessnock side at Turner Park on Easter Sunday.
Cooks Hill took the three points from Turner Park in the last encounter between these two sides, a 3-2 result between two clubs who have drastically changed both on the pitch and off it.
All good things must come to an end, and last weekend it was Cooks Hill’s winning run that was on the receiving end of that particular piece of philosophy. Their last gasp 4-3 defeat at the hands of fellow competition heavyweights Kahibah will have no doubt hurt Graham Law’s side, and they’ll be looking to bounce back to form in the only way they know how on Sunday – goals, goals, and more goals.
Lee Ashton leads the NEWFM Northern League One scoring charts so far in the season with seven goals to his name, and it’s a tally he’ll be confident of adding to this weekend. Nick Russell and Cal Gallagher have threatened every side they’ve played in attack so far this season, and if these three can fire it may be a resounding return to the winner’s circle for Cooks Hill.
Cessnock failed to build any momentum from their round four draw with Belswans as they crashed to a 4-1 defeat in last weekend’s clash with Wallsend. Coach Lino Gatti admitted his side’s defence in the result was abysmal, and there is no doubt it’ll take a colossal defensive effort to keep Cooks Hill at bay this weekend.
Tendai Chivizhe has improved week after week after making his first grade debut in round one, and was singled out for praise by Gatti despite the disappointing result. He’ll need to attempt to assert his smaller frame on the midfield and wrestle control if the Hornets are to take a point (or three) from Cooks Hill this weekend. They’ll be buoyed by their midweek FFA Cup victory over Jesmond, but Cooks Hill are another challenge entirely.
Cessnock coach Lino Gatti was apprehensive about his side’s chances this weekend.
“I’ve been told Cooks Hill are quite a good side and they’re doing very well, and we need to pull our socks up,” Gatti said.
“Against Belswans we were able to compete for the entire game, we need to get to the stage of consistently competing week in week out.
“Until we do that, we’ll struggle.”