Match of the Round
Singleton Strikers (5th) vs. Thornton Redbacks FC (2nd)
Sunday 29th April, 2:30 pm, Howe Park
Round 7’s match of the round sees undefeated Thornton Redbacks travelling to Singleton to square off in a promising contest between two sides that have been flying high in recent weeks.
The Strikers have now gone the last four games unbeaten and have experienced the club’s best start to a season since 2008, but this weekend they come up against a club who they’ve lost to in their last four meetings.
Thornton possesses the best attacking and equal-best defensive record in the competition and if the Strikers want to win, they’ll need to once again show the same high-quality level of scoring they showed in their previous matches against Kahibah and Wallsend.
Thornton’s coach Gary Wand, admitted he was preparing for a hard game and that his side needed to continue improving and showing consistency if they are to win it.“They’re [Singleton] going to be real tough,” Wand said.
“We have to back the wins up to really stamp ourselves in this competition.
“The final pass and decision making in the front third probably let us down in the first half [vs Belswans]…that’s the kind of thing I’d like to see improved and a bit more consistent.”
Singleton Strikers coach David Willoughby stated his side was aware of what they need to do to beat the Redbacks but agreed that it would be a hard-fought contest.
“I’m expecting them [Thornton] to go as hard as they can and try and smash us pretty early,” Willoughby said.
“We’re coming up with some strategies to minimise their opportunities going forward.
“We struggled last week when Kahibah changed up their midfield…so we’ve worked on that.
“We’re definitely trying to make sure that Howe Park is a difficult place for people to play.”
Both coaches, who used to work together in the coaching department at Hunter Valley Football and are quite close friends, praised one another and their systems heading into this fixture with both men looking forward to coming up against one another.
“I know Dave quite well and he’s organised his team very well,” Wand said.
“He’s a very good coach.”
Willoughby also stated, “I know Gary probably better than most.”
“He is quite good at analysing individual things.
“Our sons played together and Gary coached my youngest boy for quite a number of years, so we go way back.”
Belmont-Swansea United (10th) vs. New Lambton FC (11th)
Saturday 28th April, 2:30 pm, Blacksmiths Oval
The two teams sitting at the bottom of the table face one another this weekend, and both Belswans and New Lambton will be desperate to attain a victory in the hope of bouncing back up into semi-finals contention.
Last weekend, New Lambton won their first match in 280 days and judging from the passion they showed in their team’s winning song. A new-found confidence may be a light amongst the squad and it comes as a fortunate time as they verse another team that has significantly struggled for any kind of momentum.
So far this year, Belswans haven’t shown any sort of resemblance to the team that qualified for the Grand Final in 2017 and their offence is where they’ve been truly lacking as they pose the worst attacking stats in the competition.
Both Cameron Lodge and David Hodgson are still yet to fully return from injuries and no other consistent source of goals has been found – something that will need to change if they want to win this weekend.
Belmont-Swansea coach Josh Rufo said that despite sitting near the bottom of the table and desperately needing to achieve wins to move upwards, they aren’t worried and are still confident in getting back to semi-final football.
“I think it’ll be a competitive game against a young and enthusiastic team that wants to get their season started as well,” Rufo said.
“Honestly every game is important and every game we want to win. Doesn’t really matter if we’re at the bottom of the table or the top of the table.
“There’s plenty of points for us to pick and there’s plenty of points for other teams to drop.
“Ultimately it’s in our hands to change our fortunes.”
Toronto Awaba Stags FC (8th) vs. South Cardiff FC (7th)
Saturday 28th April, 2:30 pm, Lyall Peacock Field
In the last four games played between Toronto and South Cardiff, both sides have managed two victories each with an aggregate score of 4-3 to the latter, highlighting the fact that when these two sides collide, a close, tense encounter is often seen.
Both clubs sit in the middle of the table and have shown that they can play decent, entertaining football, however, just have failed to showcase it on a consistent basis.
Toronto currently holds the worst defensive record in the competition which will need to be the point of major focus for improvement for the Stags.
Their attack, on the other hand, is roaring which is particularly due to the efforts of Jarrod Penfold and Nick Roberts – two men that South Cardiff will need to shut down if they want to collect the three points.
South Cardiff coach Denis Fajkovic said that although he admits Toronto would be a tough match, that he and his team were only focusing on their own game-plan and continuing the recent form they’ve shown.
“I remember last year when we faced them [Toronto] they seemed to grind and I’m sure they’ll do the same again,” Fajkovic said.
“Starting this Saturday, it’s definitely back to basics and to just make sure we’re doing the basics right to give ourselves every chance of getting the result.
“There’s a lot of wraps about Penfold…but will we give him a special attention? I don’t think so. It’s more so us just doing our thing and sticking to our game-plan and doing the basics.”
Fajkovic confessed that the main reason for their staggered start to the season has been their lack of consistently performing and added that it’s now the major focus for them each week.
“You don’t win comps if you don’t have consistency.”
“We had a good result last week, but it means nothing if we go out and we get beat by Toronto.”
“We need to back it up and get that roll on.”
Cooks Hill United (1st) vs. Cessnock City Hornets (6th)
Saturday 28th April, 2:30 pm, Newcastle Athletics Field
So far this season, Cooks Hill has experienced a perfect record when playing at the Athletics Field having achieved four wins from four games. However, that may all change when they face a Cessnock City side that, despite losing their first game last weekend, have stunned the league with some solid performances.
Despite having the equal-worst attacking record in the competition, their equal-best defence is where they have been winning their matches and frustrating opposition sides and with the attacking weapons that Cooks Hill possess in their ranks, the stage is set for an entertaining match-up.
What is an interesting note, is that since Graham Law left for Scotland to complete a coaching course after Round 3, the Cookers have gone from zero goals conceded in the first three matches, to seven conceded in their past three, proving that they will need to fix and solidify their defensive structures to retain their spot at the top of the table.
As both sides are coming off a loss last weekend, a second consecutive week of losing for either side this weekend would put a dent in their confidence and their form heading into the middle of the season.
Wallsend FC (4th) vs. Kahibah FC (9th)
Sunday 29th April, 2:30 pm, The Gardens
After receiving a week off due to the bye, Wallsend returns to their home ground, The Gardens, to face a Kahibah team that has underperformed all 2018 so far.
Having only achieved one win this season, Kahibah have struggled to return to the same form they showed last year and injuries to key men Nick Hartnett, Heath Kepreotes and Jamie Hadlow have further sunk their momentum.
Wallsend though, has been one of the top sides in the competition so far and have well and truly stamped their intentions of not only playing finals football but potentially challenging for the premiership as well.
The result this weekend will prove whether Wallsend is the ‘real deal’ this season, or if Kahibah has any chance of salvaging their 2018.
West Wallsend Bluebells SFC (3rd) have the bye.