Match of the Round
New Lambton v Thornton
Alder Park, Saturday 2.30pm
Thornton co-coach Scott Winslade believes his side can cause the upset of the season so far when the Redbacks take on top of the table New Lambton on Saturday.
Thornton travel to Alder Park on the back of two wins in a row that have lifted them from the bottom of the table, including a last-gasp come from behind win over Wallsend and 1-0 victory over South Cardiff.
But the Redbacks will face a sizeable step up in class when they take on New Lambton, who climbed back to the summit with a 4-0 thrashing of Toronto Awaba in their rescheduled round one fixture on Wednesday night.
The Eagles are level with Belmont Swansea United on 15 points but also have two matches in hand on the 2019 champions.
Winslade said his side would be under no illusions as to what they would be up against on Saturday.
“We’re firm believers in that we play better against the better sides,” Winslade said.
“It seems to be something that is a bit of a problem in some ways in that we play what people might think are maybe some of the lesser sides and not get the results. But it does work in our favour up against the good sides. We really seem to turn up.
“[Co-coach Gary Wand] and I said when we watched [New Lambton] last year they were going to be the team this year. Technically, positionally they are really well found out. They know exactly where they are meant to be when a certain player gets the ball.
“We commented on it last year so we’re not surprised by [how well that are going] at all. We’ll go in as underdogs but I feel we can go there and get a result. We’re definitely capable.”
That confidence stems from Thornton’s performances in their victories over Wallsend and South Cardiff. They kept their first clean sheet of the season against the Gunners after coming from two goals down after 10 minutes against the Red Devils to snatch victory with the final kick of the game.
But Winslade acknowledged there was still plenty of improvement in his young side, in particular becoming more ruthless in the final third.
“Confidence is such a big thing. We’ve played well apart from the Toronto game where we were awful,” Winslade said.
“But we’ve played well every other game including against BelSwans before the break.
“We’ve had chances and the boys were feeling a bit down. So [the win over Wallsend] was really big for us.
“To come back in the last minute I think has given us that confidence. The boys have been on a high and it showed [against South Cardiff].
“We were really quite dominant for most of the game but we need to be more clinical with chances when we get them to finish teams off.”
New Lambton were fresh from the round eight bye ahead of their midweek mauling of the Stags, with coach Tom Davies and his players looking to consolidate their place at the top of the league with another win over Thornton.
Cooks Hill United v West Wallsend
Fearnley Dawes Athletics Field, Saturday 2.30pm
West Wallsend coach Geoff Blomfield is hopeful his side can build on the momentum from their victory in the Wallsend Derby when they take on 2019 premiers Cooks Hill United on Saturday.
The Bluebells make the trip to the Fearnley Dawes Athletics Field looking to make it three wins in a row having climbed into the top five with victories over Toronto Awaba and Wallsend.
West Wallsend edged their local rivals on a heavy Johnston Park pitch on Sunday, with Blomfield keen for his side to show similar resolve and fighting spirit.
“There’s no easy games in this comp no matter where you are or your opponent is in the table,” Blomfield said.
“We’ve had a couple of tough ones all in a row. Obviously we play Cooks Hill on Saturday. We’ve played Cessnock midweek on a Wednesday night. We had BelSwans and we had our derby as well which is a big game for both clubs.
“But at this stage of the season it doesn’t really matter who your opponent is. You’ve just got to keep turning up and get the job done.
“That’s what I’ve been most pleased with from our boys. They’ve kept turning up the last few weeks and rolling up their sleeves and dug out some good results.”
Meanwhile, it has been a big week for Cooks Hill.
The club announced that Chris Tanchevski would take over as head coach for the 2021 season, with current head coach Doug West to continue as technical director.
Cooks Hill also saw their postponed clashes with Thornton and Cessnock City rescheduled for next month, leaving them with a gruelling schedule of six matches in 24 days in September.
The silver lining is that the run will allow Cooks Hill to build some momentum as West and his side chase down a finals place.
Cooks Hill have two matches in hand on most teams above them, with a run of victories likely to propel them into the top five.
Singleton Strikers v Belmont Swansea United
Howe Park, Saturday 2.30pm
If Singleton are to achieve coach Brendan Slade’s dream of playing finals football for the first time in more than 20 years, the next two weeks will go a long way to deciding their fate.
The Strikers are entrenched in the NEWFM Northern League One top five, sitting in third place on 11 points.
They host 2019 champions Belmont Swansea United at Howe Park on Saturday with a victory to give them the chance to climb within touching distance of BelSwans ahead of their rescheduled fixtures.
Following their clash with Belmont Swansea, Singleton face top of the table New Lambton in their rescheduled round seven clash on 26 August. The Strikers then have a bye before taking on Kahibah in their rescheduled round eight fixture on 2 September.
It is a demanding schedule for the Strikers but one that Slade will relish attempting to navigate.
Meanwhile, Belmont Swansea United held off Toronto Awaba 3-2 last weekend to return to the top of the table.
But Mick Stafford’s men will need to keep winning if they are to keep New Lambton at bay after the Eagles thrashed Toronto Awaba midweek to overtake BelSwans on goal difference, with New Lambton still holding games in hand.
Wallsend v Toronto
The Gardens, Sunday 3pm
Wallsend will sniff an upset when they welcome struggling Toronto Awaba to The Gardens on Sunday.
The Red Devils have shown great improvement in recent weeks, showing huge courage to score their first win of the season against Cessnock City despite being reduced to 10 men for more than half the contest.
Wallsend have also suffered single goal defeats to Thornton and West Wallsend in recent weeks. Thornton co-coach Gary Wand admitted afterwards that his side had perhaps been fortunate to walk away with the three points, while Wallsend’s derby clash with the Bluebells on Sunday also could have gone either way.
Toronto on the other hand are heading in the opposite direction. After sitting comfortably inside the top five a few weeks ago, the Stags have slipped to ninth.
Since ending Cessnock City’s unbeaten start to the season on 1 August, Toronto Awaba have lost three matches in a row. They were beaten 3-1 by West Wallsend before their 3-2 defeat to Belmont Swansea United on Sunday.
The Stags were then smashed 4-0 by top of the table New Lambton in their rescheduled round one clash on Wednesday night.
Toronto remain three points outside the top five but another defeat would see them lose touch with the finals places.
South Cardiff v Cessnock City
Ulinga Oval, Sunday 3.20pm
Cessnock City will be itching to get back on the park when they travel to Ulinga Oval to face South Cardiff on Sunday.
The Hornets have not been in action since their shock 1-0 defeat to Wallsend. In fact, after briefly taking the competition lead, Cessnock have not won any of their last three games.
A loss to Toronto Awaba ended Cessnock’s perfect start to the campaign before a draw with West Wallsend and their defeat to Wallsend put the brakes on their premiership challenge.
The Hornets have slipped to fifth though retain a match in hand against Cooks Hill United, with the rescheduled round eight fixture to be played on 9 September.
South Cardiff will look to stop a worrying slide of their own.
The Gunners suffered defeats to Singleton and Thornton either side of their thrashing of Wallsend.
Consistency has been an issue for seventh-placed South Cardiff, who know a win could be enough to jump the Hornets into the top five.