PHOTO: VALENTINE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Match of the Round
Cooks Hill United v South Cardiff FC
Saturday May 6, 2:30pm at Newcastle Athletics Field
South Cardiff will be determined to bounce back from last weekend’s horror result when they take on the league leaders Cooks Hill at Newcastle Athletics Field on Saturday afternoon.
The Gunners took maximum points last time these two sides faced, a 3-1 win at home in round 17 last season – but know they’ll be in for a much bigger test this weekend away to table-topping Cooks Hill.
With both sides having played midweek, a short three-day turnaround may have some impact on proceedings, however, Cooks Hill comes into this one off the back of a bye last weekend, which coach Graham Law described as ‘much-needed’ after 8 matches in 26 days.
Striker Cal Lewis will be a welcome addition for Cookers after serving his suspension for violent conduct in Wednesday night’s loss at the hands of Weston, but goals aren’t something which has eluded Cooks Hill this season – 28 goals in 7 matches at an average of 4 a game is evidence of that.
South Cardiff suffered a huge, shock loss at the hands of Thornton last weekend, and will be without goalkeeper Mikel Breckenridge after he was shown a red card on Sunday. The Gunners were subjected to more misery midweek, as they went down 3-2 to a spirited West Wallsend, who picked up only their third win of the season.
If not for last weekend’s loss, South Cardiff would be only three points behind Cooks Hill at the top. As it stands, the Gunners are in fifth place following their loss to West Wallsend, but a win over the league leaders wouldn’t surprise and would make things very interesting at the top of the table.
Cooks Hill coach Graham Law said he’s looking to come into this one on the front foot.
“We’re at home so we want to take the game to them,” Law said.
“We’re far more wary of South Cardiff because I saw them the week before against Kahibah… football can do that, you switch off for 45 minutes and the game’s dead.
“We have switched off for 45 minutes because we’ve thought a game has been wrapped up, which then creates a bit of pressure, so we’re very wary of them.”
Thornton Redbacks FC v Singleton Strikers FC
Saturday May 6, 2:30pm at Thornton Park
The Redbacks will be looking to keep the ball rolling and stay in touch with table-topping Cooks Hill when they welcome a stuttering Singleton to Thornton Park on Saturday afternoon.
Thornton took all six points from Singleton last season – a 4-1 victory at Howe Park early in 2016 backed up by a 2-1 victory back at home in round 13’s return leg, and they’ll be confident of a similar result this time out.
At an average of just under five goals a game in the league this season, the Redbacks are in a rich vein of scoring form. They proved they can keep it tight at the back last week, after keeping the Gunners scoreless and the challenge will be on for the Redbacks to maintain consistency at both ends of the park.
There are injury clouds over two of the experienced heads in the Thornton side – Tyson Fletcher suffered a broken rib after a heavy collision in last week’s big win over South Cardiff, while Jamie Subat is struggling to overcome a knee injury he carried into the match. Both are in doubt but may make an appearance on Saturday afternoon.
Experience is one of the huge gulfs between these two sides – the aforementioned pair notched up over 200 games between them in the top flight of local football, whereas Singleton is a side that is lacking similar experience. For example, the average age of their back four in the low 20’s.
The Strikers are alongside Toronto on six points at the wrong end of the ladder and have the toughest challenge of the lot. Failure to take at least a point from this one could see them slide to 10th on the ladder, and only one win from five attempts away from home this season doesn’t bode well for Singleton.
Thornton boss Darrel McAllister spoke about squad rotation and their goal scoring form in the lead up to the match.
“We’ve been rotating our squad already this season, so we’ve rotated between about 14 odd guys,” McAllister said.
“We’re rotating the guys taking into consideration the games coming up and at different times we feel people can do better for us against different sides.
“We don’t set out to score five goals every week… we scored six against Southy but didn’t have a lot of other chances, whereas other weeks we’ve had a dozen chances for five goals so it’s a case of being more clinical.
“We set out to get our processes right, and if we got those right then we score goals.”
West Wallsend SFC v Wallsend FC
Saturday May 6, 2:45pm at Johnston Park
Tensions are set to flare in this local derby when the Red Devils head to Wembley and attempt to bounce back from their heavy loss at the hands of Broadmeadow Magic in midweek FFA Cup action.
West Wallsend didn’t manage to take a single point from their cross-town rivals last season, going down by a single goal on both attempts in the league. This affair is set to be just as tight as the last two, but the away side will feel they have a slight advantage.
The Bluebells almost clawed their way back to a point in the final ten minutes of last weekend’s 4-3 loss at Belswans and rose to upset South Cardiff on Wednesday night. They currently sit in eighth, one of three teams with six points so far this season – a win against a wounded Wallsend may do Westie’s season the world of good at this early stage.
Despite their well-documented woes in front of goal, it’s at the back West Wallsend are really looking shaky – having shipped 26 goals so far this season at an average of just over three a match. Wallsend hasn’t been the most potent side in front of goal this season, but certainly, pose a threat and Gary Rowe will have to work hard to ensure his side has a chance at keeping only their second clean sheet of the season.
Wallsend went down on Tuesday night to perennial NPL heavyweights Broadmeadow 8-0, but won’t be too disheartened by the big scoreline against such strong opposition. They will be out to make sure the Northern League One know it was only a one-off, and the Bluebells can expect a fired up performance from their cross-town rivals.
The Red Devils have only kept a single clean sheet this season – last weekend against a struggling Toronto side. West Wallsend has struggled to find much accuracy in front of goal so far this season, and as such Wallsend may be on the hunt for their second shutout of the season this Saturday.
Toronto Awaba FC v Cessnock City FC
Sunday May 7, 2:30pm at Lyall Peacock Field
This bottom of the ladder clash promises to be anything but boring when Cessnock head down to Lyall Peacock Field to take on the up-and-down Stags on Sunday afternoon.
The points were shared between these two sides last season, with away wins to both Toronto and Cessnock. This time around it’s anyone’s game, and with both teams currently in the positions they finished last season (Toronto in 10th, Cessnock in last) they’ll each be looking to boost their way up the ladder if possible.
Toronto went down in the last ten minutes against Wallsend last weekend, with coach Chris Gallagher declaring post match that ‘people don’t give Toronto enough credit’. They’ve shown they’re a threat at times this season – unlikely wins over South Cardiff and Belswans evidence of this.
Unfortunately for the Stags, they have been unable thus far to string together a good run of form – the two aforementioned wins their only of the season so far. They’re also conceded a huge amount of goals in their eight matches this year – 28 in total. A win here pulls them seven points clear of the last place on the ladder and puts Cessnock in more strife at the wrong end of the ladder.
Cessnock’s Lino Gatti has declared from day one this season to be a transitional one and has played down his side’s chances at every occasion but there is more to the Hornets than meets the eye. Two well-earned points against New Lambton and Belswans, combined with a strong performance in the round six loss to Cooks Hill are reasons for hope among the Cessnock faithful.
Worryingly, the Hornets have struggled to find the back of the net this season. Only seven goals so far in 2017, and winger Jason Zechel has chipped in for three of those. They need to get firing across the board if a second consecutive wooden spoon is to be avoided, and there’s no better chance than against the leakiest defence in the competition.
Kahibah FC v Belmont Swansea United FC
Sunday May 7, 2:30pm at Kahibah Oval
Kahibah will be hoping to strengthen their hold on second place on Sunday afternoon when they welcome a leaky Belmont Swansea to Kahibah Oval.
Belswans only took one point from Kahibah last season, the Green and Black winning their round 16 encounter while sharing the points in round 5. Belmont-Swansea knows they’ll have to work hard to break down a resilient Kahibah defence if they’re to take all the points this time around.
Kahibah went down to New Lambton on Tuesday night in a passionate encounter in the fourth round of FFA Cup action, but coach Andre Gumprecht had previously declared their focus was on the league and he’ll expect an improved performance at home against Belswans.
The Green and Black sit level on points with Belswans, but have the benefit of a game in hand. A win here would put some real breathing distance between Kahibah and Belswans, and they may face a side down on confidence following Belswans 9-0 drubbing at the hands of Edgeworth in Tuesday night’s Westfield FFA Cup clash.
It was always going to be a tough ask for Belswans to get a result against Edgeworth, but considering the calibre of their opposition coach Josh Rufo is sure to have his side picking their heads back up for this one. They’ll know a win keeps them in touch with first place – they only sit five points behind Cooks Hill, who have a big job in South Cardiff this weekend.
Much has been made of Tega Marcus’ contribution to the side this season, but much of the credit for his goal scoring heights should be attributed to the players around him – captain Josh Hall and winger Jayden Nakhoul among those around Marcus who are helping him score – and scoring themselves. Kahibah is a strong side at the back but will have their work cut out on Sunday.