PHOTO: Valentine Sports Photography
Match of the Round
South Cardiff FC v Cessnock City FC
Sunday 26th March, 2:30 pm at Ulinga Oval
This weekend’s NEWFM Northern League One Match of the Round takes us to Ulinga Oval on Sunday afternoon as South Cardiff FC take on Cessnock City FC. The two sides last clashed in round 13 of last season and played out a highly entertaining 4-all draw – great for the neutral, but not so good for the coach’s hearts.
South Cardiff took their chances well in their round one win over Wallsend but struggled to contain the Red Devils as they ran riot without reward. Denis Fajkovic and Troy Runge were important for the Gunners in round one and know they’ll have to step up again against a Cessnock side determined to prove they’re better than round one’s 5-0 rout at the hands of Thornton.
A fortnight ago, South Cardiff went out and planned to press Wallsend hard and will no doubt look to continue in the same vein against a young Cessnock side who looked a little shaky on the ball in the middle of the pitch in their round one fixture.
Cessnock coach Lino Gatti is insistent on building his side for the future and the wealth of young talent in his side is evident. However, his youngsters struggled big time in round one against Thornton but a few handy pickups through the week will have helped add some much-needed experience to the Hornets side.
Brodie Williams and Max Wallington looked the most positive of the Cessnock attack in round one and the two speedy youngsters will have to showcase their wares once again if the Hornets are to take anything from this one.
West Wallsend SFC v Toronto Awaba
Saturday 25th March, 4 pm at Johnston Park
West Wallsend will look to bounce back from a heavy round one defeat when they host Toronto Awaba in their mid-afternoon kick-off on Saturday afternoon. The Bluebells were 1-0 victors the last time these two sides met in round 19 last season. But as with most sides this season, there have been a lot of changes between the two clubs.
A bit of luck was all West Wallsend needed early on in their round one match against New Lambton, but luck and some clinical finishing eluded them and they shipped six goals. The Bluebells will need to be much better across the park in this one and the likes of Bronson Marshall will need to again step up in attack this weekend.
The focus is sure to be at the other end of the park for Toronto this weekend. The Stags held men behind the ball but fell apart towards the end of their 5-0 loss to Cooks Hill in round one. The potential inclusion of former Cooks Hill man Blake Glennie may be a big tick in Toronto’s favour and his experience will be valuable in front of Sam Cresswell – the 17-year-old in line to make his second first grade start of the season.
Johnston Park has been plagued with issues all season so far in 2017, relentless rain has allowed only a handful of competitive matches across all grades in the NEWFM Northern League One. A bit of sunshine would help clear up the pitch and hopefully, make for an entertaining match on Saturday afternoon.
Cooks Hill United FC v Belmont Swansea United FC
Saturday 25th March, 2:30 pm at Newcastle Athletics Field
Cooks Hill will host Belmont Swansea in their first home match of the 2017 season as both sides look to kick on from positive round one victories. These sides last clashed in round 11 of last season, Kahibah dominating Cooks in a 6-1 win. Both sides have recruited heavily for this season and this match is sure to be a much closer affair.
Cooks Hill is much fancied to finish at the right end of the table this season and did themselves no harm in their round one demolition of Toronto. Graham Law has got the black and white playing a nice brand of football, despite being well underdone in terms of match fitness.
Cooks have a host of PlayStation®4 National Premier League Northern NSW pool talent at their disposal this season, and that touch of class may just be what they need to get them over the line this weekend. The likes of Lee Ashton and German import Jonas Ramspott impressed in their round one victory, and will no doubt play a big part again this weekend.
Given last week’s washouts, match fitness may well come into play for Cooks Hill this weekend. While no doubt boasting a strong side capable of scoring goals, an understrength Belswans looked fit and sharp in their opening round win against Singleton and with the likes of Chris Gazzard coming back in, will be confident of given this game a real shake.
Dan Rufo was important at the back for Belswans in their win over Singleton, directing traffic and keeping a young Strikers side at bay with relative ease. Cooks Hill pose a different threat up front however and coach Josh Rufo will hope his brother can do a similar job against Cooks Hill.
Wallsend FC v Singleton Strikers FC
Sunday 26th March, 2:30 pm at The Gardens
Singleton will travel to the Gardens to take on last year’s champions Wallsend FC on Sunday afternoon. The two sides last faced off in round 19 of last season and it was the Red Devils who emerged victorious on that day with a 2-0 win securing the three points. Departures have been aplenty for both sides and a youthful Singleton side will be hopeful of turning the tables this weekend.
Wallsend went down 3-2 to South Cardiff in round one, despite their coach Chris Gallagher claiming they controlled the match and the chances but couldn’t capitalise on their domination. The Red Devils boast a host of young talent amongst their ranks and the likes of Matt Williams will again be key this weekend.
Champions of the NEWFM Northern League One for two years running, Wallsend will know how important a good start to the year is. Gallagher will have his side right up for this one, and they’ll be tough to beat at home against a Singleton side who looked devoid of ideas against Belswans a fortnight ago.
A 3-0 loss in Singleton’s round one fixture was no doubt a fair result, but the Strikers were flat and without a number of usual first graders. With a number of quality players set to return, Singleton will be confident for a much-improved performance this weekend but will know they need to step it up against Wallsend.
Kahibah FC v New Lambton FC
Sunday 26th March, 7:15 pm at Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility
The final match of round three will see Kahibah get their first competitive hit out of the 2017 campaign after a round one bye and a rain interrupted round two. New Lambton will be disappointed their chance to test themselves against an impressive Thornton side was washed out last weekend and will be keen to show the rest of the league their big victory over West Wallsend in round one wasn’t a one hit wonder.
A wet week washed out all of round two’s fixtures and a waterlogged Kahibah Oval still hasn’t recovered, which means this one will take place at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility. This will present its own challenges for each side and the wear and tear of a synthetic pitch may affect Kahibah, who are yet to play a competitive match this season.
After Adamstown’s Heritage Cup win, their coach Peter McGuinness described an hour of play on synthetic as ‘an hour and a half on the legs’, and match fitness may play a huge part in the result on Sunday night. With Dave Hodgson set to miss out through suspension, Kahibah will no doubt rely on the fitness of their youngsters to get them through.
New Lambton looked fit and sharp in their opening win over West Wallsend and had no problem scoring goals. Nicholas Pepper scored two scorchers from distance in that match, but Kahibah have set out to focus on keeping the back end of their game tidy and the Eagles will have to work hard to find a way through what is bound to be a resilient Kahibah.