Maitland FC vs. Lions FC
Saturday 28th September, 2:30pm, Cooks Square Park
After grinding through with narrow victories in the first round of the National Premier Leagues Final Series, Maitland and NPL Queensland’s Lions FC will meet at Cooks Square in a match that will send one team into the national final, while the other falls agonisingly short.
The Magpies managed to hold on against Tasmania’s Devonport Strikers to win 3-2 following two first-half penalties from Matt Thompson, while the back-to-back QLD premiers overcame the team who defeated them in last year’s national Grand Final, Campbelltown City.
This Saturday’s match will be the first time either side will have faced off with one another, however the Lions did come up against a Northern NSW opponent in last year’s series, beating Edgeworth 1-0 at home in the first round.
Historically, Northern NSW teams have been remarkably poor when battling sides from north of the border, losing all four of the games they’ve played over the previous five years of the competition and if Maitland want to stun the country and progress to the Grand Final in their first ever appearance, they’ll need to buck that trend.
The hosts will still be missing their key striker Joel Wood, but last weekend it saw young gun Sean Pratt fill that void with the crucial goal. Matt Swan is also still a name in the unavailable list, while so too is winger Ryan Clarke, however they welcome back their creative man and former Newcastle Jet, Nick Cowburn while youngster Louis Townsend is expected to also fill some of the gaps made.
Lions possess one of the strongest NPL teams in Australia including star forward Marek Madle, from Czach Republic, who has scored 46 goals from his 42 appearances over the past two seasons, as well as Colombian scorer Jheison Macuace who scored 12 goals this year, and young, domineering defender, Tommy Jarrad.
While the visitors will pose a strong threat, Maitland have still yet to be defeated at home this season and have turned their Windy Hill into a fortress. Their defence will need to be as strong as ever though, as the Lions have made an incredible habit of scoring goals – they managed 90 over the course of 2019.
Maitland coach Mick Bolch admitted the team knew they’re in a for a big challenge but they’re confident of getting a result at home.
“They’re [Lions] going to be dangerous,” Bolch said.
“They made the Final last year and knocked Edgy out. They’re a quality side. They create plenty and have plenty of threats in the middle of the park.
“Whoever you come up against in this competition has won their premiership in their region so they’re all going to be strong no matter who you come up against.
“You’d much rather play at home. Maybe we’ll get an away trip if we can make the Final, but we’ve just got to make sure we’re doing everything right to set up for Brisbane on the weekend.”