MATCH OF THE ROUND
Edgeworth FC v Weston Workers FC
Jack McLaughlan Oval, Sunday 2pm
Edgeworth will be desperate to hit back in front of their home fans when they welcome Weston Workers to Jack McLaughlan Oval on Sunday.
It was a mixed bag for the Eagles last week, scoring a good win against a resurgent Cooks Hill United outfit 3-1 in their rescheduled round 11 fixture on Wednesday night. But they also slumped to their fifth defeat of the campaign against Lambton Jaffas in their rescheduled round 10 match on Saturday.
The Eagles moved into the top five despite their 3-0 loss to the Jaffas last weekend and now turn their attention to Weston who were responsible for Edgeworth’s elimination from the Australia Cup when they met in the fifth preliminary round last month.
In positive news for the Eagles Dylan Holz made a successful return from a knee injury via the bench in the loss to Lambton. Edgeworth coach Peter McGuiness said Holz was likely to take the place of midfielder Liam Wilson against Weston, with Wilson facing a two-week suspension after being sent off for a lunging tackle against the Jaffas.
Weston assistant coach Anthony Richards said his side would look to enter the player market following the departure of Matthew Buettner who has left for an opportunity in Spain.
Weston has since also been eliminated from the Australia Cup after they were dispatched 5-1 by a rampant Maitland on Saturday. Leo Bertos’s men will now shift focus to collecting three points against the Eagles after slipping to seventh on the table.
Weston have collected two draws and two losses in their last month of football but they could leapfrog the Eagles into fifth position if they escape Jack McLaughlan Oval with the three points.
Richards said Weston could not underestimate their opponents, especially with the quality the Eagles possess.
“[Edgeworth] is a good side and they’re probably as desperate as us to win,” Richards said.
“Two desperate sides will be playing this weekend and both sides have good players, so it should be a cracking game. I think it will be a great game to watch, that’s for sure.”
McGuiness said Edgeworth would have to improve if they are to collect the three points on Sunday.
“We know Weston are well organised and cause any team problems,” McGuiness said.
“We played them in the cup and had a really tough end to the game. We are expecting the same on Sunday. [If we are to win] we need to be better with possession in the front third and take opportunities we can create.
“We have Dylan Holz back which is a plus for us, also Sascha Montefiore returns from injury.”
Adamstown Rosebud v Maitland FC
Adamstown Oval, Saturday 2pm
Maitland coach Michael Bolch says he is wary of an Adamstown Rosebud side growing in confidence as the Magpies prepare to travel to Adamstown Oval on Saturday.
Maitland were big winners the last time the sides met in round four but Bolch insisted the match was much closer than the 6-0 result suggested.
Maitland are fresh from downing rivals Weston Workers 5-1 to advance to the seventh preliminary round of the Australia Cup. There they will face Broadmeadow Magic in a mouth-watering fixture with the winner to progress to the national round of 32.
The Magpies’ recent results have seen them close the gap to highflyers Broadmeadow Magic and Charlestown Azzurri, collecting 13 points out of a possible 15 in their last five matches to solidify third on the table.
Adamstown on the other hand have slowly begun to turn the ship around after a horror two and a half months to begin their campaign, ending their 10-match losing streak with back-to-back draws against Edgeworth and Valentine in the last fortnight.
Rosebud were in prime position to collect their first victory last weekend if it were not for a late flurry from a 10-man Valentine outfit, leaving the visiting Rosebud side lucky to escape with the draw.
Bolch said he was wary of Adamstown despite them occupying the bottom of the table and said it was important for his team to maintain their momentum.
“[Adamstown] are a young side but they are obviously improving,” Bolch said.
“[Adamstown] would have taken a lot of confidence out of the last two games. We beat them 6-0 the first time we met but the scoreline wasn’t anything like the game was. They really pressured us.
“We just can’t get complacent. We have won quite a few games on the trot now. [We’ve scored] 21 goals in our last five games including the Australia Cup I think it is so we have just got to focus on what we can do, keep disciplined and keep our structure in play.
“[If we keep doing that] we should be too good for them but anything can happen in football and we all know that. So we have to turn up ready to play.”
Cooks Hill United v Broadmeadow Magic FC
Fearnley Dawes Athletics Oval, Saturday 2.30pm
Cooks Hill United will look to continue their climb up the table when they attempt to topple second-placed Broadmeadow Magic on Saturday.
Cooks Hill breezed past their Australia Cup round six opponents Coffs Coast Tigers 4-0 on Saturday to set up a clash against Newcastle Olympic to secure a place in the national round of 32.
But Cooks Hill will be aiming to hit back after suffering consecutive defeats against Maitland and Edgeworth that saw them slip to ninth spot on the table with eight competition points after collecting earlier victories against Lake Macquarie City and Adamstown Rosebud.
Broadmeadow Magic also progressed to round seven of the Australia Cup preliminary rounds after dispatching Coffs City United 3-1 to set up a monster clash with Maitland for a spot in the national round of 32.
In the league, Magic are unbeaten in nine matches but will be aiming to collect three points against Cooks Hill after surrendering first place to Charlestown Azzurri following their draw with Newcastle Olympic.
Magic collected their first victory of the season against Cooks Hill in round four and have been unbeaten since, defeating Dave Tanchevski’s men 4-1.
Lambton Jaffas v Charlestown Azzurri
Arthur Edden Oval, Saturday 2pm
Lambton Jaffas coach Shane Pryce says he is expecting a hard-fought battle when his team meets the high-flying Charlestown Azzurri on Saturday.
The Jaffas have finally found some consistency in fixtures after the torrential rain interrupted the start of their campaign with the reigning premiers starting to string results together that recently saw them dispatch Edgeworth 3-0 to consolidate fourth on the table.
But the Jaffas will still have to navigate a hectic upcoming schedule to catch up on their postponed fixtures having only played eight matches heading into this weekend, three less than their opponents and table-toppers Charlestown Azzurri.
Pryce’s men have suffered just the sole defeat this campaign, a 3-1 loss to Azzurri, with Graham Law’s side stamping themselves as title threats when they downed the reigning premiers in round four.
Azzurri remains the only unbeaten side in the competition going into this weekend’s match and sit atop the NPL Men’s NNSW table with 25 points from seven wins and four draws.
Azzurri went into last weekend’s bye in prime position after collecting back-to-back wins against Lake Macquarie in round 13 and then Valentine mid-week with a combined score of 10-1, seeing them skip two points clear of second-placed Broadmeadow Magic.
Law said the weekend off gave him a chance to study this weekend’s opponent and said he expected Jaffas to be there come the end of the season.
“It’s pretty obvious Lambton is a serious contender [for the title],” Law said.
“I was very impressed [with their performance against Edgeworth]. They were absolutely solid all over the park. Jaffas were absolutely in the game [in round four] and it was a very tight game. People look at the 3-1 scoreline but against the Lambton Jaffas, the game is never closed out.
“There is no complacency from us and Lambton has managed to get a run of games now so it will be an even tougher proposition.”
Pryce said his squad was fit and healthy heading into this weekend’s clash and it would be a great test to see how far the Jaffas have come following a turbulent start to the season.
“[Charlestown] has a never-say-die attitude,” Pryce said.
“They are well-organised, physical and they play for 90 minutes. There is a reason why they are where they are on the competition table. They have experience and key quality players. If we turn up it will be a decent battle to see where we are [as a team].
“[Our earlier result against Charlestown] I think we started slow and they took their chances. We got caught up in the pace that they were at and we weren’t up to it, so we will be looking to rectify that in our game.”
Lake Macquarie City v Valentine FC
Macquarie Field, Sunday 4.30pm
Lake Macquarie City will look to stop the rot when they welcome Valentine to Macquarie Field on Sunday.
Lake Macquarie have hit a rough patch in the last month of fixtures. Lakes have suffered four consecutive losses in the league, while an under-manned City side were also eliminated from the Australia Cup by Newcastle Olympic on Saturday.
In positive news for Keelan Hamilton’s side, Daniel Minors and first choice goalkeeper Blaire Ryan will be available for selection after missing their Australia Cup defeat, while Abdalla Okla and Carter Smith are nearing returns from injury but are still unlikely to feature this weekend.
Valentine will take a lot from their courageous draw against Adamstown Rosebud last weekend, with Adam Hughes’s side sharing the points courtesy of two goals in the last half-hour of the match despite being a man down.
Valentine have struggled for consistency since opening their campaign with back-to-back victories but they will no doubt be aiming to replicate their performance from when they last met Lake Macquarie, taking a 3-1 victory in round three.
Valentine player-coach Hughes revealed through the week he is unlikely to return for the remainder of the season due to complications with a broken arm he suffered in their round seven loss to Weston. While former Socceroo Dean Heffernan looks likely to also be rubbed out for the season after sustaining an ankle injury in their game against Charlestown last weekend.
Lakes coach Keelan Hamilton said he was proud of the resolve his side had shown during a tough period and looked forward to challenging Valentine this weekend.
“[Valentine] is an experienced side,” Hamilton said.
“When we played them in the first part of the season they performed well. Valentine is defensively well structured and well organised. They also have some threats going forward but like all teams in the competition, they have their strengths and weaknesses.
“We just have to prepare as best as we can. Our big focus is about getting some troops back on the park and get some consistency in our preparation so we can start to make some improvements again.”