Match of the Round
Valentine FC v Maitland FC
CB Complex, Sunday 2pm
Valentine coach Adam Hughes says he has full faith in his side continuing to collect results despite their growing injury list as they prepare to host Maitland in the match of the round on Sunday.
Valentine seemed destined to share the points with Lake Macquarie City last weekend until an Adam Mlinaric header in the final five minutes stole the victory for his side, their fourth of the season.
Valentine have shown glimpses of their potential this season, starting their campaign with back-to-back wins before the torrential rain made it difficult for the side to even train let alone play, leaving Hughes’s men with only nine matches played heading into round 16.
Maitland on the other hand are one of the form teams in the competition and sit third on the table. Michael Bolch’s men are on a five-match winning streak since being handed their sole defeat of the season by Broadmeadow Magic in round seven.
Maitland’s strike duo of Braedyn Crowley and James Thompson have proved too much for most teams to handle this season, with the Maitland co-captains combining for a whopping 25 goals in their 11 games this season.
The Magpies though will need to bounce back after their crushing defeat to Broadmeadow in their Australia Cup seventh preliminary round match on Wednesday night.
Maitland were moments away from securing their passage into the national round of 32, only to concede twice in injury time to lose 2-1 at Magic Park.
It was Crowley and Thompson who did most of the damage in Maitland and Valentine’s last meeting in round five, with Crowley bagging a brace and Thompson also scoring in their 4-0 victory at Cooks Square Park.
Valentine had their rescheduled round eight fixture against Lambton Jaffas postponed through the week, with the match to again be rescheduled.
Valentine confirmed last week the likely season-ending injury of player-coach Adam Hughes due to complications with a broken arm, while teammate and ex-Socceroo Dean Heffernan will also miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury.
But Hughes said he was not concerned and believed his squad still had enough experience on the park to take on the might of the Magpies at CB Complex.
“We will go out with a game plan to try and nullify [Maitland] this weekend,” Hughes said.
“[Maitland] have threats all over the park and they have a good front line. I remember the last time we played them it was a very close fixture until late when we took some risks and the game changed but if we play well to our strengths then anything can happen on the day.
“Dean Heffernan got a broken ankle last week [against Adamstown] and he has ligament damage, so he’s out for the season. The only way I will go into the market is if I see some promising youngsters in the area, we have enough experience around the place. If some youngsters become available, we might possibly look at that but I’m not really interested in bringing someone in for the sake of it.”
Bolch said he was not looking to rest players at this stage despite the short turnaround and Valentine had a strong contingent of former Magpies that would make this weekend’s fixture an interesting encounter.
“If players are fit and they’re ready to play, we will play them,” Bolch said.
“We have a big schedule coming up. I think we play four Wednesday nights in a row. I think that’s nine games in about 30 days so we are just at the front end of that. I’m sure we will need to rest or rotate players during that.
“Valentine has about five ex-players of ours. You have the Thornton brothers (Liam and Carl), Matt Thompson, Nick Cowburn and Ryan Clarke so they have plenty of players that know us but we know them. [Valentine] are always up for it, they are the old guard that was at Maitland for a lot of years.
“[Our earlier meeting] was a really tough game, we won 4-0 but it was 1-0 with about seven minutes to go and we scored three late goals. [Valentine] beat Edgeworth a couple of weeks ago and had another win on the weekend with a clean sheet, they have a world of experience so it’s just about us breaking them down in the front third.”
Edgeworth FC v Broadmeadow Magic
Jack McLaughlan Oval, Saturday 2pm
Broadmeadow Magic coach Damian Zane says he has a full complement of players as they prepare to meet his former club Edgeworth on Saturday.
Magic have been near unbeatable since losing their opening two matches of the season, stretching their unbeaten run to nine matches heading into this weekend.
Magic’s fixture against Cooks Hill United was postponed due to the weather last weekend, making the clash against Edgeworth their first in the league since their 1-1 draw against rivals Newcastle Olympic in round 13.
Broadmeadow will also be buoyed by their stunning victory over Maitland in the seventh preliminary round of the Australia Cup on Wednesday night.
Magic trailed 1-0 heading into injury time, only for two late goals to secure victory for Broadmeadow and see them advance to the national round of 32.
Magic are expected to welcome back Jordan Jackson from suspension against Edgeworth, while Jake Harris will also be available after returning from injury. Sam Donnellan will be assessed throughout the week after having his tonsils removed.
Edgeworth on the other hand are backing up from a season-defining victory against Weston last weekend. Peter McGuiness’s men downed the visitors 3-2 in front of their home fans, solidifying fifth spot on the table after a rocky run of results.
The Eagles’ Josh Rose and Jeremy Brockie were immense for their side as Rose caused havoc down the left flank and the irrepressible Brockie bagged a brace to move to six goals for the year.
The Eagles will be looking to make it consecutive wins in front of their home fans at Jack McLaughlan Oval, hoping to return the favour to Magic after they were handed a 3-1 defeat by Zane’s men in round five.
Zane said he was aware of Edgeworth’s danger men and if his side focuses on being the best defensive side they can be he was confident Magic could come away with the three points.
“I’m sure Edgeworth is looking to put a bit of a gap between themselves and sixth place,” Zane said.
“It will be a tough game. It’s a tough place to go to. I’ve coached there and it was tough for teams to win there and it’s the same as an opposing coach.
“Every side has its strengths and it’s no different for Edgeworth. [Jeremy Brockie and Josh Rose] probably spring to mind but we have been defending well as a unit. So we won’t change a hell of a lot this weekend, just tinker with a few matchups and try to defend the way we have been and if we take our chances, we will be right more times than not.”
Charlestown Azzurri v Cooks Hill United
Lisle Carr Oval, Saturday 2pm
Cooks Hill United coach Dave Tanchevski expects to welcome back a host of players against unbeaten leaders Charlestown Azzurri at Lisle Carr Oval on Saturday.
Cook Hill’s fixture against Broadmeadow Magic was another casualty of the torrential rain last weekend. Cooks Hill will also have to pick themselves up after their elimination from the Australia Cup at the hands of Newcastle Olympic on Wednesday night.
Cooks Hill have been big improvers after a difficult introduction to the NPLM NNSW, securing their first and second wins in the league against Lake Macquarie and Adamstown Rosebud before going down to Maitland and Edgeworth coming into this weekend.
Tommy Smart and Jamie Burns will be available for the Charlestown having missed the Australia Cup defeat. Boaz Muir and Jon Griffiths are battling the flu but are also likely to be available to play Azzurri.
Azzurri are top of the table unbeaten on 25 points after 15 rounds and were in the middle of a classic matchup against reigning premiers Lambton Jaffas last weekend before the rain forced its abandonment.
Azzurri and Cooks Hill played out a six-goal thriller when they met in round five, with Azzurri coming from two goals behind to share the points after a 3-3 draw.
Tanchevski said his side were disappointed to share the points against Azzurri in round five but the result showed his side was always up for the challenge against the teams in the top half of the table.
“[Azzurri] is obviously undefeated and we were disappointed we couldn’t hang onto the win in our first meeting,” Tanchevski said.
“We were 3-1 up in that match but we ran out of steam. They were fitter than us and came home stronger than us. We have a decent squad together but we still have a fair few young boys in the team and sometimes it’s a lot of pressure on them to perform week-in week-out.
“On our day I think we can compete with both teams but we might have those days where we are off our game. So we have just got to try to turn up and be our best that weekend. We have been [close] in these matches, the draw with Charlestown and a 1-0 loss to Jaffas. A loss by one goal to Maitland and also a draw, so against the better teams in the competition we have been able to compete.”
Lake Macquarie City v Newcastle Olympic
Macquarie Field, Sunday 2pm
Lake Macquarie coach Keelan Hamilton recognises his club is in a tough period as they prepare to host a buzzing Newcastle Olympic at Macquarie Field on Sunday.
Illness, injury and bereavement have all played their part in Lake Macquarie sinking to 10th on the table, with Hamilton’s men suffering their fifth loss in a row against Valentine last weekend.
Lakes started the season with promise before their horrid run, pinching a draw from leaders Charlestown Azzurri and collecting wins against Adamstown Rosebud and their opponents this weekend Newcastle Olympic in round five.
Olympic will be full of confidence after advancing to the national round of 32 of the Australia Cup on Wednesday night after downing Cooks Hill United
But Olympic are seventh in the league and have struggled for consistency this season, leaving Joel Griffiths’ men needing to start collecting wins regularly as the race for the finals heats up.
Hamilton said he expected another difficult match against the side that eliminated Lakes from the Australia Cup a fortnight ago.
“I’m expecting another tough fixture,” Hamilton said.
“[Olympic] have changed their squad a fair bit since we played them way back earlier in the season. They have been up and down and a little inconsistent from where they would want to be but we will prepare well again.
“It looks like the rain goes away a little bit so we can hopefully get a good week of preparation, which really helps. We will go there to try our best to get a result.”
Weston Workers FC v Adamstown Rosebud
Rockwell Automation Park, Sunday 2.30pm
Weston assistant coach Anthony Richards has outlined opponents Adamstown Rosebud as the competition’s big improvers heading into their clash on Sunday.
Weston stretched their winless run to five matches when they lost 3-2 to Edgeworth last weekend, with the Bears slipping to eighth on the table after a tough run of results.
Weston will be hoping a return to Rockwell Automation Park will stir up a reaction from their players but they will be wary of an improving Rosebud side that seem to have turned a corner after losing their first 10 games of the season.
Rosebud have secured back-to-back draws to collect their first competition points of the season against Edgeworth and Valentine, before the torrential rain forced the abandonment of their match against Maitland last weekend.
As has been the case a few times this season Rosebud went close to pinching a result when these sides met in round five, with a goal from Chris Hurley the only thing separating the sides.
Richards said his side would not be taking the 11th-placed Rosebud lightly, recognising Weston and Rosebud would be as desperate as each other to come away with the win.
“Rosebud are the big improvers in the competition,” Richards said,
“Some of their young guys are doing really well and we are going to be super desperate next week. A win is the only option for us next week.”
Rosebud coach David Rosewarne said Weston were unlucky in their defeat last weekend and also gave an injury update on players Kyle Munns and Callum Eardley.
“Weston would count themselves unlucky last weekend,” Rosewarne said.
“[Weston] have a style of play that [Bears coach] Leo Bertos wants them to play and it is up to us to break that down. I have some thoughts on it but we have just got to be good enough to break that down. In my two years [at Rosebud] we have had some good battles against Weston.
“Kyle Munns has a bit of a niggle and he wasn’t available last weekend and is doubtful for this weekend at this stage. Callum Eardley did his ACL against Valentine, it was one of those things that looked so innocuous when he went down, painful for him as he was playing some good football.”