Match of the Round
Maitland FC v Charlestown Azzurri
Cooks Square Park, Sunday 2.30pm
Maitland will look to steady the ship against the might of Charlestown Azzurri at Cooks Square Park on Sunday.
Maitland bounced back from their horror week a fortnight ago that saw them drop back-to-back games for the first time this season against Lambton Jaffas and rivals Weston with a 5-3 win over Adamstown Rosebud on Wednesday night.
Despite the recent difficulties Maitland remain one of the major contenders in this year’s premiership race and they will welcome back defender Zach Thomas to the fold this weekend after he served his suspension for a red card in the Lambton Jaffas loss.
Charlestown on the other hand was a part of the only fixture to go ahead last weekend when they faced Adamstown Rosebud. The first against last fixture did not provide the score some would have expected, with Azzurri fighting hard to come away with a 2-1 victory.
Azzurri welcomed mid-season signings Taylor Regan and Rene Ferguson for that match in what was a further boost to their premiership credentials with the latter scoring the winning goal against Rosebud.
But Charlestown will need to bounce back themselves after their unbeaten start to the season was ended by Edgeworth on Wednesday night.
Maitland assistant coach Gav Wolfe said his side would look to steady the ship and continue their charge towards the premiership.
“Charlestown has had a really consistent season with some good results,” Wolfe said.
“We are expecting a tough match and we obviously play them at home this time which we are really looking forward to. We think we can match it with them so we are certainly looking for the three points and anything less than that won’t be good enough from our perspective.
“We have had a couple of training sessions despite the weather and we have really looked to go back to the style of play we did about a month ago. It was particularly successful for us so we are looking to return to that style of play. We think the last couple of games we moved away from that.”
Lambton Jaffas v Valentine FC
Blacksmiths Oval, Sunday 2pm
Lambton Jaffas will have the premiership in their sights when they take on Valentine FC on Saturday.
The Jaffas are fourth on 23 points following their impressive 2-1 win over Broadmeadow Magic in their rescheduled round 14 match on Wednesday night.
An assured performance from veteran goalkeeper Ben Kennedy helped Lambton get a foothold in the contest as James Virgili gave Jaffas the lead with a tidy finish.
Mitch Rooke’s stunning free kick earned Lambton the three points after Magic defender Jordan Jackson had been sent off for pulling down Virgili.
The win has Lambton six points behind leaders Charlestown Azzurri, though the Jaffas have three matches in hand.
It was another impressive result for Lambton who downed high-flying Maitland 3-1 last time out.
Valentine are also jostling to earn a finals berth. If other results fall their way, Valentine could jump as high as sixth with victory against the reigning premiers.
Adam Hughes’ men took a massive step forward towards securing a finals place last Tuesday, downing Newcastle Olympic 2-1 in one of only two matches to go-ahead last week.
Hughes said Saturday’s match was huge for his side, with Valentine welcoming back players to the squad.
“Jaffas are obviously a quality squad,” Hughes said.
“Jaffas have quality all over the park and it’s one of those ones where I feel with our squad, that has a mix of senior players and youth that we are starting to hit certain moments in the season right now. We are starting to gel a bit better than we were at the start of the season.
“We are also starting to get a few players in the squad, we are starting to look a bit more stable so that’s helping with our player performances as well. Nick Martinelli is starting to come back from a rib situation and Ryan Clarke is starting to get a little bit better, he’s been playing at about 60 per cent for a while.”
The match will be played at Blacksmiths Oval, the home on Northern League One club Belmont Swansea United.
Weston Workers FC v Broadmeadow Magic
Rockwell Automation Park, Saturday 2.30pm
Weston Workers coach Anthony Richards says it is about maintaining momentum for his side when they meet high-flying Broadmeadow Magic on Saturday.
Weston are in a mid-season revival after stringing three wins together that has seen them rocket to fifth place on the table. The wins against Adamstown, Lake Macquarie City and most notably their rivals Maitland have seen them move clear of Newcastle Olympic and Edgeworth.
Victory this weekend will see them turn the pressure up on the top four sides and also see them take a step away from the log jam in the middle of the table that sees Edgeworth, Newcastle Olympic and Valentine also vying for a spot in the finals.
Weston will also be aided by the return of prized mid-season recruit Michael McGlinchey who will make his return from a calf injury this weekend. First-choice goalkeeper Stuart Plant is also nearing a return from a head knock that has seen him miss most of the season.
Broadmeadow Magic remain unbeaten since dropping their first two games of the season. Damian Zane’s men have amassed 26 points since their round two loss to the Jaffas, notching eight victories and two draws to see them to second place on the table.
Magic will be buoyed by the return of Keanu Moore to the squad, who will prove to be a timely addition. But they will also need to bounce back after falling 2-1 to Lambton in their rescheduled round 14 match on Wednesday night.
Broadmeadow will also be without defender Jordan Jackson, who was sent off in the defeat.
Magic will also be keeping one eye on their Australia Cup round of 32 matchup, where they will meet Bentleigh Greens in Victoria next Thursday.
Weston coach Anthony Richards said their previous loss against Broadmeadow Magic was hard to draw any information from and the Bears would be ready for the in-form side this weekend.
“Magic is a very well organised team with lots of energy,” Richards said.
“Magic has some terrific young players and we will be expecting a really hard game against some of the better younger players in the competition. Jacob Dowse particularly is doing really well at the moment, scoring goals and causing lots of issues so he will be one guy we have to keep an eye on.
“Our last match against Magic, I guess you could say it was a disaster. That was the called-off game where [Stuart Plant] hurt himself, we played half a game and then had to come back later on and play 40-something minutes. It was a [crazy] situation. We were disappointed by the final result but we have just got to be better, we don’t take too much out of that first game, to be honest.”
Cooks Hill United v Newcastle Olympic
Fearnley Dawes Athletics Field, Saturday 4.30pm
Cooks Hill United will look to deliver Newcastle Olympic’s finals hopes a major blow when they meet on Saturday.
Cooks Hill have become a real thorn in the side to any side they come across after steadying the ship following a rocky start to their first season in top-flight NNSW NPL, seeing them improve to ninth place on the table.
Cooks Hill’s last result was a draw against the previously unbeaten Charlestown Azzurri, their second stalemate of the season.
Cooks Hill also had an impressive Australia Cup campaign that saw them reach round seven of the preliminary rounds before being eliminated by Olympic.
Newcastle Olympic are best positioned to push for a finals spot, sitting just two points behind fifth-placed Weston Workers. Joel Griffiths’ side will lament missing the opportunity to jump into the top five last week, losing to Valentine 2-1 midweek.
Olympic have struggled for consistency this year but attackers Jared Muller and Joey Langlois have been shining lights for the side, combining for 11 of the 24 goals they have scored this season.
Edgeworth FC v Lake Macquarie City
Jack McLaughlan Oval, Sunday 2pm
Edgeworth will be looking to notch an important victory when they meet Lake Macquarie on Sunday.
Edgeworth have shown glimpses of their class at periods this season but Peter McGuiness’ men sit in seventh spot on the table, collecting five wins, six losses and one draw.
The Eagles will be buoyed by their impressive 4-2 victory over Charlestown Azzurri on Wednesday night, as Edgeworth handed the league leaders their first defeat of the season.
Lake Macquarie on the other hand are desperate to come away with three points and halt a seven-game slide that has seen them slide to 10th on the table.
Lakes have been gutsy in their previous three outings and many would consider them unlucky not to have at least come away with a draw in one of those fixtures. Lakes went down narrowly to Valentine and Newcastle Olympic, with their most recent performance a 5-2 loss to an in-form Weston Workers.
Edgeworth were 4-2 winners when the sides last met in round nine. A Jeremy Brockie hat-trick helped them to victory that day and he will no doubt be looking to add to his season tally of six goals this weekend.
Lakes coach Keelan Hamilton said his side’s week would be disrupted due to ground closures but they would not be using that as an excuse.
“Due to the state of the pitches, we will be at the gym [for training],” Hamilton said.
“Managing training and our loading have been really difficult all season, so last week gave us a little bit of a mental and physical refresh. We were coming off the back of nine games in the last six weeks, which took its toll so it was nice to get a bit of a rest.
“We are hopeful we will get Carter Smith back. He was in line to play the Jaffas two weekends ago, so he should be ready to go this weekend. Michael Bru and Ryley Tyd are still a few weeks away with their injuries.”
McGuiness said Edgeworth’s attention would be on Charlestown Azzurri before turning their attention to Lakes later in the week.
“We are hopeful to get two games this week,” McGuiness said.
“Charlestown will be a big test on Wednesday as they are yet to be defeated. It’s been a difficult time for all football clubs with the weather so hopefully we can all get some football played from here on.
“On Sunday our aim is to collect the three points from both matches which we know we are capable of. Liam Wilson is out suspended for tomorrow’s match but back available for Sunday against Lakes.”