Match of the Round
Maitland FC v Charlestown Azzurri
Cooks Square Park, Sunday 2:30pm
Two sides looking to strengthen their position on the table will do battle in an eagerly-awaited Match of the Round with Maitland hosting Charlestown at Cooks Square Park on Sunday.
The defending premiers are third with four wins and have yet to taste defeat at home this season.
Maitland won their first game on the road in 2020 last round with comeback 2-1 win over Adamstown thanks to two late goals from James Thompson and Braedyn Crowley.
Michael Bolch’s men will be looking for their first back-to-back win of the season against Charlestown.
Consecutive wins were Charlestown’s breakthrough feat last round downing Lambton 2-0 with a convincing performance while star forwards Regan Lundy and Riley Smith earned a spot in the NPL NNSW Team of the Week along with goalkeeper Nathan Archbold.
The Azzurri are now seventh on 10 points, while a win in this fixture would see them climb level with Maitland.
The match will pit one of the best attacking teams in Maitland – who have recorded 14 goals in eight games to sit fourth for goals scored – against one of the best defences in Charlestown. The Azzurri have only conceded nine goals which is the equal second best in the competition.
Maitland has a superior record over their Charlestown winning four of the last six encounters having scored eight goals in the last two games between the sides at Cooks Square Park.
The Magpies will want to keep a foothold on third place and Bolch said his side was raring to go and would welcome back a familiar face to the line-up.
“We’re getting Ryan Clarke back this week so I expect everyone to be on board for the game and if we can get three points it really sets us up going into the next rounds,” Bolch said.
“We’ve just got to be more efficient in the front third. We’re creating plenty of opportunities but it’s just about ready to click.
“I think it goes back to 2018 the last time we lost a game [at home] so it has been a really good run so hopefully it continues on the weekend.
“If you look down [Azzurri’s] spine, there’s plenty of first grade experience there. They’re working well and the young guys feed off that.”
Charlestown will aim to build on their current form to end the premiers’ lengthy unbeaten streak at Cooks Square Park. Coach Graham Law said he was excited about the prospect of facing his former club.
“It’s the premiers we’re playing this weekend. You don’t win a league with a lucky team and we will give them the utmost respect but we’ll put our best foot forward and challenge them,” Law said.
“There’s a lot of teams in the same position as us but we know how we’re going to play and as a coach I pride myself on being able to provide my team with an analysis on how we’re going to play.
“I’ve never lost a game at Maitland, both as Maitland coach and not, but something’s got to give this weekend.
“We’re starting to get a bit of consistency and learning how we play due to our smaller squad and Maitland on their home ground can be quite daunting but we believe the longer we stay in the game the more positive we become.”
Lambton Jaffas v Edgeworth Eagles
Arthur Edden Oval, Sunday 2:30pm
Lambton and Edgeworth will take to Arthur Edden Oval on Sunday in a match that is sure to provide a spectacle given the incredible recent history between the two clubs.
The two sides are accustomed to playing each other in big games with the Eagles edging past the Jaffas in the last two finals series’ while Lambton defeated Edgeworth in the 2017 grand final.
The teams will put it all on the line due to the nature of the rivalry and with plenty still to play for in 2020.
Edgeworth are aiming for an ‘invincible’ season having remained undefeated so far this campaign with eight wins from eight, with the Eagles eight points clear at the top of the table.
Their latest result was a 2-0 victory over Newcastle Olympic last round while the Jaffas endured a tough 2-0 loss to Charlestown.
Lambton are going through a poor run of results having only won one of their last four games to slip outside the top five.
The home side will take confidence from the fact they were the last team to beat the Eagles in the final round of last season and will be desperate to attain an important victory for their season while aiming to end Edgeworth’s perfect run.
Eagles player-coach Josh Rose said his side had to be wary of a determined Jaffas side.
“They’ve got a fantastic squad so it’s definitely going to be a tough match and plus they really need points so it will be a dangerous game for us. So we need to be switched on but a good game to test ourselves,” Rose said.
“We look at one game at a time and if it does so happen that we wrap up [the premiership] early than fantastic and ideally the championship is always a big one as well so the focus will still be there.
“It was good to get a big load [of work] in last week and now we can freshen up and finish of well.”
Newcastle Olympic v Lake Macquarie City
Darling Street Oval, Sunday 2:30pm
Newcastle Olympic will play host to Lake Macquarie City at Darling Street Oval on Sunday with both teams looking to bounce back into the winner’s circle.
Olympic went down 2-0 to Edgeworth last round but remain inside the top five with 11 points and will want to maintain their spot with Lambton, Charlestown and Valentine breathing down their neck.
Lakes slumped to their sixth loss of the year last round going down 1-0 to Valentine to leave them in last spot with time running out on the Roosters season.
The away side will be eager to snap their losing streak and gain traction on the teams above them with five regular season games remaining.
The two outfits will be without their respective captains due to suspensions with Olympic’s Kyle Hodges and Lakes’ Corey Fletcher serving time on the sideline this weekend.
Olympic have a great record against Lakes in recent times and coach Alex Tagaroulias is looking to add to their recent performances.
“The guys are coming along nicely. They’re putting in the work in training and on match day so I can’t complain and if they put in the same effort as they did against Maitland and Edgeworth than we’ll win more,” Tagaroulias said.
“There’s a logjam there between third and eighth and only a couple of points separating all of us. So we’ve got to try and keep winning and if we don’t win this weekend, several teams could leapfrog us.
“Jed Hornery and Tom Curran look like they are out again this weekend, so a couple of changes to make.”
Valentine FC v Weston Workers
CB Complex, Sunday 2:30pm
Valentine will take on Weston at CB Complex on Sunday with the two sides coming off confidence boosting results last round.
The Phoenix defeated rivals Lake Macquarie with a hard-fought 1-0 victory to build on their great recent showings and bolster their chances of finishing in the top five.
The orange and navy are eighth, a point away outside the top five and only three behind Weston.
The Bears came from behind and held on with 10 men to earn a fantastic result against Broadmeadow last round which has seen them cement themselves in fourth place.
Nathan Morris, Aaron Niyonkuru and Zac Sneddon all featured in the NPL NNSW Team of the Week following stellar performances in the win while the side will be searching for a third straight victory.
Weston defeated Valentine in the most recent outing between the two sides although the teams fought out a draw last time out at CB Complex to set up an intriguing contest between the in-form outfits.
Broadmeadow Magic v Adamstown Rosebud
Magic Park, Sunday 2:30pm
Two sides at opposite ends of the table will collide when Broadmeadow and Adamstown face-off in a cross-town rivalry at Magic Park on Sunday.
Magic sit comfortably in second spot but are a lofty eight points behind Edgeworth in the fight for the premiership.
Broadmeadow also lost their latest outing, going down 3-2 to Weston away from home albeit scoring two sublime goals including another Mitch Rooke stunner which saw him feature in the NPL NNSW Team of the Week.
Adamstown is in a scrap with Lake Macquarie at the foot of the table. Rosebud are equal with the Roosters on four points and have lost five games in a row.
The side led for most of its recent showing with Maitland but conceded two late goals to go down to the Magpies at home.
The Rosebuds will look to cause an upset on their close rivals and keep in the fight for the remainder of the season.