Valentine Phoenix (10th) vs. Lake Macquarie City Roosters (11th)
Sunday 19 May, 2:30 pm, CB Complex
The first edition of the Lake Mac Derby in 2019 takes place this weekend and comes with interesting circumstances as both sides have experienced disappointing starts to their seasons.
Sitting at the wrong end of the table with just one win each under their belts – both over Adamstown – this match for the Roosters and Phoenix may just be one of the more important editions of the relatively new derby as both will be desperate to collect any points that they can in small hope to move back within the finals contending pack.
After picking up points in their first two games of the year, it’s been a painful few weeks for Valentine since having lost their five matches, conceding 22 from those matches.
For Lakes, although it took them seven weeks to put points on the board, they’ve managed to collect four points from their past three games with their most recent result being a 1-1 draw with the league-leading Magic.
Both sides hold the identical statistics so far this year with four competition points, nine goals scored and 25 conceded.
The Roosters are still yet to win a point when playing away from home though, but in contrast, the Phoenix have had the same record when playing at their Croudace Bay home.
The last time Valentine defeated Lake Macquarie was back in June 2017, and coach Sam Griffin said his team are going to have to improve and take ownership of their game if they are to change that.
“If we’re fair dinkum about where we want to be, this is a game we have to win,” Griffin said.
“We can’t have excuses anymore. We’ve been saying for a while that we’ve got lots of people out, well too bad now. The ones we’ve got there are the ones who are going to have to do the job.
“I think we should have won our game against the Jets and our game against Charlestown, and should have got six points, but as it is, we got nothing and have now lost five in a row.
“We need guys to step up and be our senior players.
Griffin also praised the young Lake Macquarie team and was aware that he expected his opponents to be just as hungry as they are to taste the victory.
“I actually quite like a lot of Lakes’ squad,” he said.
“I think Sam Webb is a super, up-and-coming player, and everyone obviously knows about Sam Walker, and also Daniel Minors.
“They’ve got stacks of potential and ability, so they’d be in the same boat saying, ‘why are we here?’ We don’t feel like we should be at the bottom and I’m guessing neither do they.”
Coming off the back of a draw against the league leaders, and a win over Adamstown, Lakes’ coach Nick Webb is confident his team can replicate that league form but only if they finally finish their chances.
“We were quite poor in the FFA Cup, but we’re just looking to continue our form in the league and do what we should have done against Magic and beaten them,” said Webb.
“If we can put in those kinds of performances, I think we’ll be a good position come Sunday afternoon.
“There’s been every game excluding our first game, that we’ve been in every game but just aren’t finishing off our chances.
“It’s not doom and gloom because if we weren’t creating chances, there’d be a problem, but we’re certainly creating them it’s just about converting them in the second half of the season.”
“It’s about a bit of confidence really. If we put a few away that confidence changes very quickly for strikers.”
Lambton Jaffas (4th) vs. Charlestown City Blues (7th)
Saturday 18 May, 2:30 pm, Arthur Edden Oval
After enjoying an unbeaten run for the first five weeks of the season, Lambton has now experienced three weeks without a victory and their top four spot is in jeopardy as they come up against a Charlestown team who suffered a defeat at the hands of Weston last weekend.
Thanks to the extreme tightness of this year’s competition, only two points separate these two, meaning a win for the Blues could propel them in a top four position, while on the flip side to that, Lambton could also return to top spot if results went their way.
So far this year Charlestown’s attack has failed to truly fire and their opponents’ front-men have been rather formidable largely courtesy of the equal-leading Golden Boot winner, Braedyn Crowley adding to the tall task before them.
Last season both teams managed a 2-1 win over one another when playing at home, but the last time the Blues won at Arthur Edden was back in May 2016.
Interestingly enough though, Charlestown’s form away from home this year has been perfect having won all three matches played when not at Lisle Carr Oval, including wins at Darling Street and Jack McLaughlan.
It’s been a tough and frustrating few weeks for Lambton and this match may be telling for them, as it is for Charlestown as well, to see if they’re to be a genuine premiership contender.
Broadmeadow Magic (1st) vs. Newcastle Jets Youth (3rd)
Saturday 18 May, 5:00 pm, Magic Park
Broadmeadow stole top spot after winning last week’s top-of-the-table clash, but they’ve got another one in as many weeks as they face the equal-second Jets Youth who only sit one point behind them.
The young Jets have been in terrific form recently having won their last three matches, but the Magicians have also experienced good form having not lost since the opening round back in early March.
In front of goal, Magic have been doing well having scored 22 goals so far in the league (almost averaging three a game), but their defence has been their strength so far – exempting their 6-1 loss against Edgeworth in Round 1, they’ve only allowed eight goals in.
The Jets Youth have proven themselves to be a far superior squad than that of recent times though and displayed their new ability to fight and claw out victories on numerous occasions already.
This match this weekend will also stand as Labinot Haliti’s last game in charge before moving onto Western Sydney Wanderers and the team will be hoping to send him out on a winner and potentially finish his time being on top of the league table.
The Jets have a terrible history when facing Broadmeadow though – the last time they beat Magic was back in June 2014, but in addition to that, since then in their past eight outings together, Broadmeadow have put 40 goals past them, averaging five a game.
If both teams bring their best, expect this one to be an almighty contest and one that could go either way.
Maitland FC (8th) vs. Adamstown Rosebud (9th)
Sunday 19 May, 2:30 pm, Cooks Square Park
Maitland were looking like the form side of the league but after falling by four goals last weekend, are back to the bottom of the pile of the finals contending teams but have a game in hand.
The Magpies will host Adamstown this weekend who narrowly went down to the Jets Youth in their previous match, have won just one from their last four games and sit in ninth place on the table.
If the Rosebuds can pull off an upset, they’ll reduce the five-point gap between them and their opponents, but when they visit Cooks Square Park, they need to put last season’s 9-1 demolition loss out of their mind.
Rosebuds’ captain and defender Ben Higgins has now featured in the NPL NNSW Team of the Week for the past two weeks and will need to continue that form in order to stop one of the better forwards in the competition so far in Joel Wood who’s scored five goals so far this year in his seven games.
Maitland coach Mick Bolch confirmed that Sean Pratt will be returning for the hosts in what will be “a big lift” for his side’s attempt to put last weekend’s big loss behind them.
“We’ve got to look at it as one of those blips in the season,” Bolch said.
“I thought we did alright in the first half, and just didn’t come back out in the second.
“The best thing for the boys is that it’s only eight days later that the boys get to bounce back and redeem themselves for their performance last weekend.”
Bolch identified the challenges the Rosebuds would cause and confessed his side need to be better going forward if they are to win.
“They’re [Adamstown] young and fit and they’re well-structured. They sit in well and are well-disciplined. It’s going to take a lot to break them down and be patient,” he said.
“We’ve got to be clinical. If you look at our games for the year, we’ve trailed in most of our games, so in that first 20 minutes, we’ve got to be better.
“We’ve got to concentrate on ourselves before we worry about what other teams are doing. We’ve got to get what we’re doing right, which we were a long way off doing last weekend.”
Weston Bears (6th) vs. Edgeworth Eagles (2nd)
Sunday 19 May, 2:30 pm, Rockwell Automation Park
It wasn’t long ago that this match was a key date in the calendar and one of the more entertaining rivalries in the competition and given the early season form from both sides, it could re-spark this old Edgeworth-Weston derby.
Historically these two clubs are two of the most successful in the region, and the visitors will be looking to once again stamp their name at the top of the table with a win if results go their way, but the Bears can be considered as a finals dark horse, given the electric kind of football they’ve displayed so far.
Although there are four places separating both on the league table, if Weston win, they will sit on equal points with the Eagles.
The numerous fresh faces that have joined the Bears have seemingly rejuvenated the squad, especially in the front third, however, while Weston’s front-line proving to be one full of speed and flair, the Eagles actually attain the best attacking record in the competition having scored 23 goals from their eight matches.
Edgeworth has also been able to back it up with their renowned rock-solid defence having yet to record a game where they’ve conceded more than two goals.
When the two met in 2018, Edgeworth pulled off two 4-1 wins, and it’s been almost four years since the Bears defeated the defending premiers, but Eagles’ coach Damian Zane, said he’s expecting a very tough match against one of their local rivals.
“When I played, this was a big game for us against Weston. There was a bit of rivalry, back in the day it was us and them,” said Zane.
“They’ve [Weston] been pretty impressive, I think. They’re a good, young team and are exciting to watch.
“Their midfield is real young, mobile and eager…we’ll obviously take note of what they’re doing, but we’ll back ourselves to do the job up there.
“I think it’ll be important to defend well. If we defend well, I’ll always back us to win the game.”
With Edgeworth’s attack currently firing, Zane also made special praise for his team’s ability in the final third, and that it would be important for them to continue with the games coming up.
“It’s a work in progress, but it’s exciting,” he said.
“We’re missing chances every week, but we’re creating them. I still think we have another level there.
“We’ve got a busy part of the schedule coming up, but I think this is the part we’ve done well in in the past.”