Match of the Round
Hamilton Olympic (8th) vs. Weston Bears (3rd)
Sunday 2 June, 2:30 pm, Darling Street Oval
As we begin the second half of the season, fans will be treated to a match which entertained in the first-time round, as Weston look to continue their hot form and get revenge for their earlier loss to Hamilton.
These two faced off in the second match of the 2019 season where Olympic came back from a goal down to defeat the Bears away from home but in recent weeks, Weston has hit a purple patch that’s seen them win in their last three matches.
The visitor’s strike-force has been hitting their straps in recent weeks, especially from Dutchman Jason Tjien-Fooh who has now scored six goals, but their defence has also seen a major enhancement in recent weeks having only conceded one goal in their past three outings.
They’ll be coming up against the best defensive team in the competition this weekend though, as Hamilton has only conceded eleven in their ten games and have been rather rock solid so far.
Offensively is where Olympic need to improve if they want to push themselves back into the top four as they’ve only scored more than two goals in a game on two occasions and coach Pete McGuiness will be hoping that those up top, Jarryd Sutherland, Shinichi Kawachi and Kent Harrison can support veteran star Scott Pettit who currently sits on six goals for the year.
McGuiness echoed those thoughts that defensively the team is secure, but knows the challenge that Weston will bring.
“We beat them [Weston] in Round 1, but I said after the game ‘they will be right in amongst it all year,” McGuiness admitted.
“They’re well organised, they have a nice blend of younger guys, and play with a lot of enthusiasm. They’re going to be very hard to beat.
“Regan Lundy has had a good season so far and has been doing really well in that wide position…he’s a force to be reckoned with.
“I’m pretty confident in how we defend. We haven’t conceded many goals so I’m confident in our defensive shape.
“It’s how much we pressure apply to the ball, we’ll try to control where they play their attack to.
“I think if we defend well, I’m pretty sure we’ll execute better than what we did last week.”
Sitting nearer to the bottom of the table than the top, McGuiness confessed he felt his team could have been higher, again referencing his side’s lack in goal-scoring ability so far.
“I’m disappointed in how many points we’ve picked up,” he said.
“There’s only really been one game where we haven’t performed to our potential and probably got what we deserved…we’ve been too hot and cold in getting results.
“But I have all the confidence in the world that we’ll defend well enough, it’s a matter of making use our attack is good enough and if it is, we’ll get plenty of results in the second half of the year.”
Having been defeated in the earlier match, his opposing number, Kew Jaliens, Weston’s coach, said his team were determined to continue their winning streak.
“We’re expecting another challenge,” said Jaliens.
“Hamilton has got a good team and they’ll fight hard to keep the points at home, but our preparation will be the same as all the other games.
“We’ll just play our own game…it will be a good challenge for our strikers.”
The Bears have proven to be one of the more positive surprising packets of the season thus far, but although Jaliens is proud of the way his team have performed, he said there’s still work to be done.
“The feeling [around the team] is good. Winning helps that.
“I’m pleased but not happy yet. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but we’re heading in the right direction.”
Valentine Phoenix (9th) vs. Adamstown Rosebud (10th)
Sunday 2 June, 2:30 pm, CB Complex
Last week saw both these teams experience completely opposites as Valentine played five hours of football across three different matches without losing, while Adamstown enjoyed a bye and had no FFA Cup duties.
In the Rosebud’s last outing two weeks ago, they went down to Maitland and have only won one in their last five matches while their opponents haven’t been beaten in their past two games and got the best of Adamstown in their earlier, Round 1 fixture.
Despite that, only two points separate the two on the table and gaining the three points will be vital for both in attempting to salvage their seasons.
Adamstown’s attack has struggled to fire so far this season having been kept scoreless three times already – the most times in the competition – however, while the Phoenix have been scoring in almost all their matches, the sources of those goals has been rather limited as only three players have scored – Luke Willard, Bailey Garland (5) and Ben Hay (2).
Adamstown coach Shane Cansdell-Sherriff confessed he felt his side could easily be sitting higher on the table just haven’t “capitalised at the right moments”, an area of their game he’s hoping can be fixed starting this weekend.
“We’re trying to draw on all the positive stuff we’ve been doing lately,” Cansdell-Sherriff said.
“We’ve been in a lot of games throughout the first half of the season.
“Our focus since I’ve been at the club has been on us, not on other teams. It’s about us and our development. If we start playing right doing our thing, we’ll start getting results and winning stuff.
“They’re [Valentine] coming off the back of a good draw against Hamilton, so we’ll need to up our game and take it to them.
“In the second half of the season, it’s about converting those near-misses, near-victories… we need to forget what we did first half and focus on finishing stronger.”
Newcastle Jets Youth (6th) vs. Charlestown City Blues (5th)
Sunday 2 June, 2:30 pm, Lisle Carr Oval
Sitting on identical points, goals scored, and almost goals conceded at present, Charlestown take on the Jets Youth this weekend and will be looking for revenge after being defeated by the youngsters in the opening game of the season back in Round 1.
Both sit just on the outer edge of the top four and a win this weekend could see one jump inside if results go their way and with the extreme closeness of the competition, both teams will know the importance of collecting three points.
Only two weeks ago, the young Jets enjoyed three victories in a row and were looking like a potential premiership contender but have since lost their last two games while for the Blues, they’ve only lost one of their past five including a 3-1 win over league-leaders Broadmeadow last weekend.
From that big victory, Charlestown featured three men in the NPL NNSW Team of the Week including two returning defenders, Kevin Davison and Tom Smart, and veteran striker Kane Goodchild who will all be vital for the team’s future success.
The Jets contain plenty of their own stars as well though including current Hyundai A-League players Angus Thurgate and Pat Langlois as well as Jack Simmons who picked up another goal on the weekend, and Maki Petratos who was one of the form players of the competition in the first half of the year.
This weekend’s match will be an intriguing contest between youth and experience, and if it’s anything like their first clash of the season, expect a great tussle.
Lake Macquarie City Roosters (11th) vs. Lambton Jaffas (7th)
Sunday 2 June, 2:30 pm, Macquarie Field
At the beginning of the season, Lakes were widely touted as a team who may cause trouble in the race for the top four, but instead the first half of the season has been disappointing and one they’ll be looking to put behind them as they host Lambton in the first match of the second half of fixtures.
When these two played off in Round 1, the Jaffas dominated winning 5-1, and since then, the Roosters have only been able to win one game.
Lambton enters this match though in a bit of a rut – last weekend marked the first time, since being promoted in 2012, that the club has gone five consecutive weeks without a win – and will still be without their key forward Braedyn Crowley who has scored almost half their goals due to suspension.
A shining light for Lambton though has been their former Newcastle Breakers goalkeeper Brad Swancott who once again featured in the NPL NNSW Team of the Week and he’ll be hoping his backline can regain some form as they’ve still only kept one clean sheet so far this season.
They’ll have their work cut out for them as reigning Graham Jennings Medallist Sam Walker will be lining up against them, and although Lakes currently has the equal-worst goal-scoring record, their captain has still scored six goals – equal third in the Golden Boot race.
James Pascoe, Jaffas’ coach, said that despite the team’s recent form, they’re still fully confident.
“The team is really positive still,” Pascoe said.
“Our recent results have not matched our performances. We have not been inferior to any team we’ve played so the boys are still in a good headspace.
“A combination of things have contributed to our last month of result including a number of highly debatable officiating decisions going against us in key moments, some key players have been injured and we have not managed to take the numerous chance we have created. But that’s football.
“Four weeks ago, we were first and now we are seventh which highlights how close it is this season.
“We are really confident we can go on a good run and climb the ladder once we get a fully fit squad back on deck. There are still 30 points to play for. “
Edgeworth Eagles (2nd) vs. Broadmeadow Magic (1st)
Sunday 2 June, 2:45 pm, Jack McLaughlan Oval
It’s the second Grand Final rematch of the season and given the way the first ensued, a 6-1 win for Edgeworth, there’s many narratives and factors that will impact this match.
Since that huge defeat in Round 1, Magic have only lost one match which came last weekend and sit atop of the packed mountain, however they are only just one point ahead of the Eagles resulting in another big top-of-the-table clash.
As many predicted at the start of the year, the Magicians have been deadly in front of goal and enjoy the best attacking record in the league with 28 goals, but surprisingly, Edgeworth has also relished in offence with 26 goals and an incredible 11 different goal-scorers.
The Eagles’ have also recently seen their defensive-line now return to full-strength which only spells ominous signs for the rest of the competition.
Broadmeadow’s defence has been rather leaky in the first half of the season, conceding 19 goals – the fourth worst defensive stats in the league – and will need to be an area of focus going forward especially against clinical forwards like Oliver Smith and Will Bower and the explosive Keanu Moore.
Magic coach Ruben Zadkovich agreed that his side was deservingly sitting on top of the table, but given the recent history between the clubs, knew the defending premiers could easily knock them off their perch if they’re not at their best.
“Round 1 against Edgy was a perfect start to the season in some ways,” Zadkovich said.
“Everything went against us that day which reminded the boys of what can happen when you switch off or lose your focus and structure.
“We know Edgy will work hard and grind for 90 minutes. We expect it to be a tough game as always.
“We have a lot of lads potentially out which may change our approach, but that said, we have a no excuse mentality. We’ll travel to Edgeworth preparing to take the points.
“The league is very tight, but the table doesn’t lie. We are where we are because of our efforts.”
Coming off the back of a tiring week of football that saw them lose to Charlestown and a mid-week FFA Cup fixture that went to extra time, Zadkovich said there were still many areas for them to improve, but that the challenges they’ve recently faced will only make them stronger.
“Last week’s loss was disappointing, but it was always going to be tough,” said Zadkovich.
“The tough schedule in past weeks though makes us battle-hardened. Pair that with this week’s freshness, it should have us ripe for a big performance.
“We definitely have a few more gears to push through and a load of improvement to make in our game.
“If we can maintain our strong mentality as a group and maybe get a few bodies back in the coming few weeks, then we will be in for a big charge at the business end of the season.”