Match of the Round
Lambton Jaffas (5th) vs Maitland FC (4th)
Saturday 29th June, 2:30 pm, Arthur Edden Oval
The high-flying Magpies will travel to Lambton this weekend looking to stretch their winning streak to seven games and continue their push for their first title since in 39 years, however, the hosts head into this one with a bit of a form on their side too.
The Jaffas have now picked up two wins in as many weeks and sit right on the border of the top four, just four points from the top and a win this weekend would certainly add their names to the already-long list of premiership challenging teams.
These two played out a 2-2 draw in the first encounter earlier in the year and in their history of facing one another, it’s almost just as tight – Lambton has won 11 of their 31 games, while Maitland have won 10 while the other 10 have been draws.
This weekend will also see two of the season’s best strikers coming up against each other as Braedyn Crowley for the Jaffas will look to outscore his opposite number, veteran Joel Wood who has already won the Golden Boot on two occasions (2010 & 2011) and has featured in the NPL NNSW Team of the Week the last two weeks.
While many eyes will be on how these two go forward, how they have performed at the back has been a major contributor to their success so far – Lambton have conceded the least amount of goals (14) in the league and have kept clean sheets in the past two weeks, while Maitland have only let in 15 this year.
Lambton coach James Pascoe said his team are expecting on their toughest games considering Maitland’s recent form, but they wouldn’t be paying too much attention to the way they play.
“Maitland will get our full respect this weekend,” Pascoe said.
“They are a well-balanced side, but we always concentrate on ourselves and not the opposition.
“The feeling around our squad is always positive.”
Although current injuries are plaguing the Jaffas, Pascoe was confident in his younger players stepping up and doing the job.
“For the second season on the trot our depth has been tested with multiple injuries hitting at the same time and we are still without a couple of key players,” he said.
“But its allowed some young 17 and 18 year-olds to experience the first team set up and they have added some real enthusiasm to our group.
“I’m looking forward to watching their development for the rest of the season.”
While a win would see both sides prop themselves up into a challenging position, the looming prospect of a loss this weekend could see them tumble out of the top four. Matches don’t get any more important than this.
Broadmeadow Magic (2nd) vs. Adamstown Rosebud (10th)
Saturday 29th June, 5:00 pm, Magic Park
It’s a match both Broadmeadow and Adamstown look forward to every year as the two cross-town rivals go at it, gunning for rather different goals.
The Red and Blue Derby was called off due to the wet weather last weekend, but Magic were able to keep their second-place spot and now have the chance to go top of the table if they manage to take all three points over the Rosebuds.
The visitors will be hoping to pick up some points to steer clear of the dreaded wooden spoon but unfortunately for the historic club, they haven’t been able to win a game in over two months, and in addition to that, haven’t beaten the Magicians in the league since May, 1999 – 30 games ago.
It was a close encounter last time out between the two sides though as Broadmeadow snuck a win home by the skin of their teeth after trailing with 20 minutes left.
Magic have only lost one league match from their previous 11 and it’s not hard to see why as they possess the best-attacking statistics in the league, scoring 30 goals from their 12 matches.
If Broadmeadow are to take out their first premiership since 2013, it’s matches like these that they’ll need to win, but don’t expect the Rosebuds to be easy-beats as they battle their way to avoid potentially sitting in last-place.
Valentine Phoenix (9th) vs. Newcastle Jets Youth (7th)
Sunday 30th June, 2:30 pm, CB Complex
Valentine will host the Newcastle Jets Youth this weekend coming off the back of a much-needed and much-deserved break thanks to the bye following what was some intense weeks of league and cup combined football.
The Phoenix still sit disappointingly towards the bottom of the table having won just two matches this year and own of the worst defensive records in the competition while their opponents have been doing much better in that department than in recent years.
Returning to the pitch for the first time in a month, the young Jets endured a close defeat at the hands of the premiers and as a result, have probably waved their early premiership-challenging hopes goodbye.
It took a monumental resurgence to gain the win when the Jets travelled to Croudace Bay earlier in the year, scoring three goals in the final 15 minutes to defeat Valentine 3-2.
It’s been results like that which have spelled the difference between a finals-challenging year, compared to the wooden spoon-contesting one the Phoenix are currently undertaking. However, with still half of their matches still to be played, they’ll be looking to turn those kind of tight results back in their favour.
The Jets have been without key men Angus Thurgate, Pat Langlois and Mat Barkho recently, however, Valentine won’t have Ben Hay and Josh Carroll in their ranks, as well as usual captain Chris Brown who looks to be out for the rest of the year.
Phoenix coach Sam Griffin suggested that although their chances at qualifying for finals may be slim, they’re still looking to cause a few ‘upsets’.
“Finals are a longshot, but we’ve still got 30 points on offer, so that’s the way we have to approach it,” Griffin said.
“A part of two games, we’ve had our chances to win every other game, so our target has to be to right a few wrongs, especially this weekend – the one we let get away last time round against the Jets was a bit of a travesty really.
“There’s still plenty on the line for us at the moment.”
There have been many games this season which have seen Valentine come within a whisker of either snatching a point or all three, but instead of falling by the wayside, and Griffin mentioned that closing out games was something they were hoping would improve in the back half of the year.
“We haven’t emphasised it, but it’s something we’re aware of,” he said.
“We have probably had the opportunity to have up to 11 points than we currently have but it’s probably more about putting in full performance and playing for a full 95 minutes rather than in patches.”
Edgeworth Eagles (3rd) vs. Lake Macquarie City Roosters (11th)
Sunday 30th June, 2:30 pm, Jack McLaughlan Oval
Edgeworth and Lakes may sit at complete opposite ends of the table this season, but if their previous encounters are anything to go by, this battle should be a rather entertaining one.
The Eagles are currently locked in a cracking contest at the top of the table as they look for that historic premiership while the Roosters have anchored to the bottom for much of the year with just one win to their name, however, came close to beating the defending premiers last time out.
Eventually, Edgeworth got the better of the hosts that day winning 4-2, while in the years before that, have also managed to score late to upset Lakes’ fans – in the past five matches, Edgeworth has scored four goals in the last ten minutes to either steal a draw or grab the three points.
The Roosters have only stolen points from the Eagles on one occasion since being promoted back to the league and their last victory was all the way back in 2013 thanks to a late Simon Mooney goal.
While Lakes’ history against Edgeworth hasn’t been strong, with the visitors currently sitting at the bottom of the table, expect them to give the Eagles unbridled effort.
Charlestown City Blues (6th) vs. Hamilton Olympic (8th)
Sunday 30th June, 2:30 pm, Lisle Carr Oval
Hamilton’s big Red and Blue Derby may have been washed out last week, but their situation is still the same – they need to win almost every game from here on out to qualify for the top four, especially games like this weekend when they travel to Charlestown.
The Blues played 53 minutes against Lakes last Sunday only to have the game called off midway through the game, but before that were one-goal apiece with their opposition.
They’ll need to be more clinical in front of goal when they host Olympic this weekend particularly given the strength of the Hamilton defence this year as they have only conceded 17 goals but with Kane Goodchild falling injured in last week’s wet affair, it may be a bit more difficult.
From their matches this season so far, both sides possess identical statistics – 19 goals scored, 17 conceded – but when they met in early May, it was Charlestown who took out a 2-0 victory thanks to two second-half goals.
Form has also been on the side of the Blues as they have won four of their past six matches while the boys in royal blue on the other side of the field have only managed one victory in their past six.
Charlestown’s coach David Tanchevski praised his opposition, expecting a threatening clash considering how much pressure Olympic have on their shoulders.
“We know Olympic are a good side and they’ve probably been unlucky in games,” said Tanchevski.
“For us, we usually get up against the better teams and they’re definitely one of the better teams. We’re pretty keen to get out there after last weekend’s Lakes game.
“They’re desperate, but we’re desperate as well. We know if we keep winning we’ll be in the top four. We feel like we’re in a good position, but we know the next few weeks are vital.
“They’re probably wondering when their luck is going to change, but hopefully for us, it’s not this week.”
The Blues are looming onto a return to finals, but if results go their way, they might even be in premiership contention but Tanchevski believes that will only be the case if their defence can strengthen.
“We attack well but we probably let a few too many goals in last round and that’s what we’re focusing on for the next part of the season really – keeping that backline secure,” Tanchevski said.
“Having Adam Hughes in the backline helps sure up that area too.
“Guys like Rene and Matt Tull are really keen to win something together… Having beaten teams like Edgeworth and Broadmeadow, there’s belief in this squad that we’ve got the ability to match it with the top teams on our day.”