Competitions

NPL Northern NSW Round 16 Preview

July 4th, 2019

 SPROULE SPORTS FOCUS

 QUENTIN CONNERS

 

Match of the Round

Valentine Phoenix (9th) vs. Weston Bears (3rd)

Saturday 6 July, 4:00 pm, Rockwell Automation Park

Having dropped from their top spot over their week off, Weston face a Valentine side who stole a point from under their noses last time out and will be looking to bounce back from two straight losses.

Due to ground unavailability at Croudace Bay, the game will now be held at Bear Park. When the two met earlier in the league there, a late Jackson Burston goal was cancelled out by an even later Ben Hay strike, while Valentine were also able to muster a tremendous comeback victory when they met in the FFA Cup.

It’ll be those kinds of result that the Bears will be wary of as they venture into the business end of a finals battle, and possibly even a premiership race.

In their last outing, the visitors went down to rivals Maitland in the ‘El Clasicoal’, ending a five-game winning streak, but the Phoenix have struggled to find form and capitalise on their strong FFA Cup run having only managed four points from their past 11 games.

If Valentine want to avoid a tussle for the wooden spoon, they’ll need to begin taking points off the teams above them on the ladder – so far, they’ve only managed two points when facing higher-placed sides – but although Weston are sitting in the top four, they have the fourth-worst defensive record in the competition.

Valentine Phoenix coach Sam Griffin confessed the field change isn’t phasing he or his team.

“Some grounds you go to and you think ‘I really don’t want to play here again’, but we don’t have that feeling at Weston,” said Griffin.

“As much as you hate to give up a home game, it’s a good pitch to play on, it suits us and we’ve had success there.

“We just seem to go quite well when we’re at Weston. I wish I knew what it was because if I did I’d bottle it and use it for every week.”

After going down to the Jets over the weekend despite spending the majority of the game at level scores, Griffin said his side need to make sure they’re not switching on at all.

“For 95% of the game we’re good and we’re a chance and at the moment our games are getting defined by a 5 to 10 minute period,” he said.

“I don’t think confidence is a problem or motivation. Every team goes through stages where things don’t go your way.

“We’re playing well enough to win games, it’s just putting it together for a complete game.”

 

Hamilton Olympic (8th) vs. Edgeworth Eagles (2nd)

Saturday 6 July, 5:00 pm, Darling Street Oval

After having their previous two fixtures rescheduled due to wet weather, Hamilton head into this must-win contest with Edgeworth without any form of consistency on their side.

Including their FFA Cup matches, the Eagles have only lost one of their past seven games and have worked their way back into second place as a result, while for Olympic things are getting dicey as their finals hopes travel further and further away with each week.

They currently sit in eighth and are nine points off the top four and while they can still mathematically qualify, they need to win most, if not all, of their remaining matches to have any kind of chance.

Edgeworth came from behind to defeat Olympic when they squared off earlier in the year and in both their meetings last season, the Eagles also took home all six points.

Although Edgeworth boasts the best defensive stats in the competition, the hosts this weekend have also been strong at the back having only conceded 17 goals.

What really separates the two sides is their offensive efforts as the defending premiers have scored 31 – the second most in the league – with the help of top strikers Oliver Smith and Will Bower as well as the returning Daniel McBreen, while Olympic has only been able to muster 19.

Edgeworth’s coach Damian Zane said that despite Hamilton’s dire situation at the moment, he and his squad weren’t “looking too much into it” for this fixture.

“It’ll be business as usual,” Zane said.

“I think all games are must-win for all teams now. If anything, the pressure is probably off them [Hamilton} a bit now.

“They often play with a bit more risk and that makes them dangerous.”

As opposed to previous years where their defence has been the key cog, this season has seen the Eagles’ potent performances in front of goal have been the main contributor to their success.

“Last year we just did not put any teams away. As a coach it was stressful,” he said.

“We’ve got a really good mix, and I think we can change it up with the different types of players that keeps people on their toes.

“Up front, we’ve got no issues…that’s exciting.”

His opposite number, Olympic coach Pete McGuiness echoed Zane’s thoughts that the match would be a difficult one but having been forced to sit on the sidelines for the last few weeks, McGuiness said his team are raring to go.

“We’re looking forward to getting back on the park and playing as it has been a couple of weeks of just training,” McGuiness said.

“This will be a tough match but one we feel we are capable of winning which is something the group are determined to do.

“Edgeworth are going along nicely as they have been doing for years now so we know what to expect but we feel we are up to the challenge.”

 

Adamstown Rosebud (10th) vs. Charlestown City Blues (7th)

Sunday 7 July, 2:30 pm, Adamstown Oval

Caught in a scrap for finals and beyond, Charlestown will head to Adamstown needing all three points, but their opponents are also in a fight to avoid the wooden spoon and took the win against them last time around.

The Rosebuds beat the Blues 3-1 earlier in the year and it stands as one of the only two victories they’ve experienced this season, but in recent weeks their form has slipped having lost their last five matches.

Contrastingly, the visitors have been pressuring the sides above them on the table with some hot-form, which includes 13 points from their past six games and two victories over the top two sides, but in the past two weeks they’ve both games called off due to wet weather – one of which was after 53 minutes of play.

For Adamstown, they sit one above the bottom of the table by just two points, and despite pushing and challenging a lot of the top sides in the competition this year – they’ve only lost by one goal on six occasions this year – if they don’t begin to start claiming points, they could find themselves with the dreaded wooden spoon.

 

Maitland FC (4th) vs. Broadmeadow Magic (1st)

Sunday 7 July, 2:30 pm, Cooks Square Park

It’s a match that could have major implications on the premiership race as Broadmeadow head to Maitland’s Cooks Square fortress looking to be the first side to beat the Magpies at home this season and retain their top spot.

Four points separate the two on the table, but with Maitland having two games in hand of their opponents, a loss for Magic would see their opponents take the upper hand in the race to become premiers.

Both sides head into this contest with form on their side, particularly the hosts who have gone the last five games unbeaten, however, the Magicians have only dropped four points from their past eight fixtures.

Highlighting the slim margins between these two, a 1-1 draw took place when they met back in Round 5, and in their past six outings against one another, it’s been neck-and-neck as both have won two and the other two have been draws.

Two of those matches did come in the semi-finals of last year’s competition, and the Magpies will be keen to rid that memory by defeating the defending champions and stepping closer to their first title in almost 40 years.

Magic’s coach Ruben Zadkovich, stated he and his side were excited for the big game and admitted they were expecting one of their most challenging affairs.

“They’ve [Maitland] been in very, very solid form at home,” said Zadkovich.

“They’ll be the favourites. They’re who everyone is talking about. They have a stacked squad and have quality all over the pitch so we’re expecting a really tough game.

“We’re not looking at it any different though. It’s just three points at the end of the day. We’ll go up there and play our way.

“These types of games are the ones the boys enjoy the most – the ones against other rival top teams.”

Zadkovich admitted that his side hadn’t yet reached their peak potential but was proud of the way his side has recently been clenching out victories in hardy conditions.

“The pleasing thing for our boys is they’re just willing to get into the grind and show that little bit of mongrel and that little bit of fight to get us over the line,” he said.

“There’s some devil in the detail of how we play. Sometimes when we look our most vulnerable is when were actually at our most lethal.

“I’ve been saying it all year, there’s a lot more to come from the boys.”

 

Newcastle Jets Youth (6th) vs. Lake Macquarie City Roosters (11th)

Sunday 7 July, 2:30 pm, Macquarie Field

The Jets Youth will travel to Speers Point this weekend hoping to build on last week’s victory when they face another team squandering at the wrong end of the ladder, but with the trepidation of the wooden spoon lingering over Lakes’ heads, don’t expect them to roll over easily.

In their earlier Round 5 match-up, the Roosters went down by just one goal, but last weekend their opponents defeated a hapless Valentine side 3-0, while Lakes experienced the same score-line but against them instead.

It’s been eight weeks since Lakes tasted a victory and it’s not hard to see why given the sides’ recent score-lines – they’ve conceded 16 goals in their past five outings and have been kept scoreless for three straight games.

A win for the hosts could see them bounce up from the bottom for the first time since Round 4, but the young Jets have been proven to be a challenging team this season.

While the Jets have been a far more refined and polished team compared to years before showcasing rather impressive displays, they have still yet to register a win against any of the top four sides, unfortunately falling short in the big games when it matters resulting in them sitting in a mid-table position.

The Jets Youth are still yet to lose to the Roosters since they were promoted back to the league in 2017, but with so much on the line for the home side, they’ll be fixed on ending that trend.

 

Lambton Jaffas (5th) has the bye.

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