Match of the Round
Lambton Jaffas (6th) vs. Broadmeadow Magic (3rd)
Saturday 3 August, 2:30pm, Arthur Edden Oval
2017’s NPL NNSW champions meet the 2018 champions this weekend as Magic travel to Lambton in a game that could significantly damage one another’s season goals toward the top of the table.
As has been the incredible trend of this year’s tight competition, despite their mid-table position, just eight points is the difference between the Jaffas and Edgeworth in first, but their main priority will be to make sure they find themselves inside the top four as the season comes to an exhilarating close.
Broadmeadow are in a back-and-forth race for the premiership and will continue to push the two teams above them all the way in what has been a brilliant title race thus far.
The Magicians could find themselves at the equal-top of the league after this match, while Lambton could also work their way into the top four, however, a loss for either could ruin their hopes of achieving either of those objectives.
A deflected Matt Hoole strike was all that separated the two sides last time out as Magic won the Elders Charity Shield and continued their undefeated run against the Jaffas that has now run since July 2015.
This 2019 Lambton side has been enjoying playing at home this year though having only dropped four points from their eight matches played there, and in recent weeks, their form has been strong as they boast four wins from their past five matches with three of those being clean sheets.
In contrast, the Magic men have struggled away from Magic Park with only two wins next to their name seven outings they’ve had, but they haven’t tasted defeat in the league in over two months and in fact, have lost only twice this year which is the best in the league.
Braedyn Crowley and James Virgili will be obvious players to watch out for given they’ve both scored 11 times this year, but a real battle to watch will be how midfielders Michael Kantarovski (Lambton) and Mitch Oxborrow (Broadmeadow) can manipulate the contest.
Newcastle Jets Youth (7th) vs. Adamstown Rosebud (10th)
Saturday 3 August, 2:30pm, Adamstown Oval
Adamstown have managed to accrue four points from their past two matches and will be hoping they can continue that trend when they come up against the Jets Youth who have struggled in that area recently.
The young Jets side have gone down in their last three matches and in two of those appearances they failed to score – a statistic that had only occurred once prior.
The Rosebuds have one of the worst attacking records in the competition however, and when playing at home, they haven’t scored in any of their past five games.
Jack Simmons was the only goal-scorer in their 1-0 win earlier in the year over Adamstown and it’s been almost four years since his side has lost to this weekend’s hosts.
With a slight edge of form on the side of the Rosebuds, factors may also be that little bit harder for the Jets considering they took on Lakes during the week where they went down in a high-scoring 4-3 affair.
While the Jets look to be stranded in mid-table limbo for the rest of the year, Adamstown are still within touching distance of the dreaded wooden spoon and with just two games left to play in their season, anything but a win will put them at risk.
Valentine Phoenix (11th) vs. Edgeworth Eagles (1st)
Sunday 4 August, 2:30pm, CB Complex
It’s been a tough run of results for Valentine and things only get tougher this weekend when they meet the table-topping Eagles.
The two have experienced completely opposite form that’s seen Edgeworth take full points from their last six games, which includes their FFA Cup Round of 32 fixture against Darwin Olympic, while contrastingly, the Phoenix have lost all of their past seven.
The hosts have now fallen to the bottom of the table in past weeks and face the unwanted prospect of collecting a second straight wooden spoon while the visitors have continued to etch themselves in the running for a historic premiership.
It’s been 12 straight wins for the Eagles when they’ve faced Valentine which includes their FFA Cup Round 7 match back in June that saw the defending premiers pull off a big 5-0 victory.
That defensive lapse has continued through the league since then having conceded a huge 24 goals in just seven games, plus they’ve still not kept a clean sheet this year and it’s a trend coach Sam Griffin knows they need to turn around this weekend if they’re a chance to defeat the Eagles.
“Obviously defensively is where we’ve struggled and that’s across everyone,” Griffin said.
“There’s been twice where we haven’t scored goals. That’s a good thing, but because we’re trying to play and score goals, were leaving ourselves vulnerable so we need to find the right balance.
“Realistically, for us to beat Edgeworth, everything has to go right so that has to be the mentality for us. We have to be pushing to do everything right. We don’t have opportunities to sit back or relax and not do the little things.
“There’s no opportunity for anything other than our absolute best because we know that’s what it’s going to take to beat them.”
Despite the team enduring another disappointing season, Griffin admitted he was proud of the way his side continue to fight for points and hoped that the return of Ben Hay and Josh Carroll could spark them back into life.
“I can’t fault the guys’ attitude. We’re still getting terrific numbers at training, it’s pouring down rain, but they still want to get stuck in,” he said.
“They’ll [Hay and Carroll] be in there in some capacity… they’ll have a role to play at some stage.
“Ben is one of the best players in the league and there wouldn’t be a team in the league who wouldn’t be affected by losing that kind of quality.”
Maitland FC (4th) vs. Hamilton Olympic (8th)
Sunday 4 August, 2:30pm, Cooks Square Park
Maitland host Hamilton this weekend coming off the back of their huge FFA Cup match where they lost to Central Coast Mariners and will need to return their focus to the league if they want to continue challenging for the premiership.
When the two met last time out though, Hamilton put on a terrific display defeating the Magpies 4-0 in what has been one of their best performances to date, but since then their opponents have experienced a great run of form having only downed once in eight games.
Additionally, Olympic have been the only team who have managed to keep Maitland scoreless this season, but when playing at home at Cooks Square Park, the Magpies have been formidable.
They still are yet to be defeated at their home, and have scored 19 of their 31 goals there, while on the flip side, Hamilton have only managed to win one game when playing away which came all the way back in Round 1.
Joel Wood has been a man that has continue to shine for the black and white and sits on 11 goals for the year, just one off from being the Golden Boot leader, but he’ll have his work cut out for him when he meets a rather strong defence including the likes of Marcus Duncan and Kyle Hodges.
Olympic look to be cemented in a mid-table position for the rest of 2019, however Maitland sit right on the precipice of potentially challenging for top spot or tumbling out of the top four altogether making this match of extreme importance this weekend.
Weston Bears (2nd) vs. Charlestown City Blues (5th)
Sunday 4 August, 2:30pm, Rockwell Automation Park
Two of the in-form sides of the competition go toe-to-toe this weekend as Charlestown, who have won five of their last six, come up against a Weston Bears outfit on the prowl for an underdog premiership.
Not many touted the coalfields club as one to be at the top of the table at this point in the season, but the Bears have continued to attain results having only lost one game from their past 10.
The hosts have just three matches remaining in the season, with their next game coming against the league-leading Edgeworth Eagles and if they want any chance of toppling the defending premiers in that one, a win against the Blues this weekend is a necessity.
The visitors have their own goals they’re chasing though and sit currently right just on the outskirts of the top four and although their main focus will be on capturing a top four finish for the first time since 2014, if their next few results go their way, they could be in-line for a premiership challenge themselves given how tight the table is.
Charlestown still have games in hand of the teams above and are just five points away from this weekend’s opponents, but they’ll be wary of the danger Weston bring considering their 2-0 loss in the reverse fixture earlier in the year.
A first half red card to Tom Smart changed the complexity of that match, and coach David Tanchevski will be hoping that a disadvantage like that doesn’t hinder them again but will have been boosted with confidence given their recent run in defence that’s seen them concede in just two of their past five games.
Regardless of that, Tanchevski admitted his side were expecting to have a tough game on their hands.
“Weston are probably one of the form teams of the competition, so we know how dangerous they can be,” said Tanchevski.
“It’s been a pleasing run from the boys over the past couple of weeks.
“If we can beat Weston, and then win our two games in hand, that potentially puts us in the premiership race… If we lose this weekend, it makes it very hard to catch Weston, but a win puts us in a very strong position.”
With the Blues knocking on the door of the top four, Tanchevski confessed his side were feeling confident and securing a place in the finals and knew their fate is completely in their hands.
“We’re flying a bit under the radar,” he said.
“We’re thinking we probably need to win three of our last games to play semis.
“All we can do is focus on ourselves and just keep winning.
“It’s exciting times for the neutral, not so much if you’re a coach,” he jokingly concluded referring to the closeness of this year’s league.