Match of the Round
Hamilton Olympic (7th) vs. Maitland FC (6th)
Saturday 11 May, 2:30 pm, Darling Street Oval
Maitland travels to Darling Street this weekend with the hope of entering the top four for the first time this year, however, their opponents, Hamilton, know they need to return to the winners’ circle quickly to stay in the mix for finals.
With the competition as close as it is, winning games like these may prove the difference between playing finals and challenging for top spots or missing out on the top four altogether and for Olympic, they’ve only been able to acquire four points when facing the teams above them, while for Maitland, it’s eight points.
The Magpies haven’t lost since their first match of the season back in late March which included three straight wins throughout April and a late-grasped draw against Lambton last weekend.
Hamilton has been on the other end of results having lost in their last two outings and their poor attack has been the main contributor to that.
Olympic possesses one of the worst goals-per-game records, in the competition, however, their defence has been sturdy and is proving to be one of the best in the league thus far. Maitland also is one of the few teams which have a better defensive record this weekend, so both strikeforce may struggle to fire as this game goes on.
What’s interesting to note is when playing at their home ground, Hamilton has struggled when facing the Magpies, as the last time they won there against Maitland was back in 2001. They’ve also experienced three straight draws when facing one another.
It’ll be a fairly unfamiliar experience for Maitland coach Mick Bolch who will return to Darling Street as a visitor after spending so many years there at the helm, but he said he and the boys are excited for the challenge Olympic will bring.
“The boys are looking forward to it,” Bolch said.
“It’s always a great atmosphere against Olympic. They’re a good side with technically strong players all over the park.
“We need to contain Cooper and Sutherland, but Tyler Warren in goals has been in great form for them so we will be going there preparing for a battle.”
Having experienced a sort-of purple patch in form recently, Bolch has been pleased with their performances particularly their ability in “finishing games off well.”
“Our match fitness is getting to where it needs to be and there is a great competition for spots amongst the playing group,” Bolch said.
“We have scored quite a few goals at the back-end of games lately which will be crucial on Saturday.
“Sean Pratt has been buzzing for us. He came off the bench and scored a great equaliser against Jaffas last weekend, so I am expecting a big game from him on Saturday.”
His opposite number, Hamilton coach Pete McGuiness, said his team are also expecting a tough contest on the weekend, but was confident that if his attack can thrive, they’ll be in good stead.
“We’re going into this game looking to capitalise on the chances that we can and have created,” said McGuiness.
“If we can take some of these chances, I am confident we can do well.
“Maitland have an experienced side which will be hard to overcome, but self-belief is what we need.”
Adamstown Rosebud (9th) vs. Newcastle Jets Youth (4th)
Sunday 12 May, 2:30 pm, Adamstown Oval
After picking up victories in their last outings, both Adamstown and the Jets Youth will be looking to continue that trend, particularly the former as they will be desperate to place themselves in the large mix of teams that are clogging up the table.
The Rosebuds enjoyed a week off over the catch-up round, while the Newcastle Jets pulled off a stunning comeback in the final minutes to defeat Valentine and return themselves to the top four and one point off the league leaders.
On ANZAC Day, Adamstown proved too good for Hamilton but their history against the young Jets hasn’t been good as the last time they defeated the Jets was back in August 2015, and in their past six matches with one another, the Rosebuds have conceded a whopping 17 goals (almost three a game).
The Jets Youth have been in terrific form as well this season and are firming as a potential premiership contender if they can continue to have a full, complete squad. Adamstown has shown glimpses of the promise their young team show especially in defence with Oly Davies, Drew Greirson and the veteran Ben Higgins – they’ll need to shine if they are to stop the likes of Maki Petratos, Mat Barkho and Angus Thurgate.
Adamstown play a mid-week game against Kahibah in the FFA Cup on tonight (Thurday night) and coach Shane Cansdell-Sherriff made clear that his team’s focus is fixed on that match.
“Our main aim is to get past Kahibah in the Cup first, so we focus on that before the Jets,” said Cansdell-Sherriff.
“The Jets have started strong so far this season, but our focus is on our Cup game.”
The Adamstown coach did make mention that after coming off the back of a ‘break-week’, his team would be raring and ready to go.
“The boys feel fresh and are excited to get back into it,” he said.
“We’ve had a couple of good weeks of training, so the mood has been good.”
Edgeworth Eagles (3rd) vs. Valentine Phoenix (10th)
Sunday 12 May, 2:30 pm, Jack McLaughlan Oval
After winning their first game of the year, Valentine has experienced nothing but troubles since and the challenge is only bigger this weekend when they face the defending premiers Edgeworth, away from home.
Edgeworth is fresh off the bye and will be determined to grab a victory following their loss to Maitland in their previous outing where they conceded two late, late goals to bottle a 1-0 lead.
The Eagles welcome back two top-quality, returning faces though in 2017 Goalkeeper of the Year Nate Cavaliere, and deadly attacker Keanu Moore who both were signed back last week from their NPL Victoria sides in the attempt to help the club fight in the potentially history-making premiership race of which they currently sit in third just one point from the top.
It’s been four losses in a row now for the Phoenix and it’s not hard to see where the side has been lacking in – from those four matches, the team has conceded a huge 19 goals and now possess the worst defensive record in the league.
Last season when the two met, Edgeworth won both games 1-0 thanks to late goals, and their recent record against Valentine is seemingly flawless. The Eagles have won all of the last 10 matches played with the most recent time Valentine winning coming back in June 2011, and in addition to that, Edgeworth have not even conceded a goal in their past four encounters.
Both teams had cup duties during the week but experienced tough wins over NEWFM Northern League One opponents in the FFA Cup during the week as Valentine defeated Toronto 4-0, and Edgeworth beat West Wallsend 2-0, so fatigue may become a factor as they match wears on.
Charlestown City Blues (5th) vs. Weston Bears (8th)
Sunday 12 May, 2:30 pm, Lisle Carr Oval
Weston travels to Charlestown this weekend in a match where gaining three points will be all-important as both teams sit in the finals-contending logjam.
The Bears enjoyed a weekend off on the catch-up round but before that, suffered two consecutive defeats while their opponents Charlestown, have managed the opposite as they enter this match with a bit of form under their belts which includes a 7-0 midweek demolition of Belmont-Swansea United in the FFA Cup.
The two have experienced rather similar seasons so far though sitting two points away from one another on the table and bouncing between wins and losses and struggling to create a run of form but that has been the trend of the competition so far.
Charlestown’s attacking prowess has been spread across the team so far this year and scarily for their league opponents, Kane Goodchild hasn’t yet found himself on the scoresheet, while for Weston, Jason Tjien-Fooh and Regan Lundy have been clear standouts up front. But just like the upcoming home side, their goals have come from multiple sources with both sides having seven different goal-scorers so far.
In 2018, the Blues and Bears traded victories, just as they did the year before, but it’s been four years since the latter have won at Lisle Carr Oval.
Weston also played during the week on Wednesday, scoring a 4-1 victory over NEWFM Northern League One heavyweights Cooks Hill meaning that although both sides will be high in confidence, fatigue may play a part.
Broadmeadow Magic (2nd) vs. Lambton Jaffas (1st)
Sunday 12 May, 2:30 pm, Magic Park
There are less than two kilometres separating these two clubs’ home fields and even less of a difference at the top of the league table making this match-up between Magic and Lambton one of enormous proportions.
Not only is this match a 1st v 2nd clash, but it’s also a contest for the Elders Charity Shield which will be raising money for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter service this year.
For the Jaffas, after starting the season almost perfectly, they’ve now gone the past two weeks without a win while their opponents are still yet to be defeated since their Round 1 loss against Edgeworth.
Understandably so, both sides possess two of the best-attacking records which also include the two leading goal-scorers, Braedyn Crowley (Lambton) and James Virgili (Broadmeadow) who are both locked at the top on seven.
A win for either would mean establishing themselves clear at the top and continuing to be a part of the premiership race, however, a loss could prove very damaging and even see one of the sides topple out of the top four given the tightness of the table.
Last year when Magic and Lambton met, two draws ensued, however, Broadmeadow has the recent rub over the cross-town rivals having not lost to the Jaffas since July 2015 while the Magicians will also remind their opponents of their 4-1 Grand Final victory back in 2013.
During the week in their FFA Cup fixtures, Broadmeadow grabbed a tight 2-1 win over South Cardiff and Lambton also won with a huge 10-0 over Beresfield United where Crowley achieved seven goals.
Magic coach Ruben Zadkovich admitted his team were “still very much a work in progress”, and that they’re aware the massive challenge Jaffas will bring especially due to missing a few players.
“It’s always a good match against Lambton,” said Zadkovich.
“The rivalry is strong and very competitive and the nice thing is the match usually brings out some good football and decent banter from both teams.
“We are missing four or five starting lads with injury and suspension so it will be a nice test of our depth and a chance to take a look at some younger lads in our squad and how they handle quality opposition under pressure.
“This will be an interesting test to see if some of the finer detail has dropped mentally for some our less-seasoned lads.”
Zadkovich also made special mention of the warming concept of the Elders Charity Shield and the great work both clubs’ do behind-the-scenes to make it happen and help raise money. He’s confident his team will be ready to go.
“It’s great to be a part o the Charity Shield,” he said.
“I know both clubs take a lot of pride in helping raise money for the Westpac Rescue Chopper and our club as a whole will be up for it, especially our loyal, hard-working volunteers and officials.
“Our players are aware that they [the volunteers] are the driving force behind our team’s successes and no doubt they will be hard at work as usual.”