Broadmeadow Magic (4th) vs. Maitland FC (1st)
Saturday 31 August, 6:00pm, Magic Park
Round 5 – Broadmeadow 1 drew with Maitland 1
Round 16 – Maitland 2 drew with Broadmeadow 2
After 22 rounds, one of the closest NPL Northern NSW seasons in history now enters the post-season as the same top four sides as 2018 once again battle it out for a chance to feature in the Grand Final.
It all kicks off with the newly crowned premiers Maitland FC, taking on last year’s champion Broadmeadow Magic at the same venue where the Magpies’ season came to a disappointing end in last year’s finals.
This time they’re heading into the match with a purple patch of form under the belts, and on a high from winning the club’s first-ever premiership, however, Magic is one side the table-toppers are still yet to defeat in 2019.
Both drawn matches earlier in the year were back-and-forth encounters, and in addition to that, both these sides have produced their best football when playing at home – Maitland is still yet to lose at Cooks Square Park, while Magic’s only loss came back in Round 1 to Edgeworth – setting up this two-legged tie to be one enthralling fixture.
Broadmeadow’s Justin Broadley will be missing this weekend after receiving a red card in last week’s tight win over Charlestown, but have welcomed back their attacking weapons James Virgili, who scored the crucial goal in that game, and Kale Bradbery who recently returned from holiday.
Maitland enters this game with a full-strength squad and a six-game unbeaten run from which they’ve also managed to score an impressive 16 goals.
Carl Thornton and the Swan brothers, Matt and Andrew, have all been amongst the top performers, as has midfield maestro Nick Cowburn who will battle it out with another former Hyundai A-League player and Newcastle Jet, Mitch Oxborrow.
Magic have showcased their strength in front of goal all throughout the 2019 campaign, ending the season once again with the best-attacking stats in the league, but they will also need to cautious of the threat their opponents bring, especially Joel Wood who has been the go-to scorer for the Magpies.
Last year Maitland made an unclimbable uphill battle for themselves following a disappointing showing in the first leg of their semi-final. They’ll need to make sure they’re better prepared against what can be a flourishing Magic offence this time around.
Edgeworth Eagles (3rd) vs. Lambton Jaffas (2nd)
Sunday 1 September, 2:30pm, Jack McLaughlan Oval
Round 11 – Edgeworth 2 def. Lambton 0
Round 22 – Lambton 3 def. Edgeworth 0
For the third season in a row, Edgeworth and Lambton will meet in the post-season having taken on one another in the 2017 Grand Final and playing out an unforgettable semi-final tie last year.
The two only played each other as recently as last weekend where the Jaffas produced a brilliant performance in a do-or-die situation trouncing their upcoming opponents to secure a spot in this year’s finals and leapfrog the once premiership-challenging Eagles.
Edgeworth did manage a victory in the first fixture of the year though and will be looking to assert more focus to this game than their last after having to cope with their midweek FFA Cup Round of 16 matches against the Newcastle Jets last Wednesday night.
Lambton’s recent form has been nothing short of terrific, especially in their defence having only conceded one goal as part of a six-game unbeaten run, and additionally, they’ve only tasted defeat on one occasion – courtesy to a stoppage-time penalty to Weston – since they were defeated by the Eagles earlier in the year.
Statistically, the Jaffas have possessed the best defence in the competition this year, but they’ll be wary of the strength Edgeworth also contains in their back-line, with players such as Pat Wheeler, Josh Rose and their ‘captain courageous’ Josh Evans who will return to the field for the 2nd leg.
Also making a return for the hosts this weekend will be the recently suspended Oliver Smith, as too will dynamic attacking midfielder Keanu Moore who are both names which have troubled the opposition’s goals this season, however, Lambton also have two attackers in great form.
Braedyn Crowley recently won the league’s Golden Boot award finishing with 14 goals to his name – one of those he scored last weekend – and he has formed an exciting combination with league newcomer Josh Sutton who won a spot in the NPL NNSW Team of the Week for his efforts against the Eagles.
Both sides have traded victories this year and are very familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Any advantage either side can gain this weekend will go a long way in booking themselves a spot in the Grand Final.