Hamilton Olympic FC v Weston Workers FC
Sunday 2 August 2.30pm
Darling Street Oval
Match of the Round
The resilient Bears face another test of their depth when they travel to take on a resurgent Hamilton in the Northern NSW PlayStation® 4 National Premier Leagues (PS4 NPL) match of the round at Darling Street Oval on Sunday.
Weston ground out a gritty 1-0 win over Charlestown last week to edge ahead to third place on 29 points and now face an Olympic side who found their finishing touch in a 7-0 win over the Newcastle Jets Youth.
The convincing win ended a frustrating run for Hamilton, who had three draws and a loss in their previous four games. They moved to second place on 30 points – three points behind Edgeworth – with the victory and now have the best goal difference in the league.
Weston enter the match without the suspended Zac Sneddon, who is serving the second and final week of his ban.
The Bears farewelled Rob Macbeth, who has moved away for work, last week and Jordan Whitchurch leaves this weekend to take up a college scholarship in America.
James Monie remains unavailable because of work commitments and import Lucas Gonzalez is out due to visa problems.
Weston coach Trevor Morris said the losses continued a challenging season for his squad.
“We’ve lost eight out of our squad since the start of the year and they have all been quality players,” Morris said.
“But the other players have done well, they’ve stepped up to the mark.”
He joked that “hopefully they scored all their goals in one week” when asked about Hamilton’s win last week but said that his side faced “three big weeks” as the race for the premiership and finals places heated up.
Hamilton coach Mick Bolch said his side would be missing only Cody Lucas, who is away, but Mason Campbell and Tom Davies should return. Campbell pulled out in the warm up last week with a hamstring strain, while Davies is recovering from a broken toe.
Bolch said his side were ready to go and “they all big games now”.
Hamilton play Charlestown and Maitland to finish the regular season, while Weston take on Broadmeadow and Edgeworth in the finals weeks.
Edgeworth FC v South Cardiff FC
Friday 31 July 7:30pm
Jack McLaughlan Oval
Edgeworth will be full strength and aiming to make another step towards the minor premiership when they meet a revitalised South Cardiff at Jack McLaughlan Oval on Friday night.
The Eagles defeated Lambton Jaffas 2-1 last week to move three points clear in first place on 33 and they have a full roster to choose from with the return of experienced forward Justin Tannock, who has been away on his honeymoon.
Edgeworth coach Damian Zane said Tannock was likely to return on Sunday in under 22s, where he will have to push his claims for a spot in the club’s FFA Cup side to play Melbourne City at Magic Park on Tuesday night.
Goalkeeper Jim Fogarty is facing the same scenario as he tries to comeback from a shoulder injury in time for the game.
Ben Smith will remain in goals on Friday night after coming through the win over Jaffas unscathed despite carrying a hamstring strain into the match.
“He reckons he’s going OK,” Zane said of Smith.
“He’s still getting treatment every day and will have to prove he can kick by Sunday to play in the FFA Cup game.
“We couldn’t pass back to him last week and we got away with it because we have some smart defenders, but when you’re running back with an A-League player chasing you, you’ve got to be able to pass it back.”
Zane was wary of the last-placed Gunners given their 3-1 win over Broadmeadow last week and 3-3 draw with Hamilton the previous round.
South Cardiff are high on confidence and have senior attacking players Jarryd Johnson and Sean Clerke back from suspension.
Coach Greg Asquith said the return of Mat Grey and Lee Ashton from injury last week was another boost for his side as they moved to nine points, just two points short of second-last Maitland in the battle to avoid relegation.
‘‘We’ve got a few players back on board in the last couple of weeks and, as people can see in our performances against Hamilton and Magic, it has made all the difference,’’ Asquith said.
Edgeworth finish the season against Newcastle Jets Youth and Weston. South Cardiff have Adamstown and Lambton Jaffas in the final two rounds.
Adamstown Rosebud FC v Lambton Jaffas FC
Sunday 2 August 2.30pm
Rosebud will come out all guns blazing when they try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive against a Lambton Jaffas side still licking their wounds.
Sixth-placed Adamstown moved to 22 points, five behind the top four, with a 2-0 win over Maitland last week.
Lambton lost 2-1 to Edgeworth to drop from second place to fourth on the ladder, one point behind Weston.
Adamstown need to keep winning to have any chance of catching the top four and have the added motivation of sending Nick Hills off on a winning note on Sunday.
Hills joined the club mid-season and has proven a valuable addition, but he is returning to college in the US.
Midfielder Dayne Pawlik returned from injury off the bench last week and striker Roger Dowdell is back to further boost Rosebud’s reserves.
Coach Graham Law said his side were playing with freedom and confidence after 2-0 wins over Edgeworth and Maitland.
“We are training hard for this and we will be up for it,” Law said.
“We know the odds are against us, but we will go for it.
“We’re playing without any fear at the moment and I think that is helping us play well.
“We’ve got nothing to lose.”
Jaffas coach David Tanchevski was unsure of his defensive line-up for the match after the physical clash with Edgeworth last week.
Kevin Davison is awaiting scans to clear him of any fractures after a heavy knock in the back last week and is unlikely to play.
Grant Brown is likely to play despite copping a nasty blow to the shin against the Eagles.
Tom Smart has an ankle injury but should take his place in the team.
Tanchevski was on guard for the in-form Adamstown and keen for his side to show more composure with the ball.
“They are always good and they have taken points off the top teams,” Tanchevski said.
“They are hard to beat. Magic had a win against them but then they beat Edgeworth and Maitland so they are on a bit of a roll now.
“We will try to be more disciplined and reserved and not take too many risks. They need to win and will be desperate.
“We came out gung-ho against Edgeworth with first spot in the line but we’ve probably learnt a bit from that game.”
Adamstown play South Cardiff and the Jets Youth after Sunday’s match. Lambton have games against Maitland and South Cardiff to finish.
Charlestown City Blues FC v Maitland FC
Sunday 2 August 2.30pm
Lisle Carr Oval
It’s desperation stakes for Charlestown and Maitland after South Cardiff’s victory last week against Broadmeadow.
Maitland are only two points ahead of last-placed South Cardiff on 11, while Charlestown sit on 12 points.
Charlestown went down 1-0 to Weston last week and are full strength with the return of Rene Ferguson.
Coach Shane Pryce said the Gunners’ win had increased the pressure on all the sides near the bottom of the ladder.
“It’s made everyone look over the shoulders,” Pryce said.
“We are all looking at our runs in now. Southy have a tough one, but when teams are desperate, it doesn’t mean anything where they are on the ladder.”
Pryce said his side were flat last week after their game the previous week against the Jets Youth was washed out.
“We were called off the week before, so I think we just lacked that sharpness but this week we’re at home and we’ve got everything to play for,” he said.
“I think you are going to see two desperate sides trying to consolidate and get three points on Southy.
“We’ve got to want it more this week.”
Maitland coach Reece Thompson said he would look to make changes to his side after their disappointing 2-0 loss to Adamstown last round.
Thompson said his message to the Magpies this week would be “how much do you want to stay in the top-flight”.
“It’s a big game because I think whoever wins will be safe,” Thompson said.
Corey Fletcher remains suspended for Maitland.
Charlestown have a catch-up game against the Jets Youth on Wednesday then matches against Hamilton and Broadmeadow. Maitland take on Lambton Jaffas and Hamilton in the last two rounds.
Broadmeadow Magic FC v Newcastle Jets Youth
Sunday 2 August 2.30pm
Returning Newcastle Jets Youth coach Peter McGuinness is confident he can lift the confidence of his squad for the match against Broadmeadow despite their 7-0 loss to Hamilton last week.
McGuinness was overseas last Sunday when the Jets Youth were humbled at Darling Street Oval and he returns to take charge of a training squad missing Andrew Pawiak, Micheal Kantarovski, Reece Papas and Braedyn Crowley.
The quartet return from the Jets’ Northern NSW tour on Saturday and could be available for the game at Magic Park.
Broadmeadow defeated the Jets Youth 5-2 first time around but McGuinness was hopeful of a much closer result in response to last week’s performance.
“We going to try to remain positive with the guys,” McGuinness said.
“We were in a similar situation against Broadmeadow in the first round. We were down 5-1 quickly but we dominated the second half.
“It’s a tricky situation when that happens because they are youth players playing against men.
“Although they can be better footballers and play better football at times, they can lose their confidence very quickly.
“It’s disappointing but we’ll get the boys up for this week.”
Magic lost 3-1 to Heidelberg United in the FFA Cup on Wednesday night and will be sweating on the recovery of Luke Virgili, Daniel Casciaroli and Josh Piddington, who all played through injury in the game.
Broadmeadow co-coach Robert Virgili was pleased with his side’s effort in the second half against Heidelberg but lamented their turnovers in the first half, which helped the Victorian side take a 3-0 lead.
Magic are five points behind the top four on 23 and are desperate to keep their finals hopes alive after a 3-1 loss to South Cardiff last week.
Broadmeadow play Weston and Charlestown in the last two rounds. The Jets Youth are not eligible for the finals and sit on 13 points with matches against Charlestown, Edgeworth and Adamstown remaining after this weekend.