Thursday, 27 August 2015

PREVIEW: New-FM 1st Division Grand Final Day

1st Grade: Valentine Phoenix F.C (1st) v Wallsend F.C (3rd)
Kickoff: Sunday 30/8 3:00pm
2015 Meetings: VAL 2-1 WAL & WAL 0-1 VAL

After four long exciting months of football, the 2015 New-FM Grand Final is upon us and it sees NPL-bound Minor Premiers Valentine Phoenix F.C farewell this division with a Grand Final appearance against New-FM newcomers Wallsend F.C. It's a game that you do not want to miss.

The fairytale story of Wallsend F.C has seen them reach their first major final in 20 years and completes a hard road of dedication, desire and determination. The Red Devils are historically the most successful club in the North and are looking to end half a century worth of pain.

The Red Devils' last piece of silverware came in 1965 when they beat Adamstown Rosebud 3-1 to life the Division One title. Since then, they've played seven Grand Finals for seven losses. That last Grand Final appearance (1995) saw them lose 5-0 to this week's host Weston Workers. It's in my opinion the biggest game for Wallsend this side of the millennium.

Their opponents Valentine Phoenix have been here before, they were only here last season. Losing out on promotion to Maitland by just one game, the Phoenix made the Grand Final against the Magpies and were cruelly beaten 3-1 in extra time. Promotion is their's now but this proud club want the Championship to go with their Premiership.

Valentine's last major trophy (discounting the State Cup) came ten years ago when they beat the West Wallsend Bluebells to lift what was then the 2HD First Division title. Whichever team wins the big one on Sunday it'll no doubt be celebrated in style. I personally wouldn't be surprised to see Wallsend close down the main street and have a parade if they win. These two teams are two very proud clubs and this game will be a cracker.

Valentine's Semi Final 2nd Leg victory over Kahibah looks like it was easy on paper right, 3-1. It wasn't. Kahibah fought hard and it was only when Valentine scored from the spot through Scott McGinley that Kahibah fell apart and conceded two more late goals before scoring a consolation of their own.

In my opinion (and I think Kahibah will agree with me) the Green and Blacks were off in front of goal. Valentine will need to step up another level to see off Wallsend as their attackers will punish you if you're off your game, just ask Lake Macquarie City.

The Red Devils' performance against Lakes last week was arguably the most convincing win by any 1st Grade New-FM side this season. It's not often you see a team 3-1 down after the 1st Leg come out and firing in four before half time. It was just a dominating display but I fear it's going to hinder their chances.

Wallsend's performance at Lakes was perfect. One could argue that it was their Grand Final and they won't play like that again on Sunday, I disagree. Wallsend have waited years to be back on this level and now they're in the Grand Final with nothing at all to lose. The pressure in my opinion is firmly on Valentine.

I was there for Valentine's 1-0 win over a cold and foggy night at The Gardens and defence I think will be key as it was that night. In my opinion this Grand Final could very well go the distance. I honestly don't know who to tip as it's so even between these sides. I'll go with the Phoenix though.

My Tip: Valentine 2-2 Wallsend (Valentine Win Via Penalties)

The very best of luck to both sides from Newysports!


Under 23's: Thornton Redbacks (2nd) v Lake Macquarie City (4th)
Kickoff: Sunday 30/8 1:00pm
2015 Meetings: THO 0-1 LMC & LMC 0-3 THO

It's not very often you see the Thornton Redbacks make a Grand Final in elite football competition. Their Under 14' girls team did it last week and won the title in the 14's WPL which might be a sign of things to come as they take on a Lake Macquarie City that sent minor premiers Valentine packing.

The Roosters got the job done against the highly-fancied Phoenix in the Semi Final 1st Leg at Kahibah Oval two weeks ago. Goals to Jarrod Horne and Kane Rodgers would be enough as they held on for a 0-0 draw in the 2nd Leg, despite a bucketload of chances for Valentine. Lakes keeper Mathew Guest has been kept busy but has helped his side to the Grand Final.

Thornton played out an entertaining 2-2 draw with Cessnock City at The Gardens two weeks back but their 1-0 win over the Hornets last weekend was a lot less entertaining in wet and sloppy conditions but they still got the job done with a lot of credit to go to their defenders and goalkeeper Chris Burg.

It wasn't too long ago that Thornton traveled out to Macquarie Field and beat Lakes 3-0 so you'd have to think that the Redbacks are confident ahead of Sunday's Grand Final. Lakes will be tough to beat but I'm tipping the Redbacks to really take it to them. Lakes' form over the Semi Final was good and is the reason why I'm tipping them to win this.

My Tip: Thornton 1-2 Lake Macquarie City


Under 19's: Valentine Phoenix F.C (1st) v Lake Macquarie City (2nd)
Kickoff: Sunday 30/8 11:00am
2015 Meetings: VAL 2-1 LMC & LMC 7-0 VAL

I've seen both Semi Finals for these sides and I have no doubt that this game will be an absolute cracker. Valentine have been the best 19's side throughout the season and have beaten Lakes this season but a 7-0 loss to the Roosters about a month or so back will have the Phoenix worrying.

Lakes have some danger men in their line-up with Jordan Harper being one of them. His form over the last few weeks has been quality and along with 17's striker James Ward, I can see the Roosters causing some headaches for the Valentine defenders.

Talking about Valentine's defenders, they were in good form against Cooks Hill throughout the two legs. Goalkeeper Martin Kollen was in my opinion the best in the 19's over the Semi Finals and their defensive line was quality; left-back Kaleb Pearson was strong in the 2nd leg and captain Jared Screen had a strong game.

I can't see Valentine easing their way to victory but I think it'll be the team in Orange walking out of Weston with the trophy in hand. They're a quality outfit.

My Tip: Valentine 3-1 Lake Macquarie City


Under 17's: Lake Macquarie City (2nd) v Cooks Hill United (4th)
Kickoff: Sunday 30/8 9:00am
2015 Meetings: LMC 5-3 CHU & CHU 0-3 LMC

The Under 17's final will be one to watch as an underdog Cooks Hill side battle the form team for the majority of the season Lake Macquarie City. I believe the Roosters 17's are the best footballing side in this division and possess some real talent across the park.

Cooks Hill have stunned everybody (including themselves) by making the Grand Final and now find themselves in a nothing-to-lose situation. They finished fourth, they weren't supposed to get this far and now anything is possible. They've played the top two sides (Kahibah and Lakes) six times this season and are yet to win. They have to survive a tough game yet again.

Lakes weren't too convincing against Wallsend but got the job done late via a goal to in-form striker James Ward. Winger Josh Richardson has been one of the best 17's players throughout the finals series so far and has scored twice in two week. The Roosters are the favourites and deserve to wear that tag.

Cooks Hill have got this far on defence and defence alone. Kurt Suleiman's shock 1st minute goal changed everything for the Cookers and the defenders hung on for a win via the away goals rule. Goalkeeper Kaia Roth was the key man for Cooks Hill and will be key again for their chances on Sunday, especially if this one goes the distance to penalties.

It's going to be a tough win for whoever wins this Grand Final but I have to tip Lakes as I feel as though they've got a better side on paper. You never quiet know though do you.

My Tip: Lake Macquarie City 2-0 Cooks Hill United



Teams (as of Semi Final 2nd Leg)

1st Grade:
Valentine v Wallsend


Under 23's:
Thornton v Lake Macquarie City


Under 19's:
Valentine v Lake Macquarie City


Under 17's:
Lake Macquarie City v Cooks Hill

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