Wednesday, 24 February 2016

PREVIEW: FFA Cup NNSW Qualifiers Round 2

Macquarie Field hosts three quality games on Saturday and is definitely the pick of the venues. Newysports will however have coverage from Lisle Carr Oval and then Magic Park later in the afternoon. The first game at Macquarie Field sees Zone League One newcomers Raymond Terrace against New-FM side West Wallsend.

Let's not going to go into the finer details of last week's matches but West Wallsend were incredibly lucky not to be eliminated at the hands of Zone League One Stockton. They came from behind multiple times and finished the game 6-6 at the very last second before winning a topsy-turvy penalty shootout.

Myself, along with many other people strongly believe that if Westy produce the same effort against Raymond Terrace they will see the end of their cup run. The Rangers cannot be underestimated and overcame Westlakes Wildcats at the same venue last weekend.

The Terrace are a proud club and together these clubs will bring quiet a following to Macquarie Field. On form, tipping Raymond Terrace seems the right thing to do but if West Wallsend can play to their strengths, there's no reason why they can't progress. It'll be a test though.

My Prediction: Raymond Terrace 1-3 West Wallsend


This is arguably the match-up of the weekend as Beresfield United take on Kahibah FC. Both teams impressed in their Round 1 fixtures, although Beresfield took the foot off the pedal after 45 minutes against Toronto-Awaba last Sunday. The Hawks were very lucky to escape with a heart-stopping shootout win.

Kahibah FC did it a lot easier; overcoming the Newcastle Suns without ever really reaching top gear. They face an incredibly tough test in Beresfield on Sunday and it could very well spell the end of the cup dream for the Green and Blacks.

Beresfield are a serious team and, on their day, they can hang with New-FM clubs. Kahibah though, if they turn up, should just be too good for the Zone Premier League champions. It's sure to be one to watch and a penalty shootout wouldn't be the biggest surprise in the world. Kahibah to win though.

My Prediction: Beresfield United 1-4 Kahibah FC


There are three stand-out matches this weekend; the Beresfield v Kahibah fixture, Wallsend v Charlestown and this; the Lake Macquarie derby between Lake Macquarie City and Valentine FC. Two rivals who are now separated after Valentine snatched the top spot in New-FM and therefore NPL promotion with a 4-0 win on their last visit to Macquarie Field...a real smash and grab effort.

This time Lakes will come prepared. They remember that 4-0 loss; they remember the 8-3 loss in the FFA Cup to the same opposition last season. The Roosters cruised past Cardiff City last weekend and although the test is much greater this time round, they'll like their chances of another home win.

Valentine have been arguably the form NPL team during pre-season. They've beaten Maitland, Lambton and Adamstown in the space of a few weeks and in my mind, they should be good enough to beat a Lakes side that isn't known for it's strong defending. The Roosters conceded a lot of goals last year and whilst they've got Sam Walker up the other end to bag a bucketload of goals, they'll need their very best effort to overcome Valentine.

My Prediction: Lake Macquarie City 1-2 Valentine FC


Newysports will have coverage from this game; after failing to get any photos at all of the New Lambton game last weekend. Thornton come into this game with some decent form after being reasonably untested in a comfortable 5-0 win over Edgeworth Juniors last week. It could and probably should have been more if the Redbacks could have found the target a bit more.

New Lambton got the job done against the University but now face the tougher test of New-FM opposition. I say it every week though, New Lambton are a serious ZPL side and they could very well push Thornton to the limit here. There's no reason they can't get a win.

It's not an easy tip to just say Thornton will win. Thornton should win but they have to show up. A certain New-FM club underestimated ZPL opposition last week and were rightly sent packing. New Lambton Eagles aren't easybeats and this one will be one to watch at Lisle Carr Oval. Thornton by two.

My Prediction: Thornton 2-0 New Lambton


It was a year ago that Muswellbrook Eagles got smashed 12-0 by rivals Singleton in the FFA Cup. They were just not up to their higher-grade opposition. Last week they were given a ZL3 team in Dudley and got past them 2-1. It wasn't convincing though by any means and this week, they face certain elimination.

On the opposing side this week for Muswellbrook is the reigning Northern NSW NPL Champions Edgeworth Eagles FC. The same Edgeworth Eagles that made the Round of 32 last year and pushed A-League side Melbourne City to the absolute limit. It's an easy pick in this one; with all due respect to Mussy.

Edgeworth shouldn't have any trouble at all and if they field a full-strength squad, this could get quiet ugly. It's the experience that counts for Muswellbrook but I'm joining a few others I've seen in tipping double-digits.

My Prediction: Muswellbrook 0-14 Edgeworth FC


This is the game I want to see the most out of the four that I'm attending. I believe Wallsend can beat Charlestown City. The Red Devils overcame Maryland-Fletcher 6-0 last week and weren't even at their best. They drew 0-0 with NPL side Maitland FC the week before in a trial match.

Charlestown City have had a decent pre-season but this is their toughest test of the year so far. They're technically the away time but it's home turf and the crowd will be behind them. They aren't the strongest NPL side but they'll surely be aiming to beat the New-FM champions.

I wouldn't be surprised by either team winning; nor would I be surprised to see penalties required. I'm going to go with my original thought and tip the upset. Wallsend to progress on penalties.

My Prediction: Wallsend FC* 2-2 Charlestown City


Merewether Advance are a hard club to predict. Pre-season form is a mystery and they progressed through Round 1 via a forfeit by Kurri Kurri. They face a tough first assignment in the form on New-FM side Singleton Strikers. I like the venue choice here at Maitland as the sides sort of meet each other half-way.

I caught the first hour of Singleton's 3-0 win over Charlestown Juniors last week and they weren't really looking too impressive. Temperature may have played a part but it's obvious that the Strikers can go to another level and if they do that on Saturday, they should be too classy for the Zone League Two side.

My Prediction: Merewether Adv. 0-4 Singleton


Beresfield FC got the job done in decent fashion against fellow Zone League One side Nelson Bay last weekend; a 3-0 win guiding them to the second round of the Northern NSW FFA Cup Qualifiers. Now they face one of the toughest tests in all of Northern NSW Football; a match against the Weston Workers Bears.

Last year Weston faced ZPL side University in Round 2 and survived a massive scare to progress on penalties. They'll be aiming to avoid the proverbial banana-peel in this game against Beresfield. The Bears on paper look a much stronger side and should be the winners here by a decent margin.

Cup football is hard to predict for the majority of times...although now is not one of those times. Weston to overcome the ZL1 outfit here.

My Prediction: Beresfield FC 0-7 Weston Workers


The entertainers of Round 1 face a tough assignment in Round 2; a trip to Cooks Square Park to face Maitland FC. There's a big difference between playing a depleted RAAF Williamtown squad and playing a Maitland side that could feature former A-League stars Matt Thompson and Dean Heffernan.

Whilst the result looks fairly set in stone, you can be assured that the Simba boys will turn up to play some entertaining football and they're one of those sides that even if they're down 6-0 in the 89th minute, their passionate followers would go crazy if they bagged a late consolation. I believe that's all it'll be here.

My Prediction: Hunter Simba 1-8 Maitland FC


I'm not quiet sure on their entire history, but surely this is one of Kotara South's biggest ever games and perhaps even their biggest ever in some people's eyes. They overcame arch rivals Garden Suburb in a thrilling Round 1 opener last week and now face the Lambton Jaffas in Round 2.

The Tigers never threw the towel in; despite being down 2-0 in the first half against the 'Burb. They'll need that fighting spirit if they are any chance of even getting close to the Jaffas. Let's be honest; you're probably not going to see any Zone League teams knock off an NPL club; it's just the way the cookie crumbles.

Kotara South will give their best effort but even that won't be enough to match it with the star-studded Jaffas.

My Prediction: Kotara South 1-6 Lambton Jaffas


Jesmond FC were one of the fairytale stories in last year's FFA Cup Qualifers; going all the way to the final weekend and taking New-FM side West Wallsend all the way in what was in my eyes one of the most entertaining back and forth games of football all year.

The Rams face a tough test in the Morisset Strikers. Morisset looked slick in their 4-2 victory over Warners Bay in their Round 1 clash and will be aiming to do the job against Jesmond and set-up a potential clash with a big club in Round 3. It's definitely not going to be a walkover though.

Jesmond will need to play to their best if they want to beat the ZPL newcomers. Morisset I feel will be a bit too good though.

My Prediction: Morisset United 3-1 Jesmond FC


Mayfield United never really got into top gear in their 4-1 win over Zone League newcomers Bolwarra-Lorn last week and if they play in a similar style this time round, they will find themselves on the back end of a hiding. I feel like if Mayfield even stand a chance, they need absolutely everything to go their way.

Hamilton Olympic were knocked out by eventual FFA Cup Round of 32 side Edgeworth FC last season and will be looking to ease their way into Round 3 with a win here. Olympic should be too strong, too classy and too good for the visiting Tigers.

My Prediction: Mayfield United 1-6 Hamilton Olympic


Medowie FC find themselves in Round 2 after a thrilling penalty shootout win over Mayfield United Juniors in Round 1. They'll need a much more improved effort in they want to progress to Round 3 though. Dudley-Redhead were also penalty shootout winners (against New-FM side Cooks Hill United) and looked very, very good in the process.

On paper a ZPL side should be able to beat a ZL2 side and even on form, I consider Dudley-Redhead the heavy favourites. If they produce an effort similar to the one they gave against Cooks Hill, they could very well put a few past their opponents on Saturday.

My Prediction: Medowie FC 1-4 Dudley-Redhead


Hamilton Azzurri made their FFA Cup debut last week and were victors over Barnsley FC. This week they face the toughest test they could ask for, a derby against NPL powerhouse Broadmeadow Magic. If anything, the Magic side look better on paper this year than last. Thier midfield options are just unreal compared to some of the other NPL sides.

Azzurri will need divine intervention if they're to progress from this. With no disrespect to them, it's more guessing how many Magic will win by rather than if they will win. The NPL side should be just too good for their ZL3 opposition. There's a five division difference between these sides and it'll most likely show at Magic Park on Saturday. Azzurri though will bring their vocal followers and try and make a day out of it. I can't see them getting anywhere near Magic though.

My Prediction: Hamilton Azzurri 0-15 Broadmeadow Magic


South Cardiff will go into this game as the outsiders now that they're a New-FM club but it's definitely a game to watch in my opinion. Adamstown haven't been incredibly impressive during pre-season and this is their first competitive hit-out of 2016. South Cardiff are coming off a nervy penalty shootout win over Cessnock City and will be primed if this game ends with spot kicks. They have a history of shootouts, both good and bad.

Neither side can afford to not give 100%. This is a tough game for both and although I believe Adamstown will go away with the win, it's definitely one to watch at Magic Park.

My Prediction: South Cardiff 1-3 Adamstown

Friday, 19 February 2016

PREVIEW: Northern NSW FFA Cup Day 2

Cooks Hill United are arguably the form New-FM team going into the FFA Cup. A confidence-boosting 3-3 draw with NPL champions Edgeworth was followed with a 2-2 away draw up at Weston. On that form alone, you could consider them the heavy favourites against mid-table Zone Premier League outfit Dudley-Redhead.

I asked assistant coach Jarrod Gorsuch for a quick thought on the fixture and he believes that complacency and attitude will be key against the Thistles. Competitive football starts now for the Cookers and new coach Blake Gleenie along with Gorsuch are both taking the FFA Cup very seriously and why not. A favourable draw (compared to some) will see them play Medowie or Mayfield Juniors in Round 2; an easier assignement than Dudley-Redhead.

Dudley will most likely bring a physical game but Cooks Hill should be too quick, too classy and too good for the Zone League side.

My Prediction: Cooks Hill United 4-1 Dudley-Redhead


The biggest game in club history. Those are the words that Stockton Sharks used on their Facebook page when describing this game. This is the sort of game that the Stockton side will put absolutely everything into. They're up against a side full of history in West Wallsend and the Sharks have nothing to lose. This is their biggest game and anything could happen.

West Wallsend haven't had the most convincing pre-season and they almost fell to ZL1 opposition in this competition last year; Jesmond FC pushing them to the absolute limit in a thriller. The Bluebells are favourites in this match and a loss here would hinder their chances of success this season. It's important they get through this well and I think they will. 

My Prediction: Stockton 1-3 West Wallsend


Jesmond FC were the fairytale story of last year's cup and they have a fairly easy draw in Round 1 this season. The Tenambit Sharks have pulled the plug on their Zone League Three side this year so this team will either forfeit or be forced to field an All Age squad. Whichever case it is, Jesmond will progress.

My Prediction: Jesmond F.C 5-0 Tenambit


On most occasions, a New-FM team will go into a game against ZPL opposition as favourites. This is that rare time they don't. Toronto's form in the pre-season has been poor and that includes a 3-1 loss to Beresfield United just a few weeks ago. The Hawks are a serious team and I can see them getting past the Stags. After beating them in the trial, why not do it again?

Commanding defender Danny Burt is the star man at Beresfield United and he faces a Toronto side he has a lot of history with. A win for Burt and Beresfield will see the former NSL player set-up a crunch game with Kahibah FC and former teammate Andre Gumprecht. A fantasy clash for the neutral.

Toronto won't fold easily but their form is poor and a loss last weekend to ZPL newcomers and arch-rivals Morisset United does not help their cause.

My Prediction: Beresfield United 3-1 Toronto-Awaba


This game cannot be underestimated. It's one of the better matches on paper across the whole weekend. Both these teams were reasonably consistent in the Zone Premier League last season and both go into this game with some changes ahead of the 2016 season.

University have a new coach, some new players and are primed for a cup run whilst New Lambton FC's long-term future was boosted with the amalgamation of their senior and junior club. I'm tipping the Eagles to win this game but it will definitely be one to watch.

My Prediction: University F.C 1-2 New Lambton


Another crunch match-up as these two Zone League sides battle each other for the first time since last year's ZL1 Grand Final, which was won by Warners Bay. The Strikers outclassed local rivals Toronto-Awaba last weekend and will go into this match as the slight favourites.

I'm not sure on the Panthers pre-season form but Morisset I feel will win this game but I'm going to be a bit outrageous and tip them to win on a penalty shootout and get revenge for the loss in the Grand Final last year.

My Prediction: Morisset United 1*-1 Warners Bay


Medowie were a decent side in the ZL2 competition last year and up against Mayfield United Juniors, I'd consider the team in yellow and black the favourites. Both teams come into this game as unknown forces as I've heard nothing about their pre-season form. Based on last season and the fact that Medowie are a league higher, I'll go with them to progress to a possible match with Cooks Hill in Round 2.

My Prediction: Medowie FC 4-1 Mayfield United


The Newcastle Suns come into this game as ranked outsiders. Kahibah are still the best quality side I've seen this season and they should have no real trouble getting past the Zone Premier League side. I know Kahibah and how they go about business. Not winning here would simply not be acceptable. So in my mind they can't lose.

The Suns beat Nelson Bay on the weekend but struggled against a ten-man Cooks Hill outfit a couple of weeks back. Kahibah should be too classy in this one.

My Prediction: Kahibah 6-1 Newcastle Suns


Merwether Advance are a largely unknown entity in my eyes. They are one of the oldest clubs in town but their pre-season form and what not remains an absolute mystery. What I do know is that their opponents Kurri Kurri have pulled the plug on their Zone League team and will either forfeit this match or field an under-equipped All Age side. That makes for a pretty easy tip of Merewether to progress.

My Prediction: Merewether Adv. 4-0 Kurri Kurri


I was highly impressed with Singleton when I watched them play a few weeks back and despite a loss to Gosford City in a recent trial, they shouldn't have too much trouble against Zone League One opposition in Charlestown Junior FC. The Hammers just don't have the quality that Singleton have and the Strikers if they're firing could rack up a decent score.

My Prediction: Charlestown 1-7 Singleton


The winner of this match will receive a bye in Round 2 but who wins? Swansea FC have kept their cards close to their chest. I have absolute no idea about pre-season form. All I know is that they're a decent ZPL side and they knocked out their local rivals last season.

Belmont-Swansea have had a horror pre-season with coach changes, player number issues, all of it. It seems to be slowly coming together. Passionate club man Brad Paul is the new coach and has a history in the top job. Whether or not they can beat Swansea remains a mystery but it's definitely one of the better games on the calendar this weekend. Swansea to win.

My Prediction: Swansea FC 2-0 Belmont-Swansea United


Thursday, 18 February 2016

PREVIEW: Northern NSW FFA Cup Day 1

Is there a better way to start this year's Northern NSW FFA Cup Qualifiers than a fierce local derby between Garden Suburb and Kotara South. Both teams are coming off wins last weekend. The Kingfishers defeated Charlestown ZL1 and will be hoping that is a good build-up to a match against another ZL1 team. The Tigers however are also coming off a confidence-boosting win over Hamilton Olympic's ZL2 side.

Garden Suburb's season in the ZPL last year didn't really go to script but a memorable win over Mayfield United and draws against some top teams prove this side can be one to watch on their day. Kotara failed to match the top ZL1 teams last year and ultimately found themselves in fourth as a result. Garden Suburb I feel will win this game but the war will be one to watch with keen interest and cup football is always unpredictable.

My Prediction: Garden Suburb 2-1 Kotara South


If the first local derby wasn't enough, there's another derby of sorts as Maryland-Fletcher take on defending New-FM champions Wallsend FC. The team formally known as Plattsburg will be keen to provide a true test for their highly-fancied opposition.

Wallsend drew 0-0 with NPL-side Maitland FC and considering that side featured the likes of former A-League star Matt Thompson and long-time quality NPL player Carl Thornton, I just cannot see Wallsend going out of the FFA Cup this weekend. If they've got their scoring boots on they could rack up a few against the ZL2 side.

My Prediction: Maryland-Fletcher 0-6 Wallsend FC


Dudley-Redhead Juniors need no reminding about their FFA Cup result last season. They copped a 17-1 hiding by Mayfield United and were part of a 'Around the Grounds' review on Fox Sports' Shootout show as a result. For their sake I hope this game goes a lot better.

Muswellbrook FC is indeed an easier opposition than Mayfield United but for the Thistles, it's still a massive test against a side that is in a higher grade. Muswellbrook should have the quality to win this one but I feel like it won't be a simple walk-over. At this point of the competition last year, Muswellbrook were smashed for 12 by local rivals Singleton so anything is an improvement.

My Prediction: Dudley-Redhead 1-4 Muswellbrook


Welcome to Zone League football Bolwarra-Lorn. The Bushrangers are newcomers to ZL3 this season and their first assignment in the FFA Cup is against ZPL side Mayfield United. I feel like Bolwarra's time in this competition will be limited this season to say the least. Mayfield put 17 past ZL3 opposition last year and for Bolwarra's sake I hope that doesn't happen again. Tigers by a few.

My Prediction: Mayfield United 8-1 Bolwarra-Lorn


*Correct Kickoff is 9:30am

Hamilton Azzurri are back in the big-time and I have a decent read on this side, considering I played against a fair few of them in AA/H grade last year. Barnsley's 2015 season was the season from hell and I'm sure the Bulldogs will be hoping 2016 is better as they take on the new challenge of ZL1 football.

I'm confident that Azzurri will be one of the stronger, if not the strongest sides in ZL3 this season and I can see no reason why they can't send Barnsley packing in this game. Since the draw came out last month I've had Azzurri as my tip for this one. And it would set up a fierce David v Goliath clash with Broadmeadow Magic in Round 2.

My Prediction: Hamilton Azzurri 3-1 Barnsley


*Correct Kickoff is 11:30am

The RAAF team was one of few Zone League sides that I actually got to watch last season and they weren't too bad. But I feel like Hunter Simba will be just too strong in this cup tie. The Simba are a culturally-proud club that last year went on a bit of a cup run until they were outclassed by Valentine in Round 3 I believe.

I'll be mainly watching the Maryland-Fletcher v Wallsend game but will definitely have half an eye on this match-up. Simba to win for my money.

My Prediction: RAAF Williamtown 1-3 Hunter Simba


*Correct Kickoff is 1:30pm

Beresfield FC were handed the tough task of West Wallsend SFC in Round 1 last year and went down 2-0 in a respectable performance for the ZL1 side. Nelson Bay weren't even in the competition last year so they'll no doubt be full of excitement going into the all-ZL1 match-up.

Beresfield FC won the last meeting of these sides and I feel like they are the slight favourites going into this one. The winner plays Weston in Round 2 so I'd suggest to celebrate winning this one as the challenge will go to the next level very quickly.

My Prediction: Nelson Bay 0-2 Beresfield FC


*Correct Kickoff is 6:30pm

This match-up struck me as a lop-sided one when the draw came out. New-FM Thornton against ZL3 Edgeworth Juniors. It really should be going the one way but the scoreline is a whole other story. I could see this getting really ugly for the ZL3 side if Thornton find their scoring form. The Redbacks weren't the best team going forward last year so I don't feel like we'll see a double-digit scoreline but it honestly wouldn't surprise me.

My Prediction: Thornton 8-0 Edgeworth


Both these sides will be delighted with avoiding the ever-so-controversial artificial surface of the LMRFF. Macquarie Field hosts six games over the weekend and this is the first; almost a home game for the Westlakes Wildcats from Rathmines.

I haven't seen much pre-season form at all for either of these sides but based on last year's results, I'd consider Raymond Terrace the very strong favourites going into this match. They dominated sides in ZL2 and what better way to send a message to the ZL1 teams than by beating the Wildcats (if they didn't get relegated themselves, not sure on that.) Terrace to win nonetheless

My Prediction: Raymond Terrace 4-1 Westlakes Wildcats


An all New-FM encounter on the home of Lake Macquarie City. I've seen both these sides in the pre-season and neither impressed me. Cessnock were struggling to get any momentum going forward in a 3-1 loss to West Wallsend and South Cardiff were dominated by Kahibah 8-0.

I feel like that 8-0 loss completely undersold the Gunners and fitness was just not up to match it with Kahibah. Southy know the importance of cup football. They went all the way in the inaugural FFA Cup and faced cup fairytale side South Springvale in front of the Fox Sports cameras in Melbourne. They should be too strong for the Hornets.

My Prediction: South Cardiff 2-0 Cessnock City


The favourites to win the league in the New-FM 1st Division this season will take on one of last season's stronger ZPL sides in Cardiff City. If Lakes are serious about the FFA Cup, then they shouldn't be having too much trouble in this one. They've got the home ground advantage, they've got Sam Walker up front and I feel like they'll win this to set-up an interesting clash with Valentine in Round 2.

My Prediction: Lake Macquarie City 5-0 Cardiff City


Saturday, 13 February 2016

OPINION: Three Young Guns to watch in the 2016 New-FM 1st Division

Those who know me, know that I'm a fan of development in football and I feel like the Under 19's competition is the New-FM's best-fought and will in 2016 be the best competition to watch. So far I've seen every 19's team except Wallsend, Cooks Hill and Lakes...anyway; that's the not the point of the first article of the season.

The point of this is to simply point out three players who I (along with coaches/management at their clubs) think will succeed in the 19's and possibly higher grades this season.

1. Nathan Hall (Singleton)

Hall takes on West Wallsend at Johnston Park

I don't remember being this impressed with a player on the first time I see them play. Hall played the 19's, 23's and First Grade and bossed the first two games. Arguably one of the best on ground in both against West Wallsend, he had skill, pace, slotted a goal and just looks a complete player in the midfield.

Singleton have some quality coming through the ranks. Jackson Skinner, Tyler Felsch, and there's others I'm probably forgetting but Hall is one to watch and will in my eyes be one of the players of the season in the Under 19's and 23's. I didn't manage to get much of a background on the guy and he wasn't in last year's Singleton squad but he certainly is one to keep tabs on this season.


2. Bailey Chaplain (Kahibah FC)

Chaplain (right) celebrating a goal for Kahibah's 19's

This guy is rated as one to watch at Kahibah this year and it's easy to see why. Chaplain, along with fellow newcomer Harry Wills were two of the better players in the Kahibah 19's win over Belmont-Swansea. Chaplain in particular was skillful and a keen-eyed midfielder.

I got to see him play again on Friday night for the Under 19's and then again for the Under 23's and again he impressed. In all honesty though, Kahibah's squad is full of talented youngsters coming through the ranks and Chaplain is just one of many. He'll play First Grade within the next couple of season's, even if it's just a bench spot.


3. Ben Frohlich (Cooks Hill United)

Frohlich (left) playing against Edgeworth Eagles NPL 1st Grade

It stunned me today to see such an inexperienced (at this level) player at left-back for Cooks Hill United's 1st Grade squad against NPL Champions Edgeworth Eagles. It's obvious that the Cookers and head coach Blake Glennie rate this guy and he's one to watch at the AthField this season.

He showed no fear against the big guns of Edgeworth and was quality in clearing the ball and just defending in general. The youth policy is strong at Cooks Hill and it'll see more like Frohlich come into the fold of Gleenie's First Grade squad.