Thursday, 21 April 2016

PREVIEW: New-FM 1st Division Round 8

1st Grade:
Belmont-Swansea United (1st) v Cessnock City (11th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

It's top v bottom in the New-FM 1st Division this weekend and it could be a tough day at the office for Cessnock City based on how things have travelled for Belmont-Swansea this season. The league-leaders produced a classy effort at Cooks Hill last weekend, pouncing on some poor defending and blasting five goals past a side that is a decent one on their day.

Head coach Brad Paul missed last weekend's game on holiday and I'm not sure if he's back this week or not. Despite that, assistant coach Mick Stafford took charge at Cooks Hill last week and one noticeable thing about Belswans this year is that whoever is yelling orders from the sideline; it is constant, despite the situation. Even at 5-0 last week, Stafford was up on his feet and driving the side on. Belswans aren't happy with a 60 minute effort. It's a quality needed for a good side; ruthlessness.

Belswans are top in 1st Grade and they're in-form in the Under 23's as well. Top to bottom, this club is having a delightful season. The complete opposite can be said for Cessnock City. The 23's are mid-table but apart from that, it's a struggle at the moment at Turner Park. 

Steve Thomson's side will be near-enough full-strength this weekend but even that might not be enough. Blacksmiths is a tough place to go. The Hornets leaving with a point or dare I say three points would be one of the results of the season. Belswans are just too good a side to back against. Base it on the logic, they put five past Cooks Hill who in turn put seven past Cessnock. Easy decision right?

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 5-1 Cessnock City

Belmont-Swansea will be looking to stay on top of the league with another win on Saturday.

Under 23's:
Belmont-Swansea United (2nd) v Cessnock City (6th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Belmont-Swansea's 23's team perfect start to the season ended last weekend at Newcastle Athletics Field when Cooks Hill United came away with a 1-0 win. They're still in second-place and by all means it could have been a bump on the road to a possible finals appearance later in the year.

Cessnock City's 23's will be in most games they play this year. They're not an easybeat squad and the majority were involved in last year's Semi Final-run. Last week they were beaten 2-0 at home by South Cardiff so the chance to bounce back from that is theirs this weekend.

Belswans' top goalscorer Luke Lethbridge (4) has double the amount of goals Jai Thomson has for Cessnock (2). Pointless stat but it's pointing out that Cessnock's goals come from across the park. Belswans should be able to bounce back from defeat last week against the inconsistent Hornets.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 3-0 Cessnock City

Cessnock 23's celebrating a goal v Wallsend F.C

Under 19's:
Belmont-Swansea United (4th) v Cessnock City (11th)
Kickoff: 11:00am

Cessnock City's 19's trip to Blacksmiths Oval last season was an 11-2 horror show. The side have come a long way since then and on their day, they're a very hard opponent and they've earnt the respect of some of the higher teams. Earning respect and earning points is two different things. Rick Ford's side are dead last and with the players they have, it's not a position they should be in.

Belmont-Swansea United should be winning this game. Make no mistake. They've got a talented bunch of players. They were grounded in a 3-0 loss to Cooks Hill last weekend but in their last home game, they scored 11 goals against Toronto-Awaba. It's surely not going to be that ugly but the Belswans at home are a very tough opposition.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 5-2 Cessnock City

Joel Nicholson has been in-form throughout the first two months of the season.

Under 17's:
Belmont-Swansea United (7th) v Cessnock City (10th)
Kickoff: 9:15am

An interesting clash awaits in the opening game of the day at Blacksmiths Oval. Belmont-Swansea were unlucky to go down 1-0 at Cooks Hill last week and they have some talent in the squad. I'm not sure 7th place is reflective of their potential. They will be looking to bounce back at home where they have been decent this season. After seven games, their two top scorers are on three each (Jacob Winzar and Lachlan McMaster). They need to find the net a bit more.

Cessnock City were lingering at the foot of the table and have had some heavy losses but last week was their best performance to date and a season-defining one at that. They were two-nil down after own goals to Jesse Irving and Jack Turner. 2-0, two own-goals, 3-0 down at half-time and then a huge second-half comeback to win 5-4 in a thrilling game. What a turn-around and what a win for the Hornets' 17's.

Whether Cessnock can make the long trip to Blacksmiths and produce the goods is yet to be determined. I believe Belmont-Swansea at home will get the job done but you never quiet know after some of the crazy results this competition has produced in the early stages of the season.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 3-1 Cessnock City

Cessnock's Will Forbes scored a double in their 5-4 victory last week (pictured above with Casey Cox v Wallsend)

1st Grade:
West Wallsend SFC (9th) v Toronto-Awaba (7th)
Kickoff: 4:00pm

This is a key game for both of these sides. West Wallsend were downed 4-0 by Kahibah last weekend and they will be without the Cox brothers (Bailey and Bryson) after they were both sent-off last weekend. Discipline is not West Wallsend's strongest point and if they can keep eleven on the park, they'll be a decent chance in most games.

Toronto-Awaba were flying high after two wins and a draw against ladder-leaders Belmont-Swansea. Arch rivals Lake Macquarie City sent them crashing down last week with a 6-0 demolishment at Macquarie Field. This is the sort of game though that Tony Jovcevski's side should be highlighting on the calender. A serious chance to get three points.

I'm sure we'll see a fairly competitive game in somewhat wet conditions looking at the forecast. So who wins it? I'm not sure. That's why I'm going with a draw; a result neither side will want.

My Tip: West Wallsend 1-1 Toronto-Awaba

Toronto-Awaba keeper Daniel March was a stand-out in their draw with Belmont-Swansea two weeks ago.

Under 23's:
West Wallsend SFC (9th) v Toronto-Awaba (11th)
Kickoff: 2:15pm

It's a make or break lower table clash at Johnston Park in the 23's this Saturday. West Wallsend have recruited one or two players in recent weeks and they picked up a big win over Singleton but it was back to square one last weekend as they were smashed 6-2 by bottom of the league Kahibah.

Toronto-Awaba's situation is arguably worse than West Wallsend. They can't buy any luck in this grade. They were holding on in a scoreless battle with rivals Lake Macquarie City last weekend before a penalty in the 72nd minute opened up the floodgates and Lakes scored three late goals to win 3-0. Toronto are bottom of the league with just one point from six games, 4 goals scored and 24 goals conceded.

West Wallsend can take a big step away from the foot of the table with a win and if they play to their potential they'll do just that.

My Tip: West Wallsend 2-1 Toronto-Awaba

Toronto 23's v Cooks Hill United (Round 2)

Under 19's:
West Wallsend SFC (1st) v Toronto-Awaba (10th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm

Two sides who are having very different seasons. A 4-2 loss for Westy was a reality check last week against Kahibah but they remain on top of the league table whilst Toronto were blasted 6-0 by Lake Macquarie City. The Stags are lingering at the foot of the table and have conceded more goals than any other New-FM squad.

West Wallsend's attacking line-up is arguably the best in the competition on their day. Despite the loss last week; top goalscorer Sam Jones found the net for his 13th goal of the season. These top four sides versus lower-table teams generally only go one way. A routine win at Johnston Park.

My Tip: West Wallsend 6-1 Toronto-Awaba

The league-leading West Wallsend 19's

Under 17's Match of the Round:
West Wallsend SFC (2nd) v Toronto-Awaba (3rd)
Kickoff: 10:45am

A Match of the Round between West Wallsend and Toronto-Awaba is the stand-out fixture of the day at Johnston Park. Two quality 17's teams that are battling it out for second-place. I'm in belief that Lake Macquarie City are running away with the minor premiership so this game is definitely a crucial one for both these teams. West Wallsend especially, after a big 4-0 win over Kahibah last week.

Westy have some talented goalscorers. Josh Knight is in form at the moment. He scored three last weekend and set up Lachlan Coombes' goal to sum up a 4-0 victory. With some experienced players from last season and some new exciting talent this season, the Westy 17's are an improved squad and look like challenging for finals.

Toronto-Awaba are flying high in the 17's but they were grounded slightly by a 4-0 loss to the ladder-leading Lake Macquarie City last weekend. They'll want to bounce back sooner rather than later and what better chance than by knocking off Westy in this crucial clash. At Johnston Park, I'm tipping the home side to come away with their biggest win of the season.

My Tip: West Wallsend 3-2 Toronto-Awaba

Josh Knight (#11) fired in three goals and picked up an assist in the 4-0 win last weekend.

1st Grade:
Singleton Strikers (10th) v Wallsend F.C (3rd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

Wallsend F.C lost top spot last weekend due to having the bye but they will be looking to record a fifth-straight win on Sunday at Howe Park. It's crazy to think that they're going for five-straight. I've been at their last four (perhaps I'm the lucky charm...find out on Sunday...) and they're yet to reach their potential. 

The football at times has lacked and they haven't produced a full eighty minute performance. Perhaps I'm being too critical but this is a side that dominated during the back end of last season. That's when they'll be at their peak during the second half of the year.

Singleton on the other hand are still searching for their first win of the 2016 New-FM season. David Willoughby's side produced arguably their worst performance of the season in a 4-1 loss at home to a depleted Thornton Redbacks side last weekend.

Singo did have players out last weekend (including goalkeeper Stuart Plant and defender Corey Cleaver) but that's no excuse for what was a lacklustre performance. Wallsend put five past the same Thornton side that beat Singleton last week. The Red Devils are short odds to do the same to an out-of-form Singleton Strikers side.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-5 Wallsend F.C

Singleton Strikers have conceded ten goals in their last two home games.


Under 23's:
Singleton Strikers (10th) v Wallsend F.C (5th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Singleton Strikers 23's are without a win from five games but to be fair, they didn't get the chance to break that horror run last weekend after the heaven's opened above Howe Park and lightning in the area saw their home match against Thornton get abandoned. This weekend is arguably a tougher test than Thornton as Wallsend F.C come to town.

Wallsend F.C also didn't play last week as they had the bye. Before that was a late slump against Thornton and as a result a last-minute 4-4 draw. A real coach-killer for Chris Wallis' side and the Red Devils would have had some harsh home truths hit home after that game. They need to play the full 80 minutes.

The forecast for the weekend shows some rain but surely it won't be as bad as last week. Singleton will be looking to kickstart their season but after dropping points late on in their last two games, Wallsend really should be taking the three points here. They're a quality side and already they are five points outside the top four.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-3 Wallsend F.C

Jason Maguire has been quality for the Wallsend 23's this season.

Under 19's:
Singleton Strikers (6th) v Wallsend F.C (8th)
Kickoff: 11:00am

These two sides have a lot in common. They've got talented players but they're yet to find consistency in 2016 and more recently, they're both coming off of 4-1 victories over Thornton in each of their last outings. Wallsend will be fresh after a bye in Round 7 whilst Singleton were too good for Thornton last weekend, with Nathan Hall continuing his good form and scoring a hat-trick.

The Red Devils have had injury issues to start the year but form is coming together. Back-to-back wins over Cessnock and Thornton in their last two games have the side moving up the ladder and a win here could boost their hopes of making finals this season. The same can be said for Singleton; a win for them could take them into the top four. It's a crunch game for both sides.

Both sides have the talent to cause trouble for most teams and it's sure to be an entertaining game; perhaps the most even match of the day at Howe Park. It is a tough venue to get a result at. Singo have a draw with Lakes and a 4-1 win over Thornton in two home games this season. Why not add a win over Wallsend to that list.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 3-2 Wallsend F.C

Singleton 19's Captain Tom Golding on the ball in last week's win over Thornton

Under 17's:
Singleton Strikers (9th) v Wallsend F.C (7th)
Kickoff: 9:15am

The Singleton 17's need an 80 minute performance. A strong second half last weekend against Thornton was decent but not enough to get the win. Hamish Mayled and Trae Proudlock both stood out last weekend and only a lapse or two in defence cost the Strikers a point or maybe three. They just need that one complete eighty minute performance and a win will come.

Wallsend F.C however have fired themselves into some form. After starting the season in indifferent form, the young Red Devils are looking a confident side and a quality side. They beat Cessnock and then beat Thornton on the road. Considering Thornton beat Singleton last weekend at Howe Park, the visitors will most likely like their chances of victory.

I do like Singleton's side here in this grade. As mentioned, they've got the talent to win but the performance needs to be an all-round one. This is a very tough one to predict so I'll go with the draw because that's always fun isn't it.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-1 Wallsend F.C

Singleton 17's keeper Brad Fairclough v Thornton Redbacks (Round 7)


Newysports Feature Match:

1st Grade Match of the Round
Lake Macquarie City F.C (2nd) v Cooks Hill United (5th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

This is the biggest game to date for Cooks Hill United. I know I said the same about Belmont-Swansea last weekend but this is a big one. They copped a five goal to one result against Belswans at home last weekend. The Cookers have conceded 16 goals at home. It's a horror stat isn't it. On the road, they need to think back to their performance in their last trip to the Lake Macquarie area, a 7-2 win over Toronto-Awaba.

Defence is lacking for Cooks Hill. They've conceded more goals than Lakes and Belmont-Swansea combined. It's not the sort of stats you want to take into a match against a side that won 6-0 last weekend and especially a side that features Sam Walker up front. This could get ugly and I say that in pure confidence. If Cooks Hill produce similar to last week, they'll come away with a similar result.

Lake Macquarie City are coming into form; the sort of form that saw them dominate the majority of 2015. I don't want to sound like a bad-luck charm but in the last three Lakes home games featured by Newysports, the Roosters are winless. A 4-0 loss to Valentine that cost them the premiership and NPL promotion, a 2-2 draw with Kahibah and the infamous 6-1 thumping in the Semi Final 2nd Leg.

It's a fairly lopsided round of football this weekend. The top four sides all face lower opposition (in this case, Cooks Hill aren't a lower-table side). The point I'm making is that the Cookers could find themselves seven points outside the top four without a win or draw here. Lakes are a dangerous side and on their turf they like to score goals.

My Tip: Lake Macquarie City 6-1 Cooks Hill United

Blake Glennie's side will be looking to cause a boilover at Macquarie Field.

Under 23's Match of the Round:
Lake Macquarie City F.C (1st) v Cooks Hill United (3rd)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

The Match of the Round in the Under 23's sees ladder-leaders Lake Macquarie City take on 3rd-placed Cooks Hill United at Macquarie Field. Lakes are coming off a late 3-0 win over Toronto-Awaba last weekend where three late goals to Kane Rodgers, Gabriel Cerda and Jordan Harper. The Roosters are on top of the table, three points clear of Belswans in second.

This is a chance for Cooks Hill United to prove themselves as a serious threat to the premiership in 2016. The improvement from last year to this season for the Cookers 23's is through the roof. The side is a younger one and an exciting one to watch. Last week's 1-0 win over Belmont-Swansea was a solid defensive performance.

Lakes have a lot of goalscorers amongst the team whereas Cooks Hill, who also have goalscorers in the squad, have a stand-out in James Roman. His goal last week was the only goal of the game and arguably the best goal of the entire weekend. The likes of Sam Hawke and Jackson Graham also feature in the top 20 Under 23's goalscorers.

So who wins this game? Lakes at home are very difficult to back against. They clean-swept Kahibah, they clean-swept Toronto but in the 23's, this is their toughest test to date. Cooks Hill will push them and if they play to their best they may very well win it. Lakes at home though; I like their chances of winning.

My Tip: Lake Macquarie City 2-1 Cooks Hill United

Cooks Hill's Ben Frohlich has been a feature at full-back for the Under 23's

Under 19's Match of the Round:
Lake Macquarie City F.C (3rd) v Cooks Hill United (2nd)
Kickoff: 11:00am

Arguably the biggest match of the season in the Under 19's. Lake Macquarie City have fired themselves back into form and last week they blasted Toronto-Awaba 6-0 in the local derby. Lakes' 19's side is made up mostly of players that won the 17's Grand Final last season and their aim will no doubt be to reach another GF later this year.

Opposing them this weekend is the danger side of the competition Cooks Hill United. The Cookers have quietly gone about things but last weekend's 3-0 win over a quality Belmont-Swansea side shows that this team have what it takes to play finals football. In my mind, a win here would confirm the Cookers as a top-four quality side and maybe even throw them into favouritism for the title.

Lakes 19's have suffered losses this season. Westy beat them, Thornton beat them, Singleton almost beat them. They'll need their best to overcome a Cooks Hill side that are flying high at the moment. The Cookers have two potentially season-defining games this week against Lakes and next week against West Wallsend.

This is the match of the day at Macquarie Field this Sunday. It has a lot hinging on the result. Cooks Hill can potentially go top of the league, Lakes could jump Cooks Hill and also go top depending on the result at West Wallsend. My belief is that Giles Boyd's side will produce their best performance of the season and pick up a big three points on the road.

My Tip: Lake Macquarie City 1-3 Cooks Hill United

Cooks Hill United could go outright top of the league with a win on Sunday.

Under 17's:
Lake Macquarie City F.C (1st) v Cooks Hill United (4th)
Kickoff: 9:15am

I'm not sure any team can stop the winning streak of Lake Macquarie City in the Under 17's. They beat Toronto-Awaba, Kahibah, West Wallsend, Belswans, you name them. The only team that sit inside the top four that they have yet to face is Cooks Hill United so Sunday's game is a tough test of Lakes' will to win. Cooks Hill are not a side that are easy to break down.

Michael Best's side battled out a hard-fought 1-0 win over Belmont-Swansea last week and they will need that defensive effort and the ability of goalkeeper Eamon Doyle if hey want to stand a chance against the free-scoring ladder-leaders. They have talent but they don't have that one stand-out goalscorer in similar mold to Lakes' Kurtis McRitchie.

McRitchie is the form player of the competition and counting his goal for the 19's on debut for the higher grade last week; he has found the back of the net 11 times this season. It's crazy form and a lot of people from other clubs have taken notice. Crazy enough, there's other talented goalscorers in the squad as well (Alex Matthews and Caleb Morley-Davies have four goals each). It's the best squad in the competition and easily they are the premiership favourites.

So the question is; can Cooks Hill pull off the upset of the season. If they produce their best than anything is possible but I can't see it happening. Lakes are flying high and I believe they will continue to do so.

My Tip: Lake Macquarie City 3-1 Cooks Hill United

Cookers' 17's Goalkeeper Eamon Doyle was a stand-out in last week's 1-0 win over Belmont-Swansea.

1st Grade:
Thornton Redbacks (8th) v Kahibah F.C (4th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

Thornton Redbacks host Kahibah in a very tricky home game for Darrel McAllister's side. They defeated a poor Singleton side last weekend in even poorer conditions so the side will be primed for another result here. They'll still be missing Tallan Martin, Jamie Subat and goalkeeper Mick Hugo.

Kahibah on the other hand will also be missing some players. Key man Daniel Bartlett is out on suspension after accumulating too many yellow cards. Jarrod Penfold will also be missing. That's their two top goalscorers. Young gun Jayden Demir will be playing and along with captain Matt Lee, they'll be the main attacking outlets you'd imagine along with Sean Clerke.

Thornton will need their best performance of the season to get anything out of this one. Kahibah F.C are a side that like to punish teams that aren't up to the challenge on the day. There's a few top side v lower side clashes this weekend but this one I feel is the highest chance of a boilover result. I still don't think it'll happen.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 1-4 Kahibah F.C

Thornton picked up a 4-1 victory at Howe Park, Singleton last weekend

Under 23's:
Thornton Redbacks (7th) v Kahibah F.C (8th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Thornton Redbacks' 23's game against Singleton Strikers was abandoned last weekend due to rain/lightning and they'll be looking to build on the foundation laid in their dramatic come-from-behind last-grasp draw with Wallsend F.C in Round 6. A 4-4 draw with no more than six regular players in the squad. The rest of the side were fill-ins from the 19's and 17's squads.

Kahibah F.C started the season in horror form in the Under 23's. They were without a point until a potential season-defining 6-2 victory over West Wallsend. Debutant Peter Migliore scored four goals and seems to be a handy addition to the squad. Word is Migliore has come over to the region from Adelaide and played lower grades at Adelaide City. If he fires again this weekend then we may be looking at Kahibah's savior in the Under 23's.

If Thornton can get some more players back into the fold then I like their chances at home but Kahibah will be looking to fire themselves into some form. It's going to be an interesting game at Thornton Park nonetheless.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 2-4 Kahibah F.C

Kahibah 23's Alex Evans impressed on First Grade debut last weekend.

Under 19's:
Thornton Redbacks (9th) v Kahibah F.C (5th)
Kickoff: 11:00am

Thornton Redbacks Under 19's inconsistency has cost them this season. A big victory over Lake Macquarie City seems like an eternity ago. Back-to-back 4-1 losses to Wallsend and then Singleton last weekend has them lingering towards the bottom end of the table. This week they will look to return to the winners' circle on their home turf against Kahibah F.C

The problem for the Redbacks is that Kahibah is arguably one of their toughest tests to date. The Green and Blacks come to Thornton Park this weekend on the back of a solid 4-2 victory over ladder-leaders West Wallsend. After a tough 4-1 loss to Lake Macquarie City, Mat Moncrieff's side returned to form in some style.

The visitors will be without goalkeeper Brock Turner after he suffered a knee injury last weekend. Striker Bailey Cooper filled in last weekend but logic says 17's goalkeeper Zac Ireland will be between the sticks on Sunday. Defensively this team is strong enough to not have to worry too much about a different person in goals.

Kahibah could do some real damage to Thornton if they play to their potential this Sunday. The Redbacks have lost 4-1 to Wallsend and Singleton; sides that aren't as good as this Kahibah outfit.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 1-4 Kahibah F.C

Thornton's Tristan Wells scored their only goal in the loss v Singleton last weekend.

Under 17's:
Thornton Redbacks (8th) v Kahibah F.C (5th)
Kickoff: 9:15am

After overcoming Singleton in a very hard-fought match at Howe Park last Sunday, the Redbacks' 17's will host Kahibah at Thornton Park. Two goals to Jacob Bartlett and one to James Cooper gave the Redbacks a big 3-2 victory on the road at Singleton and it boosted them to eighth on the league table, four points outside the top four.

Kahibah F.C started the season in form but they've had some indifferent results as of late. A 4-1 loss to Lake Macquarie City was followed with a 4-0 loss to West Wallsend on their home turf last week. It's definitely a form slump for the Green and Blacks and whether or not they can bounce back at Thornton Park is the question and the test for them this weekend.

Thornton don't have a stand-out goalscorer but they have some decent quality players across the park. Goalkeeper Blake Mcdonnell is a real stand-out and over the last two weeks, I've been impressed with Zac Wolfe as well as Jacob Bartlett. Fullback Mitchell Roy is a tricky one as well.

Thornton need to build some form but Kahibah will be desperate to put the last two weeks behind them. Visitors to win it here.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 1-3 Kahibah F.C

Kahibah's 17's keeper Zac Ireland may need to play twice after an injury to 19's incumbent Brock Turner.


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