Friday, 29 July 2016

PREVIEW: New-FM 1st Division Round 21


1st Grade:
Cooks Hill United (8th) v Thornton Redbacks (5th)
Last Time They Met: Thornton Redbacks 1-2 Cooks Hill United
Kickoff: 2:30pm

The last home game of an era for Cooks Hill United. The Blake Glennie-era ended prematurely and Mal Hinchliffe took over as coach. The club are reportedly looking for a new head coach next season and it's a real important year as the club turns 20 and looks to take a forward step towards NPL football. Making finals is absolutely paramount next season.

Thornton Redbacks come to the AthField on the back of a solid victory over Toronto-Awaba last weekend. They sit in 5th and are the best of the teams that haven't made the finals. Nathan McAllister bagged a hat-trick last weekend and it was a breakout game for youngster Jack Halverson on debut.

Cooks Hill were winners in a tight game back in Round 10 but Thornton have some confidence about their game at the moment. Jai McAllister may return from a lengthy spell as well which would boost their hopes. Cooks Hill's performance with an understrength side at West Wallsend was quality and more of the same may result in another win.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 3-1 Thornton Redbacks

Tommy Sparre and Asher Beasley impressed once again last weekend.
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Under 23's:
Cooks Hill United (3rd) v Thornton Redbacks (8th)
Last Time They Met: Thornton Redbacks 2-1 Cooks Hill United
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Cooks Hill United are all but assured of finals football in the Under 23's but they can lock it up mathematically with a win over last year's champions Thornton. Thornton funnily enough had a similar year last year, a long way behind the minor premiers but seeing off the 3rd placed Cessnock and beating Lakes in the big one after the Roosters sent Valentine packing. Cooks Hill could take inspiration from that but improvement is key.

A big win over West Wallsend last week was just what the doctor ordered and will have the side primed heading into the last two games of the season. It'd be made easier if so many 1st Graders weren't in and out of the top squad forcing 23's to back-up or go on standby but the seriousness this side showed last week proved that they know finals are near and consistency is key.

Thornton smashed Toronto last week but this is a different story against a side heading for finals football. The Cookers will want revenge for the Round 10 loss at Thornton Park.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 4-1 Thornton Redbacks

Cooks Hill's 23's celebrated a big win v West Wallsend last Saturday.
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Under 19's:
Cooks Hill United (7th) v Thornton Redbacks (9th)
Last Time They Met: Thornton Redbacks 2-3 Cooks Hill United
Kickoff: 11:00am

Cooks Hill's miserable run in the 19's continued last week as they fell to West Wallsend at Johnston Park with a very barebones sort of line-up. There can't be any hiding the form slump. They've lost eight of their last nine and their last win came all the way back on the 8th of May against...Thornton.

How did it all go so wrong for a side that was destined to challenge for the premiership at one point? Players have had to move up to the 23's and 1st and a shortage of back-ups and a thin squad that was signed on at the start of the year proved costly. Whilst the 17's are talented, relying on six or seven of them to back-up every week either starting or on the bench is never going to get any consistency in the bare bones line up.

Thornton themselves know all about mixing and swapping 17's and 19's around the place but unlike Cooks Hill, they didn't have a solid form run going that turned into nothing. The Redbacks' 19's are one of the competition's best kept secrets. An entertaining squad on their day that aren't scared of troubling the big teams. Lakes know that and teams like Kahibah and Westy had issues with dealing with it.

Thornton last week drew with Toronto-Awaba to avoid having the bottom-placed Stags climbing up the table behind them. The wooden spoon looks to be avoided and freedom to attack will come in handy. Jack Halverson (who's probably going to feature in 1st) might not play this grade but if he does, he is looking to fend off club captain Nathan McAllister and fellow youngster Josh Davies in the Golden Boot race. Cooks Hill can't afford to be complacent in this one.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 1-3 Thornton Redbacks

Thornton's top scorer Jack Halverson has impressed in 19's and started 1st Grade last weekend.
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Under 17's:
Cooks Hill United (5th) v Thornton Redbacks (5th)
Last Time They Met: Thornton Redbacks 0-6 Cooks Hill United
Kickoff: 9:15am

Someway or another the Cookers' 17's have found themselves staring down the barrel of potentially not making the finals. They were unlucky against Westy last weekend but in reality, would probably feel like a potential win was thrown away with a 2-1 lead in the 70th minute turning into a 3-2 loss with literally the last kick of the game. 

Kahibah as a result jumped into the top four and if the Green and Blacks win their last two, Cooks Hill will not play finals regardless of the outcome this week or next. The Cookers will be banking on an impressive Wallsend side doing them a favour and downing Kahibah on Sunday. First up though is a test against an all-or-nothing Thornton side.

The Redbacks will travel to Cooks Hill with the knowledge that the wooden spoon awaits if they can't win this game. It ended 6-0 last time as they were downed in very convincing fashion but at this point, the risky attacking tactics have to come out as they look to fight their way back from bottom spot.

It was about this time last year that I watched a Thornton side that didn't win a lone game in 2015 fall to the latest of late goals from Campbell Guest as Cooks Hill recorded a 1-0 win. That team went all the way to the Grand Final. This Cookers side is better, classier and really cannot miss the finals. Expect an ultra-serious performance from a side that know this game is the be-all end-all.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 4-0 Thornton Redbacks

Thornton celebrating a goal v Kahibah F.C two weeks ago.
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1st Grade:
Toronto-Awaba (10th) v Singleton Strikers (7th)
Last Time They Met: Singleton Strikers 4-2 Toronto-Awaba
Kickoff: 2:30pm

It's the biggest day of the season at Lyall Peacock Field as Toronto-Awaba host Singleton Strikers on the Stags' Old Boy's Day. A big and passionate vocal crowd will be on their feet on the Blondie Field Hill and cheering the team onto victory. It's not likely to affect Singleton too much but Toronto will be fired up like no other home game this season.

Singleton's performance against Kahibah last weekend was arguably their best of the season as they won 2-0 without three or four players, including club captain Jackson Cox. Even better was the fact that youngsters like Jackson Skinner, Nathan Hall and Jackson Hough all started that match. It's looking good for David Willoughby's side at the end of the year as they look to consolidate a mid-table spot.

There was six goals scored in Round 10 when these sides last met and Singleton enter as favourites after their solid win over Kahibah and Toronto's poor loss to Thornton. Old Boy's Day gives Toronto a leg-up but Singleton you'd feel will be a very tough proposition for the Stags.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-4 Singleton Strikers

18-year old Jackson Skinner has been one of the most consistent players for Singleton.
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Under 23's:
Toronto-Awaba (11th) v Singleton Strikers (6th)
Last Time They Met: Singleton Strikers 3-2 Toronto-Awaba
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Toronto's 23's will be looking towards the end of the year as after a fairly horrible season, they're destined to finish the year with the lowest points total of any team in the competition. An away win over Wallsend will feel like an eternity ago and they've only picked up one point from a possible 27 on their home turf. It's the stuff nightmares are of. Can they grab a first home win of the year on the final chance?

Singleton Strikers' 23's have found themselves back in the hunt for finals after hitting some form as of late. A big win over Kahibah last week put them firmly into contention and they'll likely have their eyes on Newysports' live updates from both Wallsend v Kahibah and Southy v Belswans scores. It's a make or break day for the Strikers.

When they met up at Singleton, the Stags fell to a frustrating 3-2 loss and with their fate as wooden spooners confirmed and Singleton still racing for the top four, it'd be no surprise to see the away side come out all guns blazing and trying to grab the three points. The Strikers can't afford to slip up as the chance might not be there next week.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-3 Singleton Strikers

One last chance for Ian Roberts and the Stags' 23's to pick up a home win this season.
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Under 19's:
Toronto-Awaba (11th) v Singleton Strikers (6th)
Last Time They Met: Singleton Strikers 3-2 Toronto-Awaba
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Like 1st grade, this game has no finals spots riding on the result but Toronto-Awaba still have a wooden spoon that they can avoid by potentially winning either this or their next game against Kahibah. This one looms as more 'winnable' against a Singleton side that is out of finals contention after a disappointing loss to Kahibah last week, albeit with a depleted line-up.

Toronto-Awaba drew with Thornton last week but would no doubt have believed that they perhaps should have left with three points. They'll go into this game in full knowledge that it is the best chance to avoid the wooden spoon and why not grab a big win on the club's Old Boy's Day?

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 2-1 Singleton Strikers

Singleton 19's will be aiming for a solid win over Toronto-Awaba.
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Under 17's:
Toronto-Awaba (6th) v Singleton Strikers (9th)
Last Time They Met: Singleton Strikers 1-1 Toronto-Awaba
Kickoff: 9:15am

Another dead-rubber but there's more to it than that. Toronto-Awaba will be looking to avenge a frustrating 1-1 draw and impress the crowd on the club's Old Boy's Day and final home game of the season. The 17's were the club's best side this season but consistency fell away and they fell out of contention for the finals. Planning for next year will be already underway with plenty of talent in this squad.

Singleton's 17's have had the same sort of patchy form, although admittingly a lot more patchier than Toronto. The Strikers have never got going in 2016 despite some impressive victories. They lack an out and out 'leading goalscorer' striker like a Knight or McRitchie (as do Toronto) and it's proven costly. Trae Proudlock has ten goals compared to the next best, a couple of teammates on 3 goals.

Toronto's win last week against Thornton was a decent one whilst Singleton had one or two key lapses in a decent display against Kahibah that saw them go down 2-0. Singleton's form lately hasn't been the best and the challenge will be tough against a Stags side looking to win their last home game of the year.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 3-1 Singleton Strikers

Toronto 17's have remained committed through a frustrating season at times.


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1st Grade Match of the Round:
Wallsend F.C (4th) v Kahibah F.C (3rd)
Last Time They Met: Kahibah F.C 3-1 Wallsend F.C
Kickoff: 2:30pm

You could call this a finals warm-up or indeed a finals preview but the only way these sides will meet in the playoffs is if they meet on Grand Final day. It's something both sides will no doubt be aiming for. Apart from that, there's not too much riding on this in terms of table positions. Kahibah will look to finish 2nd and get a home semi final in the 2nd week of the playoffs but Wallsend are locked to 4th regardless.

Confidence and form is the key thing to take in mind here. The two sides will be looking to hit their best form at the pointy end of the season and for an all top-four clash with two weeks to go, it comes at a good time for both sides. Wallsend are coming off a win over South Cardiff whilst Kahibah went down in a poor showing against Singleton.

In player news, Kyle Macorig is out for Wallsend as a result of picking up too many yellows and there's several players from both sides who'll be walking a fine line with card accumulation causing a slight headache for both camps. No team will want to lose players going into the Semi Finals. Kahibah's hopes are boosted by the inclusions of the ever reliable duo of Andrew Darr and Ash Illfield. It's a big time clash between two sides heading for finals. Expect a tight affair at The Gardens.

My Tip: Wallsend F.C 1-2 Kahibah F.C

Wallsend's Tega Marcus grabbed a winning goal last week and had his birthday during the week.
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Under 23's Match of the Round:
Wallsend F.C (7th) v Kahibah F.C (5th)
Last Time They Met: Kahibah F.C 1-1 Wallsend F.C
Kickoff: 12:45pm

It's shaping as an elimination finals-like game in the 23's this weekend. Wallsend are in a more dire situation than Kahibah but indeed neither side will like their chances of making the finals without three points on Sunday. 

Wallsend's frustrating draw with South Cardiff left them four points outside the top four and their chances look very slim. Southy will need to lose both remaining games and Wallsend win at least one and draw the other. It's not impossible as Southy have two tough fixtures. Wallsend need to win this game though. There's no second-chances after this for a team that have shown they have the ability on the day.

Kahibah's lengthy unbeaten run came to a screeching end at Singleton last weekend and sitting three points outside the top four, a win here and a loss for South Cardiff could throw them up into a playoff spot. They'll need to produce a quality effort to down an equally hungry Wallsend outfit.

1-1 was the score when these sides met last and on that day, Wallsend's Trent Richards bagged a goal as did Kahibah's Jez Turner. Going into this week's match, they're locked on 13 goals each in the race for the Golden Boot so today's fixture could be integral in deciding it. You could flip a coin and pick a winner it's that tight.

My Tip: Wallsend F.C 1-2 Kahibah F.C 

Lachlan Hopton celebrating a goal v Thornton Redbacks
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Under 19's:
Wallsend F.C (8th) v Kahibah F.C (3rd)
Last Time They Met: Kahibah F.C 2-0 Wallsend F.C
Kickoff: 11:00am

After a gallant effort against South Cardiff last weekend, Wallsend F.C will be looking for a win in the Under 19's as they take the field for their final home game of the season. Jake Sullivan gave them an early lead but it wasn't to be as they went down fighting to a Southy side still in finals contention.

Kahibah's come from behind win over Singleton practically assured them a spot in the Semi Finals but they can mathematically seal it with a point or three here and no doubt, form will be key as they look to beat either Lakes or Belswans in the Semi Final series. Confidence is needed for those games and they could continue building it here.

When these sides met earlier in the year, Kahibah came out 2-0 winners and they'll enter this game as favourites not just as the higher-ranked side but with the slightly better form. Wallsend won't be no easy beats so it will be an interesting clash nonetheless. 

My Tip: Wallsend F.C 1-3 Kahibah F.C

Harry Wills looking delighting to be in the presence of two quality coaches (Birleson & Moncrieff) 
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Under 17's Match of the Round:
Wallsend F.C (3rd) v Kahibah F.C (4th)
Last Time They Met: Kahibah F.C 1-3 Wallsend F.C
Kickoff: 9:15am

What a match this could turn out to be in the Under 17's. Wallsend F.C have grown used to the big game feelings throughout the year. Their clash with West Wallsend at The Gardens not that long ago had a finals-like feel to it and this one will no doubt be similar as they look to cement a spot in the finals with a win over Kahibah. Their 4-0 win over Southy last week was as good a team performance as you'll see in this competition.

Kahibah F.C are going to bring absolutely everything they have to the table as they look to go a huge way towards cementing an unexpected finals spot. Cooks Hill's faults as of late has opened the door and Kahibah have entered the top four after the latest of late wins over Thornton two weeks ago and a solid effort away to Singleton last week.

Wallsend were 3-1 winners when these sides met in Round 11. Jacob Rae, Baraka Birindwa and Dan Strazzari all scored for the Red Devils as they wrapped up the three points. They'll likely be without rock solid defender Jackson Manning after he suffered a late injury in the 23's at South Cardiff. Still, Wallsend will enter this game with confidence after a very solid performance last weekend. Anything could happen with finals hanging in the balance for Kahibah.

My Tip: Wallsend F.C 3-2 Kahibah F.C

Angus Hall and the Wallsend 17's were winners at South Cardiff last weekend.
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1st Grade:
Cessnock City (11th) v West Wallsend SFC (6th)
Last Time They Met: West Wallsend 6-1 Cessnock City
Kickoff: 2:30pm

This was one of the poorer games I've seen this season when they clashed in Round 10. Cessnock brought nothing to the table that day as they were downed 6-1 in fairly convincing fashion. They'll likely bring more than that this time round although last weekend's 8-1 loss to Lakes won't fill them with confidence. That was Lakes though and this is a Westy side struggling to get form together.

The Bluebells will again have a squad that is chopped and changed. Tye Jones returned from a four-week referee abuse ban just to be given a yellow ten minutes in and receive another ban as a result. Captain Michael Baillie will miss the final game of the year as he too is suspended. The side had a virus go through it mid-week and goalkeeper Tyler Warren was out for the 3-0 loss to Belswans. Valid excuses aside, they were outplayed in that one.

On current form, I'd tip Westy to travel out to Cessnock and grab a win but the fact that it's Cessnock City's Old Boy's Day is enough for me to swing my decision. The Hornets don't joke around when it comes to firing up in front of big crowds and they'll be fighting tooth and nail to win this. Anything but a win will seal the wooden spoon and it'd be awful timing for it on Old Boy's Day.

My Tip: Cessnock City 3-1 West Wallsend

Tyler Warren will be back between the sticks for West Wallsend on Sunday.
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Under 23's
Cessnock City (9th) v West Wallsend SFC (10th)
Last Time They Met: West Wallsend 4-1 Cessnock City
Kickoff: 12:45pm

It's yet another lower-table dead-rubber that doesn't exactly jump out as a must-see fixture. Indeed this might turn a tad ugly between two sides that like the physical side of the game on their day. Cessnock's last home game and on Old Boy's Day will see the likes of David 'Skip' O'Hearn and goalkeeper Shannon Attewell doing all they can to give the vocal supporters a bit to cheer.

To put it in simple terms, this game is destined to be a Hornets' victory. They held the premiers Lakes to a 0-0 draw at Macquarie Field. Not the most convincing form but looking at their opponents, it shapes as a lot better form. 

Westy were downed and outplayed by Cooks Hill last week in the 23's but their performance against Belswans mid-week was shambolic at times. They entered that game with the wrong formation, the wrong mindset and were swept all over the floor by a ruthless Belswans side. Cessnock don't have the class to score eight but they'll win this if they show up.

My Tip: Cessnock City 3-1 West Wallsend

Brodie Egan (a.k.a 'Wee-Man') could be key for the Hornets midfield.
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Under 19's
Cessnock City (10th) v West Wallsend SFC (4th)
Last Time They Met: West Wallsend 7-0 Cessnock City
Kickoff: 11:00am

Cessnock City are continuously looking over their shoulders at Toronto-Awaba in last-place and came very close to falling to the foot of the table last week; only saved by the Redbacks drawing 2-2 with Toronto. 

They'll go into this with some confidence after almost getting a result against Lakes last weekend in very difficult circumstances. Goalkeeper Brayden Bean was collected heavily and suffered a nasty facial knock as a result. The game was delayed for a while and no doubt affecting the flow and the mindset for the Hornets seeing their teammate carted off to hospital.

Horror show would be a nice way to describe the last time these sides met. Westy were ruthless in a 7-0 win and Cessnock lost another player to a long-term injury that day as Justin Bradley suffered a knee injury. Westy drew former leaders Belswans mid-week and have confidence going into this match. Thier style is improved and they'll more than likely grab the points here to seal a finals spot. A loss could see them forced to wait until next week's bye to watch what South Cardiff can do.

My Tip: Cessnock City 1-4 West Wallsend

Jayden Arriguetti has been a standout this season in a lower-table Cessnock squad.
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Under 17's
Cessnock City (10th) v West Wallsend SFC (2nd)
Last Time They Met: West Wallsend 4-0 Cessnock City
Kickoff: 9:15am

This is one of the biggest matches of the season for West Wallsend in the 17's as they look to take top spot and hand the pressure over to Lakes in the race for the premiership. Form is coming together for the young Bluebells and after a nervy win over Cooks Hill, they were solid in a mid-week win over Belswans.

Cessnock City have strangely got better form on the road than they do at home. Their last three home games have seen them ship 19 goals whilst scoring 4 in reply. Last weekend they kept league-leaders Lakes to a highly respectable 2-1 scoreline. It's patchy form for the Hornets but if they show up they could certainly trouble the Westy side.

This West Wallsend side have a knack for outclassing lower-ranked opposition and with goalscorers coming from all over the park, it could be a long morning if Cessnock struggle to get into it. Jaryd Hayter will be out for Westy but there's more than enough class to field the void. During the week, Josh Knight took his total to 25 goals and was joined on the scorers' sheet by the in-form Khye Drayton and fullback Jarrod Crawford. Westy to win this one.

My Tip: Cessnock City 1-4 West Wallsend

Khye Drayton's goal was crucial in the win over Cooks Hill last weekend.
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1st Grade:
South Cardiff (9th) v Belmont-Swansea United (2nd)
Last Time They Met: Belmont-Swansea 3-1 South Cardiff
Kickoff: 2:30pm

South Cardiff's performance against Wallsend was decent last weekend but they were beaten late by a Tega Marcus goal. Andrew Packer's side will be looking for a win in their final game of the season at Ulinga Park. There's a solid youthful look to this Southy side and they'll be a side to watch next season. Whether they can get a result either this week against 2nd-placed Belswans or next week against premiers Lakes is the question.

Belmont-Swansea's mid-week 3-0 win over West Wallsend followed up from a win over Cessnock to the tune of the same scoreline a week before. They're hitting some consistent form and coach Brad Paul is looking for his side to finish inside the top two and grab a home Semi Final in the 2nd week of the playoffs.

Two long term outs could return this weekend. Club captain Joel Shearer was expected to miss the rest of the year but may make a brilliant return just before finals and rumour has it that Fletcher Price could feature this weekend after returning early from an overseas adventure.

The signing of a coach Belswans had chased a couple of years ago in Josh Rufo would have spirits high at the club and the dawn of a new era in 2017 will have players excited. This era though has been a quality one and they could very well break a 30 year championship drought. That's still a while off but this side have the quality to overcome a mid-table Southy side.

My Tip: South Cardiff 1-3 Belmont-Swansea

Nicholas Pepper has been a handy mid-season addition to the Southy squad.
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Under 23's:
South Cardiff (4th) v Belmont-Swansea United (2nd)
Last Time They Met: Belmont-Swansea 1-0 South Cardiff
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Just like the earlier 19's fixture, there is a lot riding on this result in terms of the race for finals. Belmont-Swansea's ruthless six goal smashing of West Wallsend put them in an almost unassailable goal differential meaning even if they lose their last two, they'll still likely sneak into the finals. 

This game is much, much more important for South Cardiff. For a while they were the second most consistent side in the comp behind Lakes but they've fallen away a tad. Last week's scoreless draw with Wallsend was frustrating to say the least and now the likes of Kahibah, Singleton and indeed Wallsend are chasing them down.

A poorer goal difference than Kahibah could still prove very costly. Even if the Gunners win this; a win for Kahibah v Wallsend will take the fight for fourth to the final week. Still, they've got Lakes next week and in my mind they must win either this one or that game next week to make the finals.

The problem for Southy is that Belswans look in brilliant form and came back from the bye weekend with a highly convincing 8-2 scoreline against lowly West Wallsend. The likes of Luke Lethbridge and Will McMaster took advantages of a poor Westy side. They won't find it as easy against this Southy side but Belswans look a team to beat at the moment.

My Tip: South Cardiff 1-3 Belmont-Swansea

Belswans 23's picked up a big midweek win over West Wallsend.
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Under 19's Match of the Round:
South Cardiff (5th) v Belmont-Swansea United (2nd)
Last Time They Met: Belmont-Swansea 2-1 South Cardiff
Kickoff: 11:00am

It's got to the pointy end of the season and the Match of the Round in the Under 19's sees a desperate South Cardiff side looking to knock off a premiership-chasing Belswans side. Finals hopes on the line, premierships on the line, this is going to be some game at Ulinga Oval.

Southy's resolve to come back against Wallsend echoed what that side is all about. Never giving up hope until the very end and now they sit on the verge of a brilliant entry to the top four at the right end of the year. If they somehow sneak it, they'll need a result here and/or next week v Lakes although more likely both games. It's a huge ask.

Belmont-Swansea's midweek draw with West Wallsend was frustrating for Dale Robertson's side as the likes of Nicholson and Dundas failed to fire in a tight second half. South Cardiff will play a huge part in Belswans' title hopes. The Swans need to beat Southy and win next week v Wallsend as well as hope Southy down Lakes. It'd be a miracle turn of events at this point.

South Cardiff having the home ground advantage plays into their favour and they'll be going out there with the best lineup possible on the day and attacking in mind. It was a tight affair when they travelled out to Blacksmiths and it'll likely be the same here. 

It's not up front where Joel Nicholson and James Wootton will look to do damage where this one will be won or lost. It's further back. Defensive lines and goalkeepers will be tested and that is where it could very well be decided. Belswans will likely be firing but there's something about this Southy side I like...a steely resolve.

My Tip: South Cardiff 2-1 Belmont-Swansea

Liam Parkinson in action last weekend v Wallsend F.C
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Under 17's:
South Cardiff (8th) v Belmont-Swansea United (7th)
Last Time They Met: Belmont-Swansea 1-2 South Cardiff
Kickoff: 9:15am

Two sides' who have had nearly the exact same script play out in 2016 will meet on Sunday morning. South Cardiff and Belswans are almost equal on points and have had similar fortunes throughout the year; inconsistency plaguing any real hope of making the finals. Both sides are young and will come out of this season better for the experience.

You could write off this clash as a typical late-season dead-rubber but some quality players will go head-to-head. Lucas Emmett-Mourlet and Boniface Horihoze will trouble the Belswans' defenders and Lachlan McMaster will be looking to score his fourth goal in less than a week. Belswans travel to Ulinga with hope of avenging a home loss when they met in Round 10.

Southy put in a decent effort last week against Wallsend whilst Belswans couldn't keep up the form that saw them down Cessnock 4-0 as they were outplayed by West Wallsend during the week. As a result, I'm going to follow the home ground advantage and tip Southy to jump the visitors into 7th place.

My Tip: South Cardiff 2-1 Belmont-Swansea

Jacob Winzar and the Belswans 17's will be seeking a return to winning form.
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Friday, 22 July 2016

PREVIEW: New-FM 1st Division Round 20


1st Grade:
West Wallsend SFC (6th) v Cooks Hill United (9th)
Last Time They Met: Cooks Hill United 1-1 West Wallsend
Kickoff: 4:00pm

It wasn't all that long ago that both of these sides were in finals contention. Westy more so than Cooks Hill but both sides have fell to a disappointing mid-table and in Cooks Hill case potentially lower-table finish. Westy have been quality at times but poor at others and Cooks Hill have been consistently outdone at times during the season.

Old Boy's Day at Wembley will no doubt provide entertainment off the field; more so on the hill where the local die-hards and legends of yesteryear will congregate and cheer the mighty Bluebells on. On the field it could be a different story with big names like Jarrod Olivieri, Tye Jones, Ryan Cole and Bryson Cox all out. It makes it hard for Gary Rowe's side without that quality and there's no glossing over that.

Cooks Hill United took to the field last week without former head coach Blake Glennie leading them and they certainly put in a decent enough effort against Lake Macquarie City. Captain-coach Mal Hinchliffe got on the scoresheet with a penalty but again they fell to a defeat. Now is a chance to get some end of season form and finish strong with an eye to next year.

The likes of youngsters Asher Beasley, Ty Cousins and Jared Neale are all surely to be included in the matchday squad if available and some others may be thrown into the top grade with the season all but over. Some players may drop back to 23's to fulfill finals eligibility so it'll be interesting to see who takes the park for the Cookers.

Westy have the home ground advantage and it's Old Boy's Day which always plays a part...although Cooks Hill's Old Boy's Day proved that the home side don't always get the points. Having several key names out will make this a tough ask for Westy.

My Tip: West Wallsend 1-2 Cooks Hill United

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Under 23's:
West Wallsend SFC (10th) v Cooks Hill United (2nd)
Last Time They Met: Cooks Hill United 3-3 West Wallsend
Kickoff: 2:15pm

With a 2-2 draw against Toronto-Awaba last weekend, West Wallsend secured their place away from a potential wooden spoon. That result though, a draw with the lowest-ranked side in the competition doesn't give them too much confidence going into a match with a Cooks Hill side keen to build towards finals.

Cooks Hill United's effort against Lake Macquarie City was decent last weekend and they'd go down fighting against the minor premiers in a 1-0 defeat. If the first meeting between these sides in 2016 is anything to go by, it'll certainly be an interesting match-up to say the very least. Cooks Hill were frustrated in a thrilling 3-3 draw back in Round 9. Jackson Couper bagged a hat-trick that day for Westy.

Cooks Hill are likely heading for finals football but whether they do it with some confidence-building wins and finish 2nd is the question. The last thing they'd want is to finish 4th and face Lakes in the Semi Final. There's three games remaining to build some form going into the finals and it could all start tomorrow.

My Tip: West Wallsend 0-2 Cooks Hill United

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Under 19's:
West Wallsend SFC (4th) v Cooks Hill United (7th)
Last Time They Met: Cooks Hill United 1-2 West Wallsend
Kickoff: 12:30pm

It's becoming do or die time for West Wallsend in the Under 19's. Last week's 3-0 win over Toronto-Awaba allowed them to take a step back into form and towards finals and this is a chance to record a big three points. A win here would keep them clear of 5th-placed South Cardiff and give them confidence ahead of a mid-week potential finals preview against Belswans.

Cooks Hill United fell to Lake Macquarie City last weekend and whilst it was a decent effort, it continued a run of poor form that has seen them fall away from finals contention and sit currently in 7th. West Wallsend won the first meeting between these sides and considering the circumstances, they'll go into this as the favourites to win again.

My Tip: West Wallsend 3-1 Cooks Hill United

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Under 17's Match of the Round:
West Wallsend SFC (2nd) v Cooks Hill United (4th)
Last Time They Met: Cooks Hill United 0-1 West Wallsend
Kickoff: 10:45am

The question needs to be asked. Can Cooks Hill's 17's beat one of the top two sides. After two cracks at Lakes (the first much better than the second) and one at Westy, the Cookers go into this game knowing that their finals hopes could take a huge hit if they fail to win. Kahibah F.C are right behind them and face an inconsistent Singleton side. A +34 goal difference means little when there's a one point gap between 4th and 5th.

West Wallsend's still well alive in the race for the premiership and they've got this game as well as the re-scheduled wash-out fixture v Belswans to try and make ground on Lakes. With Lakes having Cessnock, a bye and then South Cardiff, it's doubtful Westy will get the chance to take the silverware but they'll need to stick to winning to remain any hope nonetheless.

Westy's 4-1 victory over Toronto-Awaba proved that the side are championship contenders and downing Cooks Hill will mean they've beaten Wallsend twice and the Cookers twice as well as Kahibah twice; something that'll have them confident ahead of the Semi Finals.

My Tip: West Wallsend 3-1 Cooks Hill United

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1st Grade:
Singleton Strikers (8th) v Kahibah F.C (2nd)
Last Time They Met: Kahibah F.C 3-2 Singleton
Kickoff: 2:30pm

Singleton's finals hopes took a huge dent on their trip to Kahibah Oval in Round 9. A late comeback saw them draw level only to have Andre Gumprecht of all people to score from 40 yards or so and hand Kahibah the most dramatic victory of the season. David Willoughby's post match spray could be heard from Charlestown Square. Singleton will remember that day and they'll want to gain some revenge for it.

Kahibah's win over Thornton last weekend saw them jump into 2nd although Belswans have an extra game in hand. They'll still believe they're a chance for the minor premiership but they'll need to win and win big in one of their three remaining games. Building team confidence in their playing style ahead of the finals has to be of the utmost importance.

Whilst Singleton will be looking at giving some younger players a chance and building towards the future, Kahibah are still well alive for some silverware, more likely the championship rather than the minor premiership. Andre Gumprecht and his support staff have been trying and testing various formations, playing tactics and indeed player positions as of late. Kahibah are shaping to hit peak form at the right time and a win here wouldn't be surprise.

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

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Under 23's
Singleton Strikers (7th) v Kahibah F.C (5th)
Last Time They Met: Kahibah F.C 5-0 Singleton
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Singleton's finals hopes came back to life last weekend with their 2-1 victory away from home against Wallsend F.C. Tom Hume's double ensured that the Strikers' 23's are still in the hunt for the top four. This game though shapes as must-win as they host the in-form Kahibah F.C

The Kahibah 23's are unbeaten in their last twelve games and last weekend put the defending champs Thornton to the sword with a 4-1 victory, all but ending the hopes of the 2015 Grand Final winners repeating that feat. 

Reuben Ryan's second-half double played a big part in that Kahibah win. Ironically he also scored a goal when these sides last met; a convincing 5-0 victory for Kahibah. For Singleton, it's win or go home. Looking at the table though it's a highly crucial match for both sides. Kahibah can keep that dream run going and jump into the four with a win.

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

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Under 19's
Singleton Strikers (6th) v Kahibah F.C (3rd)
Last Time They Met: Kahibah F.C 5-1 Singleton
Kickoff: 11:00am

Singleton's 19's fell to one of their worst losses of the season when they travelled to Kahibah in Round 9. They led 1-0 through routine scorer Nathan Hall but it simply wasn't their day. They were smashed late on by a ruthless Kahibah side and they'll be looking to avoid similar when they meet on Sunday. Singo's finals hopes are all but over but they can certainly through a cog into Kahibah's chances.

Kahibah's 5-3 victory over Thornton last week saw them tested but survive said test against the Redbacks. Scoring a few goals and not being overly reliant on a lone player up front would have helped a side that have been looking for goalscoring answers in recent times. Bailey Chaplain's return to the squad will add some firepower as well so it seems to be coming together for Kahibah.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 2-4 Kahibah F.C

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Under 17's
Singleton Strikers (9th) v Kahibah F.C (5th)
Last Time They Met: Kahibah F.C 2-0 Singleton
Kickoff: 9:15am

This is it for Kahibah F.C in the Under 17's. This is the first of two make or break games in the race for finals. In my honest opinion, this game is more important than next week's trip to Wallsend. Cooks Hill facing Westy could see the Cookers drop points and open up fourth spot for Kahibah's taking. That's a more likely route to finals than downing Wallsend and hoping goal difference plays its part.

Singleton Strikers went down 4-1 to Wallsend last week despite being level at half-time thanks to a goal and a quality first-half showing by Hamish Mayled. It's not as though they have nothing to play for though as they could shape the top four with their last two home games, Kahibah this week and Cooks Hill in a fortnight's time.

When these sides met in Round 9, it was a wet and wild game at Kahibah Oval. An early penalty saw Kahibah go ahead and never look back as they won 2-0. Singleton can't afford to give away an early start as they did in their last home game, a 5-0 loss to West Wallsend. They'll be aiming for a big win but it's a hugely important match for the visitors.

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

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1st Grade:
Lake Macquarie City FC (1st) v Cessnock City (11th)
Last Time They Met: Cessnock City 1-6 Lake Mac. City
Kickoff: 2:30pm

It's 1st v last and it's certainly been the case that last doesn't always lose. Results like Toronto beating Belswans and indeed Cessnock's incredible away win over the same opponent proves that the underdogs can snag a result in this competition. It's a huge ask on Sunday though as Lakes look to put one firm hand on the premiership trophy.

Cessnock City fell 3-0 to Belmont-Swansea last weekend and away from home at Macquarie Field where so many teams have met a gloomy ending is not an easy ask. Doing it without key defender Anthony Bower is also not playing into their favour.

When these sides met in Round 9, Lakes completed a smash-and-grab style victory at Turner Park as they won 6-1 and left Stephen Thomson's side wondering just how it went so wrong on home turf. Cessnock have improved since then but it's a huge ask on Sunday. Lakes won't be complacent this close to finals.

My Tip: Lake Macquarie City 4-1 Cessnock City

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Under 23's
Lake Macquarie City FC (1st) v Cessnock City (9th)
Last Time They Met: Lake Mac. City 2-2 Cessnock City
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Lake Macquarie City wrapped up the premiership race with two games to spare but it would be silly to think they're not going to take the field with all intentions of putting Cessnock to the sword. The Roosters' could be excused for getting complacent but now is a better time than ever to stick to winning and keep the wheels rolling ahead of the Semi Finals.

Cessnock City's 3-0 loss to Belmont-Swansea last week killed off any small hope of them making the finals and after doing so last season, there'll be no doubt disappointment they couldn't repeat that in 2016. They're one of few sides to take points off of this Lakes side; a 2-2 draw in the first meeting.

Lakes will probably focus on that frustrating 2-2 result and aim to better that this time. The minor premiers will be looking to flex their muscles ahead of next week's bye.

My Tip: Lake Macquarie City 4-0 Cessnock City

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Under 19's
Lake Macquarie City FC (1st) v Cessnock City (10th)
Last Time They Met: Cessnock City 0-5 Lake Mac. City
Kickoff: 12:45pm

It seems academic that Lakes will get the win here. When they met Cessnock in Round 9, they were comfortable 5-0 winners and they're a better side now then they were back then and not to mention there's the small case of the premiership race to deal with. They can't afford to drop points and considering Cessnock's recent form it seems as though it'll be easy doing.

Cessnock though need some credit as they were undermanned and played with pride against Belswans last weekend. They aren't a side to take likely and if Lakes get complacent they could very well get punished. The Roosters' are the league-leaders for a reason and at home they should be too strong for the visiting Hornets.

My Tip: Lake Macquarie City 4-2 Cessnock City

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Under 17's
Lake Macquarie City FC (1st) v Cessnock City (10th)
Last Time They Met: Cessnock City 1-4 Lake Mac. City
Kickoff: 9:15am

This is a game where Lakes can put one hand on their first piece of silverware for the season in the form of the minor premiership. Their win over Cooks Hill last week reminded the chasing pack that they are the competition frontrunners and with just one more game after this one, it's a key fixture in the premiership race for the young Roosters.

Cessnock City should provide a decent opponent but on recent form they'll struggle to match it. A 4-0 loss to mid-table Belmont-Swansea last weekend wasn't pretty and it doesn't exactly give reasons why this side will knock off the ladder-leaders. 

Last time they met, Lakes scored two late goals to see off the challenge but I feel at this stage of the season, one team is heading north and one heading south. Lakes know that any slip-up here could cost them the premiership. Kurtis McRitchie will be one to watch as he looks to hunt down Sam Walker for the club's Golden Boot. This is no one-man team though. Goals can and probably will come from all angles.

My Tip: Lake Macquarie City 5-1 Cessnock City

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1st Grade:
Thornton Redbacks (5th) v Toronto-Awaba (10th)
Last Time They Met: Toronto-Awaba 2-6 Thornton Redbacks
Kickoff: 2:30pm

Only a madman would put money on Thornton making the top four now after last week's loss to Kahibah. They'll need to win all three remaining games, hope Wallsend lose all three and hope to catch them on goal difference. Mathematically anything is possible but at this point it's game over for the Redbacks. They simply haven't been consistent enough to get into the top four and they're only as close as they are due to Wallsend's docked points.

Toronto-Awaba have in my mind completed the job that they would have set mid-season and avoided the wooden spoon (although a late surge from Cessnock could change that). They sat dead last and in absolute shambles at times but back-to-back wins over Belswans and Cooks Hill threw them above Cessnock City.

It's an interesting case at Toronto as they look at younger players to build for next season although they'll highly likely have to find a new coach as Tony Jovcevski is tipped to be moving on at the end of the season. The local feeling at Toronto is strong and if you're ever going to finish 10th and struggle, you'd rather do it with young up and coming locals than a bunch of has-beens or never-will-be's.

As for a result, Thornton I believe will grab the win here in front of their home supporters. They are a tough side to beat up there.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 3-1 Toronto-Awaba

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Under 23's
Thornton Redbacks (8th) v Toronto-Awaba (11th)
Last Time They Met: Toronto-Awaba 1-2 Thornton Redbacks
Kickoff: 12:45pm

This is one of those hard to write about late-season games between two sides that could and probably should have done better this season. It can definitely be said for the defending champions Thornton who saw their finals hopes come to a bitter end at Kahibah last weekend; the same venue that they won at last year to set-up a run that took them all the way to the trophy.

Toronto-Awaba's season will go down in the history books for all the wrong reasons as they look destined to finish with the lowest points tally in this grade since 2012 when a poor Singleton side won in Round 1 and then went 20 games without a victory. The Stags will look for some late season form to avoid finishing with the lowest points total of any New-FM side this season.

When these sides last met, it was yet again a case of so close but so far for Toronto as often has been the case this season. They went down 2-1 with a late consolation goal meaning little in the end. It's a toss of a coin to figure out what might happen on Sunday between two sides out of finals contention. One would think Thornton will be eager to bounce back and finish the season strong.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 3-1 Toronto-Awaba

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Under 19's
Thornton Redbacks (9th) v Toronto-Awaba (11th)
Last Time They Met: Toronto-Awaba 2-6 Thornton Redbacks
Kickoff: 11:00am

These sides produced a high-scoring affair although a sombre one for Toronto when they met in Round 9. Thornton were too good on the day and rocketed to a 6-2 victory. A hat-trick to Jack Halverson was helpful in the Redbacks getting the points and the attacker is locked in a battle with 17's and indeed occassional 19's goalscorer Josh Davies for the Golden Boot at Thornton Park.

Toronto-Awaba look destined for the spoon and picked up another loss last weekend although it was one that wasn't felt at all as the game was abandoned due to a very serious and worrying moment as Will Stevenson collapsed on return to the ground for the 2nd half. 

Stevenson has since had tests to determine the problem but it could have been a lot worse if not for the amazing work by Toronto's physio, the coaching staff and some other helpful individuals at the ground. The tributes and kind well wishes from those at Toronto proves the club's family-like mentality and this game will be played with Stevenson in mind. And when there's something like that driving the team on then anything is possible. This'll be potentially the match of the day at Thornton Park.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 4-2 Toronto-Awaba

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Under 17's
Thornton Redbacks (11th) v Toronto-Awaba (6th)
Last Time They Met: Toronto-Awaba 2-2 Thornton Redbacks
Kickoff: 9:15am

It's go time for Thornton as they look to avoid a second-straight Under 17's Wooden Spoon. With a last-round home game against struggling Cessnock City looming, they'll have this game marked on the fixture list as a must-win. It's unlikely they'll get a win at Cooks Hill next week so this in my opinion is win or receive the wooden spoon.

Toronto-Awaba's season started brightly but has took an ever-trending turn for the worst and one of the results that frustrated them and cost them big time was a 2-2 draw with you guessed it...the Thornton Redbacks. Luke Gibbons rescued a point on that day for the Stags. They'll be looking for all three here.

Thornton's effort against Kahibah last week was gallant and they seemed destined for a draw before the latest of late winners by Kahibah. I've seen this side go down in tight disappointing fashion a few times and I think this week will be a turn for the better. Players like Josh Davies, Aden Hesketh and James Cooper will be aiming to impress. Davies is the pick of the bunch and hit the post multiple times last week (as well as scoring two). Could it be different this time round?

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 2-1 Toronto-Awaba

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
2nd Leg of 'The Gallagher Shield'
South Cardiff (7th) v Wallsend F.C (4th)
Last Time They Met: Wallsend F.C 1-1 South Cardiff
Kickoff: 2:30pm

It doesn't have any appeal in the race for finals as Southy are out and Wallsend are, apart from a hugely shocking fall from grace destined to make the playoffs. What is on the line is the Gallagher Shield after a 1-1 draw in the earlier match this season. Credit to both sides for honouring someone who both clubs admired. 

Wallsend will likely be wearing their purple Brain Cancer Awareness strip so Newysports has gone with the purple heading and will indeed bring a donated Wallsend purple jersey to hang proudly near wherever we set our equipment up at Ulinga Oval. Hopefully with a Southy shirt to hang next it as well.

Apart from that, there's also smaller storylines in this one like Winstone Oku being against his old side. It's deserving of its status as 'Match of the Round' and will hopefully be an entertaining match-up between the two sides. It might not be that open as Wallsend have prefered the grind-out style and low-scoring matches this season.

Southy will likely look to try out some new styles and employ a high-attacking brand as they look to end the season with some form. They'll like their chances but Wallsend is a team that very rarely lose to teams below them on the table. Their last away trip (a loss to Cessnock) proves otherwise so you never know.

My Tip: South Cardiff 1-2 Wallsend F.C

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Under 23's Match of the Round:
South Cardiff (4th) v Wallsend F.C (6th)
Last Time They Met: Wallsend F.C 2-1 South Cardiff
Kickoff: 12:45pm

This is shaping as one of the key matches of the season in the Under 23's competition. After weeks and weeks of draws and multiple teams coming and going in the race for finals football it's come down to this for Wallsend F.C. It's must-win football as a loss will all but rule them out of finals contention and that result isn't acceptable for a side that have shown brilliance at times but inconsistency at most other times.

South Cardiff will be eyeing off second-place and the chance to have the crucial first crack at away goals in the Semi Finals. Unlike Wallsend, a loss wouldn't end Southy's season but it would see them possibly out of the top four and into a whole lot of trouble with Kahibah and indeed Wallsend chasing them down.

When they met in Round 9, Wallsend F.C held on for a nervy 2-1 victory. Form shows Southy are a better side at home in the 23's and their last result, a 4-1 victory over Thornton away from home will have them confident of winning this one. This could turn out to be the game of the day at Ulinga.

My Tip: South Cardiff 3-2 Wallsend F.C

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Under 19's
South Cardiff (5th) v Wallsend F.C (8th)
Last Time They Met: Wallsend F.C 2-1 South Cardiff
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Unlike a few games this weekend, this one still has plenty of finals implication written into it. This is essentially do or die for South Cardiff's 19's in the race for finals football. They've got Belswans and Lakes to finish out the season so if they don't win this game then their chances are over in my honest opinion. A win here and some luck at other fixtures might open the door a little.

Wallsend F.C will provide no easy opponent as they definitely are a challenge on their day and they ruled Singleton out of finals contention with a come from behind 2-1 win at The Gardens last weekend. They won at the same venue by the same score when South Cardiff visited in Round 9.

I'm positive you'll see a Southy side full of energy and willing to win due to their finals hopes being on the line. They've won three straight and when you take in form on top of that, four of their last five have been wins and they haven't lost in two months. This week is a crucial game and then the last two games will see their resolve tested big time. It all starts here though. It's a must-win game against tricky opposition.

My Tip: South Cardiff 2-1 Wallsend F.C

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Under 17's
South Cardiff (8th) v Wallsend F.C (3rd)
Last Time They Met: Wallsend F.C 5-0 South Cardiff
Kickoff: 9:15am

South Cardiff's Under 17's team were reduced to ten men earlier and soundly beaten the last time they met Wallsend F.C. 5-0 was the biggest loss of the season for the young Gunners and revenge will be on the cards as they look to do damage to Wallsend's chances of finishing in 3rd position. And confidence will be high after a solid win over Thornton two weeks ago.

Wallsend F.C picked up a convincing win over Singleton last weekend and a win here will go a long way towards securing finals football. Considering Southy sit in a similar position to Singleton, the Red Devils will be fairly confident of recording yet another victory.

One player to watch will be Wallsend's Juma Saidi. He scored twice in the 4-1 win over Singleton last weekend and grabbed a hat-trick against South Cardiff back in Round 9. Southy have shown some resilience in recent weeks and are capable of getting a result. It's a tough ask though against a quality Wallsend side.

My Tip: South Cardiff 1-3 Wallsend F.C

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