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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