Wednesday, 17 August 2016

PREVIEW: New-FM 1st Division Semi Finals-2nd Leg

Under 17's:
West Wallsend (2nd) v Wallsend F.C (3rd)
Kickoff: 9:00am
2016 Meetings: WWB 2-0 WAL & WAL 3-5 WWB
Last Week: Wallsend F.C 0-3 West Wallsend

1st Leg Review: These two sides played two hotly-contested matches during the regular season and it was more of the same at Kahibah Oval last weekend. West Wallsend however came away big winners and put on one of their best team displays of the season

Khye Drayton scored early on before fullback Jack Blomfield grabbed a delightful goal from range. Their victory was sealed with a towering header by captain Callum Melville. A Man of the Match display from Melville helped lead from the back in what was a true team performance.

Preview: At 3-0 down on away goals, the young Red Devils find themselves with the biggest test of any Semi Final side following the 1st leg. There's no doubting they've got classy attackers that can help turn it around but it's a mammoth test against a steely West Wallsend defensive line and the ever-reliable Josh Snedden in goals.

Wallsend can take some comfort knowing they played well last weekend. It wasn't if they weren't in the match. It just wasn't their day as Westy proved to be just a bit better. The 1st Grade Wallsend F.C side proved last season that 2nd leg comebacks can be possible but not grabbing an away goal last weekend makes this even more difficult.

Should West Wallsend score at all, the task becomes greater. Wallsend would need 4 goals if Westy find the back of the net at all at Blacksmiths. So as much as it'd be expected that Wallsend try and put a lot of work into their attack, it's the defensive line that needs to be extremely cautious. A tough job could be made tougher with Westy scoring a goal or two.

As mentioned earlier, West Wallsend have won three from three against their rivals this season and they'll be aiming to seal a Grand Final appearance in some style. Should Wallsend produce a comeback, it has to go down as one of the all-time great comebacks in two-legged Semi Final football in the New-FM competition.

Prediction: Nothing's impossible in football and a comeback is surely a chance but West Wallsend have too great a lead for my liking. The young Bluebells have not been held scoreless at all this season which means Wallsend realistically may need four goals or more. That 1st Leg was too damaging, especially taking away goals into account.

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

Is there any stopping the Bluebells 17's? As it stands, they're on track for a GF appearance.

Wallsend F.C need all hands on deck this weekend if they want to produce a comeback.

Under 19's:
Belmont-Swansea (2nd) v Kahibah F.C (3rd)
Kickoff: 11:00am
2016 Meetings: BEL 2-3 KAH & KAH 2-3 BEL
Last Week: Kahibah FC 0-2 Belmont-Swansea

1st Leg Review: It was an even match on paper going into the fixture last weekend and that's how it played out in the first half. Belswans took their time settling in without main striker Joel Nicholson but they found two quickfire answers to their goalscoring questions in the 2nd half.

William Dundas produced a fine right-footed finish to fire them ahead 1-0 on away goals and then mere moments later, the 17's winger who gave an assist for the first goal, Bien Simba scored a goal of his own. Kahibah threatened but would go down 2-0 on the day.

Preview: Belswans would have been disappointed with missing out on the minor premiership but two weeks later they find themselves in a a dream position. 2-0 up on away goals with a home Semi Final and Joel Nicholson still to re-enter the squad after missing the game last weekend.

Kahibah are the sort of side who'll never say never and push Belswans all the way. Mat Moncrieff's side have enjoyed quality patches throughout the year. Ups and downs have been the story of the season and to progress to the Grand Final, they'll need their biggest win of the season at a tricky away venue.

Belswans' defensive line has been undersold this season by many as the action further forward has done all the work but last week's clean sheet would have no doubt pleased coach Dale Robertson. They haven't conceded a goal in their last two games and that's all they need to progress.

Belswans have some freedom to take a risk or two and with the combination of Dundas and Nicholson back together, it could be a long day for Kahibah. The Green and Blacks need the perfect storm of attack + defence to all come together and complete a gutsy comeback. It's more than possible meaning this game could be the best of the lot at Blacksmiths Oval.

Prediction: Kahibah won 3-2 last time they travelled to Blacksmiths but that scoreline wouldn't do enough for them this week. They need to be near-perfect and try and hold Belswans out. The home side proved themselves as a solid GF chance last week and they'll look to hammer it home this weekend. Expect Joel Nicholson on the scoresheet in an open game.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 4-2 Kahibah F.C

Bailey Chaplain was one of Kahibah's best last weekend.
William Dundas threw the credit to Bien Simba for his opening goal assist.

Under 23's:
Cooks Hill United (2nd) v South Cardiff (3rd)
Kickoff: 1:00pm
2016 Meetings: CHU 4-0 SOU & SOU 1-2 CHU
Last Week: South Cardiff 2-0 Cooks Hill United

1st Leg Review: It was probably the least entertaining of the eight matches last weekend and after a fairly tame first half, it all went one way in the second. Giles Boyd missed a vital penalty for Cooks Hill late in the 1st Half and it kept the door open for South Cardiff.

Southy's day looked to take a turn for the worst when Nic Tantos was sent off but they'd find a way into the lead. Mathew McAtear bagged a goal and then when Cooks Hill had captain Cam Shepard sent off and a penalty given away as a result, Trent Lamborn doubled the lead. Southy with ten men winning 2-0 against a disappointed Cooks Hill side.

Preview: Cooks Hill's effort last weekend was arguably the worst of the 16 competing teams in the Semi Finals. They had a penalty chance that was wasted and then against ten men they'd go down 1-0 before giving away a silly penalty and seeing themselves down to 10. Lucky not to go down by one or two more goals, it's all against them ahead of the 2nd Leg.

South Cardiff have a huge advantage as they'll be looking for away goals this weekend and really forcing pressure onto the Cooks Hill defensive line. There were worries when Ben McCabe's season was ended by injury but now they're on the verge of a Grand Final appearance with three straight victories giving them confidence.

Cooks Hill's inconsistency cost them any hope of knocking Lakes off the top of the table and now they find themselves needing a huge turn-around in the 2nd Leg. Their 4-0 win over Southy earlier this year will give them hope but it needs to be a solid team effort across the park. 

Prediction: South Cardiff didn't exactly blow the roof off with their performance last weekend. Cooks Hill made it easy at times for the Gunners and now the advantage is purely with the away side on Saturday. One goal would all but seal a Grand Final spot for the Gunners.

My Tip: South Cardiff 2-1 Cooks Hill United

South Cardiff look a side destined for Grand Final football. They lead 2-0 after the 1st Leg.
Seb Lewis was kept well contained by the South Cardiff defenders.

1st Grade:
Belmont-Swansea (2nd) v Kahibah F.C (3rd)
Kickoff: 3:00pm
2016 Meetings: KAH 2-2 BEL & BEL 0-1 KAH
Last Week: Kahibah FC 1-1 Belmont-Swansea

1st Leg Review: A tight match was expected between these two sides and that's exactly what we got at Kahibah Oval last weekend. Scoreless at the break and then 1-1 at full-time. Neither side were better than the other on the day and there's still everything to play for. Belswans hold a slight advantage on away goals after Jamie Hadlow's header last weekend.

Preview: These two sides are developing a very competitive rivalry. Quality football is produced every time they meet and it's fast becoming the division's stand-out fixture. Kahibah hold a slight mental advantage as they've never lost to Belswans in five New-FM 1st Division meetings.

For Belmont-Swansea, they go into this game with the same mentality and formation as the first leg. They will look to trouble Kahibah in front of a big crowd at Blacksmiths for Old Boy's Day. Brad Paul has plenty of attacking talent in his line-up and they'll look to put it to good use as the club look to qualify for their first Grand Final in 30 years.

Kahibah F.C will be boosted by the inclusion of Andre Gumprecht. The Kahibah kingpin returns after missing last week via injury. Tactically it will be a vital game for Gumprecht and indeed whoever partners him in the central defensive position. Belswans' attack is a pacey one and can be hard to handle at times.

The Green and Blacks have a successful history in Interdistrict football but this game is the most important in their history as they look to cap off a brilliant rise over the last two years with a Grand Final appearance. It's been quality nearly every time these sides have met and more should be expected on a massive day at Blacksmiths Oval. Only one can make it to the Grand Final.

Prediction: Old Boy's Day at Blacksmiths Oval will provide Belmont-Swansea with a huge vocal support that'll drive them on but Kahibah come into this with the knowledge that a Grand Final is only one win away. The home side hold the away goal advantage which could play a big part. Belswans to win this one and seal a dramatic Grand Final berth.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 2-1 Kahibah F.C

Belswans scored what may be a vital away goal at Kahibah last weekend.
Kahibah scored their only goal of the game through defender Skii Webster.


Under 17's:
Lake Macquarie City (1st) v Kahibah F.C (4th)
Kickoff: 9:00am
2016 Meetings: LMC 4-1 KAH & KAH 2-3 LMC
Last Week: Kahibah FC 0-2 Lake Macquarie City

1st Leg Review: Kahibah's Under 17's team went into last week's 1st Leg on the back of multiple do-or-die wins that saw them clinch 4th position. They'd gotten used to playing vital games and they more than matched it with minor premiers Lakes for the majority of the first half.

The second half is where the damage was done. Lakes got on the front foot and scored twice through Jack Smith and Caleb Morley-Davies. Both goals were avoidable from a defensive standpoint for Kahibah and they fell away towards the end.

Preview: Lake Macquarie City are at home in every grade after sweeping the minor premierships which means it could very well be one of the all-time great days in the club's history. The 17's will be aiming to start the day off with a bang and they hold that vital 2-0 away leg lead.

Kahibah will be more than likely missing at least Seb Crecca or Kyle Williams and maybe even both after they suffered injuries (Crecca-knee & Williams-fractured wrist) last week. Tony Birleson's side find themselves in need of a backs against the wall comeback.

Lakes have won nine-straight in the Under 17's and holding a 2-0 advantage means they can play with a little bit of freedom. Their defensive line stood firm for the majority of the game last weekend and they'd be bitterly disappointed not to turn that 1st Leg lead into a Grand Final appearance.

Lakes have won the three meetings between these side and with a fair few former Roosters' players in the Kahibah line-up, they'd be certainly aiming to send some familiar faces packing from finals. Expect an open game with Kahibah chasing the goals and Lakes looking to seal a GF spot.

Prediction: It's not very often you see 2-0 away goal leads turned around in the 2nd Leg. A neutral ground would play into Kahibah's favour but a trip to Macquarie Field is not an easy ask. It's been a graveyard for visiting Under 17's this year. Lakes have won 10 from 10 and outscored their opponents 40-11 in those fixtures.

My Tip: Lake Macquarie City 3-1 Kahibah F.C

Impossible isn't a word for the Kahibah 17's. Pat Waller's goal sent them to finals in dramatic fashion.

Kurtis McRitchie and the Lakes' 17's will be first of four Lakes sides to take the field at The Gardens.


Under 19's:
Lake Macquarie City (1st) v West Wallsend (4th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
2016 Meetings: WWB 3-1 LMC & LMC 4-0 WWB
Last Week: West Wallsend 2-0 Lake Macquarie City

1st Leg Review: West Wallsend went in last week with the intentions of stunning the Roosters and they proved a fair few doubters wrong. An early opener to James Barnes put them on the front foot and then Liam Muir scored later in the match to hammer home a 2-0 first leg advantage.

The Bluebells were delighted with a vital clean sheet but coaches Evan Gardiner and Gary Rowe kept a lid on celebrations with no team song being performed after the match. Gary Rowe described it as being 'only half-time' after the 2-0 win.

Preview: West Wallsend know exactly where they stand in all of this. A 2-0 away goal lead is a big advantage but Lake Macquarie City have class that can strike on any given day. They're the minor premiers for a reason and not making the Grand Final would disappoint them no doubt.

The Bluebells did keep a clean sheet last week but it wasn't without riding their luck at times. Lakes had an off-day which means the visiting Bluebells cannot afford any shred of complacency this weekend. A strong defensive performance is as key as a goal or two.

Due to Westy being the away side here, Lakes have to be mindful at the back. If they concede one goal, they'll need at least four to make the Grand Final. It's a vital task that they don't concede goals against a confident West Wallsend side. It'll likely be a tight match-up as a result.

West Wallsend have won two from three meetings this season but a 4-0 loss to Lakes last time they visited Macquarie Field proves that the Roosters can indeed make the Grand Final. It needs to be a solid team effort from front to back and side to side for the minor premiers.

Prediction: Unlike the other 19's game, Westy are leading 2-0 and are the away side this week. That plays major into their favour. One goal could almost be enough as it'd force Lakes into having to score 4 goals to win. It's Westy's to lose at this point.

My Tip: Lake Macquarie City 1-2 West Wallsend

Josh Richardson and his fellow attackers were unable to find the net on an unlucky day.

Westy celebrating James Barnes' opening goal last weekend.

Under 23's:
Lake Macquarie City (1st) v Belmont-Swansea (4th)
Kickoff: 1:00pm
2016 Meetings: LMC 0-0 BEL & BEL 1-3 LMC
Last Week: Belmont-Swansea 1-1 Lake Macquarie City

1st Leg Review: Lake Macquarie City captain Gabriel Cerda got the Roosters off to a quality start with a goal last weekend but Belswans hung with the minor premiers and frustrated them for the majority. An own goal at the expense of Michael Wright sees the scores level going into the second leg, albeit with Lakes having the away goal advantage from last week's 1-1 draw.

Preview: It's all locked up in the Under 23's. Lakes hold an away goal lead but Belmont-Swansea won't be holding back from playing the game on the front foot. Neither team reached full potential in what was at times a scrappy game. 

Chances came and went and the sides couldn't be split but the home advantage will be key for Lakes. These sides played on Macquarie Field all the way back in Round 1 and on that day it finished scoreless. Belswans can't afford the same but they'd love it to remain a tight contest. Lakes would be seen as the favourites should the match see a few goals. They've got some proven goalscorers.

Belswans can't afford to go into this one with too much urgency early on. Easing their way into the match would be a decent way to go about things. Lakes only hold a lead on away goals so there's no need to go all out and try and peg one back early on like some of the other matches on the weekend.

Goalkeeper Michael Peachey was Belswans' best on the day last weekend and the shot-stopper as well as his defenders will be under the microscope at Macquarie Field. This Semi Final tie is really on a knife-edge and Belswans whilst the underdogs, are a real chance of sending the runaway minor premiers out of the finals. Lakes will obviously be playing to avoid that fate.

Prediction: Expect a tight match-up in the Under 23's on Sunday. The sides played a very even match last weekend and I can't see either going overboard and throwing players forward unless the need is there. A penalty shootout is a very real outcome but Lakes at home will be looking to get over the line and avoid having to face Michael Peachey in a shootout.

My Tip: Lake Macquarie City 2-1 Belmont-Swansea

Gabriel Cerda led from the front for Lakes in the 1st Leg and scored their goal.

Belswans' keeper Michael Peachey was busy at times last weekend.

1st Grade:
Lake Macquarie City (1st) v Wallsend F.C
Kickoff: 3:00pm
2016 Meetings: LMC 2-1 WAL & WAL 0-1 LMC
Last Week: Wallsend FC 1-1 Lake Macquarie City

1st Leg Review: Wallsend F.C were out to fire themselves into a lead at The Gardens and it didn't take long for a spectacular opening goal from David Hodgson did just that. 'Hodgo' scoring the best goal seen in a New-FM fixture this season gave them the perfect start. A glancing header from Sam Walker would put Lakes level and that's how it stayed through a game where neither team got on the front foot.

Preview: This is what these two sides have been waiting for. A 2nd Leg of a Semi Final with a trip to the biggest day of the season on the line. Lake Macquarie City know all too well what Wallsend are capable of. Last season's devastating 6-1 sent the Roosters crashing out of finals in the most dramatic fashion.

Plenty will say that both sides are changed from the two that took the field this time last year but there's no doubting that Lakes will be fired up to avoid the same fate. The club are aiming for their first Grand Final since their 3-2 loss to Charlestown in 2010. After missing out last year; there'd be a sense of avoiding a possible 'chokers' tag and send Wallsend packing.

For Wallsend, they'll be again heavily reliant on their 'big game' and experienced players. Gazzard, Wheeler and Hodgson combined for their goal last weekend and the quality they bring on the field is only beaten by the mental confidence they install off of it. Hodgson especially will have his side full of confidence heading to the toughest away ground in the competition.

Lake Macquarie City will more than likely produce their best game of the season so Wallsend will indeed need to match that. The Red Devils are a side that still have some improvement in them and defending their title will be a goal. Expect one of the games of the season at Macquarie Field on a much better surface than The Gardens. Tactically it could be a war where the first side to blink misses out on the Grand Final. It's all on the line.

Prediction: Let's put one thing out there. The 6-1 embarrassment won't be repeated. Wallsend are every chance of winning but it'll most likely be a tight affair. Across the park, Lakes have had the best team this season and the severe disappointment of last year will be driving them on. Roosters to win this one.

My Tip: Lake Macquarie City 3-1 Wallsend F.C

Sam Walker's goal gave Lakes a vital away goal advantage.
David Hodgson was on fire against Lakes last weekend.

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