Friday, 31 March 2017

PREVIEW: New-FM Northern League One Round 4


1st Grade:
Belmont-Swansea United (6th) v Cessnock City (10th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

This is a game that Belmont-Swansea, if full-strength should win. Josh Rufo's side were picked apart last weekend despite having some good football on display at times and having a fair few quality players lining up in the squad. Luck left them deserted as Cooks Hill left goalkeeper Ben Parmenter wondering just how it all went so wrong. 

Last week was Belswans' biggest loss in New-FM competition in five years and there'll be no doubt a lot of players keen to turn it around. As mentioned, they produced some good football last week and whilst it wasn't near enough to stop the ladder-leading Cooks Hill, it'd be enough to stop a Cessnock side in complete disarray.

The Hornets dropped a lead to lose at home to Singleton on Tuesday night but it's off the field that's the worry. Head Coach Lino Gatti was involved in a public spat with two committee members and left the ground saying 'I'm gone'. Some players expected the fiery Italian to cool down and return to the job but nonetheless, it's not a good sign for the club.

Gatti has just 23 players (according to the man himself) across the senior two grades and whilst the 11 they fielded against Cessnock were capable of fighting for a result, they'll find it tough to match it with the big teams in the competition and any injuries will be a killer-blow.

Goalkeeper Mat Zechel is a decent shot-stopper but he's not a miracle worker and was left stranded at times by some shoddy defending against Singleton on Tuesday. The Strikers don't have players like Tega Marcus who can just explode through poor defensive lines. It's a test of Cessnock's character tomorrow. 

Prediction: This could get ugly. Belswans need to hammer home a victory to forget last week. Cessnock struggled to deal with Singleton and will be fatigued from that midweek match. Rufo's men should be too classy.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 6-1 Cessnock City

Cessnock face their toughest test to date tomorrow at Blacksmiths.

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Under 23's:
Belmont-Swansea United (6th) v Cessnock City (11th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Belmont-Swansea's performance against Cooks Hill last week was as forgettable as any game they'll play this season. They were missing over half of their regulars and the fill-ins from the Under 17's just weren't up to the pace and quality of league leading Cooks Hill.

Cessnock City would have been a perfect opponent for Belswans last week. The Hornets themselves are stacked with young talent in the Under 23's and are struggling to recruit more numbers to the club so these players will likely stay there for the long-haul. They threw away a midweek 2-0 lead against a ten man Singleton to lose 5-2 so no doubt they'll want a lot more here.

Prediction: Belswans will likely have a few players back in from last week and with Cessnock reeling after a shocking second half performance on Tuesday night, it's hard to see the home side dropping more points.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 4-1 Cessnock City

Cessnock brought the fight to Singleton but threw away a 2-0 lead in a 5-2 loss.

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Under 19's:
Belmont-Swansea United (7th) v Cessnock City (10th)
Kickoff: 11:00am

On paper this shapes as a mismatch. Belmont-Swansea welcomed back two of their best in the form of Joel Nicholson and Matt Ellis last weekend and they both provided the goods, Nicholson with a goal and Ellis with two assists. Add in Will Dundas and this three-pronged attack is as good as any in the Under 19's competition.

Cessnock City showed a lot of heart in their comeback loss against Thornton in Round 1. 3-1 down they fought back to 3-3 but went down 4-3 in the end. On Wednesday night though they were no match for Singleton as they went down 3-0 in disappointing fashion. Tomorrow they face a much tougher test.

Prediction: Belswans on their home turf have a point to prove. This team if they're all on the park are too good to drop points a team that sits in 10th place. The defending champions are just that for a reason. Cessnock's defence will need a big effort to stop these guys.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 4-0 Cessnock City

Matt Ellis was one of two welcome returns for Belswans in Round 3, along with Joel Nicholson.

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Under 17's
Belmont-Swansea United (5th) v Cessnock City (3rd)
Kickoff: 9:15am

Questions surround Belmont-Swansea in the Under 17's. In Round 1 they were 5-0 winners over Singleton but last weekend they were well beaten by Cooks Hill United so it's hard to judge just what they offer in early portions of Season 2017. Will McMaster's first game at home as coach will be a chance to prove this side's worth.

Cessnock City won over Singleton midweek, the same Singleton that made Belswans look like a million bucks on opening day so again it's very difficult to get a gauge on where they are at. Singleton missed a last-ditch penalty to get a point so no doubt it's still to early to tell what Cessnock are capable of.

Prediction: Both teams will view this as a chance to show what they can do in the Under 17's this season. Despite Cessnock's position in 3rd, they come into this as the underdogs on the round and will look to produce an upset at Blacksmiths. Belswans have the quality up front to test the Cessnock defence.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 3-1 Cessnock City

Belswans 17's were left beaten  last week despite another good display from Solomon Amos.

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1st Grade:
South Cardiff (5th) v New Lambton F.C (2nd)
Kickoff: 6:00pm

South Cardiff finally get the chance to return to the field, three weeks after their thrilling 3-2 victory at The Gardens over the defending champions Wallsend F.C. Denis Fajkovic himself describes this side as a tight-knit bunch and judging by Round 1's win, they're willing to knuckle down and really fight for the three points, week in week out.

Some of the Southy players will be keen for a victory here against their former coach Andrew Packer and two former players in Nic Pepper and Josh Casey. The Gunners crowd is always a passionate one and the likes of Pepper and Casey might get cop a word or two from the hill. They dealt with trash-talking crowd members at West Wallsend in Round 1 with goals so no doubt it's no problem for the visitors.

New Lambton's arrival back in the 2nd tier has been beyond their wildest dreams. That 6-2 win over West Wallsend back on March 13th will be a long-standing memory in the minds of any Eagles' die-hard and they more than matched an established premiership threat in Kahibah F.C last weekend in a thrilling 2-2 draw.

Under lights at Ulinga Oval, the atmosphere is sure to be the key factor in this match. The Eagles have a good travelling support and Southy old heads will be keen to get out to see how Denis Fajkovic's side look after that Round 1 win. This could prove to be one of the games of the season if the two sides produce their best.

Prediction: South Cardiff deserve praise for that comeback in Round 1 and as mentioned a lot, they're a team that'll be tougher than most to beat. New Lambton's on a roll though and momentum is something that is crucial in football. This is a chance for the Eagles to announce themselves as the real deal.

My Tip: South Cardiff 1-2 New Lambton

Andrew Packer is back at South Cardiff with his new club and keen  to continue their good start.

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Under 23's
South Cardiff (7th) v New Lambton F.C (3rd)
Kickoff: 4:15pm

South Cardiff 23's are coming off of a long break. Like the whole club, their only game so far in the season was played back on March 12th and they've certainly had a lot of time to think about the chances missed in that draw with Wallsend. Getting back to playing at Ulinga will give them a big boost in front of a vocal home support.

New Lambton finally got to play their first competitive 23's game last weekend against Kahibah F.C and put five goals past them. It was a fairly convincing performance on the synthetic turf at the LMRFF and with two catch-up games still to play, they'll look for the points here to really build a strong start.

Prediction: South Cardiff have a lot to offer in the 23's. But that being said, their first-up performance wasn't quiet as convincing as New Lambton's win last weekend. The Eagles to win it here.

My Tip: South Cardiff 1-3 New Lambton

South Cardiff 23's will be keen to get back on the park after three weeks off.

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Under 19's:
South Cardiff (8th) v New Lambton F.C (2nd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

There was a lot to like about Southy 19's performance back on the opening weekend. They really fought hard to get a point against Wallsend and yes they did have some luck; two penalties saw them draw level but they didn't lay down at 2-0 down like some sides would have. There's no real quality star in the side but more a consistent lineup across the park. They'll be tough to beat.

New Lambton have lost their league-lead to Singleton thanks to wash-out fixtures but in the minds of many, this team is so far the one to beat in the Under 19's. Missing Maurice Bechelli last week wasn't an issue as Lachlan Jones led the line and the Eagles produced a thrilling 3-2 win over Kahibah F.C in the final moments of the game.

Prediction: South Cardiff's only game was that 2-2 draw with Wallsend. A Wallsend side that hasn't hit their straps yet. New Lambton is a step up in terms of opposition and the Eagles will be eyeing off a third-straight victory to life in New-FM football. They've got the quality to do just that.

My Tip: South Cardiff 1-3 New Lambton

Adam Montefiore and his Eagles teammates got the best of Kahibah in a competitive Round 3 match.

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Under 17's
South Cardiff (=8th) v New Lambton F.C (10th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

South Cardiff's Round 1 game against Wallsend was an all-out dog-fight at times and it was a well-fought point for the Gunners in their first game. They've got a fair few new faces to New-FM football this season but players like Josh Allen and Lachlan Kerr know the competition well and will add some experience to the squad.

New Lambton are a new side to the league and their first game saw them matching it with a quality Kahibah side until the very end. Three goals in the final three minutes saw them go down 4-1 but there were loads of positives to take out of the loss at the LMRFF last Sunday night.

Prediction: This poses as one of the more difficult games to predict in the 17's this weekend. Southy at home probably deserve to be the favourites but New Lambton showed some quality against Kahibah last weekend. Very difficult to pick a winner.

My Tip: South Cardiff 2-2 New Lambton

South Cardiff 17's produced some exciting football at times in their Round 1 draw with Wallsend.

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1st Grade:
Kahibah F.C (9th) v West Wallsend SFC (8th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

It's doubtful this game will go ahead with the rain that's fallen on Johnston Park but nonetheless Kahibah will be hoping it will be played after a frustrating night at Lyall Peacock Field on Thursday saw Andre Gumprecht and his side warm-up in the pouring rain just to be told that the game was off.

Westy have been plagued by wash-outs but at least have had prior warnings. Gary Rowe's men reportedly trained on their main pitch most of pre-season which would have hindered it a little but no doubt they wouldn't have been expecting a large amount of rain to fall over the last few weeks.

The Bluebells did play at home last week and were 4-1 winners over Toronto-Awaba but faced that same scoreline in a loss to Cooks Hill during the week. Still, the game against Cooks Hill was one that West Wallsend will take positives out of and they'll remember, despite the points being taken off of them, they did in fact beat Kahibah on their last visit to Johnston Park.

Prediction: Kahibah have been forced to forfeit the home advantage but they enter this one as favourites. Dave Hodgson will make his long-awaited debut and West Wallsend's defensive line will be under the pump with Gocha Abshilava, Jarrod Penfold and Jamie Hadlow all the deal with. Westy will fight hard but it'll be a tough ask.

My Tip: Kahibah F.C 4-1 West Wallsend

Jarrod Oliveri will be again key for West Wallsend in the middle of the park.

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Under 23's
Kahibah F.C (8th) v West Wallsend SFC (5th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

A first-up 5-1 loss to New Lambton left Kahibah 23's reeling but it certainly wasn't panic stations. Last night's 3-3 draw with Toronto-Awaba took a poor start to a whole new level. They were lucky not to lose it in the end as they threw away a 3-1 lead in torrential rain. They need more points soon as they can ill-afford to play catch-up against some quality sides gunning for the top four.

West Wallsend lead the unstoppable Cooks Hill United 3-1 at half-time midweek but somehow found themselves beaten 5-3 at the AthField. But they played some good football at times against a much better side than most in the competition. Positives will be taken out of the loss.

Prediction: Kahibah 23's are the team that should but so far haven't impressed. It's early days but based on the first two performances, question marks hover over this team. This game is at Johnston Park and West Wallsend can really prove themselves as a better side that what was predicted with a win.

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

Westy 23's will look to pounce on an out-of-form Kahibah side on Sunday.

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Under 19's Match of the Round:
Kahibah F.C (4th) v West Wallsend SFC (6th)
Kickoff: 11:00am

After the disappointment of a late loss to New Lambton last Sunday, Kahibah 19's backed up with a game against Toronto on Wednesday night. A diabolic 1st Half display was a distant memory by the time the final whistle went. A 3-0 win over a fairly unimpressive Stags side that indeed Westy beat just last weekend.

The Bluebells interestingly have played both of Kahibah's opponents so it's a fair gauge on how this one might go. They went down 5-0 in a shocking Round 1 display against New Lambton but they cruised home against the Stags thanks largely to a four-goal haul from Josh Knight last Saturday.

Prediction: This looks to be the pick of the matches in the Under 19's. Both sides still have some doubts surrounding them. Kahibah will look to close down the likes of Josh Knight more so than what Toronto would have done whilst Westy have strong defenders who'll use their size on some of Kahibah's smaller attackers. Regardless of result, it's sure to be a highly-competitive match.

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

Cooper, Jones and Emmett-Mourlet were three of Kahibah's standouts at Toronto on Wednesday night.

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Under 17's Match of the Round:
Kahibah F.C (4th) v West Wallsend SFC (7th)
Kickoff: 9:15am

Kahibah produced an incredible end to their game with New Lambton last week, scoring three goals in three minutes to win 4-1 but they were unable to get over the top of Toronto-Awaba midweek in a 1-1 draw that on another day they very well could have lost. Daniel Keelan scored with a quality strike and was Man of the Match and will be key this Sunday.

West Wallsend along with Kahibah were the pre-season picks for premiership contenders so this is an early chance to see two exciting sides try to match each other. The Bluebells have been disappointed by constant wash-outs, no less than five of them and will just want to get out on the park. They won their only match so far, a 3-2 victory over Toronto last weekend.

Prediction: This could turn out to be the best match of the season so far in the Under 17's. Both these sides have quality across the park and on their best day are very well matched. Westy have the home field advantage but it's almost impossible to pick who might come out on top.

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

Kahibah 17's will look for another hard-fought win, like their 4-1 win over New Lambton last week.

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
Wallsend F.C (4th) v Cooks Hill United (1st)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

Wallsend F.C returned to winning ways last weekend against a very poor Singleton side. The defending champions themselves were very casual at times in a game where they weren't required to produce their best. Chris Gallagher himself admitted they've got more in the tank to offer.

This weekend brings the ladder-leaders Cooks Hill United to The Gardens and it will force Wallsend to put their best foot forward. The Cookers blitzed Belswans last week and the likes of Lee Ashton and Cal Gallagher were extremely difficult to stop going forward. Graham Law's men have the capability to turn you around and blast home a goal in mere seconds.

Wallsend's defensive line will be under the pump and goalkeeper James Wand will face a much more difficult test than he did last week. The likes of Kyle Macorig and Ash Watts will be keen to test themselves defensively and Mal Hinchcliffe, along with Matt Williams and Jackson Pett will look forward to battling his former club. Boom youngster Ty Cousins may even feature against his old side.

This match has the potential to be a classic battle in the New-FM Northern League One. Cooks Hill have never beaten Wallsend in four attempts since both were promoted in 2015 and both sides will see this game as a chance to prove themselves as a contender in 2017. 

Prediction: These next two weeks are a huge chance for Graham Law's side to staple themselves as the title favourites. They've beaten Belswans and now face Wallsend and Kahibah, two sides they've never beaten in New-FM competition. Expect the game of the season so far.

My Tip: Wallsend F.C 1-3 Cooks Hill United

Lee Ashton has been one of Cooks Hill's best going forward in the opening games of the year.

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Under 23's Match of the Round:
Wallsend F.C (8th) v Cooks Hill United (1st)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

It's not quiet a top four encounter but there is a lot in this match-up. Wallsend F.C have some points to prove after a poor display against Singleton last weekend. They're relying on some young players in key positions but they're quality young players and will no doubt excel as the season progresses. That's the hope coming out of the Wallsend camp.

Cooks Hill United are flying higher than any team in any grade in the league. 21 goals scored in three games and a midweek come from behind 5-3 win over Westy that saw them down 3-1 at half-time shows their quality. Cookers' coach Ben Nichols will return to The Gardens for the first time since leaving the 23's post at the Red Devils last season. An interesting match-up awaits.

Prediction: Wallsend will come good. They've got some players who'll improve as the season goes on and they'll find their feet well. This game is a helluva test against a side that simply cannot stop scoring goals. Cooks Hill to win it and Asher Beasley to extend his nine-goal tally to ten, maybe more.

My Tip: Wallsend F.C 1-4 Cooks Hill United

Asher Beasley has more goals to his name than any other 23's side combined! Nine goals in three games.

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Under 19's
Wallsend F.C (9th) v Cooks Hill United (3rd)
Kickoff: 11:00am

On paper Wallsend 19's are one of the best sides in the competition but they've found themselves in 9th after a luckless 2-2 draw in Round 1 and a costly loss to Singleton last weekend. The Red Devils were slow starters last Sunday and it saw them fall too far behind. Despite a quality goal from Daniel Strazzari, Craig Tselembis' side fell to a disappointing defeat.

Cooks Hill United on the other hand had a very entertaining tussle with Belmont-Swansea last weekend. A 2-2 draw was a fair result between two quality outfits and no doubt with a few new faces, the Cookers are still finding their best combinations. Some of that was certainly on show last weekend and a quick and pacey attack will be a good test for Wallsend, especially out wide.

Prediction: Wallsend 19's will definitely be a contender for finals football. They've started slowly but things will turn around. There's too many good players for it not to happen. Cooks Hill will prove a very difficult test on Sunday and it's sure to be interesting to see who prevails.

My Tip: Wallsend F.C 2-2 Cooks Hill United

Angelos Karvelis was one of the standouts in a defeated team last weekend for Wallsend.

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Under 17's
Wallsend F.C (1st) v Cooks Hill United (6th)
Kickoff: 9:15am

Wallsend have found themselves on top of the Under 17's after two games. A disappointing draw in Round 1 was put behind them with a convincing 6-1 win over Singleton last weekend. Ben Smith got a hat-trick, Cooper Mclean got two and missed a chance or two for his own hat-trick and across the park the side put in their best effort. Not recording a clean sheet was their only blemish.

Cooks Hill United blasted Belmont-Swansea last weekend and showed that they have plenty to offer to the competition. Like most Cooks Hill side, the Cookers 17's aren't reliant on one or two attacking options with a few players in this squad posing as a threat going forward. Bobby Carter was the Man of the Match last week but there was plenty to like about this squad all over the field.

Prediction: Wallsend are technically the ladder-leaders but take that with a bar of soap after constant wash-outs have cancelled games left, right and centre. They were good last week against a poor Singleton side and Cooks Hill offer a bigger challenge. They might just scrape home in a goalfest.

My Tip: Wallsend F.C 3-2 Cooks Hill United

Wallsend 17's turned on the skill last week to put six past Singleton.


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1st Grade:
Thornton Redbacks (3rd) v Toronto-Awaba (11th)
Kickoff: 2:45pm

This result hinges purely on Toronto's so far lacklustre defensive line. Thornton Redbacks were too classy for a Cessnock side void of some experience in key positions and Darrel McAllister's men certainly have options going forward that may very well strike an arrow through the hearts of Toronto.

Jamie Subat produced some quality football in Round 1, Nathan McAllister got a hat-trick and then there's additional threats like the youthful pairing of Jacob Bartlett and Jack Halverson. Thornton played Hamilton Olympic last Friday night to keep match fitness on their side and will be itching to get out onto their traditional home for the first time in 2017 this Sunday.

Toronto-Awaba's midweek game against Kahibah was to be a stern character test but never eventuated due to the rain. Going forward the Stags certainly can cause a headache or two and were boosted last week by the returning Blake Glennie. It's at the back where the questions will be asked.

Goalkeeper Blake Redman is a much-needed addition to the squad after serving a two-game ban and Adam Routledge will be thankful to have his first-pick stopper back in the squad after some headaches with youngster Sam Cresswell getting injured and being forced to quickly recruit Jed Partridge as the new 2nd-choice shot-stopper.

Prediction: It's hard to see Thornton dropping points here. They've looked really good at times during pre-season and were 5-1 victors in Round 1. Toronto are still searching for their best and Thornton are a tougher test than the Westy side that beat them last week. Still, if this game is played the pitch will be heavy so don't expect a high scoring affair.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 3-1 Toronto-Awaba

Nathan McAllister (#7) picked up a hat-trick for Thornton in Round 1.

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Under 23's
Thornton Redbacks (4th) v Toronto-Awaba (10th)
Kickoff: 1:00pm

Thornton have only played the one game in the Under 23's this season and it's hard to judge them based on one fixture but it was an impressive 3-0 victory over rivals Cessnock City back in Round 1. Returning to Thornton Park this weekend, they have a chance to really consolidate a spot inside the top four.

Toronto-Awaba's start to the season was as bad as any side in the competition but last night they showed their true character as they left Kahibah stunned after producing a comeback from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 and almost win the game in absolutely terrible conditions. Missing chances was the key factor in the Stags not winning it last night.

Prediction: Toronto showed a lot of heart in their comeback last night but playing in those conditions will leave them fatigued. Even with full match fitness, Thornton is a difficult test away from home and if the Redbacks produce similar to their Round 1 effort, then it will likely be theirs to lose.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 3-1 Toronto-Awaba

Thornton 23's will be keen to pick up a second straight victory.

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Under 19's
Thornton Redbacks (5th) v Toronto-Awaba (11th)
Kickoff: 11:15am

Thornton 19's survived a scare or two in their only game this season as they recorded a 4-3 victory over Cessnock City, the same Cessnock that were dispatched 3-0 by Singleton midweek so perhaps that opening result isn't as impressive as it originally seems. Nonetheless the side had to fight hard and Josh Davies showed quality to get all four goals. Defensively, after conceding three goals, there's certainly some questions that still need answering.

Toronto's midweek display against Kahibah was lacklustre compared to their pre-season form. The Stags were heavily reliant on the long ball and just failed to create too many clear cut chances. Defence wasn't a strong point of the performance and suddenly they need results fast as they've found themselves at the foot of the table after three games.

Prediction: If Toronto play like they did on Wednesday, there's only one result. They'll no doubt show a bit more quality this weekend but Thornton at home will be eyeing off a chance to really consolidate a strong start to their season. Toronto's defence will win or lose them this game.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 4-2 Toronto-Awaba

Connor Morgan is one of the danger men going forward for the Stags' 19's.

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Under 17's
Thornton Redbacks (=8th) v Toronto-Awaba (4th)
Kickoff: 9:30am

Thornton 17's on paper don't look the best side going in the league but they were decent in Round 1 as they fought out a 2-2 draw with Cessnock City. But by the time Sunday rolls around, it'll be three weeks exactly since that game so no doubt Toronto will have the advantage on match fitness and awareness.

The Stags produced the goods to draw 1-1 with Kahibah during the week and were slightly unlucky not to win it with some decent chances created. Defensively they stood firm with the likes of Arbi Watt really stepping up to the plate. Some handy midfielders means this team will cause headaches for anyone on their day.

Prediction: Thornton will be keen to get onto the field at Thornton Park for their first home fixture but three weeks between games is a long-wait and there is a lot to like about this Stags side after their midweek performance. If Thornton are to win it, they'll need a quality effort.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 1-2 Toronto-Awaba

Toronto 17's look to be the club's most entertaining side based on the first few weeks.

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Under 15's Fixtures:





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