Friday, 28 April 2017

PREVIEW: New-FM Northern League One Round 8


1st Grade:
Singleton Strikers (8th) v Kahibah FC (3rd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

Singleton have endured what many would call an inconsistent start to the season. Under performing efforts in one or two games have cost them points and coach David Willoughby has been left frustrated at times by some of the errors they've produced. Consistency is the key to victory and that's what the Strikers will be looking for tomorrow.

Going forward they need a little bit more. Joe Civello is a decent attacker but the Strikers just can't seem to find the right options and create enough chances. Last week's performance against West Wallsend lacked a bit of bite so to speak as they succumbed to a 1-0 loss. The Bruzzese's (Mark and Michael) will be playing again this week in positive news for Singleton.

Kahibah dished up a pretty tame display as well last week as they fell 1-0 at home to South Cardiff. Unlike Singleton, they haven't had the chance to rest on it as they had a short turn-around to Wednesday night's fixture with West Wallsend at Kahibah Oval.

Fortunately for the Green and Blacks, they were able to sweep past Westy with a 3-0 victory. The same Westy that beat Singleton last week in a bit of irony going into this one. David Hodgson was on hand for two fairly easy goals and no doubt Singleton will look to sure things up at the back. It's a back to front performance for Singo this week, they need to solidify things and then create chances. They can ill-afford to allow Kahibah to score first.

Prediction: The Strikers will want to build Howe Park into a fortress. It's the longest road trip in the league and for years teams have feared the trip up to Singleton. Kahibah are a side that thrive on a good challenge and on paper they have a side that probably should win this one. Probably being the key word. Never guarantee a win. Not in 2017 at least.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-3 Kahibah FC

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Under 23's:
Singleton Strikers (4th) v Kahibah FC (9th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Singleton picked up a respectable point away to West Wallsend last week and sit in fourth position. Not a bad place to be considering the circumstances. They've been fortunate to only have one game that was forced to be played midweek too. However back to back draws will have the Strikers thinking what could have been. No doubt, all three points is the aim for their 2nd home game of the year.

Kahibah 23's were slow starters in 2016 and are in the same boat in 2017. Just like Singleton, the Green and Blacks have back to back draws. Coming from 2-0 down on Wednesday night against West Wallsend showed spirit but still they were disappointed to give away a two-goal lead. Scoring the first goal of the game will be vital for either side on Saturday.

Prediction: Kahibah are a better side than sitting in 9th place suggests. Mato Demir's side have just been unable to find a victory and have been luckless at times. Jayden Demir's disallowed goal that did in fact cross the line tells the story of their season. Singleton are decent in this grade and on paper, it could be a tight one. Teams will hate the prediction but a draw it is.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 2-2 Kahibah FC

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Under 19's
Singleton Strikers (6th) v Kahibah FC (9th)
Kickoff: 11:00am

Singleton 19's took the fight to Westy at Johnston Park last week and came away with a fairly solid 2-2 draw. James Croucher was close to winning it with five to go, firing a shot that clattered back off the crossbar. The Strikers are sitting on a record of 2-2-2 after 6 games and will want to move on from their position in the middle of the table.

Kahibah's late loss to South Cardiff left the side feeling miserable and things weren't a lot better last night as they fell 2-1 to West Wallsend at home. The Green and Blacks conceded a penalty and a costly defensive error led to Westy's 2nd. Two avoidable goals. That said, they offered little at times against Westy. A lacklustre performance yet again.

Prediction: Singleton will like their chances of bouncing back into winning form. Last fortnight's home loss to Toronto will have them gunning for a win this time round. Kahibah heads are low and they need to really pull the finger out quickly to produce results. Expect to see one or two 17's move to the Kahibah bench to fill a void left by a midweek injury or two.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 2-1 Kahibah FC

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Under 17's
Singleton Strikers (11th) v Kahibah FC (5th)
Kickoff: 9:15am

Singleton 17's are struggling to adapt to New-FM football. A fair few of the players came from the inter district level and have so far found it tough in a few of their games to get a foothold. Defensively they've conceded a lot of goals and going forward they haven't been clinical enough. That said they will find a win here or there this year although it's more of a building year than anything.

Kahibah's 17's are an experienced side with many backing up from last year but they lack the killer instinct this season. After dropping a win against Cooks Hill in the final moments a few weeks back, they suffered a similar fate against West Wallsend last night, conceding an own goal and almost losing with two late dangerous corners causing trouble. They know they need more than that to succeed in this competition.

Prediction: Singleton have conceded 27 goals in six outings this season. It's not great reading for those in maroon and white and really this game stands as a chance for Kahibah to find their scoring boots. They need to start capitalising on their chances and this game for them is a chance to do that. The likes of Daniel Keelan and Kean Thomas will cause a lot of trouble for Singo's defence.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-6 Kahibah FC

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1st Grade:
Cessnock City (11th) v New Lambton FC (4th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

Cessnock City sit bottom of the league, a long bottom of the league, five points behind a host of teams on six points. It's not like the Hornets have been far away from getting a win, a 1-1 draw with Belswans was a game they could and should have taken maximum points from. Unfortunately for Lino Gatti, his side just lack consistency. 

They've proven at times they have some qualities about them but they've had lapses that have proven costly. Last home game they really made Cooks Hill work hard for the result but then the Hornets conceded five against South Cardiff. They need to buckle up defensively for this game against New Lambton and especially against Hamilton Olympic next week in the FFA Cup. Former Olympic player Luke Marino is a new face at Turner Park.

New Lambton's win over Wallsend showed their character once again. A side that can never be written off; it's like they thrive on their ability to come from behind and win games. Two games at Alder Park this season and two come from behind wins. The recent addition of former Kahibah goalkeeper Josh Cox will go some ways to making sure they don't trail in games. A very solid signing.

The Eagles are up against Kahibah on Tuesday in the FFA Cup so a short turn-around means they may possibly run the risk of fielding a 23's player or two against Cessnock as they have one eye on the cup. Harry Benbow is a certainty as he comes in for captain Dan Luther who suffered a collapsed lung last week. Well wishes for Luther and fortunately for the Eagles, Benbow has been impressive this year. 

Prediction: Cessnock will hopefully put up a good fight and if they play similar to the way they played against Cooks Hill then they'll probably produce a decent result. It's hard seeing New Lambton not picking up the points and some would no doubt expect a cricket score but Cessnock deserve some credit on their home turf.

My Tip: Cessnock City 1-3 New Lambton

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Under 23's:
Cessnock City (11th) v New Lambton FC (8th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Defence is a worry for Cessnock across most grades but the 23's also have struggled to find the answers going forward. They've only scored three goals in six games and that makes it very difficult to get results. Six straight-losses isn't exactly a surprise considering the lack of depth Cessnock have and the fact that they're relying a lot on youth during a rebuilding year. Still, the players will no doubt want to get some points on the board and each week brings a new chance to do so.

New Lambton's 23's have endured a slide down to eighth position. Last week's draw with Wallsend was an improvement on one or two losses before that but the Eagles have a lot more in the tank to offer than what they have done so far in 2017. Surely they'll be eyeing off a win over Cessnock as a chance to bridge the gap on the top half of the table.

Prediction: The Hornets need to take their chances. Goalscoring is a key component of the competition and 3 in 6 is nowhere near an acceptable return for the side. They'll need their best performance of the year to deny an Eagles side that is intent on turning its fortunes around.

My Tip: Cessnock City 1-4 New Lambton

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Under 19's:
Cessnock City (8th) v New Lambton FC (1st)
Kickoff: 11:00am

Inconsistent would be the word to describe Cessnock 19's over the last few weeks. Absolutely smashed in an 8-0 loss to Belswans and a 6-1 home loss to Cooks Hill but showing good signs with wins over Wallsend at home 2-1 and more recently a 4-1 away win over South Cardiff. No other side have such a large gulf in their form. Granted those two wins were against lower sides and not sides sitting higher up, like New Lambton.

The Eagles had their wings plucked by Thornton a week and a half ago but returned to form with a nervy 2-1 win over a luckless Wallsend side last weekend. They still sit top of the table but with an extra game played over the chasing teams, they can ill-afford a slip-up on the weekend. The quality they possess is as good as any side in the league so no doubt it'll be a tough ask for Cessnock at Turner Park.

Prediction: Cessnock's wins over Wallsend and South Cardiff show that they can produce results but their record against top five sides is less than convincing. The aforementioned inconsistency makes it hard to predict. They could lose by six, they could lose by one. One thing's for sure, it's difficult to see them winning.

My Tip: Cessnock City 1-5 New Lambton

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Under 17's
Cessnock City (6th) v New Lambton FC (1st)
Kickoff: 9:15am

Cessnock 17's have dropped to mid-table after a superb start to the season. After drawing their last game eight days ago against South Cardiff, the Hornets face the ladder-leaders New Lambton at Turner Park on Sunday morning. Their defence will be key for them in what will no doubt be a difficult test for the home side.

New Lambton are cruising in the Under 17's. Sitting on top of the league and with some good form behind them. The side have been a surprise packet and the good news for the Eagles is that they possess a fair few players who can find the back of the net. They also possess an underrated defensive line who've kept three straight clean sheets.

Prediction: The Eagles are flying high in the 17's and there's no reason they can't keep doing so. Cessnock aren't walkovers but the Eagles have the quality on paper to win this game. The defence will be very keen to secure a fourth-straight clean sheet.

My Tip: Cessnock City 0-3 New Lambton

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
South Cardiff (2nd) v Thornton Redbacks (6th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

South Cardiff's 1-0 win over Kahibah last week was a superb result for the team and it boosted them all the way up to second on the league table. With Cooks Hill having the bye, they could go within three points of top spot with a win on Sunday. Denis Fajkovic will have his side fired up for what is another big fixture for them.

Adding to the pressure for Southy is the fact that it's their club's Old Boy's Day and many heroes of yesteryear will be in attendance to see the club try to keep this form run alive. Their only loss at home this season was a shootout loss in the FFA Cup to Belswans and in league competition, they have the best defence in the entire division, just four goals conceded in five games.

Thornton Redbacks are also flying fairly high this season. They were beaten by Cooks Hill last week in a result that was disappointing for Darrel McAllister and his side but they put that behind them quickly by dispatching Toronto-Awaba 5-2 on Wednesday night. A win here could potential thrust them into the top four.

Thornton had five different goalscorers on Wednesday night but two in particular are popping up routinely. Nathan McAllister and Jamie Subat will be two to watch for Southy's defenders whilst Thornton themselves have to be wary of the in-form Zac Tapp and unpredictable players like Troy Runge, Brett Cowling and even Denis Fajkovic who has been a big part of Southy's attacking moments at times.

Prediction: Football should be the winner here regardless of the result. Both teams are in some good form and it promises to be a fiery encounter on Old Boy's Day at Ulinga Oval. Darrel McAllister happens to be a Southy Old Boy so there's that storyline as well. It's so very difficult to pick a winner so why not a  very entertaining draw.

My Tip: South Cardiff 2-2 Thornton Redbacks

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Under 23's Match of the Round:
South Cardiff (3rd) v Thornton Redbacks (5th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

South Cardiff were slightly lucky to leave Kahibah Oval with a point last week. The Gunners led the game but dropped off and Kahibah certainly gave them some worries. A point away from home isn't a bad thing and Southy 23's remain unbeaten with 3 wins and 3 draws. Turning those draws into wins is no doubt the key for where they're aiming to be.

Thornton's 23's were gallant against leaders Cooks Hill last weekend but fell to a 2-1 loss. Any worry of a slump went straight out the window on Wednesday night as they roared back into winning form with a 6-1 thumping of Toronto. More pleasing for Thornton is the fact they had six different scorers in that game.

Prediction: This like 1st Grade will be a closely-fought game and any Southy Old Boy's preparing to head to the 2017 Old Boy's Day should head to Ulinga early to catch this. Both teams are capable of good football and both will want to kick on after good starts to the year. Why not an entertaining 2-2 draw?

My Tip: South Cardiff 2-2 Thornton Redbacks

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Under 19's
South Cardiff (7th) v Thornton Redbacks (4th)
Kickoff: 11:00am

South Cardiff's late win over Kahibah last week saw them return to winning ways which is just what they needed after a poor midweek loss to Cessnock a few nights earlier. The Gunners lack consistency so far. Sitting 7th and with a home game, they'll no doubt want to secure a vital three points and close the gap to the top four. Southy captain Ethan Spiers is in scoring form with five goals this season.

Thornton are the surprise packet in the Under 19's. It's quiet something to see them sitting inside the top four with four wins from five games. Their last two games have seen them hand Cooks Hill and New Lambton their first losses of the season. It's still too early to talk about Thornton's potential for silverware but this side are looking quiet something at the moment. Keeping the form rolling will be their aim on Sunday.

Prediction: South Cardiff fought hard to get past Kahibah last week but their opponents on Sunday are the form team of the competition. Thornton have knocked off the two best sides in the league in consecutive games, why can't they beat a team sitting mid-table.

My Tip: South Cardiff 1-3 Thornton Redbacks

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Under 17's
South Cardiff (9th) v Thornton Redbacks (10th)
Kickoff: 9:15am

South Cardiff put up a good fight in the 17's against Kahibah last week, losing 1-0 in the end but the Gunners are plagued by a string of injuries. They had no less than three players on the bench unable to play last week and no doubt coach Brad Herring will be hoping they can start to get some players back and the remaining players can fight on for the cause. Dylan Simone did an excellent job as the fill-in goalkeeper last week.

Thornton 17's aren't fighting injury issues but they are struggling to find their best football. The Redbacks went down 4-0 last night at home to Toronto-Awaba. Defensive issues aside, Thornton 17's need to find their scoring boots. They've got to be able to lead a game from the front and the combinations going forward just don't seem to be clicking just yet.

Prediction: With the two sides sitting 9th and 10th respectively, there'll be a hint of desperation as they take the field on Sunday. Both sides are yet to win and what will play out is likely going to a tight low-scoring encounter. It'll be interesting to see who is between the sticks for Southy. They also need to find their scoring boots after not finding the net last week.

My Tip: South Cardiff 1-1 Thornton Redbacks

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1st Grade:
Wallsend FC (7th) v Toronto-Awaba (10th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

Wallsend are suffering from what many would call inconsistency. A few sides are doing the same thing. They play good football at times and coach Chris Gallagher has been delighted with some of their performances but some mistakes and some drop-offs in games have proven costly. The defending champions sit 7th after six games.

What is worrying for Gallagher is the 12 goals conceded in those six appearances. The defensive unit the Red Devils possess will know that's not a good enough return and they'll look to lock things up at the back. Going forward Wallsend certainly have options with the likes of Ethan Coker, Matt Williams and John Olivares all causing headaches for opposition defenders at times this year. Again, it's consistency that is needed.

Toronto are having similar issues. They've got 10 goals in seven games which isn't the worst return but what would be concerning for Head Coach Adam Routledge is the 26 goals conceded in those same games. Conceding five goals  to Thornton on Wednesday, the likes of Blake Redman in goals and his defenders will be adamant on a better showing.

The Stags did down Belmont-Swansea last weekend which shows they have potential to get results but unfortunately they've been hindered by injuries and they've wasted some vital chances in front of goal. Expect Josh Bruce to be one to watch. The threatening attacker has been touted as one of the key components in Toronto's attacking lineup.

Prediction: Wallsend need to knuckle down and start producing the results. The defending champions will not want to spent too much time down in 7th position and they'll see this as a chance to bounce back to form. Toronto on a short turn-around and with injuries will be tested defensively once again. They proved the prediction wrong last week so who knows.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 4-1 Toronto-Awaba

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Under 23's:
Wallsend FC (6th) v Toronto-Awaba (10th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Wallsend's unexpected win over ladder-leaders Cooks Hill really gave the Red Devils some confidence in the 23's but they were unable to take three points away from Alder Park last week. John Olivares scored to secure a point away from home but they no doubt would have wanted to secure yet another three points. Still, they sit in a respectable 6th position with only one loss in six outings.

Toronto-Awaba's 23's showed a lot of fight and desire two weeks ago in their scoreless draw away to Singleton but since then, the Stags have conceded eleven goals in two games. They've bagged three goals in those two games but conceding 5 to Belswans and 6 to Thornton makes it tough. Locking up shop at the back and trying to scrape out a tight result will be the focus for the Stags.

Prediction: Toronto should be respected going forward. They have a couple of players who can cause trouble. Unfortunately it's inconsistent trouble and it's at the other end where they are a real worry. 55 goals conceded across 1st Grade and 23's after just seven rounds. The Stags need to plug those holes. Wallsend have the quality to win this. McGuire and Olivares will be ones to watch if they both play.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 4-1 Toronto-Awaba

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Under 19's
Wallsend FC (11th) v Toronto-Awaba (10th)
Kickoff: 11:00am

Wallsend's luckless run in the 19's continued midweek as they threw away a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with a quality Belmont-Swansea side. Ryan Mclure's penalty had Wallsend up 1-0 on Thursday night and when Jacob Rae produced a quality strike to put them 2-0 ahead, things were looking good. Unfortunately the all too familiar disappointment came back in the second half as they dropped two points. The breakthrough win is surely not far away.

Toronto 19's thrilling late win at Singleton two weeks ago saw them leave Wallsend bottom of the league but unfortunately for the Stags they were unable to keep that form going as they succumbed 3-0 to Belmont-Swansea last weekend. Gaining all three points is paramount to both teams as they look to start bridging the ever-widening gap to the top sides. 

Prediction: Make no mistakes, Wallsend 19's are probably the most underachieving side this season. It's quiet amazing how luckless they've been at times. The humiliating 8-1 loss to Cooks Hill was rock bottom, their finals hopes are already on life support and this is a game they cannot lose. Wallsend to break their drought on Sunday.  

My Tip: Wallsend FC 3-1 Toronto-Awaba

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Under 17's Match of the Round:
Wallsend FC (7th) v Toronto-Awaba (3rd)
Kickoff: 9:15am

Wallsend 17's were in midweek action on Thursday night against Belmont-Swansea and despite Ben Irwin firing them ahead, the Red Devils were unable to get a result, losing 2-1 and conceding a late goal that left them severely disappointed. The side have been good at times but inconsistency has cost them a chance to sit higher on the table. Two late losses in their last two home games and three-straight losses in total will have them fired up for a positive result.

Toronto's 17's are flying the Stags flag high after seven rounds. They sit in 3rd position and have a very strong defence. In the higher age groups, conceding goals has been a worry but in the 17's, the Stags are a hungry bunch of players keen to scrap out tight wins. Small in stature, young goalkeeper Brock Redman has been one to watch as has powerful fullback Arbi Watt. This will be a tough assignment for Wallsend.

Prediction: Wallsend 17's like the higher grades are struggling to find consistency. They've proven their worth with big wins over Cessnock and Singleton but to build a platform for success, they really need to find results and losing two straight home games due to late goals isn't helping their cause. That said, Sunday is a tough test. Toronto are a solid side and are building quiet some form. Expect a tight game either way.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 1-2 Toronto-Awaba

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1st Grade:
Belmont-Swansea (5th) v West Wallsend SFC (9th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

 What a difference a week can make in football. After a big win over New Lambton on Good Friday, Belswans kept the momentum rolling with a thrilling shootout win in the FFA Cup against South Cardiff. Their form was brought to a halt last week as they fell to a 4-3 loss to Toronto-Awaba.

The game, played at Westy's Johnston Park saw Belswans' chances hindered as Steele Harvey was sent off. Josh Rufo's side just couldn't get the job done with ten men. They'll know that a win on Sunday will put last week's loss in the past fairly quickly. They certainly won't want to dwell on it too long.

West Wallsend were good value in their 1-0 win at home over Singleton last weekend in a result that restored some confidence in the Bluebells. Unfortunately they lacked in the final third as they fell to a 3-0 midweek loss to Kahibah F.C. Gary Rowe will be disappointed with the result but happy with a more disciplined Westy over the last two games.

The Bluebells will be no doubt fatigued on the short turn-around and will need to provide a bit more bite in the final third if they want a result out of this game. Ryan Cole is often touted as a key man but Dom Langowski is also fairly vital for the Bluebells and even Jarrod Olivieri who'll look to help create combinations from the middle of the park to the attackers.

Prediction: West Wallsend as mentioned lacked the clinical touch against Kahibah during the week and it's hard to see them turning it around so quickly. Belswans have an extra few days rest and they'll be chomping at the bit to get back to winning ways.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 4-1 West Wallsend

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Under 23's:
Belmont-Swansea (2nd) v West Wallsend SFC (7th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Belswans 23's sit in 2nd place but have struggled some weeks to produce the football they want to play. Last week's 5-2 win over Toronto doubled their goal tally and put them on a positive goal difference for the first time since Round 1. Three 1-0 wins show that this side have the belief to win the tight games. Ben Parmenter in goals is a big help towards that.

West Wallsend were disappointing in the second half in their midweek game against Kahibah on Wednesday. Leading 2-0 in the 30th minute, an own goal in the 34th minute invited Kahibah back into the game and the Bluebells were fortunate in the end to leave with a point. A third-straight draw will have them fired up to get all three points at Blacksmiths on Sunday.

Prediction: Both of these teams tend to be involved in low-scoring fixtures so it'd be no surprise to see only one goal in it or even another draw. The ladder positions show Belswans as the favourites but Westy cannot be written off in this grade. Another low-scoring draw is a very likely option.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 1-1 West Wallsend

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Under 19's Match of the Round:
Belmont-Swansea (5th) v West Wallsend SFC (3rd)
Kickoff: 11:00am

The Grand Final rematch is on at Blacksmiths Oval this Sunday. Belmont-Swansea were at Westy last week to face Toronto and scored three to see off the Stags. Midweek they came from 2-0 down to take a point away from The Gardens against a desperate Wallsend side. Matt Ellis and Lachlan McMaster picked up the goals and no doubt all three points at home is the target for Sunday's fixture.

West Wallsend need no introduction to Belswans. They were beaten in the decider last year and that's more than enough reason for the likes of Josh Knight and James Barnes to want revenge. Westy's 2-1 win last night over Kahibah should have been more so no doubt, finishing chances will be the centrepiece of their game plan on the weekend. Having Josh Knight back after missing the game will help as will a potential return at the back for Cooper Smith.

Prediction: The defending champions Belmont-Swansea have already met the top two sides in the competition and both times it finished 2-2. Maximum points against 3rd place West Wallsend will really see them kick-start their season. Beating Cessnock and Toronto is one thing, this is another. Westy lacked the killer instinct last night whilst Belswans are known to take their chances. They might just edge this one.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 3-2 West Wallsend

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Under 17's
Belmont-Swansea (8th) v West Wallsend SFC (2nd)
Kickoff: 9:15am

Belmont-Swansea's 17's slide down the table was finally stopped with a fairly solid 2-1 comeback win over Wallsend on Thursday night. Two Under 15's players proved the difference with Hayden Langholz and the in-form Blake Gorton would help out their older teammates. No doubt a relief for coach Will McMaster to see his side scrape out a win.

West Wallsend will be on a short-turnaround as well after playing on Thursday night. The Bluebells showed a lot of fight to draw 1-1 with Kahibah in a game they very well could have won. An own goal in the 76th minute saw them level and they almost took all three points late on. Jarrod Crawford was the star for Westy, fighting hard to win the ball every time and providing a lot to the cause.

Prediction: Expect a fiery encounter. Belswans seem to pick up cards here and there and Westy are always a fairly physical side. A card-happy and inconsistent referee here would be the worst result. As for the game, Westy have the better players on paper and will be looking to return to winning form.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 1-3 West Wallsend

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Under 15's Fixtures:





Thursday, 20 April 2017

PREVIEW: New-FM Northern League One Round 7 (Newysports PRIDE Round)


1st Grade:
West Wallsend SFC (9th) v Singleton Strikers (8th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

West Wallsend didn't get a chance to play their match last week against South Cardiff due to a lighting failure so the Bluebells will be in action for the first time since a fiery 6-1 loss to Thornton two weeks ago. In that game they lost Head Coach Gary Rowe and Tye Jones to send offs and the fallout from that is still ongoing. Both will be suspended from this fixture.

Poor discipline aside, the Bluebells have shipped six goals at Johnston Park twice this season. Nowhere near what they were planning at the start of the year. Going forward they offer a bit but at times defensively, they've been completely torn apart. It's that sort of inconsistency that has cost them over the past couple of seasons.

Singleton's 4-2 win over Toronto-Awaba last week restored some belief in how the Strikers want to play in 2017 but it still left a lot to be desired. It certainly wasn't the glossy finished product David Willoughby was hoping for but it was a fairly solid performance in patches. Joe Civello's hat-trick played a large part in the win.

Mark and Michael Bruzzese are two short-term additions to the Strikers team from Victoria and they both showed their qualities last weekend added some much needed experience and belief into a young Singleton squad. 

Prediction: The home side have to show some belief. They aren't a team that do well when they're chasing the game from behind. Cool heads must prevail. Singleton on paper seem to have the more settled squad heading into this game. 

My Tip: West Wallsend 1-4 Singleton Strikers


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Under 23's:
West Wallsend SFC (6th) v Singleton Strikers (3rd)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

West Wallsend 23's have certainly solidified their defensive ranks in their past two games. After conceding six goals to Thornton, they beat New Lambton 1-0 before drawing with 2nd-placed South Cardiff 1-1. Admittedly, a couple of 1st Graders did fill in for that win over New Lambton with Ryan Cole scoring the only goal on the night. But the Bluebells do have a bit more to like about their chances so far this season.

Singleton dropped two points in a scoreless draw with Toronto last week which no doubt left them feeling disappointed. They weren't good enough on the day to win it and they wasted their key chances, something they can ill-afford to keep doing. With three wins and a draw in their past four games, the Strikers do have a little bit of momentum going into this one. Scoring goals will be the key.

Prediction: Whilst Westy's last two results have been solid, it's still uncertain just how they'll go against Singleton. The Strikers are unpredictable, if they can find their scoring form, they'll win but if they don't then it may just be an open door for Westy to take the win.

My Tip: West Wallsend 1-3 Singleton Strikers


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Under 19's
West Wallsend SFC (3rd) v Singleton Strikers (4th)
Kickoff: 11:00am

Westy 19's propelled themselves to a big 4-0 win over South Cardiff last week, exactly a week after losing Jaryd Hayter long-term to a horror injury. James Barnes grabbed a double at Southy and was joined in the scoresheet by Dan Roxby and 17's player Blake Ciappara. The Bluebells have won three-straight and will look for another solid victory.

Singleton are definitely no easy beats. They've lost their last two games but Toronto last week had to produce some quality goals to get past a spirited Singo side. The Strikers have the quality needed to cause a stir away from home but whether they can or not is the question.

Prediction: Singleton will definitely prove to be a more tricky opponent than some Westy have played so far but the Bluebells will like their chances of a victory on their home turf. This is a real chance to solidify their spot inside the top four with two catch-up games still to play.

My Tip: West Wallsend 3-1 Singleton Strikers


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Under 17's
West Wallsend SFC (=2nd) v Singleton Strikers (11th)
Kickoff: 9:15am

Westy 17's endured a slow start to the year with multiple games washed-out. Their latest result was a solid win over South Cardiff last weekend and they have a few attacking options that can be a threat on their day. Sam Whyburn and Khye Drayton keep popping up on the scoresheet whilst Blake Ciappara scored off the bench for the 19's last week. With ten points in 4 games, things are travelling nicely so far for a side many tipped to push for the title.

It's the complete opposite story for the Singleton 17's. Five losses in five games, 22 goals conceded and almost zero luck in front of goals. Ayden Borkowski is one who has seen a few chances go wayward but defensively, they need to really start turning things around. This game will be a difficult one to do just that.

Prediction: It's a big ask for Singleton to get anything out of this game. West Wallsend at home is a tricky test for any side let alone one that is sitting in 11th position. Singleton's defence just hasn't been solid enough and if they play similar to last week, this could be a bigger loss.

My Tip: West Wallsend 6-1 Singleton Strikers



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*MOVED TO THE LMRFF*

1st Grade Match of the Round:
Cooks Hill United (1st) v Thornton Redbacks (6th)
Kickoff: 2:45pm (Field 1)

Unfortunately the Newcastle Athletics Field will be receiving it's new track over the coming days so it's been deemed unusable for Saturday meaning Cooks Hill have moved their games to the LMRFF. Not an ideal situation but the Cookers did spend all summer training on the synthetic surface so they'll be used to it. Thornton have also played twice out there, against Cooks Hill and Olympic.

Last night Cooks Hill defeated Wallsend, a feat they've been unable to do over a few seasons now. The first-half was fairly solid with some quality goals but again the Cookers did drop off in the second half and it's sides like Thornton who'll look to punish that. Graham Law is adamant on his side becoming a 90-minute team. Law is a coach who wants team performance to be as crucial as the actual result.

Thornton's form going into this is perfect. Two wins from two games but Darrel McAllister and co. must be tearing their hair out after the amount of wash-outs they've faced. Last week Thornton Park was unplayable and then the electrical issues at Alder Park meant Wednesday's game v New Lambton was canned. They'll be delighted just to get back on the park.

The Redbacks have scored 11 goals in two fixtures this season, albeit against lower-table sides Cessnock and West Wallsend. This is as good a test as they'll get all season. 2017 looks to be a year where Thornton go that next level and knocking off the ladder-leaders will set them up perfectly for the weeks ahead. Keep an eye out for Nathan McAllister and Jamie Subat who are scoring a few goals between them this season.

Prediction: Losing home advantage isn't ideal for Cooks Hill but the LMRFF has been their home all pre-season so it's familiar territory. If they produce their best, few teams can match them but they have dropped off in the second half of their last two fixtures. Three games in a week is a test too. Thornton could send a real statement with a win here.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 1-3 Thornton Redbacks


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Under 23's:
Cooks Hill United (1st) v Thornton Redbacks (7th)
Kickoff: 1:00pm (Field 1)

After five-straight wins to open the season, Cooks Hill's 23's tasted defeat for the first time this season to a fired-up Wallsend last night at The Gardens. The Cookers' couldn't rescue a point after an uncharacteristic first half performance left them chasing down a 3-1 lead at the break. In some football minds, perhaps this was the loss they needed to really find their potential.

Thornton 23's haven't played a lot of football (only two games so far) but they've produced two quality results so far. A 3-0 win over Cessnock was followed a month later by a 6-1 win over Westy. Only having two games in a month, the Redbacks will be fired up for this trip to the LMRFF. There's one or two former Redbacks in the Cookers camp. Jordan Smallhorne and Damian Spohr come to mind.

Prediction: Thornton are two from two but they're up against a Cooks Hill side that will be determined to bounce back from Wednesday night's loss. The slick LMRFF synthetic pitch will play a part and Cooks Hill as the table-toppers will go in as favourites. Still, they'll need more than they produced last night.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United


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Under 19's Match of the Round:
Cooks Hill United (2nd) v Thornton Redbacks (5th)
Kickoff: 2:45pm (Field 2)

The Match of the Round in the 19's sees Cooks Hill host an unpredictable Thornton Redbacks side. The Cookers are in action tonight against Wallsend but after putting six past Cessnock last week, confidence is surely rising in the minds of their attackers. Dylan McGarrigle and Jayden Wiggins had a field day against a sloppy Cessnock defence.

They will test Thornton's defence which still remains a big question mark about that squad. Their 4-2 midweek win over New Lambton showed attacking quality with Edan Ruddy being a stand-out but one or two worrying moments defensively saw chances for the Eagles. Cooks Hill have the quality to pounce on that sort of insecurity. This is a real test of Thornton's resolve.

Prediction: Expect goals on the fast-synthetic track. Both sides possess goalscorers but it's at the back where this game will be won or lost. A look at the line-ups show that Cooks Hill probably have the better defenders on paper and that could prove vital.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 4-2 Thornton Redbacks


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Under 17's
Cooks Hill United (5th) v Thornton Redbacks (9th)
Kickoff: 1:00pm (Field 2)

Cooks Hill's 17's picked up a 2-0 win against Cessnock last week but it wasn't as convincing as they would have liked. It was a fixture where they did just enough to win it. They've got a game against Wallsend tonight that will see one side go to that next level. Solidifying the team's combinations will be the key factor over the coming weeks as the season passes the quarter mark.

Thornton's defence was the biggest question mark heading into their catch-up fixture with New Lambton and one or two errors proved costly enough to see them lose that game 2-0. Going forward they lacked the combinations to turn midfield possession into attacking threat. This game will again be a very difficult test for them.

Prediction: This prediction may change tomorrow based on Cooks Hill's performance in tonight's (Thursday) game. That said, they have the quality to overcome a Thornton side that is still finding the sort of football needed to get results this season.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 3-1 Thornton Redbacks


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1st Grade:
New Lambton FC (5th) v Wallsend FC (7th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

After missing their midweek match against Thornton due to lighting issues, the Eagles will be roaring to get back on the pitch and try to put last week's loss to Belmont-Swansea behind them. They showed good signs at times against the 2016 Runner-Ups but they'll need a consistent effort to down the defending champions.

New Lambton did train at Alder Park on Wednesday when the 17's and 19's were playing and new goalkeeper Josh Cox was in attendance at said training session. Having Cox join up will boost their ranks and give competition to Keegan Pulik who has been fairly reliable as of late. Andrew Packer will no doubt enjoy having two keepers to pick from.

Wallsend's loss last night to Cooks Hill certainly wasn't a poor result. They were down 3-0 at half-time to three well-worked goals but they fought hard in the second half and with a bit more luck in front of goals they could have potentially pushed for a draw. It was a loss but one the side will look to simply move on from fairly quickly.

Ethan Coker scored their goal last night and despite being fairly short for a striker, he rose for a header that came off the crossbar and could have made it 1-1 at The Gardens and arguably a different game. There's some players in 23's too that may very well push for a 1st Grade spot this weekend. It'll be interesting to see who Chris Gallagher will favour. 

Prediction: These sides do have a history in the Zone Premier League but there's not too many players involved now that were three or four years ago. Chris Gallagher will know what the Eagles offer and how that club fight for the result. At Alder Park, New Lambton will look to bounce back into winning form.

My Tip: New Lambton 2-1 Wallsend FC


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Under 23's:
New Lambton FC (8th) v Wallsend FC (5th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

It's safe to say that the wheels have fallen off the New Lambton 23's bus after four-straight defeats. A first-up 5-1 win over Kahibah sent a message to the competition but since then, the Eagles have dropped games they could have won and slumped a massive 12 points behind leaders Cooks Hill. It's getting to a point where they simply need to turn it around.

Wallsend's midweek win over Cooks Hill was arguably the shock of the season in the Under 23's so far. The Red Devils produced some quality to see off the previously unbeaten Cookers and will look to build on that on Sunday. Goalscoring was an issue for them but they scored three last night and they do have some confidence about their play.

Prediction: New Lambton at home will probably see this as must-win. They sit seven points outside the top four and playing a game of catch-up isn't ideal. This weekend is the quarter point of the season when you consider wash-outs so it's important they go for the win.

My Tip: New Lambton 2-1 Wallsend FC


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Under 19's
New Lambton FC (1st) v Wallsend FC (11th)
Kickoff: 11:00am

As of writing (and this preview may change on Friday), Wallsend sit last in the Under 19's, the only side without a win in 2017. New Lambton may lose top spot if the Red Devils lose by three or more tonight but as for now they sit top of the table and deservedly so. They've been quality so far.

But, cracks have began to show in the seemingly untouchable Eagles side. They fought hard to draw 2-2 with Belswans last week and then on Tuesday night they were beaten 4-2 by Thornton in a bit of a shock result. They just lacked the quality on the night that saw them produce the goods through the first month of the competition. Not a huge worry but they need to get back on track quickly.

Prediction: No doubt there may be one or two Eagles in the stands for the Wallsend game tonight trying to get an indication of just what to expect on Sunday. The Red Devils will bring the fight to Alder Park but New Lambton going forward just seem to have the better form.

My Tip: New Lambton 2-1 Wallsend F.C


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Under 17's
New Lambton FC (1st) v Wallsend FC (4th)
Kickoff: 9:15am

By the time this game kicks off at Alder Park, Wallsend may very well sit in 2nd spot. They face Cooks Hill tonight in a catch-up fixture. New Lambton picked up a 2-0 win in their catch-up match with Thornton on Tuesday which was their fourth-straight victory. They've really come from nowhere to lead the competition. No one standout player either, they have options across the park.

Wallsend as mentioned face Cooks Hill tonight and will look to win that after last week's bye. A win tonight and a win on Sunday will take them to the top of the league and they certainly have some players capable of doing just that. This is definitely their toughest opponents to date as they face New Lambton and it'll be a test for the Red Devils.

Prediction: New Lambton will keep an eye out for Wallsend's result tonight but the Eagles at home deserve to go into this one as favourites. They'll need a little bit better of a performance than the effort they gave against Thornton to see off what is a quality Wallsend outfit.

My Tip: New Lambton 2-1 Wallsend FC


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1st Grade:
Kahibah FC (4th) v South Cardiff 
Kickoff: 2:30pm

New-FM football returns to Kahibah Oval for the first time in 2017 this weekend when Kahibah host South Cardiff. The Green and Blacks are coming off two quality wins in their last two outings. A heartstopping 4-3 victory over Cooks Hill United and a more clinical 5-0 win over Toronto last night. That 5-0 win could have been more if not for one or two missed chances.

When taking the FFA Cup into account, Andre Gumprecht's side have scored 13 goals in their last three competitive games. They've got plenty of options going forward. Penfold, Abshilava, Hadlow and even the likes of Jayden Demir as he returns to full fitness. Kahibah are playing catch-up after missing more games than any other side bar Thornton in 1st Grade.

South Cardiff's midweek 5-1 win over Cessnock City was just like Kahibah's win down the road at the LMRFF, fairly convincing and a solid performance across the park. Troy Runge scored twice, Klaudon Ahmataj got a double and Denis Fajkovic stamped his name onto the scoresheet once again. The Gunners are playing some good football in 2017.

This is an all-top four encounter and even at this stage of the season, both teams will be adamant on getting a result. South Cardiff weren't a side that travelled well in 2016. They only won two away games all season. After losing a tight game to Toronto last time they left Ulinga, the Gunners will be looking for at least a point against a tricky Kahibah side.

Prediction: South Cardiff if they produce their best will provide a very difficult test for Kahibah but considering the Green and Blacks saw off a barnstorming Cooks Hill side in that Round 5 thriller, confidence must be high in the squad that they can turn Kahibah Oval into a fortress this season. Home advantage could get them over the line.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 3-1 South Cardiff


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Under 23's:
Kahibah FC (10th) v South Cardiff (2nd)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Kahibah 23's were awfully close to knocking off Cooks Hill in their last game but they fell to a late penalty in that 1-0 loss and now they sit a whopping 14 points behind the ladder-leaders. A 5-1 loss to New Lambton was awful, a 3-3 draw with Toronto terrible but that performance against Cooks Hill showed some fight and character. There's no better place than home for Kahibah to kickstart their campaign.

South Cardiff grounded out a tight 1-0 win over Cessnock last night to move into 2nd place. Zac Tapp scored his 7th goal of the season to give the Gunners a vital three points on home turf and he has to be one to watch out for on Sunday as he's in a purple patch of form. This could be a very tightly contested match in the Under 23's.

Prediction: Kahibah dealt well with Cooks Hill in their last outing but South Cardiff are a challenging prospect. Still, Southy only getting one against Cessnock leaves a little bit to be desired. This could be the chance for Kahibah to put some runs on the board so to speak. Newysports likes the draw here though.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 1-1 South Cardiff


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Under 19's
Kahibah FC (8th) v South Cardiff (7th)
Kickoff: 11:00am

Kahibah 19's have apparently brought in a new player in the form of Kaileb O'Donoghue from Valentine. That addition will boost the stocks of Jarrod Gorsuch's side. They've been lacking at times this season and they certainly need to knuckle down, put in the hard yards and produce the results or they'll languish in the middle/lower portion of the table. Sunday offers a chance to get their season moving with a big win.

South Cardiff showed some decent signs in their first couple of games but the wheels fell off last week when they were well-beaten, 4-0 by West Wallsend. They are an unpredictable side though so it's certainly not time to hit the panic button just yet. Just like Kahibah, Sunday offers a chance for Southy to really get some momentum going for their season.

Prediction: Kahibah posses the better lineup on paper but whether they put their best foot forward is the question. Lucas Emmett-Mourlet will be hunting a goal or two against his former club whilst the aforementioned O'Donoghue could be a late debutante if rumours are correct.

My Tip: Kahibah FC


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Under 17's
Kahibah FC (7th) v South Cardiff (10th)
Kickoff: 9:15am

Kahibah 17's have only played one 9:15am kickoff in their three games this season. It's been a pretty wild start to the season but with two weeks since their last fixture, they'll come into their first game at Kahibah Oval with some hope that they can get the points. Confidence won't be high after dropping two points in the final seconds at Cooks Hill two weeks ago but they'll look to put that firmly behind them.

Southy face Cessnock City tonight in what is a chance to gain their first win of the season. They fell to a loss against West Wallsend last weekend and with only the lone point gained from four fixtures, they'll be aiming to get their first win of the year soon enough.

Prediction: Southy are a slightly unpredictable side in most grades but Kahibah 17's on their home turf will look to gain their second win of the season. They've got the players going forward to do damage and a very solid defensive line that will look to lock things down after conceding the late goal last time out.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 2-0 South Cardiff


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*MOVED TO JOHNSTON PARK*

1st Grade:
Toronto-Awaba (10th) v Belmont-Swansea (2nd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

 A week ago, Newysports was predicting Toronto to beat Singleton. A week and two games later, the Stags have conceded nine goals in two matches. They showed patches of quality against Singleton last week but missed the crucial finish in front of goal.

Then on Wednesday, an undermanned and fatigued Stags side went down 5-0 to Kahibah F.C. Nick Roberts missed the match after a head knock last week, Blake Glennie played injured and there were some other players who didn't feature. Key player Michael Bru has apparently left the club bound for Charlestown in the NPL. It hasn't been the best week for the Stags but they'll look to erase it all with a big win on Sunday.

Belmont-Swansea's hard-fought 2-1 win over New Lambton moved them into 2nd-place and Josh Rufo's side will be primed for another big fixture here. They've got Edgeworth coming up soon in the FFA Cup so times are certainly interesting at Blacksmiths.

Tega Marcus has been key in front of goals but there's been some decent performers elsewhere on the park. Sean Matthews is showing quality despite being one of the older heads in the competition whilst both Matt Redmond and Ben Parmenter are doing quality work in goals. Having options like that will have Belswans feeling good about their chances in the next few weeks.

Prediction: Toronto stunned Belswans twice last year. A scoreless draw at Blacksmiths then a gutsy 2-1 victory at Lyall Peacock. This game will be played at Johnston Park and it's a different Belswans side. The Stags are probably a few weeks away from hitting their potential. Belswans to win it.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-3 Belmont-Swansea


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Under 23's:
Toronto-Awaba (9th) v Belmont-Swansea (4th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

Toronto just like Singleton were ruing missed chances in last Saturday's scoreless draw at Howe Park. The Stags showed a lot of character to pick up the clean sheet which will help install some confidence in their side's defence. Still they did ride their luck at times at Singleton. Nonetheless, getting three points is the next step as they look to create some separation between them and the foot of the table.

Belmont-Swansea sit in 4th place with three wins from five games. Those three wins were all dogfight sort of games. 1-0 wins where the side don't really play to their potential and to a lesser extent 'win ugly'. It's not the worst thing in the world as three points is always paramount but football-wise, there are better performing sides sitting lower on the table. They'll want to kick-on and prove themselves as a quality outfit.

Prediction: Toronto's home field advantage is sacrificed this week but they'll know the field well at Johnston Park after playing there a few weeks back. Belswans will look to put in another good defensive shift and if they can score more than one goal, then they should get the win. Toronto will be keen to get their first win though so it could be a tight one.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-2 Belmont-Swansea


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Under 19's
Toronto-Awaba (9th) v Belmont-Swansea (6th)
Kickoff: 11:00am

There were wild scenes of celebration at Howe Park last Saturday as Toronto 19's put in the hard yards to pick up their first victory of the season. Connor Morgan was key for them and Ben Hastings free-kick was superb. It was a true team effort with all hands on deck and exactly what the Stags needed after some poor results to begin the year.

Belmont-Swansea have been involved in two high-intensity and entertaining 2-2 draws in recent weeks and will look to go one step further and record a win against Toronto. Joel Nicholson was a big out for them last week and if returns then they'll have one extra option going forward. A lot of talk is about the likes of Ellis and Dundas going forward but watch for Arch Johnson and David Swain. They've both been reliable in transition. 

Prediction: Toronto's confidence will be high after last week's victory over Singleton but Belswans certainly possess one of the more threatening strike forces in the competition. Defensively there were one or two worrying moments for the Stags last week and it's right there that this game will be won or lost.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 2-4 Belmont-Swansea


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Under 17's
Toronto-Awaba (=2nd) v Belmont-Swansea (8th)
Kickoff: 9:15am

With a solid 3-0 over Singleton last weekend, Toronto 17's put more of a foothold into their spot inside the top four. Andrew Clempson was key for them with two goals but defensively they stood firm. Young goalkeeper Brock Redman picked up a deserved clean sheet and his defenders were very reliable.

Belmont-Swansea were comprehensively beaten last weekend, 4-0 by New Lambton. Discipline lacked a little and Mitchell Boyce was sent off for picking up a second yellow card for kicking the ball away. Missing for them last week was centre back Solomon Amos who was Man of the Match in each of their first three matches. Defensively they just weren't up for the battle with the Eagles.

Prediction: Belmont-Swansea will threaten with some decent attackers but Toronto have a stern defence in the 17's. Arbi Watt is a real stand-out so far this season. Belswans will offer more than Singleton did last week but the Stags will be looking for another quality victory.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 3-1 Belmont-Swansea



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Under 15's Fixtures: