Wednesday, 31 May 2017

ZONE LEAGUE WRAP-ROUND 8

Zone Premier League

Round 8 Results:

Cardiff City 5-0 Warners Bay
Swansea FC 2-0 University FC
Newcastle Suns 2-0 Mayfield United
Jesmond FC 1-2 Beresfield FC
Kotara South 1-0 Dudley-Redhead






Round-Up:

Cardiff City's excellent form as of late has continued with a 5-0 thumping of Warners Bay. Swansea also picked up a win, to the tune of 2-0 against University. The Tigers and the Uni clash this Thursday at Cardiff Oval in a catch-up game as well.

Top v bottom went as expected with the Suns picking up a 2-0 victory over struggling Mayfield. Jesmond couldn't overcome the challenge of unbeaten Beresfield United with Bero winning 2-1 and lastly, Kotara picked up a solid 1-0 win over Dudley-Redhead.


This Weekend:

The Match of the Round on Sunday is a Grand Final rematch as Dudley face the Newcastle Suns. It was 4-0 last year as the Suns powered past Dudley to win the title so the Thistles will be out for revenge. In another big fixture, Beresfield United are at home to the in-form Cardiff City.

Mayfield United host Jesmond in a game where the loser will be left sitting in last spot. The Tigers will be desperate to get away from the bottom. Warners Bay host Swansea FC and University host Kotara South in the other fixtures this weekend.


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Zone League One:

Round 8 Results:

Stockton Sharks 1-1 Westlakes Wildcats
Beresfield FC 3-2 Morisset United
Charlestown Junior 0-5 Cooks Hill United
Garden Suburb 1-1 Barnsley FC
Wallsend FC 0-2 Raymond Terrace




Round-Up:

There doesn't seem to be an end in sight when it comes to how tight the table is in ZL1. Top of the table Barnsley were held to a 1-1 draw by Garden Suburb, the same scoreline over at Corroba between Stockton and Westlakes. Raymond Terrace went equal top with a 2-0 win over Wallsend and Beresfield just got past Morisset 3-2. Charlestown are a distant last and there troubles continued with a 5-0 home loss to Cooks Hill.


This Weekend:

It's 1st v 3rd at Barnsley this weekend as the Bulldogs tackle Beresfield FC. Raymond Terrace will have eyes on that game as a draw there and a win for them against Morisset will take them to the top of the table. Cooks Hill could also go top if results fall their way and they beat Wallsend.

In the other games, 7th-placed Westlakes host 6th-placed Garden Suburb and Charlestown host Stockton in the later fixture on Saturday.



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Zone League Two:

Round 8 Results:

Maryland-Fletcher 3-4 Argenton United
University FC 1-8 New Lambton FC
Hunter Simba 3-2 Nelson Bay
Muswellbrook FC 2-6 Merewether Advance
Hamilton Olympic 4-2 Kahibah FC





Round-Up:

The Maryland-Fletcher v Argenton United match turned out to be a cracking affair at Kurraka Oval as the Bulldogs took the fight to the ladder-leaders. Argy's winning streak was under pressure but stretched to seven wins in seven appearances this season.

Hunter Simba also survived some scares to go 7 from 7. Nelson Bay put in one of their best displays of the year but Simba won 3-2. In other games, Olympic picked up a solid 4-2 win over Kahibah, New Lambton smashed University 8-1 and lastly, Merewether were big winners, 6-2 up at Muswellbrook.


This Weekend:

Alder Park hosts a big game on Saturday as 3rd placed Olympic take on the 4th place New Lambton Eagles. New Lambton will be looking to make ground on Olympic with a big win. Argenton will look to ease past a struggling Uni side. Merewether on the other hand will look to stun Simba. In the other games, Kahibah host Muswellbrook and Nelson Bay host Maryland-Fletcher.


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Zone League Three:

Round 8 Results:

Maitland F.C 6-3 Dudley-Redhead
Bolwarra-Lorn v Maitland Juniors N/A
Medowie FC 9-2 Mayfield United Juniors
Hamilton Azzurri 6-1 Edgeworth Juniors



Round-Up:

Another week and another big win for runaway leaders Hamilton Azzurri. A 6-1 defeat of Edgeworth took Azzurri to 9 wins in 9 appearances this season. 4th-place Bolwarra-Lorn's result against Maitland Juniors is still unknown but the Raptors picked up a 6-3 win over Dudley-Redhead. In the other game, Medowie smashed Mayfield 9-2.


This Weekend:

There's no standout fixture this weekend. The four sides from the bottom half host a top-half side this weekend. Azzurri's winning streak will be something Maitland Juniors will look to end, Dudley will host Bolwarra in a fairly even looking match. Edgeworth tackle Medowie and last but not least, Mayfield are up for a huge test against Maitland FC.

Friday, 26 May 2017

PREVIEW: New-FM Northern League One Round 12


1st Grade:
Singleton Strikers (9th) v Belmont-Swansea UFC (8th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Belmont-Swansea 3-0 Singleton

Singleton produced arguably the shock of the season last weekend as they denied ladder-leaders Cooks Hill what seemed a certain victory at the AthField. Goalkeeper Stuart Plant was peppered with a barrage of shots and Singo's resistance was finally broken in the 86th minute but Brad Millar's late free-kick would give the young visiting side an unlikely point.

David Willoughby has spoken about his side's lack of experience and the Strikers have obviously had to rely on younger players who no doubt will improve in years to come. This season has been a poor one by Singo's standards but they offer a very unpredictable force as exampled last week. It's never a guaranteed three points against a hungry & young side.

Belmont-Swansea's season has been poor by what many thought and suddenly they find themselves in a must-win situation. They're sitting five points outside the top four and anymore could really force a lot of worry into Josh Rufo and company. The coach subbed himself on last weekend in a move that some will say shows either frustration or perhaps even desperation.

The away form for Belmont-Swansea is a talking point. They just aren't hitting the heights they hit in what was a brilliant campaign last year. They're a side that will not want to miss out on finals so expect a more fired up side as they face the longest away trip in the competition.

Prediction: Belswans have lost four of their last five league fixtures which is an amazing stat that shows just how inconsistent they've been. Frustration is no doubt growing out at Blacksmiths and this game proves a chance to put it all behind them and answer some of the looming questions.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-3 Belmont-Swansea

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Under 23's:
Singleton Strikers (6th) v Belmont-Swansea UFC (5th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Belmont-Swansea 1-0 Singleton

Singleton 23's were well beaten 4-0 by Cooks Hill last weekend but the Strikers were undermanned on the occasion. Excuses aside, their form has drastically slipped away in past weeks. 13 goals conceded in three games with just one scored. For a side that were comfortably inside the top four, it's just not good enough. This game is an important one on home turf against a team just above them on the table.

Belmont-Swansea have been enduring a mixed bag of form recently in the Under 23's. A couple of draws and losses but no wins since April 23rd. A fair few faces from the 19's and even 17's have been rotated into this squad and Belswans are really looking ahead to the future with the 23's this season. Sitting in fifth, a win could propel them into the top four. It's a fairly tight mid-table in the 23's and both these sides know one win could do wonders.

Prediction: The result all depends on who takes the field on the day. Both sides have had to deal with mass changes and sometimes late changes. It's the story of the 23's competition. It's hard to get a solid grasp on some sides. At Howe Park Singleton will like their chances but Belswans can be a dangerous side.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-2 Belmont-Swansea

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Under 19's
Singleton Strikers (7th) v Belmont-Swansea UFC (5th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Belmont-Swansea 0-0 Singleton

Singleton started well at Cooks Hill last week and lead the competition leaders twice but they'd fall to three late goals and eventually a 5-2 loss. It wasn't the worst result in the world but they sit eight points outside the top four where they were sitting comfortably in not that long ago.

Belmont-Swansea picked up a fairly comfortable 3-1 win over South Cardiff last week with Joel Nicholson picking up a hat-trick. That win took the defending champions to a whopping 22 games unbeaten and stretched their streak past a year. It's going to take some effort to beat these guys as they've proven to be a stern side this year. Six draws is a lot and the second half of the year will see them attempt to go to the next level.

Prediction: There's no way this finishes the same way as Round 1. Neither side could score on that day but surely there'll be a goal or two in this fixture. Belswans could go as high as third with a win and will be eyeing off Westy's result against New Lambton. They have the quality to see off an inconsistent Singleton side.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-3 Belmont-Swansea

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Under 17's:
Singleton Strikers (11th) v Belmont-Swansea UFC (5th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Belmont-Swansea 5-0 Singleton

Singleton were disappointed to lose 10th spot to Thornton after a technicality but they couldn't do the job last week against Cooks Hill to get back off the foot of the table. The Strikers tried well but defensive errors once again cost them dearly as they went down 2-0. So the Strikers remain bottom after the first half of the season.

Belmont-Swansea are now six games unbeaten and coming into this with a handy three game winning streak. They sit in fifth place and will be keenly watching the two games this weekend where the top four sides meet each other. Belswans are playing good football and a match against a struggling Singleton side is one they'll feel they can get the three points in.

Prediction: Belmont-Swansea have a decent record against teams below them. They put five unanswered past Singo on opening day and in their form could get  a few more goals here. Singleton can ill-afford the defensive mishaps that have so far plagued their season.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-4 Belmont-Swansea

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
West Wallsend SFC (6th) v New Lambton FC (7th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: New Lambton 6-1 West Wallsend

Monday March 13th. That was the night that New Lambton stunned Westy and indeed the league with a thrilling 6-1 victory in their return to the second-tier. So much has changed since then and in particular the fortunes of West Wallsend. Gary Rowe's side have been written off at times this year but four wins in five games have the Bluebells on the verge of the top four. Somewhere they haven't been very often in past years, especially in the second half of the season.

Last week's bye came at a good and bad time for Westy. Good to sit back and discuss what they need to do to keep the run going but bad because they can't keep the flow going. But after an unbelievable late win over Cessnock, some of Westy's players no doubt would have wanted a week off. They've played a lot of football so far this season and a fair few midweek games.

New Lambton were totally written off against Cooks Hill but they gave the league leaders an almighty scare. A decent showing against Magic saw some expecting a fatigued Eagles to struggle against a fired-up Toronto last week but again Andrew Packer's men proved people wrong. It's a log jam between 4th and 8th and the Eagles could do with a timely win here.

Injuries have hindered New Lambton a little bit it's given a chance for some fringe players to shine and Alex Ihlow is one of them. He has a few goals in the past few games and is fast proving to be a vital cog in the Eagles machine. They'll be hoping to put in another solid display against a very tough West Wallsend side.

Prediction: Fate has changed a lot since Round 1. It'd be stunning to see Westy flogged again and quiet honestly with home advantage, the Bluebells are perhaps the favourites. It's a key game for both sides but after a Derby Day win two weeks ago, maybe just maybe Gary Rowe's side can take another huge step towards a potential finals appearance.

My Tip: West Wallsend 2-1 New Lambton

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Under 23's:
West Wallsend SFC (7th) v New Lambton FC (9th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: New Lambton 0-1 West Wallsend

This is a key match-up for both sides. Westy had last weekend off but before that they won 2-1 in a tight contest against struggling Cessnock after a disappointing Derby Day loss. Sitting in 7th place, the door is open for a finals run but games like this now seem extra important as the second half of the year kicks off. They got the best of New Lambton last time they met too.

The Eagles' slide down the table has been noted but last week they returned to the winners' circle with a less than convincing 5-3 win over lowly Toronto. New Lambton led 5-1 at half-time but a disappointing second half saw them drop off. Too many times this season they've just failed to answer the test of opposing sides. But at just six points outside the four, a couple of wins can suddenly boost them right up the table.

Prediction: Again, similar to the Singleton game, it's all about just who is on the field for this one. New Lambton's got some good players but they may be held off for 1st Grade. Alex Ihlow is certainly one to watch if he's in the squad. The Bluebells at home though might get the win.

My Tip: West Wallsend 2-1 New Lambton

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Under 19's Match of the Round:
West Wallsend SFC (3rd) v New Lambton FC (2nd)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: New Lambton 5-0 West Wallsend

West Wallsend were absolutely stunned back in Round 1 but a rampant New Lambton side but this time round they know exactly what to expect at Johnston Park. The Bluebells have not lost since that 5-0 hammering in Round 1 and have won their last two on the bounce. James Barnes, Josh Knight & Mitch Kramer have combined for 20 of Westy's 26 goals.

New Lambton's brilliant opening round result hasn't always been matched in terms on quality but the Eagles are still doing a fine job in their debut New-FM season. Lachlan Jones is arguably the form player in the comp and together with Luke Homer has a whopping 20 of New Lambton's 30 goals. The attacking players mentioned in both sides will be the ones to watch in this big-time clash.

Prediction: A loss for Westy could highly likely see them drop out of the top four with results elsewhere so no doubt they'll be fired up for arguably their biggest win of the season. New Lambton could be in for their toughest game to date at Johnston Park. Revenge for the Bluebells.

My Tip: West Wallsend 3-2 New Lambton

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Under 17's:
West Wallsend SFC (1st) v New Lambton FC (4th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: New Lambton 1-1 West Wallsend

What a game this could turn out to be in the Under 17's. West Wallsend return to the field after last week's bye with the confidence of winning 5 of their last 6 and the one they didn't, a 2-2 draw with Belswans was unfortunately a late draw. The Bluebells are unbeaten at the halfway mark and it's games like these that they seem to really fire up for. With Cooks Hill facing Toronto also on Saturday, this result could be a big factor in the minor premiership race in coming weeks.

New Lambton have faced two tough tests in the last fortnight. They were beaten 2-0 by Cooks Hill and then last week drew 1-1 with Toronto-Awaba. Their third-straight game against top-four opposition is a tough one though. They drew 1-1 at Alder Park and winning on hostile territory against unbeaten Westy would be their biggest scalp yet.

Prediction: There's loads of talent in both sides and in particular goalscoring talent. Ciappara and Whyburn from Westy and Tindall and Walker from New Lambton all feature highly on the goalscoring list. Defence will be key in this fixture. A draw wouldn't be a surprise nor would a Westy win.

My Tip: West Wallsend 2-2 New Lambton

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1st Grade:
Cooks Hill United (1st) v Toronto-Awaba (10th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Toronto-Awaba 0-5 Cooks Hill

Last time Toronto visited the AthField, Cooks Hill were beaten convincingly on the club's Old Boy's Day, arguably the most embarrassing loss of the Spink/Glennie era. Graham Law's entry as coach and a heavy recruitment of new players has worked wonders and the club from top to bottom is booming.

Last week's 2-2 draw with Singleton had Law not sure if he wanted to go off or laugh. It was a frustrating display but just a bump on a road that could no doubt lead to silverware whether it be minor or major. Expect a fired-up Cooks Hill and a more refined effort going forward. They simply need to score goals and lock things up defensively.

Toronto can provide a very stern test to sides on certain days but unfortunately for Adam Routledge consistency has been nowhere to be found. Depth isn't something the Stags have in abundance. Youth is a factor and Alex Matthews has been a starter in 1st Grade recently.

Toronto have just 12 goals in ten games but worryingly have the worst defence in the competition. 33 goals have gone in the Stags' net this season and it maybe would be more if not for Blake Redman in goals who is one of their key experienced players. Still, against the league's best attack and a side keen to bag goals after what happened last week, this will be a very tough test.

Prediction: After last week's draw with Singleton, it's hard to say if Cooks Hill will return to their best scoring form. If they do then it'll likely be one-way traffic against a Stags side that is struggling defensively this season. It was 5-0 last time they met and something similar wouldn't surprise this time round.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 6-1 Toronto-Awaba

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Under 23's:
Cooks Hill United (1st) v Toronto-Awaba (11th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Toronto-Awaba 2-10 Cooks Hill

It's first versus last and last time these sides met it was a complete embarrassment as Cooks Hill netted ten goals against a hapless Toronto. The Stags improved with a couple of good showings but recently their poor form has returned. They remain statistically the worst team in the senior New-FM competitions. Last week's second half fight back showed spirit but they'll need more than that on Saturday.

Toronto restored a little bit of respect last week as they came from 5-1 down at half time to end up losing 5-3 to New Lambton. Still, to concede 5 goals in one half is never going to end well and against a side like New Lambton who aren't travelling greatly, it's no doubt going to be a tougher test against Cooks Hill. The Stags will simply want to put in a more characteristic showing this weekend.

Prediction: Expect carnage if Cooks Hill take this game seriously. If they're complacent, like they were against Singleton last weekend then you may see a 4-0 game or so but this could end with 7 or 8 goals. Toronto have been in all sorts defensively and this isn't going to be an easy day for them.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 5-0 Toronto-Awaba

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Under 19's:
Cooks Hill United (1st) v Toronto-Awaba (8th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Toronto-Awaba 0-1 Cooks Hill

Cooks Hill have recorded three wins in a row coming into this week but last week's 5-2 win over Singleton wasn't without concern. The Cookers weren't at their best and trailed twice before a solid last ten minutes saw them blast three more goals past Singo. They lost their record as the best defensive side thanks to those goals last week. Solidifying things and not giving opponents a start will be the goal going forward for a side that are flying high.

Toronto picked up back-to-back wins over struggling sides Wallsend and Cessnock before a bye but then last week were dispatched 3-1 by New Lambton. Facing their second match against a top-four side in a row, and away from home, it's a tough ask for the 8th-placed Stags. If memory serves correctly, top scorer Connor Morgan was sent off last weekend.

Prediction: This is an important game for Cooks Hill. It is a home game and a win could see them stretch their lead at the top if Westy and New Lambton draw their match-up. They got the Stags 1-0 last time they met but it wouldn't be surprise to see one or two more goals in this one.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 3-0 Toronto-Awaba

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Under 17's Match of the Round:
Cooks Hill United (2nd) v Toronto-Awaba (3rd)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Toronto-Awaba 2-1 Cooks Hill

If one big match-up wasn't enough, the 17's has two of them on Saturday. Cooks Hill host Toronto-Awaba in a very intriguing looking fixture. For some, this weekend is a dress rehearsal for the Semi Finals. Six-straight wins has the Cookers on the verge of joining the rest of their club's sides on top of the table. This game will be arguably their toughest yet.

Toronto-Awaba have been superb but a couple of draws have been the difference and why they don't sit higher on the table. Last week they were frustrated as they couldn't overcome New Lambton. This week will be a great test for them and after knocking off Cooks Hill back in Round 1, they'll be hopeful of completing the double. It could be a big moment of their season if they win it.

Prediction: Cooks Hill 17's have the best defensive record in the entire league but this week is no ordinary test. Toronto have shown quality and have the 17's top goalscorer in Thomas Appleby sitting on 10 goals. Cooks Hill on paper probably possess a better lineup and just one or two more attacking options. Expect a quality game and definitely the most competitive of the day at the Fearnley Dawes Athletic Centre.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 2-1 Toronto-Awaba

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1st Grade:
South Cardiff (4th) v Wallsend F.C (5th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Wallsend 2-3 South Cardiff

The Gallagher Shield belonged to Wallsend last season but the season-opener at The Gardens saw an unexpected win for a mystery South Cardiff side. What we've learnt since then is that the Gunners on their best day can test any side in the competition but consistency has let them down a bit at times.

A 3-1 win over Singleton put Southy back in form and then last week they held out Belswans to win 1-0 at Ulinga Oval. With Wallsend behind them on the table, a loss here would see South Cardiff drop out of the top four whilst a win could solidify their spot inside the four. That's more than enough reason for Denis Fajkovic's side to put their best foot forward.

Wallsend's inconsistency has been spoken about but back-to-back wins over top three sides Kahibah and Thornton have the defending champions on the verge of the top four. They'll believe they can do the job here and perhaps clinch the Gallagher Shield. It's always a match that Wallsend want to win at Ulinga Oval.

The Red Devils lost a lot of quality in the off-season but some new recruits are proving to be vital. Matt Williams is their top goalscorer and has been a threat on the flank and players like Trent Milton and John Olivares are always going to test opposition sides. Wallsend's defence has been something that Chris Gallagher has worked on and it's improved in recent weeks.

Prediction: Both these sides tend to find themselves in low-scoring and tight games so don't expect a goal-fest but then again they proved that wrong in Round 1 with a five-goal thriller. Defence will be key and both sides have been solid in recent weeks. It's very tough to call it so perhaps a draw.

My Tip: South Cardiff 1-1 Wallsend FC

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Under 23's Match of the Round:
South Cardiff (4th) v Wallsend F.C (3rd)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Wallsend 1-1 South Cardiff

South Cardiff 23's bounced back to winning form at Singleton two weeks ago but last week they were held at home to a 1-1 draw by Belmont-Swansea. Sitting tediously in fourth position with an abundance of teams chasing them, the Gunners will be looking to up the ante as the second half of the season starts. In such a tight competition, a win on Sunday would be golden for them.

Wallsend have won four straight games and are flying high in the 23's. They sit even with Thornton and will no doubt believe they can push their way into the top two over the coming weeks. A couple of opposition coaches are rating Wallsend as a team to watch and they're travelling very nicely compared to some sides.

Prediction: This is a fairly important match for both sides but more so for Southy. They could lose their spot inside the top four if they fail to get a result here depending on the Singleton v Belswans result. Wallsend are the in-form side and Southy have struggled at times. Red Devils to pick up a big three points.

My Tip: South Cardiff 1-3 Wallsend FC

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Under 19's
South Cardiff (9th) v Wallsend F.C (11th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Wallsend 2-2 South Cardiff

South Cardiff have fallen to three-straight losses in the Under 19's. They ended a goal drought last week against Belswans but would still lose 3-1 on home turf. The Gunners are worryingly the lowest-scoring side in the competition and to keep their slim finals hopes alive, they simply need to win this one and kick-start their form.

Wallsend have a lot to play for this week. Their breakthrough win two weeks ago was good but they lost again last week to Thornton. What Sunday presents is a chance to jump both Cessnock and indeed Southy and go from 11th to 9th. Dan Strazzari is one to watch for as he has three goals in two games. The Red Devils will be fired up in what is always a competitive match against Southy. 

Prediction: Southy are a side that you want to give more credit but their form at the moment is simply not good enough for where they were aiming to be. Wallsend can jump off the bottom this weekend where they definitely don't deserve to be. Red Devils to win it.

My Tip: South Cardiff 0-2 Wallsend FC

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Under 17's:
South Cardiff (8th) v Wallsend F.C (7th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Wallsend 2-2 South Cardiff

South Cardiff 17's are fast running out of time to kickstart their season. Finals looks a very slim possibility but if the Gunners can win this weekend than maybe hope can start to raise a little. They've yet to beat a team higher than them on the table this season and confidence won't be too high after a 3-1 home loss to Belswans last weekend.

Wallsend picked up a much needed win over struggling Thornton last weekend but it wasn't a comfortable result; the Red Devils won 1-0 against the lowly Redbacks. Wallsend seem to find themselves locked in tight matches and a win here could take them to within six points of the top four. Last time the sides met it finished 2-2 but both sides will be gunning for the three points.

Prediction: Wallsend have done well at times this season but consistency has been nowhere near good enough. Southy have had their struggles and injury issues. It's a tough one to call but the Red Devils are coming off a win and can see a bright future if they win on Sunday.

My Tip: South Cardiff 0-2 Wallsend FC

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1st Grade:
Thornton Redbacks (3rd) v Cessnock City (11th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Cessnock 1-5 Thornton

Thornton were storming towards the top of the table with wins over New Lambton and Belswans but have been brought crashing down in recent weeks. A fatigued Redbacks side lost back-to-back home games to Kahibah and Wallsend and suddenly find themselves in 3rd position.

Before last week's two losses in five days, the Redbacks were high-flying with goals a plenty and captain Nathan McAllister being touted as the best-performing player in the competition. The Redbacks are a serious contender this year and thus need to see off the challenge of a struggling Cessnock side.

The Hornets returned to the field after that devastating late loss to West Wallsend at Kahibah Oval last weekend and they were brushed aside in fairly convincing fashion 5-1 by a Kahibah side that barely got out of 2nd gear. It's not a good sign going forward for a side that just lack the numbers and quality needed to find success in the league.

Lino Gatti is happy to talk about the club's infrastructure improvements and culture change and nobody is surprised the results haven't come just yet. It's a re-building year but last week's effort at Kahibah was fairly poor even by Cessnock's standard. A similar performance will see them dispatched by Thornton if the Redbacks play to their best.

Prediction: Thornton can ill-afford the proverbial banana-peel on Sunday. With Kahibah having the weekend off, 2nd spot could belong to the Redbacks once again if they see off the bottom-placed Hornets. It'd be a boilover of some proportion if Thornton were to lose this. They should be comfortable.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 6-1 Cessnock City

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Under 23's:
Thornton Redbacks (2nd) v Cessnock City (10th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Cessnock 0-3 Thornton

Thornton 23's have fallen to back-to-back losses to see their climb towards the top of the table come to a complete halt. Wallsend's 3-1 win at Thornton Park drew the Red Devils level with the Redbacks and now Thornton are six points and 19 goals behind leaders Cooks Hill. The Redbacks simply need to get back to winning form and this week is a chance to do so.

Cessnock's lone win of the season against fellow struggling side Toronto is what's keeping them off the foot of the table but the Hornets showed a lot more fight than they have done at times last week at Kahibah. Riley Taylor scored a decent free-kick and will be one to watch from a dead ball situation.

Prediction: Cessnock offered a bit of a challenge to Kahibah last week and aren't quiet walkovers. Still, if Thornton put their best foot forward then they should pick up a win as they did in Round 1 when these sides last met. The home ground advantage, Wallsend on their heels, the Redbacks simply need to pick up the three points.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 4-1 Cessnock City

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Under 19's
Thornton Redbacks (4th) v Cessnock City (10th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Cessnock 3-4 Thornton

With the defending champions right behind them, Thornton 19's can ill-afford a slip-up against Cessnock on Sunday. Belswans play on Saturday so the Redbacks will know the situation when they take the field on Sunday morning. Some poor form was put behind them with a 2-1 victory over Wallsend last week to stay in the top four. Their goal will be a more convincing victory after surviving some scares in Round 1 when they beat Cessnock 4-3.

Cessnock City put up a decent fight against Kahibah last week but the side are nowhere near the quality needed to push for finals. Thus they find themselves in a battle to avoid the wooden spoon and a loss here could send them to the bottom depending on Wallsend's result. They've leaked less goals in recent games but have still lost four in a row.

Prediction: Thornton need to win games like this against lower-table opposition if they're serious about playing finals football. The 19's comp is not one where you can drop points too often. The home side have the players needed to win it and probably should based on recent form.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 5-2 Cessnock City

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Under 17's:
Thornton Redbacks (10th) v Cessnock City (9th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Cessnock 2-2 Thornton

It's certainly nowhere near the calibre of game you'll find on Saturday at Westy or Cooks Hill but both these sides will be hoping Sunday morning can be a rare moment of positive feelings in a very bleak 2017 season. Thornton are winless if you don't include a forfeit, they're yet to sing the club song and they're hungry for the breakthrough win.

Opposite Thornton this week is the most out-of-form side in New-FM football. Cessnock City have lost 7-0, 7-0, 4-0 and 7-0 in their past four games. Defensively they have been torn to shreds at times and confidence is at an alarming low. A win on Sunday would definitely lessen their chances of picking up the wooden spoon.

Prediction: This is a glorious chance for the winless Redbacks to finally pick up that breakthrough result. The Hornets are there for the taking. Whether Thornton's blunt attack can finally find some answers is the question but the cold hard fact is; if it doesn't happen on Sunday, it just might not happen at all.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 2-0 Cessnock City

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Under 15's Fixtures: