Friday, 19 May 2017

PREVIEW: New-FM Northern League One Round 11


1st Grade:
Toronto-Awaba (9th) v New Lambton FC (8th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

Toronto-Awaba return from the bye with a keen focus to put behind them a very sombre result against Cessnock last time out. Up 2-0, the Stags would drop two valuable points to a ten man Cessnock City side. Sitting eight points outside the top four, an optimistic Toronto side will still feel as though they can climb the table and really make something out of the season.

Things aren't exactly travelling brilliant at Toronto with the side sitting in 9th. Losing those points against Cessnock would have fired some of them up and with two long weeks to think about what needs to improve, it's safe to say that Adam Routledge and his side will have a game plan in mind to take on New Lambton.

The Eagles have been a very busy side in recent times. Last Sunday saw Andrew Packer's side take on the ladder-leading Cooks Hill and with two early goals, the Eagles lead the Cookers in the first half. Still, the result was never safe and some luck would go against New Lambton with keeper Josh Cox conceded a rather unlucky goal thanks to an awkward bobble on the pitch. 5-4 is how it would end with Cooks Hill surviving an almighty scare.

On Wednesday the Eagles backed up with a huge FFA Cup tie against NPL powerhouse Broadmeadow Magic. The visitors would win 3-0 but New Lambton put in a very admirable display on a short turn-around and the good news for Toronto is the fact that Saturday is New Lambton's third game in six days.

Prediction: Fatigue will play a part for New Lambton but with Andrew Packer's background in strength and conditioning, he'll surely have his side fit for a challenge on Saturday. New Lambton could bridge the gap to the top four with a win and they'll head into this as slight favourites. Toronto need to lead from the front and tighten up at the back if they want the result.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-3 New Lambton

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Under 23's:
Toronto-Awaba (11th) v New Lambton FC (9th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

A weekend off might have been the best thing for a Toronto 23's side that simply cannot get a win in 2017. A 7-1 loss away to Wallsend was fairly embarrassing but then it'd only get worse as the Stags fell to previously winless Cessnock City. Now they find themselves at the bottom of the table and with the most goals conceded in the entire competition. It's not great reading.

New Lambton's form hasn't exactly set the world on fire either. A 5-0 win over Cessnock put some bad form behind the Eagles but last weekend they'd lose 4-1 at home to Cooks Hill United. One or two players were missing last Sunday but coach Paul McGuinness has admitted they need to start putting some form together. A couple of wins could really kick-start their season.

Prediction: It's tough to be too critical on a struggling Stags outfit but at this point, with all due respect, if New Lambton are serious about making finals they must win this game. They beat Cessnock 5-0, Cessnock beat Toronto 3-0, football isn't always that predictable but the Stags are in all sorts of a mess form wise.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-5 New Lambton

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Under 19's
Toronto-Awaba (8th) v New Lambton FC (3rd)
Kickoff: 11:00am

Toronto-Awaba return from a weekend off with a refreshed feeling following the madness of a 6-3 win over Cessnock two weeks ago. The Stags need to really kick-start their form to try and start climbing the table and a win on Saturday would do them wonders. There's one or two players on opposite sides familiar with each other so expect a decent effort from a Stags side keen to win.

New Lambton's 2-0 loss to Cooks Hill last weekend was just their second loss of the season and wasn't a surprise considering one or two names they were missing in that fixture. They still sit in an excellent position in 3rd place and getting a win here would steady the ship without a doubt. They have a solid attack with the most goals scored of any 19's side.

Prediction: Toronto's next five fixtures is a very difficult time for them. They face all of the top four sides and really the next month makes or breaks their season. A win here would do wonders for their confidence but New Lambton have the quality on paper to get the job done.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-4 New Lambton

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Under 17's Match of the Round:
Toronto-Awaba (2nd) v New Lambton (3rd)
Kickoff: 9:15am

The most intriguing game of the day at Lyall Peacock Field would have to be the opener as two quality 17's sides line up against each other. Toronto had the bye last week but before that was five wins and a draw in their last six games. They're playing some quality football in 2017 and are along with the 15's the club's best hope of ending a finals drought. A win here would really boost their confidence.

New Lambton come into the game on the back of a 2-0 loss to Cooks Hill last weekend. With players having to fill-in for the 19's, the Eagles were forced to change things up and take off one or two key players to prepare for the next game. It didn't help as they went down at Alder Park. Still, it was only their second loss of the season and a win on Saturday will lift them back to 2nd place.

Prediction: This is as even a match as you'll find. Both teams have 25 goals scored whilst defensively they've been strong. Toronto have conceded 9 and New Lambton 10. Defence is what will win this game. Both sides have good attacking players so maybe they'll cancel each other out.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 2-2 New Lambton

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1st Grade:
Cooks Hill United (1st) v Singleton Strikers (10th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

It seems an entirety since Singleton came to the AthField last year and cruised past a hapless Cooks Hill side. Things have changed and the Cookers are now the premier club in the competition, albeit with silverware on the mind to prove that fact later in the season. They can take another small step towards the minor premiership with a win on Saturday.

Cooks Hill's 5-4 epic with New Lambton last week would have had coach Graham Law disappointed at letting in four goals but he would have been delighted to have come from behind and grabbed an important victory. Law is keen to see his side lift the minor premiership and he was no doubt pleased to be on hand to watch 2nd-placed Thornton lose to Kahibah on Wednesday.

The good news for Singleton is that Cooks Hill have been hit by injuries. Daniel Clements will miss 6 weeks and Cal Gallagher and Alex Gillespie will both miss  3 weeks or so. Even with that, coach Law has admitted he's confident the 23's and perhaps even 19's can help boost the depth on Saturday. Cooks Hill are a club thriving in all grades and the 23's are capable of helping out in the 1st Grade fixture.

Singleton are struggling in 2017 and will struggle with a lack of experience and depth hindering their chances. Sam Ford left the club recently which doesn't help the situation and last week's 3-1 loss to South Cardiff was Singleton's 7th loss in nine outings this season. It's tough times for Singo but the future of the club in years to come is again the key focus.

Prediction: Singleton have been forced to chuck some youngsters into the deep end of 1st Grade football this season and whilst they've been respectable at times, they've struggled to get results. Away from home at the AthField against a ruthless Cooks Hill, this is surely a bridge too far. They'll hope it doesn't get too ugly.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 4-1 Singleton Strikers

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Under 23's:
Cooks Hill United (1st) v Singleton Strikers (5th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

It's pressure time for Singleton 23's at the AthField. Cooks Hill had the bye and returned to the field with a 4-0 win over South Cardiff and a 4-1 away win over New Lambton. Kahibah's 4-1 win over 2nd-placed Thornton would have pleased the Cookers' camp and they can really build a lead atop the table with a win here. There's goals all over the park in this squad and they're rightly the ladder-leaders at the moment.

Singleton were travelling very nicely in the 23's until two weeks ago. A sobering 5-0 away loss to Thornton brought them crashing down and a 4-1 loss at the hands of South Cardiff at Howe Park has seen the Strikers fall out of the top four and into a very crowded mid-table. It's not panic stations just yet but they need to sure things up defensively and work from there. This is a good game to do just that.

Prediction: Singleton may have had to deal with one or two outs as 1st Grade call up players to fill holes there but that excuse aside, conceding nine goals in two weeks isn't really what you'd expect by a side aiming for finals football. This is a test for them defensively. Cooks Hill to win it but maybe not to have it all their own way.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 3-1 Singleton Strikers

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Under 19's
Cooks Hill United (2nd) v Singleton Strikers (6th)
Kickoff: 11:00am

Cooks Hill's 8-1 smashing of Wallsend last month saw a high point for Michael Best's side but two days later they fell to Thornton in what is so far their only loss to date. Back-to-back 2-0 wins over South Cardiff and New Lambton aren't exactly high scoring affairs but solid enough and crucially both clean sheets. A win on Saturday will take the Cookers to the top of the table so no doubt that is enough to spur them on.

Singleton picked up a much needed win and clean sheet last weekend against South Cardiff. They were able to start bridging the gap to the top four but they can ill-afford to let their form go by the wayside again. Coach Sam Ford has left Singleton as a player and 19's coach to move to Weston which doesn't help the cause for the 19's. Still, they've got some capable players who'll feel they can build some form.

Prediction: Singleton are an unpredictable force. Cooks Hill will need to be cautious but they have the quality needed to win the game and with top spot up for grabs and on home turf, surely they'll like their chances of getting the job done and getting it done well.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 3-1 Singleton Strikers

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Under 17's:
Cooks Hill United (4th) v Singleton Strikers (11th)
Kickoff: 9:15am

Cooks Hill United's win over New Lambton last week was a solid result for them and they're in superb form with five-straight wins going into the halfway mark of the season. Bobby Carter is fast climbing the goal tally table with four goals in the last two games and across the park, the side are full of quality players. If the other game on Saturday ends in a draw, the Cookers would go to 2nd with a win.

Singleton produced a solid 3-0 win over Thornton in a bottom of the table clash but last week fell to a 1-0 home loss to South Cardiff. Adding to their frustration is the fact Thornton were rewarded a 3-0 forfeit win over Kahibah and now the Strikers sit bottom of the league once again. They've got to go the AthField and play with no fear and try and get an early goal to settle the ship.

Prediction: Cooks Hill put five goals past Southy in their last game at the AthField, the same Southy that beat Singleton last week. For the Cookers, this is a game they can ill-afford to drop. Singleton with respect aren't at the same quality and the home side could really do some damage if they're up to the challenge.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 5-0 Singleton

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1st Grade:
Kahibah FC (3rd) v Cessnock City (11th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

What a turn-around on Wednesday night for Kahibah. After a disappointing 1-0 loss to Wallsend that saw Kahibah finish with ten men, the Green and Blacks produced a stirring 1-0 win of their own to knock off high-flying Thornton and propel themselves straight back into the race for the minor premiership.

Jarrod Penfold was the lone goalscorer on Wednesday night for a battered and bruised Kahibah outfit. Niggling injuries are hindering Kahibah lately and it wouldn't surprise to see one or two of their bigger names rested against bottom-placed Cessnock, especially considering next weekend is a bye for Kahibah. Perhaps a chance to recover full fitness.

Cessnock produced an admirable comeback against Toronto two weeks ago to draw 2-2 but then felt their own disappointment last weekend. Leading 1-0 as the game ticked over into stoppage time, the Hornets conceded two goals in added time to somehow lose to West Wallsend.

That result for the Hornets last week would have hurt more than any this year and no doubt it'll have them spurred up for a big game this week. Lino Gatti's men will need to play right up to the final whistle if they are to get a result but it's going to be a very tough ask at a difficult Kahibah Oval.

Prediction: Kahibah will likely rest one or two names but they have to be careful. Cessnock at times this year have been a real test for some good sides although on other days they've really put in lacklustre effort. It's unpredictable inconsistency but nonetheless, the home side will go in as favourites.

My Tip: Kahibah 3-0 Cessnock City

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Under 23's:
Kahibah FC (8th) v Cessnock City (10th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

It's a chance for Kahibah 23's to climb further up the ladder with a win on Sunday. After knocking off Belswans two weeks ago, they were outplayed at Wallsend last week. Then came their best result of the season so far with a 4-1 victory over Thornton Redbacks on Wednesday. A crazy game with four penalties in one half of football, the Green and Blacks are now just six points outside the top four.

Cessnock City finally broke through for their first win of the season against fellow strugglers Toronto two weeks ago but last week fell to a tight 2-1 loss against West Wallsend. Take out the 3-0 win over a hapless Toronto and the Hornets 23's only have four goals scored in eight games. They need to find a way to goal and find a way to keep the game tight.

Prediction: It wasn't all that long ago that Kahibah failed to down Toronto in a game they should have won but they've come along with some quality since then and this stands as a must-win game. On home turf against a team in 10th that have just one win, it's a game they won't want to drop. 

My Tip: Kahibah 3-0 Cessnock City

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Under 19's
Kahibah FC (7th) v Cessnock City (10th)
Kickoff: 11:00am

Kahibah 19's produced an ugly result at Wallsend last weekend with their worst performance of the season leaving some players having to dig deep and find some desire. They did so mid-week with a quality 2-1 win over Thornton. Controversy saw Kahibah get lucky and they produced a stirring defence display to hold on to the three points at the end of a nervy final five minutes.

Cessnock City conceded bucket loads of goals against New Lambton, Cooks Hill and Toronto-Awaba but last week produced a more steely display against ladder-leaders West Wallsend. They'd lose 3-1 but it was a more respectable scoreline and would have had the Hornets feeling a bit better about themselves, especially defensively.

Prediction: Kahibah winning would potentially take them to within three points of the top four if other results go their way. They can ill-afford to drop points after a solid effort on Tuesday night. Cessnock will likely bring a physical test but Kahibah have the players to win this one.

My Tip: Kahibah 4-1 Cessnock City

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Under 17's:
Kahibah FC (6th) v Cessnock City (9th)
Kickoff: 9:15am

Kahibah bounced back from a disappointing 2-2 draw with Wallsend with a midweek 3-1 win over bottom-placed Thornton. U14A grade keeper Cooper Clarke was superb on debut but the points have been taken off Kahibah for fielding Clarke in the game. And that's bad news for Cessnock too as it'll no doubt have the home side fired up to get three points.

Cessnock enter this game on the back of three heavy losses. 18 goals conceded in three games, two of them at Turner Park leaves the Hornets lingering in 9th and eleven points outside the top four. Not long ago they sat inside the top two but that's a distant memory now. Defence is the key for them. They have to keep the game closely contested.

Prediction: Whichever way you look at it, Kahibah will feel robbed of a hard-fought win on Tuesday night. Their Achilles' heel has been a lack of a goalscoring. They've missed chances and this game is one where they can put all that behind them and just bag a convincing win.

My Tip: Kahibah 5-0 Cessnock City

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
South Cardiff (4th) v Belmont-Swansea UFC (6th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

This week's Match of the Round is a very interesting one as South Cardiff take on Belmont-Swansea. The Gunners fell from their perch in the top two with a couple of poor results but returned to winning ways last week with a 3-1 victory over struggling Singleton.

With West Wallsend and indeed Belswans breathing down their neck, the Gunners will not want to lose this one and thus fall out of the top four. These are the sort of games that if won can really propel a side onto greater things. A recent penalty shootout FFA Cup loss to Belswans at Ulinga will be fresh in the minds of the home side.

Belmont-Swansea's form has been poor, especially away from home. They've lost their last two games on the trot and only have one away win all season in the league, a 2-0 win in a Wallsend home game that was moved to Blacksmiths. Away from Blacksmiths, Belswans are 0-3 in 2017. It's simply got to change.

A 2-0 loss to Kahibah wasn't the worst thing in the world for Belswans but last week's effort against Thornton was lacking at times. Going forward they just couldn't pile on the pressure that they regularly do and they'd fall to a rare loss on home turf. A loss on Sunday could very realistically drop them as far as 8th.

Prediction: Belswans will be fired up but their away record tells a story of inconsistency. South Cardiff have proven to be a decent side this year but they've also had their own inconsistency to deal with, especially at home. This could be a day that Southy really take that next step.

My Tip: South Cardiff 2-1 Belmont-Swansea

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Under 23's:
South Cardiff (4th) v Belmont-Swansea UFC (6th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

It was a much-needed and timely win last week for Southy in the 23's. They overcame a decent Singleton side in style with a 4-1 win to put behind them a couple of poor results. With a few teams behind them on the table, the Gunners could ill-afford another slip-up and they did well to pick up a solid victory on the road.

Belmont-Swansea's form is lacking. A draw against West Wallsend was followed by a 3-1 loss to Kahibah and then last week a 1-0 loss at home to Thornton Redbacks. They're now out of the top four as a result. A win here could boost them back into the four whilst a loss would leave them four points behind Southy. It's a real six point game for Belswans away from home.

Prediction: Belswans 23's are yet to hit their best form in 2017 and this game will be a difficult test against a South Cardiff side trying to string together another win and solidify their spot inside the top four. Add to that, their away form isn't great. Southy to win.

My Tip: South Cardiff 3-1 Belmont-Swansea

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Under 19's
South Cardiff (9th) v Belmont-Swansea UFC (5th)
Kickoff: 11:00am

South Cardiff have lost their last two games which isn't a huge worry but when they sit 9th, it's certainly not ideal. The gap to the top four is widening and more worryingly for the Gunners, they have not scored a goal in the last three outings. No goals in 240 minutes of football is never going to get the three points.

Belswans last loss in the Under 19's came on Sunday May 22nd last year, exactly a year ago this weekend. 21 games without a loss is a huge achievement but drawing too many games is their issue this year. Last week's 4-0 win over previously in-form Thornton put a lot of the worry behind them and the defending champions will be hoping to build some form in coming games.

Prediction: South Cardiff simply need to find the back of the net. Ending a 364 day unbeaten streak for Belswans is going to be a tough ask but the Gunners will feel they can do it on home turf. Still, Belswans have the quality to win this game and perhaps move back into the top four.

My Tip: South Cardiff 1-4 Belmont-Swansea

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Under 17's:
South Cardiff (8th) v Belmont-Swansea UFC (6th)
Kickoff: 9:15am

South Cardiff's form has been inconsistent as of late. A tight loss to Kahibah was respectable, then the Gunners downed struggling Thornton. After that they were blasted for five by Cooks Hill before last week's 1-0 win over lowly Singleton. They can beat the low teams but to start building form, these are the games the Gunners need to win. Home advantage will be a plus for them.

Belmont-Swansea have gone five unbeaten and in their past two games they've won 2-0 both times and kept two clean sheets in a row. Welcoming back some players who have missed games, it's all seemingly coming together at the right time for Will McMaster's side. Winning this game is paramount to keep the top four in touching distance.

Prediction: A loss here for South Cardiff would be a severe dent on their already slim finals hopes. This week is the halfway mark and they've only got two wins against the two lowest sides in the competition. They'll put in a lot of effort to try and turn that around but Belswans are travelling nicely.

My Tip: South Cardiff 1-3 Belmont-Swansea

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1st Grade:
Thornton Redbacks (2nd) v Wallsend FC (7th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm

Thornton were enjoying a back and forth, punch for punch battle with ladder-leaders Cooks Hill. Back-to-back wins against New Lambton and Belswans had the Redbacks occupying top spot for 24 hours last week but they'd lose their chance to climb back to the top on Wednesday night as they fell to a 1-0 home loss to Kahibah.

Results have been superb for the Redbacks but they'll want to get back into the winners' circle without a fuss and very soon to try and continue what has been an excellent season. A few opposition players and coaches will call Thornton captain Nathan McAllister one of the best players in the league this year. Thornton is far from a one-man show but McAllister has really upped his game and is playing a vital role in the team going forward.

Wallsend's Derby Day loss to Westy had Chris Gallagher asking his side for more and they'd give their coach just that last weekend. Luke Alexander got his first goal of the season in just the 4th minute against Kahibah last week and the Red Devils would hold Kahibah at bay to produce arguably their best win of the season.

The defending champions have found it tough to find form in 2017 and last Sunday's victory could be exactly what they needed to start climbing back towards the top four. Sitting in 7th, things aren't bad for Wallsend and a couple of hard-fought wins could really propel them in the right direction. Defence will be key for them against the quality of Thornton.

Prediction: This is one of the tougher games to call this weekend. Thornton have been superb this season but fell to a midweek loss. Wallsend will have a fresh side with a couple extra days off on the Redbacks but the home side will want to keep pressure on Cooks Hill. It's a very tough game to call but the home advantage might just get Thornton over the line.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 3-1 Wallsend

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Under 23's Match of the Round:
Thornton Redbacks (2nd) v Wallsend FC (3rd)
Kickoff: 12:45pm

The Match of the Round is an intriguing one in the Under 23's. Thornton Redbacks were flying high until Kahibah came to Thornton Park on Wednesday and won 4-1. All goals were in the first half and there was a whopping four penalties. Thornton were left fuming by some of the calls that went against them and will be adamant on bouncing back with a win.

Wallsend on the other hand have lost just one game all season and have won their last three on the trot. Last week's 3-1 victory over Kahibah lifted the Red Devils further into the top four and they'll be eyeing off a massive three points here to go level on points with Thornton. In fact, a four goal win would lift Wallsend into outright 2nd place.

Prediction: Thornton will be feeling down after their midweek loss but they don't seem a side that will take too long to get straight back to work. Wallsend are a difficult opponent and in some good form but the Redbacks have been solid for the most part. It's a tough one to call at Thornton Park.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 2-1 Wallsend

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Under 19's
Thornton Redbacks (4th) v Wallsend FC (11th)
Kickoff: 11:00am

Thornton's 4-0 loss to Belmont-Swansea last weekend was very poor by their high standards and Tuesday night saw the Redbacks in a much tighter affair against Kahibah. A costly refereeing blunder saw Kahibah gifted a goal and Thornton left luckless and with two straight losses. It's a results-driven game and a loss here could see them drop out of the top four.

Wallsend finally broke their winless run with a solid 3-0 win over a hapless Kahibah side last weekend. A win here and a favour by Kahibah would lift the Red Devils off the foot of the table. Sometimes one win is all it takes to give life to what was a horrendous start to the season. Last week was a huge improvement defensively to previous efforts.

Prediction: Both sides have a lot of reasons to win this game and whilst Wallsend looked a lot better last week, it's tough to see them overcoming a very motivated Thornton side. The Redbacks are on home turf and they'll be adamant on keeping their spot inside the top four alive. Whoever wins, it's an interesting fixture this weekend.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 2-1 Wallsend FC

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Under 17's:
Thornton Redbacks (10th) v Wallsend FC (7th)
Kickoff: 9:15am

Thornton are off the bottom of the table only due to a technicality after their midweek loss to Kahibah. Make no mistake, all this would have done is brought a laugh or two and then realisation that there's still work to do to get that first 'real win' and be able to sing the club song. Caden Taylor's goal on Tuesday was a high point for them but defensively one or two mistakes proved costly.

Wallsend couldn't get a win against Kahibah last weekend and whilst a draw wasn't the worst result, they remain locked to 7th position. Five losses in a row before last weekend's draw means this side will be very keen to put all of that poor form behind them and start to try and bridge the ever-expanding gap between themselves and the top four.

Prediction: Thornton's first actual win isn't far away. They've got a hunger for it but this weekend is a tough test. Wallsend are desperate to just get a win and get their season back on track. No excuses for the Red Devils, anything but a win here and their finals hopes are likely gone. It's the halfway mark of the season and some teams will be looking to pull up the socks and produce results.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 0-3 Wallsend FC

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Under 15's Fixtures:


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