Friday, 2 June 2017

PREVIEW: New-FM Northern League One Round 13


1st Grade Match of the Round:
Belmont-Swansea UFC (5th) v Cooks Hill United (1st)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Cooks Hill 6-2 Belmont-Swansea

Belmont-Swansea bounced back to form last weekend with a fairly convincing 3-1 victory over a young Singleton Strikers. Belswans had lost three straight games heading into last week and the win came at very good time for Josh Rufo's side as they looked to keep in touch with the top four.

Tega Marcus has been Belswans' top scorer this season and bagged two more goals last weekend to draw level with Thornton skipper Nathan McAllister at the top of the Golden Boot standings with 13 goals. Last week's victory saw Belswans jump all the way up into 5th place but it's certainly a major step up this weekend.

Cooks Hill were cruising not that long ago but a 2-2 home draw with Singleton was a frustrating result and then the same scoreline against Toronto last weekend, also at the AthField has brought Graham Law's side to a crossroads where suddenly their tilt towards the minor premiership isn't looking as simple as it once did.

The Cookers will be looking to return to winning ways and last time these sides met it was all one-way traffic as the ladder-leaders blasted Belswans 6-2. It's safe to say there's pressure on both sides on Saturday but there might be just a little more on Cooks Hill as they look to put two poor results behind them.

Prediction: Belswans were touted as serious side in the finals picture but it's games like this one where they need to step up and really hammer home that fact. The issue for them is that Cooks Hill will be adamant on a big win to erase memories of the last two weeks. Cookers to win but not as easy as last time.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 1-3 Cooks Hill United

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Under 23's Match of the Round:
Belmont-Swansea UFC (5th) v Cooks Hill United (1st)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Cooks Hill 6-1 Belmont-Swansea

Belswans 23's missed a golden chance to move back into the top four last weekend as they were held to a scoreless draw by Singleton. It's not an alarming situation they find themselves in but without a win in the last five weeks, surely something has to change. 

Fortunately it's a tight competition but it's a challenge nonetheless this week and the biggest challenge of them all. Cooks Hill are a force to be reckoned with in the Under 23's and last week showed exactly what they can do to a team unable to stop them. 10-0 against Toronto and the Cookers now have 56 goals in 11 games, six of those against an undermanned Belswans back in Round 3.

Prediction: This is the Match of the Round but it's hard to see Belswans being able to get anything out of it. With no wins in five games and only 1 goal scored in the last two, they'll need a lot more than that to slow down a rampaging Cooks Hill side.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 1-4 Cooks Hill United

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Under 19's Match of the Round:
Belmont-Swansea UFC (5th) v Cooks Hill United (1st)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Cooks Hill 2-2 Belmont-Swansea

The defending champions recorded yet another win to the tune of 1-0 at Singleton last weekend. Their unbeaten streak is out to 54 weeks and around 24 games but this Saturday is arguably their toughest test to date. Belswans drew Cooks Hill 2-2 last time they met, a string of early season draws for them.

The Cookers have really gone on with it over the course of the last few weeks. With Singleton threatening an upset two weeks ago, a button was pressed on the brand new dugouts at the AthField that saw Cooks Hill go to another level and last week they smashed Toronto 7-0. Now they look to end the longest unbeaten streak in New-FM football.

Prediction: Just five points separates leaders Cooks Hill from Belswans in 5th. It's a tight top four and indeed Belswans are a serious side threatening to break into the four. This is a game that could remind everyone just what this Belswans side can do but Cooks Hill just look a better side as of late. It's tough to call but this might be where the streak ends.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 1-3 Cooks Hill United

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Under 17's:
Belmont-Swansea UFC (5th) v Cooks Hill United (3rd)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Cooks Hill 4-1 Belmont-Swansea

It was a chance missed for Belmont-Swansea last weekend in the Under 17's. Will McMaster's side put five past Singleton back in the opening round but were held to a frustrating scoreless draw at Howe Park as New Lambton dropped two points to West Wallsend. Belswans will look to step up to another gear this Saturday.

Cooks Hill were storming in the Under 17's with six wins in a row but they perhaps met their match when they were stunned 4-1 at home by Toronto-Awaba last Saturday. The Cookers won by the same score against Belswans when they came to the AthField and a win here would certainly get Bruce O'Donnell's side back on track in a hurry.

Prediction: Belswans will be looking at the table knowing last week saw them miss a glorious opportunity to put pressure on the top four. This week is a step up for them so it's yet to be seen if they can take the fight to a Cookers side keen to get back to winning ways.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 0-2 Cooks Hill United

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1st Grade:
Singleton Strikers (10th) v Wallsend FC (7th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Wallsend 3-1 Singleton

Singleton are struggling in 2017 and last week fell to another home loss to Belswans. The young Strikers side have lost one of their more exciting attackers in Nathan Hall who suffered a rib injury last weekend. Cessnock are starting to show a bit of fight and it could be a big game in the race to avoid the wooden spoon when they travel to Howe Park next weekend.

The Strikers are well out of finals calculations but with a solid run of home games, David Willoughby will be at least hoping they can pick up one or two results and stay ahead of Cessnock and perhaps jump back over Toronto. Last time they met Wallsend, it was a fairly casual win for the Red Devils as they cruised to a 3-1 victory.

Wallsend have enjoyed some good results in recent times but were completely torn apart by South Cardiff last weekend. Chris Gallagher's side are dealing with a few injuries to key players but there's no excuse for what was one of Wallsend's heaviest defeats in recent memory last week. Gallagher will want more from his defenders.

The two-time New-FM champions sit six points outside the top four and that could be nine if they lose this one. It's games like this one where Wallsend need to rise up and record three points to remain in calculation for another finals appearance. They'll be once again without some key figures; Kyle Macorig perhaps the big one but a young Red Devils will look to overcome a young Singleton side.

Prediction: It's hard to call as Singleton showed a lot of fight at Cooks Hill two weeks ago. They're normally a fairly strong side up at Howe Park but they have at times this season made costly mistakes. Wallsend have some solid attackers; Matt Williams comes to mind and it could be their quality that gets the win here.

My Tip: Singleton 1-3 Wallsend FC

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Under 23's:
Singleton Strikers (7th) v Wallsend FC (2nd)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Wallsend 0-3 Singleton

With three losses and a draw and only one goal scored in their last four games, things aren't travelling well for Singleton 23's but they only sit one point outside the top four which shows just how tight this competition really is. They are still the only side to beat Wallsend this year, a 3-0 win back in Round 3.

Wallsend are the only team in range of runaway leaders Cooks Hill and it's via a determined run that has seen them win five games in a row. The Red Devils boast the best defence in the 23's competition and have averaged three goals a game in the last three outings. It's good form and no doubt they'll look to really make a move away from the chasing pack with a win over Singleton.

Prediction: Singleton 23's are a strange case. They can be a quality side as they showed when they beat Wallsend 3-0 last time these sides met but consistency hasn't been their strong suit whilst Wallsend are flying as of late so it's hard to go against the form side.

My Tip: Singleton 0-3 Wallsend FC

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Under 19's:
Singleton Strikers (7th) v Wallsend FC (9th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Wallsend 1-3 Singleton

Singleton put in a highly respectable effort last weekend against a Belswans side predicted to win well up at Howe Park but unfortunately for the Strikers it was still two points dropped with the gap to the top four now at a whopping eleven points. It's safe to say it's a long way back from where they sit.

Wallsend are off last and have bounced up to 9th with two wins in their last three games. A two goal win at Howe Park would take the Red Devils up to 7th, above Singleton so no doubt confidence is growing and Craig Tselembis' side believe they can finish in a respectable mid-table position.

Prediction: This is an intriguing fixture at Howe Park. Wallsend could effectively end Singleton's realistic finals hopes and boost themselves up to 7th. Singo have a lot to fight for but if Wallsend can find their best then they could very well return the favour from the Round 3 loss. 

My Tip: Singleton 1-2 Wallsend

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Under 17's:
Singleton Strikers (11th) v Wallsend FC (8th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Wallsend 6-1 Singleton

Singleton 17's were able to hold a solid Belswans side to a scoreless draw last week but they remain in last spot and seeing Thornton pick up a win wouldn't have helped. They haven't scored a goal in three weeks which makes it very difficult to pick up results. They've been defensively more solid as of late which is a plus.

Wallsend put six past the Strikers last time they met and at that stage the Red Devils looked a side destined for finals. Since then, Wallsend's form has been patchy at times but with back to back victories, suddenly their finals hopes are a lot better. They know this could be a vital three points against the bottom-placed side.

Prediction: Singleton denied Belswans last weekend and kept a clean sheet but Wallsend offer a fair challenge of their own. The Red Devils have lacked consistency but this is a key fixture for them. A loss here would destroy their confidence so expect a fired-up display.

My Tip: Singleton 0-2 Wallsend FC

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1st Grade:
Cessnock City (11th) v South Cardiff (4th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: South Cardiff 5-1 Cessnock City

Cessnock City remain in last place on the table but Lino Gatti's side showed a lot of heart last weekend to come from 2-0 down at Thornton Park to draw 2-2 with the Redbacks. A good way to start the second half of the season, the Hornets are surely expecting to pick up maximum points one way or another in weeks to come.

Next weekend will be a big one for Cessnock as they travel to Singleton who are in second-last but for now they host South Cardiff. When the Hornets travelled to Ulinga Oval for a mid-week game two months ago, they were soundly beaten 5-1. Cessnock are an up-and-down side. On days where they play well they can certainly be a test but other days they can be well-beaten.

Defensively, Cessnock will need to step up once again to stop a Southy side that put four past Wallsend last weekend. The Gunners solidified their spot inside the top four and are no doubt still believing that a top two finish is still well within their grasp. They'll need their absolute best form in the second half to keep pressure on Cooks Hill and Kahibah.

Southy aren't heavily reliant on one goalscorer (i.e, Tega Marcus at Belswans). The Gunners can strike from anywhere in the front third. Troy Runge, Klaudon Ahmataj and Brett Cowling are all dangerous players on their day. Player/Coach Denis Fajkovic is a slight injury concern for the Gunners and it'll be interesting to see if 'Faj' sits this game out or just deploys himself as an emergency option of sorts off the bench.

Prediction: Southy cannot afford to be complacent. Thornton put the cue in the rack so to speak and didn't kill off Cessnock last weekend and thus felt the full force of a late comeback. If the Gunners play to their strength then they should have the quality to win it but the Hornets have very little to lose at this point. Sitting last, Cessnock know the only way is up.

My Tip: Cessnock City 0-3 South Cardiff

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Under 23's:
Cessnock City (10th) v South Cardiff (4th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: South Cardiff 1-0 Cessnock City

Cessnock picked up a rare 23's win last weekend over rivals Thornton Redbacks. The Hornets had been severely lacking any luck and their only result of the season was a 3-0 win against lowly Toronto. Last week they stepped up to defeat a side that entered the round sitting in second spot. It's a confidence boost to Cessnock that will perhaps steer them clear of a potential wooden spoon.

South Cardiff 23's are a decent side but have been found out by the top sides. Cooks Hill beat them 4-0 not too long ago and last week, the Gunners lost 3-0 at home to the in-form Wallsend. Southy have a host of teams chasing them and they can ill-afford another slip-up this week or they'll be certain to lose their spot inside the four.

Prediction: Cessnock gave Southy a real run for the money last time the two sides met and they'll likely do the same again this time round. The Gunners aren't known for their goalscoring prowess and could find themselves really tested by a Cessnock side with nothing to lose.

My Tip: Cessnock City 1-2 South Cardiff

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Under 19's:
Cessnock City (11th) v South Cardiff (10th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: South Cardiff 1-4 Cessnock City

Cessnock 19's are sitting on the bottom of the table with just two wins all season. One of those wins was a thrilling 4-1 midweek win at Ulinga Oval against South Cardiff. The Hornets as of late have been involved in tighter matches and have a little bit more confidence about them. Captain Brayden Mortimer will be a threat if he bounces back from injury.

South Cardiff 19's are the team that probably should have but haven't. They got beat 3-0 last week by a resurgent Wallsend and suddenly with a loss here they could find themselves on the bottom of the table. They've only got 10 goals, five fewer than the next worst team and things aren't going well at all for this side compared to where some thought they'd be.

Prediction: Southy could very realistically find themselves at the bottom once the dust settles on Sunday. Cessnock glided past them last time they met and if they put their front foot forward then the Hornets can use their home advantage to pick up their biggest win of the season.

My Tip: Cessnock City 1-0 South Cardiff

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Under 17's:
Cessnock City (9th) v South Cardiff (8th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: South Cardiff 1-1 Cessnock City

Cessnock City fell to yet another loss last weekend to a previously winless Thornton side. The Hornets are low on belief and the only positive from last week is the fact they managed to keep the score respectable after some blowouts. Still, things are looking bleak and it's hard to see it improving anytime soon. They haven't scored a single goal in five weeks, since a 1-1 draw with you guessed it...Southy.

South Cardiff fell to a home loss last week and look gone from the finals race but this is a game that they can certainly win. Cessnock will be desperate but if Southy have anything up front, then they'll be a chance of victory. To be brutally honest, if Thornton can knock off Cessnock then anyone can. Southy could fall to ninth if they lose.

Prediction: Toronto 23's are being blasted week in week out and if not for them conceding 10 last week, then Cessnock 17's would be called the worst performing team in the competition. They should be better but confidence is very low. Southy to win.

My Tip: Cessnock City 0-2 South Cardiff

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1st Grade:
New Lambton FC (8th) v Kahibah FC (3rd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Kahibah 2-2 New Lambton

Here we go again, a rivalry that is fast becoming one of the best in New-FM football. After a thrilling 2-2 draw in Round 3 at the LMRFF, the next clash was an equally memorable famous cup night at Alder Park as the Eagles recorded a 2-1 win live on BarTV in front of an estimated 600-700 onlookers, unheard of for a mid-week game in the middle of the season.

Recently New Lambton have been there or thereabouts in terms of form. They still sit in reach of the top four but last week's draw with West Wallsend didn't help them and Andrew Packer will know his side need to raise the bar in the second half of the season and definitely so against a Kahibah side looking to enter the top two with Thornton having the bye.

Kahibah's week off no doubt gave some of their more experienced players to rest up and the club used it's week off wisely with most New-FM players from U15's to 1st Grade involved in a 'Coaches Night Off' where all junior coaches were given a rest as the club's premier players coached sessions. Expect to see a few bicycle kicks on the junior fields this week as the youngsters look up to David Hodgson and the likes!

On the field, Kahibah's recent form has been a little bit patchy. They lost to Wallsend but bounced back with a hard-fought win over Thornton and then never really got out of 2nd or 3rd gear against Cessnock in their last outing, a 5-1 win with Hodgson, Penfold and Illfield among a host of big names missing.

Prediction: It's safe to expect a lot of entertainment in this one. New Lambton seem to go to another level when they take on the likes of Kahibah and Cooks Hill and this week they know that a win could really boost their hopes of finals. A loss could leave them a long way out. Kahibah are looking to put pressure on Cooks Hill in the minor premiership race and seeking revenge for the FFA Cup loss. It's tough to call but Kahibah are probably the favourites.

My Tip: New Lambton 1-3 Kahibah FC

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Under 23's:
New Lambton FC (9th) v Kahibah FC (8th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Kahibah 1-5 New Lambton

It's a do or die sort of game in the 23's at Alder Park on Sunday. The Eagles were beaten by West Wallsend last weekend and their finals hopes are beginning to fade and fast. Despite only sitting six points outside the four, New Lambton 23's just don't look a side that will threaten for finals. They're a better side on paper but for whatever reason it just isn't working on the park.

Kahibah enter this weekend fresh from the bye and coming off the back of a solid 4-1 win over Thornton and a less solid 2-1 win over Cessnock. Luck was on Kahibah's side against the lowly Hornets but this is the sort of fixture that looms as must-win if Kahibah want to play finals. They were humbled 5-1 back in Round 3 but New Lambton haven't shown that quality since.

Prediction: The Eagles will fire up for this game. A loss on Sunday could really be another nail in the coffin for their finals hopes and give Kahibah a real boost. Neither side have shown their best potential apart from one or two results here and there. It's a tough one to call.

My Tip: New Lambton 1-1 Kahibah

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Under 19's:
New Lambton FC (2nd) v Kahibah FC (6th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Kahibah 2-3 New Lambton

New Lambton recorded a 1-1 draw against West Wallsend last weekend which on reflection was a fair result. The Eagles sit fairly strong in second place but the top five sides all sitting within a few points of each other, a form slump could certainly be fairly costly. It's interesting to see Lachlan Jones missing 19's to take the field in an under-performing 23's side. The old 'big fish in a small pond' idea could help the Eagles boost their attack. He adds a lot.

Kahibah return from the bye and a chance to re-assess where they are and where they need to be in weeks to come. Consistency hasn't been there and they haven't looked as hungry for results as some of the higher-placed sides. This could be a real make or break game for them as they enter the second half of the season. A loss wouldn't end their season but a win could certainly boost them to new heights.

Prediction: It's a tricky game to call. If Kahibah show up with their best then they are a good chance but New Lambton are a serious side. They beat a game Kahibah 3-2 back in Round 3 and it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Eagles perhaps make ground on Cooks Hill depending on the Cookers result. Eagles to win it.

My Tip: New Lambton 2-1 Kahibah FC

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Under 17's:
New Lambton FC (4th) v Kahibah FC (6th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Kahibah 4-1 New Lambton

New Lambton looked beaten last weekend against premiership contenders West Wallsend but then Liam Walker would pop up with twenty seconds to go to seal an unlikely point. It was as entertaining a finish as you'll find this season and it no doubt gave New Lambton some extra self belief. With Belswans and Kahibah both chasing them down, this could be a key three points.

Kahibah return after the bye but before that they took out some frustration over losing three points by putting seven goals past a hapless Cessnock. It gave Kahibah a big boost to their goal difference but they can ill-afford to look too far ahead as this weekend is certainly one of their biggest tests to date.

Prediction: Three late goals saw Kahibah see off New Lambton in the Eagles first game. New Lambton have certainly come a long way since then and their players know what to expect in the return game. Kahibah haven't always been consistent but this is a chance for them to really hammer home the fact that they are a title threat. Can they though?

My Tip: New Lambton 1-2 Kahibah FC

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1st Grade:
Toronto-Awaba (9th) v West Wallsend SFC (6th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: West Wallsend 4-1 Toronto-Awaba

Toronto-Awaba have endured a fairly tough season but last week scored one of the shocks of the season as they left the AthField with a well-earned point. The Stags produced arguably their best display of the season as they frustrated Cooks Hill and simply refused to lay down in the match.

Adam Routledge's side defended gallantly last weekend which for the leakiest defence in the league is a massive confidence boost. Last time they faced Westy it finished 4-1 to the Bluebells but with home advantage, Toronto will believe they can perhaps climb further away from the foot of the table.

West Wallsend secured a late point against New Lambton last week in a result that didn't really do any favours for either side. Sitting five points outside the top four, Westy are certainly a contender for finals football but coach Gary Rowe admits the aim is to simply produce the football they want to play and see where it takes them.

Recording three points against the lower-ranked side should be the goal for Westy but you can never really be sure what you're going to see from Toronto. What is certain is that the likes of Tye Jones, Ryan Cole and company will have to be good in attack and the Bluebells' defence will need to be weary of an unpredictable Toronto attack.

Prediction: This would be a good game for either side to win. Toronto can boost themselves further from the bottom of the table and Westy can push towards the top four. Home advantage and the confidence from last week might just see Toronto scrap out another valuable point. One thing we've learnt is that there's got to be another 2-2 draw somewhere this week.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 2-2 West Wallsend

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Under 23's:
Toronto-Awaba (11th) v West Wallsend SFC (6th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: West Wallsend 2-1 Toronto-Awaba

Season 2017 is a total write-off for Toronto 23's. Last weekend's 10-0 loss to Cooks Hill would have no doubt killed any belief this side had of perhaps climbing up the table. It's tough to see them winning a game based on the sort of form they're in. 25 goals conceded in four games says it all.

West Wallsend come into this game on the back of last week's 2-1 victory over New Lambton. They sit on the verge of the top four and with Southy and Belswans both facing the top two sides, this weekend could see the Bluebells climb into the four. They have the quality to win the game but it's all about avoiding complacency.

Prediction: Toronto are gone. Completely gone. They might not win a game this season based on recent weeks and for this game, there's a big importance for West Wallsend. It's three valuable points but they've got to show some quality and take those points. They won't face an abundance of resistance but it's not an automatic three points. 

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-3 West Wallsend

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Under 19's:
Toronto-Awaba (8th) v West Wallsend SFC (3rd)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: West Wallsend 5-2 Toronto-Awaba

Toronto 19's can certainly beat a poor team or two but they themselves have been found out as a low to mid-table side and no more. Last week's 7-0 loss to Cooks Hill was a humbling experience and the Stags are all but gone from the finals race once again.

West Wallsend's draw with New Lambton saw them lose ground in the minor premiership race but the Bluebells shouldn't be too concerned as it's still only a four point gap to the top. They beat Toronto 5-2 in a hard-fought game last time and they enter as the rightful favourites this week as they look to return quickly to winning form.

Prediction: Toronto have a decent player or two in this grade but as a collective it just hasn't worked and it doesn't look like it's going to work, at least not on a consistent week-by-week basis. West Wallsend have the quality going forward to possibly make this another long day for the Stags.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-4 West Wallsend

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Under 17's Match of the Round:
Toronto-Awaba (2nd) v West Wallsend SFC (1st)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: West Wallsend 3-2 Toronto-Awaba

Nobody would have been expecting to see a Toronto-Awaba side in a top of the table match in Season 2017. The Stags are in a rebuilding phase but the 17's have been absolutely superb. Last weekend they won 4-1 against a serious Cooks Hill side. Thomas Appleby leads the division with goals scored, 13 of them in just eight appearances.

West Wallsend had a solid three points go out the window as they drew late with New Lambton. The Bluebells were the better side last Saturday but couldn't kill the game off and were victims of a heartbreaking late goal. They need to put that behind them quickly or their spot at the top of the table could soon belong to the Stags.

Prediction: It's uncharted waters for Toronto in the 17's. Nobody expected them to be here this far into the season and what a win could do for them on Sunday. They've got home advantage and they could stamp themselves as a serious contender right here. But Westy are indeed a top side.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-1 West Wallsend

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Under 15's Fixtures:


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