Friday, 16 June 2017

PREVIEW: New-FM Northern League One Round 15


1st Grade:
West Wallsend SFC (6th) v Kahibah FC (4th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Kahibah 3-0 West Wallsend

West Wallsend were pushing towards the top four until their last result showed that work still needs to be done. The Bluebells were disappointing in a convincing 4-1 loss at Toronto-Awaba and now sit six points behind Kahibah who do have two games in hand, not including this weekend's fixture.

Gary Rowe's side have boasted a decent record at home this season and will need to use that to turn around their last result against Kahibah, a poor 3-0 loss in a mid-week fixture. In the race for finals, the Bluebells simply need to find that next level and take all three points from their higher-ranked opponents.

Kahibah saw another wash-out midweek against New Lambton and have not played a competitive game since May 21st. Andre Gumprecht and co. were quick to contact Michael Bolch and Hamilton Olympic for a quickly thrown together trial match and went down 3-0 to the NPL powerhouse at the LMRFF on Wednesday.

Kahibah were 5-1 victors last time out in an easy display against Cessnock and will need more to overcome West Wallsend. Having a fully-fit side will be key for the Green and Blacks as well as the quality of David Hodgson who has haunted Westy in recent years, including the earlier fixture this season.

Prediction: Kahibah are yet to start their second half of the season and if things go to plan they'll be hoisting the minor premiership in seven or eight weeks' time. Consistency is something Kahibah strive for and their defensive record is an indication of just how hard it is to beat them.

My Tip: West Wallsend 0-3 Kahibah FC

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Under 23's:
West Wallsend SFC (4th) v Kahibah FC (8th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Kahibah 2-2 West Wallsend

West Wallsend left it as late as they possibly could to see off lowly Toronto-Awaba last time out and despite being a fairly lucky unconvincing result, the three points was indeed vital as it lifted the Bluebells into the top four, at the top of an abundance of teams in the middle of the table, including Kahibah.

Kahibah's midweek trip to New Lambton was again postponed and the side will have been without a game since May 21st when and if they take the field at Johnston Park this weekend. Their finals hopes rely heavily on results and starting the second half of their season will be vital. Expect a very focused performance in a game against a side they drew 2-2 last time out. Two very even squads on paper.

Prediction: Kahibah sit seven points behind Westy but with two crucial games in hand. Their second half of the season begins on Saturday and really it's a mystery what they might produce after a month without a fixture. Westy weren't convincing last time out so it's anyone's guess who may win.

My Tip: West Wallsend 1-1 Kahibah FC

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Under 19's Match of the Round:
West Wallsend SFC (3rd) v Kahibah FC (6th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Kahibah 1-2 West Wallsend

Kahibah did Westy a favour on Thursday by taking a point away from New Lambton and Westy coach Steve Thomson not that long ago claimed that Kahibah were one of the better opponents his side have faced. There's a real competitive respect between the two sides and both teams know it's a big game.

Westy can keep pace with the top sides in the minor premiership race with a win whilst Kahibah really need all three points to remain in finals calculations. It's a key game for both sides and last time they played it was a tight one with Kahibah making a costly mistake or two.

Prediction: West Wallsend will have extra fitness after Kahibah played on a heavy Alder Park surface on Thursday night. The Bluebells didn't have to get out of second gear in a 4-1 victory at Toronto and will need more to see off Kahibah. Still, the top four side deserve to head into this as the favourites.

My Tip: West Wallsend 2-1 Kahibah FC

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Under 17's Match of the Round:
West Wallsend SFC (1st) v Kahibah FC (7th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Kahibah 1-1 West Wallsend

West Wallsend 17's picked up a dramatic late win over minor premiership rivals Toronto-Awaba two weeks ago to move to the top of the table and remain unbeaten in 2017. The ladder-leaders will no doubt look to rise to the next level as the finals series begins to loom in the distance.

Kahibah were in action on Thursday, their first game since May 21st and were frustrated in a 1-1 draw with New Lambton. The same scoreline last time against Westy too as they conceded a heartbreaking late goal. They were that close to beating the unbeaten Bluebells in that midweek game and the Green and Blacks will see their finals hopes boosted in a big way with a win here.

Prediction: Expect a fired-up Kahibah as frustration is boiling over and the Green and Blacks no doubt want to put a run of luckless results behind them. Westy have stood form all season and remain unbeaten so it wouldn't surprise to see them stand strong again.

My Tip: West Wallsend 1-1 Kahibah FC

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1st Grade:
Cooks Hill United (1st) v Wallsend FC (8th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Wallsend 1-3 Cooks Hill

This is one of the more interesting fixtures this season for various reasons. Firstly is the fact that Cooks Hill haven't won in their last three games. They have South Cardiff and Kahibah chasing them down and suddenly it looks like a dog-fight for the minor premiership.

With a huge game against Kahibah next week, Graham Law will want his side to simply return to winning ways in one way or another. Luck has let them down but the reality is that two points from three games isn't what they're aiming for. A break last week might have helped with injuries and players away on vacation. Expect a more refined effort this time round.

Cooks Hill can ill-afford to get ahead of themselves against a Wallsend side that suffered one of the more embarrassing losses in recent years of the New-FM competition. Chris Gallagher's side got it all wrong at Blacksmiths last week and it wouldn't surprise to see a raft of changes on Saturday as they look to plug the huge holes that saw them concede nine last week.

Luke Alexander and Kyle Macorig both returned from injury and both were nowhere near the quality they normally show; young defender Darcy Hall was no match for Tega Marcus and will likely be switched out for a more experienced defender this week and goalkeeper James Wand cost his side two or three goals on the day. It was terrible from front to back and side to side. And it doesn't get any easier this weekend.

Prediction: The result rests on Wallsend. If they show up like last week it'll end in tears once again, maybe not to the tune of 9-0 but Cooks Hill can easily bag 5 or 6. The Cookers at home cannot drop any more points. Graham Law wants that minor premiership and it's time for the leaders to return to their best.

My Tip: Cooks Hill 5-1 Wallsend FC

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Under 23's Match of the Round: 
Cooks Hill United (1st) v Wallsend FC (2nd)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Wallsend 3-2 Cooks Hill

If all goes to plan this may be the Grand Final in waiting. There's no doubt these two sides are setting the bar high in the 23's and so far, 14 weeks in, no teams have been able to consistently match them. Cooks Hill have at least four goals each of their last five and an impressive 21 goals in their last three games.

The only side Cooks Hill 23's are yet to slay happens to be Wallsend. The Red Devils were 3-2 winners in a midweek fixture back in April and it remains the only blemish on the Cookers' near-perfect league record. This game is a big one for both and could go a long way towards determining the minor premiers and indeed the title favourites.

Prediction: Cooks Hill are back at home and will be adamant on picking up a win over their top of the table rivals. Cookers' coach Ben Nichols, formerly of Wallsend, will know this is a step up in competition and it wouldn't be a surprise to see the home side win a tight one, rather than a lopsided scoreline.

My Tip: Cooks Hill 3-1 Wallsend FC

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Under 19's:
Cooks Hill United (2nd) v Wallsend FC (10th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Wallsend 1-8 Cooks Hill

It's not often the Cookers' 19's have had to back up from a loss this season. Their Round 12 loss to Belswans was just their second defeat of the campaign and with last week's glamour match with West Wallsend washed out, they can use this match as a chance to return to winning ways and re-install some confidence.

Wallsend shouldn't be easybeats but it was all too simple when Cooks Hill blasted them 8-1 at The Gardens and it was that same scoreline that saw the Red Devils demolished at Blacksmiths last weekend. Confidence is completely gone and it'll be a challenge for coach Craig Tselembis to get his side believing they can find something in this match.

Prediction: It's not a matter of who will win. Cooks Hill have surely got three points if they manage to find their best football. Whether it'll be two or three or eight is the question. Wallsend's best young defenders are in 23's and 1st Grade and it's a big reason as to why this 19's side have been nowhere near good enough. Cookers by a few.

My Tip: Cooks Hill 6-1 Wallsend

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Under 17's:
Cooks Hill United (2nd) v Wallsend FC (6th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Wallsend 0-1 Cooks Hill

Cooks Hill return to action following a solid win over Belswans to remain in contention for the minor premiership. The Cookers are a significant threat to West Wallsend in the race for 1st place and they're a side that have shown throughout the first 14 weeks that they know how to win games and sometimes win games ugly like they did against Wallsend last time.

The Red Devils travelled to Belswans last week in a vital fixture and were fairly underwhelming in a 3-1 loss. That result dented their finals hopes and with so many good teams above them, it'll be a tough ask for them to make it into the top four. A win here would do wonders but a loss could see them lose more vital ground on the four.

Prediction: Cooks Hill found a way to get over the line against Wallsend last time via a late penalty after a topsy-turvy match-up. That three points is one of many that the Cookers have had to fight for. Building confidence in the back end of the year will be the target and a win here would do them well.

My Tip: Cooks Hill 3-1 Wallsend

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1st Grade:
Cessnock City (11th) v Belmont-Swansea UFC (5th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Belswans 1-1 Cessnock

Cessnock City should have beat Belmont-Swansea at Blacksmiths earlier this season. They put in an excellent display on the day but unfortunately it's been rarely seen since. Last time out they were beaten 2-0 by South Cardiff and suddenly they sit six points adrift of Singleton in the race to avoid the wooden spoon.

Lino Gatti's side have a horror goal difference compared to their Hunter Valley rivals and even if they beat Singleton next Tuesday, they'll still need to pick up a result or two elsewhere to avoid the spoon. The good news for Cessnock is that they can play with freedom and without fear. You never quiet know if you're going to wind up in a tight battle with the bottom-placed side.

Belmont-Swansea crushed Wallsend into the ground last weekend and if Cessnock show a similar display to the one that saw them dispatched easily by Kahibah not too long ago, you can expect more carnage. But it's hard to judge. 

The 5th-placed Belswans simply need to keep winning and hope that one of the top four sides will drop off the pace. This side is too good to not play finals football and that is the absolutely minimum target for Josh Rufo and co. Tega Marcus' four goal haul last week took him to 16 for the season, more than any other 1st Grade player.

Prediction: Like the Cooks Hill v Wallsend game, there should only be one winner but by how much is the question. Cessnock are a tricky side to produce but they'll find it tough against an in-form Belswans. If Chris Gazzard and Sean Matthews click and combine with Tega Marcus and others further forward, it could be a long afternoon at Turner Park.

My Tip: Cessnock City 1-4 Belmont-Swansea

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Under 23's:
Cessnock City (10th) v Belmont-Swansea UFC (6th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Belswans 1-0 Cessnock

Cessnock's sudden revival in the Under 23's has come as a bit of a shock but the Hornets are producing the goods on the back of some much needed confidence and suddenly any chance of picking up the dreaded wooden spoon is a distant memory. Finals are perhaps out of reach but they can certainly impact a lot of sides trying to battle it out for the likely last two spots in the top four.

Belswans were putting up a good fight against Wallsend last week but similar to their heavy loss to Cooks Hill the week before, a young Belswans side just didn't have the quality to match it with the top two side. It's good to see 17's players like Harry Dyer stepping up into this grade and really making an impact. Finals aren't out of the question and it's games like this one that they need to win.

Prediction: Belswans got to play last weekend which no doubt helped their flow and after back to back games against the two pace-setting sides, they'll be happy to see a less challenging task against Cessnock. Still, the Hornets are in good form in the 23's so it's a tough one to call.

My Tip: Cessnock City 1-1 Belmont-Swansea

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Under 19's:
Cessnock City (11th) v Belmont-Swansea UFC (1st)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Belswans 8-0 Cessnock

Six straight losses has the Cessnock 19's sitting firmly on the bottom of the table but with a game in hand on the team above them Wallsend. Their last victory came almost two months ago and the less said about their last match against Belswans the better. Their defence simply did not show up at all in that 8-0 loss.

Belswans are really starting to find their peak form and it's a danger to every team in the competition. The defending champions are still unbeaten since last May and have won their last five games to suddenly sit on top of the table. An 8-1 hiding of Wallsend last week brought back memories of that 8-0 win over Cessnock. They'll head into this one as heavy favourites.

Prediction: Anything is an improvement on the last time this sides played for Cessnock. But still, there's no chance of them winning this if Belswans produce their best football. It could be a very long day if Cessnock don't step up to the challenge.

My Tip: Cessnock City 1-5 Belmont-Swansea

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Under 17's:
Cessnock City (9th) v Belmont-Swansea UFC (5th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Belswans 1-2 Cessnock

Cessnock's hapless run of form in the Under 17's came to an ending of sorts as they picked up a rare point against South Cardiff last time out. It was a little bit of a positive moment after some horror results in recent times. They also defeated Belswans last time they met so that plays into their favour slightly.

Belswans 17's picked up a vital 3-1 win over Wallsend last weekend and with the rest of the round washed out, it helped them gain a little ground on the top four. Some of the players have found some confidence and this side are certainly one to watch in the race for finals football. It's a must-win game for them no doubt.

Prediction: Cessnock's draw with Southy brought some much needed relief to their poor form but Belswans are a different challenge all together. Belswans' attackers have been spoken about but defensively they've been quiet impressive at times. Harrison Rapp has been a constant stand-out for them.

My Tip: Cessnock City 1-3 Belmont-Swansea

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
New Lambton FC (7th) v South Cardiff (2nd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: South Cardiff 4-0 New Lambton

New Lambton's finals hopes rest on this weekend's result against South Cardiff. A win won't throw them into the top four or anything along those lines but a loss will surely spell an end to their slimming finals hopes, especially if the teams above can all pick up three points.

So often this season the Eagles have risen to the challenge when asked and have revenge on their mind after a shock 4-0 loss to Southy at Ulinga Oval on Good Friday. Head Coach Andrew Packer is a tough to please and that heavy loss to his old side would have hurt like no other. New Lambton will likely aim up to really make Southy work for it.

The Gunners have gone about their business fairly routinely as of late. A 2-0 win over Cessnock lifted them to second spot and if Cooks Hill stumble again then top spot could await Denis Fajkovic's side. Southy will not get ahead of themselves though. They know the job is still nowhere near complete and consistence performance is needed.

With a low goal differential and Belswans within range of them, South Cardiff need to keep up the winning form to continue their run inside the top four. A loss won't hurt them too much with loads of football still to follow but a win could really hammer them into the top four and arguably end the Eagles' finals tilt.

Prediction: As of writing, there was a chance this game could be moved to Ulinga if any rain fell on Alder Park. If the game does go ahead at Alder, expect an unpredictable and tough surface. It could be a very gritty low-scoring affair between the two sides. But then again, Southy did the work easily on a wet and difficult Ulinga Oval on Good Friday. 

My Tip: New Lambton 1-2 South Cardiff

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Under 23's:
New Lambton FC (9th) v South Cardiff (5th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: South Cardiff 3-2 New Lambton

Confidence has fallen that New Lambton 23's can make the finals and suddenly every fixture going forward is a key one if they are a chance of taking advantage of what is a very tight 23's competition. They were stunned by Southy last time they met with the Gunners scoring late to take all three points at Ulinga Oval.

South Cardiff have been a prime example of the lack of consistency in the Under 23's competition. They remain just one win outside the top four but a whopping 17 points behind ladder-leaders Cooks Hill. Southy's depth has been tested at times with 1st Grade requiring some 23's from time to time and the results just haven't been there some weeks.

Prediction: It's tough to call between two sides keen to build some foundation for a finals run. New Lambton's last outing against West Wallsend was another disappointing result. It's a big character test in belief and that's something that may just favour Southy.

My Tip: New Lambton 1-3 South Cardiff

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Under 19's:
New Lambton FC (4th) v South Cardiff (8th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: South Cardiff 2-5 New Lambton

New Lambton welcomed back key attackers Lachlan Jones and Maurice Bechelli on Thursday night but it wasn't enough for the Eagles to see off Kahibah in a 2-2 draw. The word unconvincing comes to mind and it was one of New Lambton's worst displays of the season. The two dropped points sees them drop off the pace in the race for the minor premiership.

South Cardiff have never got going in 2017 in the Under 19's. Their last result was a drought-breaking win over lowly Cessnock but they need to continue that winning form to remain any hope of pulling off a shock and making finals. It's highly doubtful but a respectable back end of the year will be the target for the Gunners.

Prediction: New Lambton were poor on Thursday. Something was off about the display and it wouldn't surprise to see a more refined effort on Sunday. Southy's defence hasn't exactly been solid but attacking-wise they've been the lowest scoring side in the Under 19's. Eagles to win if they're full strength.

My Tip: New Lambton 2-0 South Cardiff

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Under 17's:
New Lambton FC (4th) v South Cardiff (8th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: South Cardiff 1-2 New Lambton

New Lambton dropped off the pace in Thursday's 1-1 draw with Kahibah. They led 1-0 but the latter stages of the game saw the Eagles almost lose it. Goalkeeper Jasper Burley was once again a key factor for them as well as Liam Walker who produced another important goal. They've played a lot better games than that on Thursday.

Southy 17's are a long way out of finals contention and no result showed that more than a 1-1 draw with a vastly out of form Cessnock City side last time out. The Gunners did have an injury crisis in the 17's and their form has never got going, similar to the club's 19's side.

Prediction: With Kahibah having a game in hand and Belswans right behind them, New Lambton know that their top four spot is one that's not exactly safe. Winning games is key and it's safe to expect them to raise the bar a little bit against a struggling Southy side. Eagles to win.

My Tip: New Lambton 3-1 South Cardiff

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1st Grade:
Toronto-Awaba (9th) v Thornton Redbacks (3rd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Thornton 5-2 Toronto

Toronto's stunning 4-1 victory over West Wallsend put an end to any belief that the Stags could wind up with a wooden spoon and there's one or two die-hards that believe the side can pull off a miracle and perhaps sneak into finals. Make no doubt, any hope of that rests on if they can overcome Thornton.

That win over Westy was one of the best performances from Toronto-Awaba in recent years. The team played some good football and were surprisingly clinical in front of goal. If they had more of that this season then they may have been higher on the table. They'll take it one game at a time and on home turf, who knows what they may produce with some confidence behind them.

Thornton's minor premiership tilt has halted, their form has gone out the window and now some predict that their spot inside the top four could soon belong to Belswans. The panic light isn't flickering just yet but a loss to Toronto will have the Redbacks looking for answers. They can't keep this poor form going.

A 2-2 draw with Cessnock last time out was a poor result after the Redbacks lead 2-0 with five minutes to go. Toronto will obviously be fully aware of that result and the form that Darrel McAllister's side is currently in. There were seven goals last time they met but expect less on a heavy Lyall Peacock surface with rugby league playing on the ground on Saturday.

Prediction: This is a tough one to call. Toronto were good value last time out but if Thornton can find their best then they'll be a tough side to stop. Nathan McAllister has been vital for his father's side and Jamie Subat will again be a key up front but the Stags have some confidence lately. Tough to call.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-1 Thornton Redbacks

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Under 23's:
Toronto-Awaba (11th) v Thornton Redbacks (3rd)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Thornton 6-1 Toronto

A much more positive performance for Toronto 23's last time out as they pushed West Wallsend to the limits and lost with the final kick of the game. Still, that was another loss and it leaves them seven points behind 10th-placed Cessnock. Avoiding the wooden spoon is a big ask and that's no doubt what the Stags are aiming to do.

Thornton's last game came all the way back on May 28th so no doubt they'll be keen to get back onto the field. Three-straight losses for the previously in-form side has seen them drop off the pace of Cooks Hill and Wallsend but fortunately they have a a few points in hand on the chasing pack and an extra game. Getting back to winning form will do them a world of good.

Prediction: Toronto were smashed last time they met Thornton but the Redbacks will be down on confidence after no wins in their last three. Still, the 3rd-placed side should have the quality to see off the cellar-dwellers but it might not be as simple as that.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-4 Thornton Redbacks

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Under 19's:
Toronto-Awaba (9th) v Thornton Redbacks (5th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Thornton 2-1 Toronto

Toronto-Awaba failed to put up much of a challenge against West Wallsend in their last match. The Stags are a long way from finals contention but they do have a chance to pick up a win or two in coming weeks and move away from Cessnock at the bottom of the table. Last time they played Thornton, they went down 2-1 in a hotly contested match-up.

The Redbacks picked up a 1-0 win over Cessnock last time out but it was the sort of victory that doesn't fill onlookers with confidence. Thornton have stumbled in recent times and find themselves outside the top four, albeit with a game in hand on a few higher-placed sides. It's most likely a five-way race for the four finals spots and it's games like this that teams can ill-afford to drop.

Prediction: Toronto will see Connor Morgan return from suspension which gives their attacking potential a big boost but it's further back where things went wrong against West Wallsend. An early goal would do the Stags wonders but another home loss could be on the cards.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-4 Thornton Redbacks

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Under 17's:
Toronto-Awaba (3rd) v Thornton Redbacks (10th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Thornton 0-4 Toronto

Toronto-Awaba 17's lost what was a potential finals preview against West Wallsend last time out. The Stags fought hard but were arguably outplayed and lost late on to an unfortunate cross-turned-goal. Still, this team is one that is confident and looks finals bound if they can produce good form and beat teams like Thornton.

The Redbacks picked up a break-through win in their last game as they downed Cessnock City 2-0. It brought a range of emotions to the Thornton squad but mostly that of relief as they finally got to sing the team song. Whether that kick-starts a form run of not is yet to be seen and the Redbacks will be lacking match fitness after three weeks off.

Prediction: Thornton were decent in that win over Cessnock but this game is on another level entirely. The Stags need to bounce back to winning ways with some teams like Belswans and Kahibah potentially chasing down a spot inside the top four. Thornton defenders will need to keep an eye out for 17's top scorer Thomas Appleby. 

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 4-1 Thornton Redbacks

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Under 15's Fixtures:


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