Friday, 7 July 2017

PREVIEW: New-FM Northern League One Round 18


1st Grade:
Belmont-Swansea UFC (4th) v Toronto-Awaba (10th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Toronto-Awaba 4-3 Belmont-Swansea

Belmont-Swansea have really put their front foot forward in recent times with five straight victories propelling them well into the race for finals and indeed the minor premiership. The midweek news that Josh Rufo was committing for another season comes at a brilliant time for what is a settled side that is growing in belief every week.

Goalkeeper Ben Parmenter is overseas which means Matt Redmond will likely fill the void although youngster Will Reeves is also an option. More importantly, Josh Hall is expected to return from injury. Club captain Joel Shearer was a recent return and since coming back he has been on fire and scored twice last week, including a long-range goal against New Lambton.

The problem for Belswans is that they're facing their 'bogey side'. Toronto-Awaba have beaten Belswans twice in the last two years and drawn the other match. The Stags have a knack for frustrating Belswans and they won a seven-goal thriller last time the sides met.

The issue for Toronto is a lack of belief after a midweek 6-1 hammering at the hands of Kahibah. The Stags relied on one or two inexperienced players who weren't able to match it with Kahibah and with competition leading scorer Tega Marcus lining up for Belswans, it'll likely be a hard test if the Stags cannot boost their defensive stocks.

Prediction: If Toronto score you can bank on it being a cracker from Nick Roberts. The captain has a knack at the moment for superb finishes. Still, it'll likely only be consolation against a Belswans side that know how important three points are in the race for finals football.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 5-1 Toronto-Awaba

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Under 23's:
Belmont-Swansea UFC (6th) v Toronto-Awaba (11th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Toronto-Awaba 2-5 Belmont-Swansea

Inconsistency is fast costing Belswans' 23's the chance to play finals football. On either side of a hard-fought 2-1 win over Cessnock where heavy losses to Cooks Hill, Wallsend and more recently New Lambton. With the 19's uncommitted to stand-by, the 17's have been forced to fill the void and with that, a consistent line-up is proving hard to find.

Toronto-Awaba have hit form at the perfect time. A month ago they were a distant last and heavy favourites for the wooden spoon but two draws either side of a breakthrough win last weekend has Steve Blunt's side eyeing off the chance to finish above Cessnock and avoid the dreaded spoon. If belief is high then this side can certainly trouble mid-table opposition.

Prediction: Home advantage will play a big part in this. Belswans simply need to produce the goods on home turf or their finals hopes are surely all but over. It'll very likely be a close game either way the result goes.

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

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Under 19's:
Belmont-Swansea UFC (2nd) v Toronto-Awaba (9th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Toronto-Awaba 0-3 Belmont-Swansea

27 games without a loss. Belmont-Swansea 19's are the premiership favourites and they'll no doubt look to go back-to-back this season. With seven-straight wins, they have a simple equation. Win every game and the minor premiership will be theirs. Last week saw some different goalscorers than the usual culprits, Jesse Harvey with a goal and Ned Gain with his first of the season.

Toronto-Awaba were held to a draw by Singleton last weekend but two of their players will have a confidence boost after goals in the 23's on Wednesday. Attackers Luke Gibbons and Connor Morgan both bagged goals for the Stags in a 2-2 draw although Gibbons will likely be a substitute if he remains in the 17's this week.

Prediction: Belswans have the added pressure of such a lengthy unbeaten streak but they have the players capable of beating Toronto. The trio of Nicholson, Dundas and Ellis are the best attacking threat in the 19's competition. Toronto's defenders are consistently not on the same level. Simple as that.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 4-1 Toronto-Awaba

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Under 17's Match of the Round:
Belmont-Swansea UFC (5th) v Toronto-Awaba (2nd)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Toronto-Awaba 2-2 Belmont-Swansea

This is arguably the game that makes or breaks Belmont-Swansea in the Under 17's this season. Sitting four points outside the top four with five games to go, they can ill-afford a slip-up at home. With 2-2 draws against New Lambton, Toronto and Westy this season, they've shown they can match it with the big teams but they have so far been unable to beat a top four side.

Toronto-Awaba have been the surprise packets this season but after 18 weeks, anyone who knows the competition should know by now that they are a serious title contender. Four straight wins has the Stags on the verge of the minor premiership and finals football is surely assured if they win this fixture. They know their job and they obviously know how to win.

Prediction: Expect Belswans to fire up for their biggest game of the season. There's no side-stepping the fact that their finals hopes could very well rest on this result. They've been just outside the four all season but whether they can break in is the question. The answer for Saturday? Stags to win.

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

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
South Cardiff (3rd) v Kahibah F.C (2nd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Kahibah 0-1 South Cardiff

It's without doubt the biggest game at Ulinga Oval so far this season. The Gunners sit in 3rd position and are well in the race for the minor premiership in a season that player/coach Denis Fajkovic described as a 'transition year'. Some consider the Gunners as overachievers but they've proven so far to be a very capable side.

After a shock last-minute to West Wallsend last weekend, the Gunners returned to form in a big way with a convincing 3-0 win over New Lambton on Wednesday night. What they lack is big-game, Semi-Final-like experience. Their next four are Kahibah, Thornton, Cooks Hill and Belswans. It simply doesn't get any harder than that! The Gunners do like a challenge though.

Kahibah have won three in a row to jump right back into contention for the minor premiership. If they win every game they'll win the trophy so it's a simple equation for the Green and Blacks but it might not be so simple on the field. Their last game against Southy was a frustrating 1-0 loss at Kahibah Oval.

A midweek 6-1 win over Toronto-Awaba was a fairly routine night for Kahibah and if they can get Andre Gumprecht and Murray Leyland back in the heart of the defensive line then that'll help. Both teams are known for their defence so the likes of David Hodgson and Jamie Hadlow could prove key for the visitors.

Prediction: Kahibah have the better side on paper...as they did back in April when they lost 1-0 to the Gunners. Southy have been punching above their weight all season and if they do it again tomorrow then surely anything is possible. Both sides are highly-rated defensively and attackers will prove the difference. Kahibah to edge it.

My Tip: South Cardiff 0-1 Kahibah F.C

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Under 23's:
South Cardiff (8th) v Kahibah F.C (7th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Kahibah 1-1 South Cardiff

Two 23's sides that should have, could have but simply haven't in 2017. South Cardiff have won just one of their last ten after starting the season well. Last week's 2-0 loss to West Wallsend ended their realistic finals hope but there is still respect to play for and the chance to jump Kahibah on the league table as well as a chance to impress and maybe land a 1st Grade bench spot in the lead-up to possible Semi Finals.

It's a similar story at Kahibah who have had recent results that have all but sealed their fate as also-rans. A come-back 2-2 draw with Thornton was a lucky result with a late penalty and then they were poor by their standards in a midweek draw with Toronto. These sides drew last time and currently sit 8th and 7th respectively so one could expect a tight game.


Prediction: Whoever shows up to the game more interested will get the points. Both sides have dropped off from where they wanted to be. Southy at home will feel like they can get the job done but Kahibah have been good for a draw or two as of late. The main game is at 2:30pm, let's leave it at that.

My Tip: South Cardiff 1-1 Kahibah FC

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Under 19's:
South Cardiff (7th) v Kahibah F.C (6th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Kahibah 1-2 South Cardiff

South Cardiff 19's had been a disappointment but two wins over top five opposition has them growing in belief and suddenly the Gunners are finding some goals from across the park. There was a notable reliance on captain Ethan Spiers earlier in the year but the Gunners have been doing just fine in their last two appearances.

Kahibah on the other hand were brushed aside 4-1 by Thornton last week. A lacklustre display from goalkeeper Brock Turner really made life tough for Kahibah and with three or four players lacking desire and belief and not to mention a leaky defence, it's not exactly the best of times for the Kahibah 19's.

Prediction: Southy's form patch coincides with Kahibah's frustration at an all-time-high. The Gunners showed hunger last night at Alder Park and will get a win here. It's not if, it's by how many. Southy to win.

My Tip: South Cardiff 3-1 Kahibah FC

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Under 17's:
South Cardiff (9th) v Kahibah F.C (6th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Kahibah 1-0 South Cardiff

South Cardiff haven't won since May 13th and never looked likely at Alder Park last night against New Lambton. An early penalty was a set-back and the Gunners seem to be lacking firepower up top. With just two wins in 15 games, it's been a year to forget and it doesn't get any easier on Saturday for them.

Kahibah come to Ulinga Oval with their goal simple, win or be out of finals. Sitting five points behind New Lambton with five games to go, every game from this point has to be a must-win for Kahibah and after putting eight in last week, they'll be confident of a result here. Whether it'll happen or not is the question.

Prediction: The Gunners didn't look the worst team last night but as mentioned, lack a little at the pointy end of the field. Kahibah need to win and they will know that. Expect a fired-up performance from the away side as they look to stay in contention.

My Tip: South Cardiff 0-3 Kahibah FC

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1st Grade:
Thornton Redbacks (5th) v Cooks Hill United (1st)
Kickoff: 2:45pm
Last Time They Met: Cooks Hill 4-2 Thornton

It's arguably the biggest month in recent memory at Thornton Park as the Redbacks look to celebrate their 40th season with an appearance in the Semi Finals. They've still got games in hand and indeed some tricky fixtures against Cooks Hill, South Cardiff and Belmont-Swansea. All of those games, perhaps fortunately, will be at home.

The Redbacks last result was a disappointing late loss to Kahibah last weekend. Darrel McAllister admitted his side just didn't take the few chances they managed to create in a very closely-fought game. With finals fast approaching, things are about to get very tough and only their best football will see them get there. Very interesting times ahead at Thornton Park.

Cooks Hill did it easy against a lacklustre Cessnock side last weekend, scoring seven against the Hornets. What followed was something no-one (except those from Westy) would have expected. On Wednesday, the Cookers found themselves 4-0 down at half-time against West Wallsend and would go on to lose 5-2.

The minor premiership is suddenly wide-open and Graham Law's side can ill-afford any more slip-ups. They need to try and find their best line-up and produce their best football. It's a crucial time of the year and the Cookers will want to return to the form that saw them dominate the opening months of the competition.

Prediction: There should be goals in this one but Thornton have struggled to finish their chances as of late. Cooks Hill have only been held scoreless once this season so no doubt the Redbacks have to find a goal or two. Both sides know how important this game is and it wouldn't surprise to see them cancel each other out.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 2-2 Cooks Hill United

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

It wasn't all that long ago that Thornton were a contender for the minor premiership in the Under 23's but they've fallen a fair way off the pace, even with two games in hand. Frustration reigned supreme last week in a late draw with Kahibah. A win this week would boost confidence and almost cement a Semi Final spot depending on results elsewhere. A lot to play for this Saturday.

Cooks Hill had to fight for a result over 4th-placed West Wallsend in a potential Semi Final preview on Wednesday night. Both sides had players missing but the Cookers managed to get over the line the hard way and show that they are indeed capable of winning tough if need be. They've got a perfect record against sides who aren't Wallsend so they're the favourites on Saturday.

Prediction: Expect a fired-up Thornton after they were denied a win late last week. They know this is pretty much a curtain-raiser for things to come and it's a good chance to play at a finals-like intensity. Cooks Hill have the form and deserve the favourites tag heading into this.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 1-3 Cooks Hill United

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Under 19's Match of the Round:
Thornton Redbacks (4th) v Cooks Hill United (1st)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Cooks Hill 2-3 Thornton

Thornton 19's title aspirations will be put to a massive test tomorrow at Thornton Park. After New Lambton's stunning 3-0 loss to Southy, the Redbacks can really stamp their spot in the top four and prove that they are the real deal. A 4-1 win over Kahibah last week was helped massively by a mistake-riddled opposition, something Cooks Hill aren't known for.

The Cookers picked up a late controversial win over West Wallsend on Tuesday night and suddenly it seems like it is a two horse race for the minor premiership. A late goal to Jackson Graham had Westy calling for a handball but it wasn't to be. They've won three of their last four but haven't been brilliant in front of goals. In a tight game, they'll need to be clinical to beat Thornton.

Prediction: It's without a doubt a potential finals preview at Thornton Park and considering the Redbacks beat Cooks Hill last time, the home side will be full of confidence that they can pick up perhaps their most important win of the season. Cooks Hill cannot afford to bench their best defenders this week to rest them for 23's/1st. They need all hands on deck for the full 80.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 1-2 Cooks Hill United

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Under 17's:
Thornton Redbacks (10th) v Cooks Hill United (3rd)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Cooks Hill 4-1 Thornton

Thornton 17's have lacked in attack this season but for the majority, they've been fairly decent in defence compared to some...until last week. An 8-0 smashing was the result of the Redbacks playing with ten men for all but about three minutes of the match. They were exhausted by the end of the match and it certainly doesn't get any easier this week.

Cooks Hill left it very late to see off lowly Cessnock last week and managed to bag two late goals to win 2-0. During the week, they were beaten by West Wallsend with their three best players all unavailable for the midweek encounter. The minor premiership might be just out of reach but a win here to cement their top four spot will do them a world of good.

Prediction: Thornton need all hands on deck. If low on numbers like last week, expect another long morning. If Kalnins, Hart and Carter are all in for Cooks Hill then the visitors will have the players to win it. Like the game against Cessnock though, the Cookers can ill-afford to leave it till late.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 0-4 Cooks Hill United

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1st Grade:
Singleton Strikers (9th) v West Wallsend SFC (6th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: West Wallsend 1-0 Singleton Strikers

Singleton have hit a bit of a form patch and managed to produce some decent results as of late. A last-minute win over Toronto last week boosted the Strikers to 9th and it's good news for a side that weren't that long ago still in contention for the wooden spoon.

The addition of Stuart Thomson at the back has been vital for David Willoughby side but another former Cooks Hill player in Bowen Bagnall has been as equally an important addition to the squad. He's produced some quality going forward and was the match-winner for them last weekend. Singleton only have pride to play for but they can be ultimate party spoilers this weekend.

West Wallsend did it very, very late against South Cardiff last weekend with breakthrough talent Josh Knight scoring perhaps the biggest goal of his career to date to give the Bluebells a stoppage time win. It kept alive their finals hopes and then on Wednesday night, they'd take it to a whole new level.

4-0 up over competition leaders Cooks Hill at half-time, the Bluebells would win 5-2 to give their finals hopes a huge boost. Their negative goal difference and extra games played will cost them but win every game and you never know what may happen. Gary Rowe never targeted finals, he simply wanted ten wins and they need to win two of their last four to reach the gaffer's target. Consistency is needed if they are to somehow sneak into the four.

Prediction: Some West Wallsend players believe they can sneak into the playoffs but make no mistake, every game from this point is a must-win. If they can put five past Cooks Hill, they can beat anyone. Simple as that. Westy to go to Singo and keep the dream alive.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-3 West Wallsend

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Under 23's:
Singleton Strikers (5th) v West Wallsend SFC (4th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: West Wallsend 2-2 Singleton Strikers

It's make or break for the Singleton 23's this weekend at Howe Park. With a game in hand, a win over West Wallsend would significantly boost their finals hopes whilst a loss could spell real danger of them missing out. They remain the club's only chance at senior New-FM finals and the Strikers will be fired up for this game. Still, a loss to previously winless Toronto last week isn't exactly confidence-inducing form.

West Wallsend have been solid coming into this game and were involved in a close loss to Cooks Hill on Wednesday night. A depleted Bluebells outfit put in a decent shift and confidence is high at Johnston Park that the club can indeed make it into the playoffs for 23's. This Sunday is as important a game as they've had this year. It could allow them to put one firm foot in the Semi Finals.

Prediction: It was a 2-2 draw last time these two sides met but with so much to play for, a definitive result is always going to be a likely outcome. Singleton have so, so much to play for but their form isn't quiet spectacular to say the least. A big three points inbound for West Wallsend.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 0-2 West Wallsend

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

Singleton picked up a draw with Toronto-Awaba last weekend but that didn't exactly help them very much in what has been a disappointing season after such a positive start. Losing a decent coach in Sam Ford didn't help but more importantly, they've struggled to find results. Will Holz is their leading scorer on four and that shows they need a consistent scorer.

West Wallsend have fallen to two back-to-back 1-0 losses and suddenly find themselves four, possibly soon to be five points off the pace for the minor premiership. They've got to get right back to winning ways however as Thornton and New Lambton are right behind them in the race for the finals. A third-straight loss could be very costly.

Prediction: It's hard to know what to expect from a Singleton side with only pride to play for. West Wallsend on the other hand are coming off of two losses and need to get back to form. It's a tough road trip but Westy's attacking threat will try to get the job done.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-3 West Wallsend

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Under 17's:
Singleton Strikers (11th) v West Wallsend SFC (1st)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: West Wallsend 5-0 Singleton

Singleton sit on the bottom in the Under 17's and their record against top four opposition has been terrible. An upcoming game against fellow strugglers Thornton on July 23rd will be a key fixture for them. Until then, they have tough tests against Westy and Kahibah. There's not much else to say. It's been a year to forget for the majority.

West Wallsend have won three in a row since a loss to Kahibah and currently lead the race for the minor premiership. Their biggest win of the season came on April 22nd when they beat Singleton 5-0 at Johnston Park. If they show up with their best football, then they'll be the heavy favourites in this top v bottom match-up.

Prediction: It'd be quiet a shock to see anything but a West Wallsend win on Sunday. The Bluebells will be watching out for a slip-up from Toronto in a tough away trip to Belswans and perhaps the chance to build a gap at the top. Anything but a win here is just not good enough for their lofty standards.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-4 West Wallsend

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1st Grade:
Wallsend F.C (7th) v New Lambton FC (8th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: New Lambton 2-1 Wallsend

Wallsend won't get the chance to defend their New-FM crown for a third-consecutive year but there is still plenty to play for. The Red Devils return from the bye with an ambition to put behind them a less than ideal run of results that have seen them fall out of finals contention.

Last-minute goals are becoming a staple for Wallsend with a last-minute draw against league-leaders Cooks Hill restoring some respect after a forgettable trip to Blacksmiths Oval and then at The Gardens, a last-minute 2-1 win over Cessnock City would see Wallsend win just their sixth game in 15 this season.

New Lambton have had a similar run with poor results costing them any chance of competing for finals football. Back-to-back home losses over the last week to Belswans (2-0) and South Cardiff (3-0) have seen the Eagles remain locked in 8th position.

Without a goal in their last two appearances, they'll be a real hunger for New Lambton to get a win over an old rival. These sides met in the Zone League competition a few times and there's certainly no love lost between two clubs that have similar ambitions. Unfortunately for both, the remainder of this season is all about pride and hoping some lower grades can bring home some trophies.

Prediction: With not a lot to play for, it's probably not right to expect a thriller by any means compared to what might occur elsewhere this weekend. Both sides have something to prove after some poor results and it wouldn't surprise to see a few youngsters get a go and some different tactics to maybe be used.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 1-1 New Lambton

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Under 23's:
Wallsend F.C (2nd) v New Lambton FC (9th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: New Lambton 1-1 Wallsend

Superb. What else can you say about a side that has won nine consecutive matches? The Red Devils have managed to match runaway leaders Cooks Hill and beat them twice. Confidence is high that Wallsend 23's can go all the way in 2017 and every weekend is built as a key game for them. Rather ironically, the last game they didn't win was a 1-1 draw with New Lambton back on April 23rd.

New Lambton's season has been a similar one to a few 23's squads. They've dealt with injuries and players being unavailable and they've been unable to keep touch with the top four. Sitting ninth, they've picked up two wins on the bounce to gain some much-needed belief. A win could push them as high as 6th and they'll certainly no doubt be happy to play spoiler for the high-flying Wallsend

Prediction: Before last weekend, this was a simple prediction. However New Lambton have produced back-to-back wins and suddenly they've got some belief about them. Still, beating Belswans and Southy is one thing, beating Wallsend is another story.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 3-1 New Lambton

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Under 19's:
Wallsend F.C (10th) v New Lambton FC (5th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: New Lambton 2-1 Wallsend

Wallsend were unable to get the three points in a bottom of the table match with Cessnock last time out but a bye would have given the Red Devils a chance to refresh and re-calculate what they need to jump up the table. With three of the last five games at The Gardens, Wallsend 19's will be eyeing off the chance to go on a form run and potentially climb to a respectable mid-table finish.

New Lambton's shock loss on Thursday night has left them outside the top four and chasing a much-needed victory after only one victory in their last five appearances. Not making the playoffs would be a horror result for a side that played the first half of the year so well so expect a very determined effort against Wallsend.

Prediction: New Lambton's defence has been leaky at times as of late, none more so than against South Cardiff. They have conceded just one less goal than Belswans and Cooks Hill combined. Their finals hopes rest on this game and Wallsend isn't an opponent to take lightly. A very interesting game indeed.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 1-2 New Lambton

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Under 17's:
Wallsend F.C (7th) v New Lambton FC (4th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: New Lambton 2-0 Wallsend

Wallsend 17's sit in a mid-table position, eight points ahead of Cessnock but six points behind Kahibah. It's been a season that was full of promise and has at times delivered but consistency hasn't been there. They've lost all five games against top four sides this year and although some have been tight games, they face a tricky next three games with three top four sides in a row. It's a chance for them to stir some trouble in the race for finals and play party spoilers.

New Lambton were in action on Thursday night and saw off South Cardiff 2-0. An early penalty helped the Eagles as they picked up an important three points. They sit four points above Belswans and five above Kahibah in the race for finals football and for them, every result is important. They were 2-0 winners when these sides met back in April.

Prediction: Wallsend can certainly cause trouble on their day but their record has been poor against top-four opposition. New Lambton know they have a buffer on the teams below them and they won't want to take the foot of the pedal. Finals football could be theirs with a couple more wins and they have the quality to see off mid-table Wallsend.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 0-2 New Lambton

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Under 15's Fixtures:

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