Friday, 4 August 2017

PREVIEW: New-FM Northern League One Round 22


1st Grade:
West Wallsend SFC (6th) v Cessnock City (11th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Cessnock City 1-2 West Wallsend

It's a dead rubber yes but it's not very often than Westy v Cessnock doesn't provide entertainment, whether it be good or bad. Last time it was really good for Westy as they scored twice in stoppage time to stun Cessnock and deny the Hornets a golden chance for that breakthrough win.

The Bluebells for a time looked a serious finals threat but have fallen away and Gary Rowe will be no doubt a little disappointed in a lack of consistency. The gaffer from day one this year aimed for 10 wins and with 8 so far, it's an impossible target with one game to go. Still, it's been a very positive year and one that has seem some quality shown from the Westy boys.

By this point it's probably best to sweep Cessnock's season under the rug and look towards the future. That's what the club have done with Brandon Slade and Tony Jovcevski already appointed for Season 2018. Simple put, 2017 is a total write-off. The best thing Lino Gatti has done is install some self-belief in some young talents at the club.

Cessnock's season in the eyes of this pundit was summed up last week as a fresh-faced Clayton Williams came onto the field, marking up next to Kahibah's bearded midfielder Ash Illfield. Youth has filled the massive gaps and any experience at this level is no doubt valuable in the long run. The likes of Luke Ford, Josh Bailey, Riley Taylor, they're all better in the long run for this season.

Prediction: At this point, losing to Cessnock would be one of the most embarrassing results in a very long time at West Wallsend. They've got home ground advantage, they've got experience on their side. Expect the Bluebells to muscle up and bully a young Hornets side out of the game.

My Tip: West Wallsend 4-0 Cessnock City

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Under 23's:
West Wallsend SFC (4th) v Cessnock City (10th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Cessnock City 1-2 West Wallsend

The Westy 23's return from their weekend off with a chance to get into goalscoring form ahead of the finals. Last time they met Cessnock City it was a tight affair with the Bluebells winning 2-1. With four wins in a row, they're definitely patching together some good form and in their final game at Johnston Park this season they'll no doubt want to make a statement.

Cessnock City's frustrating loss to Kahibah last weekend was a decent performance considering some of the losses they've had this year. Their last two matches against top four opposition have been heavy losses but there is a chance here in their final match to cause a stir. No matter what they are stuck in 10th place. It's freedom for them this weekend to play how they want.

Prediction: Cessnock's over reliance on youth and lack of numbers has been a killer blow all season and for some of these players, Saturday will be a long-awaited relief. Westy are in form, they're heading to finals and they should sweep Cessnock off the field with their quality in this one.

My Tip: West Wallsend 4-1 Cessnock City


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Under 19's:
West Wallsend SFC (4th) v Cessnock City (11th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Cessnock City 1-3 West Wallsend

Westy 19's aren't in the hunt for the minor premiership like the 17's but are a side hungry to go one further than their Grand Final loss last season. An issue for Stephen Thomson's side is that they have yet to knock off a fellow top four side this season. Their task this weekend is a fairly simple looking one against the wooden spooners Cessnock City. A chance to fine-tune their football.

Cessnock's 4-0 loss to Kahibah last weekend summed up a very poor season for them. Kel Lund's side have been ravaged by the fact that so many of their players have been forced to plug the holes in a very slim senior squad at Turner Park. If the best 19's at Cessnock actually played 19's, they wouldn't be dead last.

Prediction: Cessnock City aren't going to stand by idly so West Wallsend will need to produce some quality to overcome the challenge. Fighting off complacency will be the key issue. If the Bluebells find their scoring boots than it could end a cricket score.

My Tip: West Wallsend 4-0 Cessnock City


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Under 17's:
West Wallsend SFC (1st) v Cessnock City (10th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Cessnock City 0-4 West Wallsend

The young Bluebells can bring home the club's first piece of silverware in 10 long years this Saturday. The 17's have fended off pressure all season in a very competitive top four but now the chance is firmly in their hands. Last week's bye was a chance to refresh and as long as they get a point the trophy is theirs. A loss to lowly Cessnock would be an embarrassment considering the circumstances.

Cessnock City's season was summed up last week. They out-enthused a Kahibah that smashed them 7-0 earlier in the year. The Hornets were up 2-0 and heading for a deserved win but Kahibah finished with two late goals. Playing for 80 minutes is the key to victory, something the Cessnock 17's haven't done since April 1st. They can play ultimate party spoilers here.

Prediction: If there's ever been an easier prediction it'll be hard to find. Westy are on home turf, against a team in second last and eyeing off a drought-breaking piece of silverware for the second-oldest club in the competition. The future is bright at Johnston Park.

My Tip: West Wallsend 5-0 Cessnock City


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1st Grade:
Cooks Hill United (1st) v New Lambton FC (8th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: New Lambton 4-5 Cooks Hill United

Cooks Hill United have won Zone League Grand Finals on a fair few occasions but Saturday August 5th 2017 is without a doubt the biggest day the club has ever seen. The 20th anniversary and Old Boys' Day coincides with the chance to seal a treble of minor premierships. It's uncharted waters for this potential powerhouse of Newcastle football.

Graham Law's recruitment came with the simple line from a club stalwart "it has to work". A tumultuous beginning to life in New-FM football. The Spink era, the Glennie era. Just not good enough. Law has helped take this team to the next level. This 'pub team' has graduated to be the best club in the entire league. From 15's to 1st, there is no-one better. An incredible season and potentially bigger things to follow.

It's a battle of potential super-clubs with the New Lambton Eagles returning to a familiar away ground. Last time they were there it was August 30th 2014 and Cooks Hill won 2-0 to put one foot into the ZPL Grand Final.  So much has changed for both clubs in just three short years. Suddenly it's about more than just 1st/Ressies and Thirds. They've got 15's, 17's and 19's all about to do battle in finals. Youth development is now the focus.

Andrew Packer's first year at New Lambton hasn't hit the heights he would have wanted but the chance to be the ultimate party pooper is one that the Eagles will be happy to jump up. They've had their ups and downs this year (who could forget the infamous FFA Cup win) but denying Cookers the premiership on Old Boys' Day would be the greatest moment in New-FM competition.

Prediction: Cooks Hill are a club that have always aimed to be the very best in whatever division they found themselves in. The previous two seasons before this one they struggled to transition into New-FM football but they're the real deal now.

It's only a shame that promotion is no longer a thing as this weekend could be an absolute thriller. Nonetheless, Cooks Hill to win and Graham Law's coaching resume to include another piece of silverware.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 3-1 New Lambton

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Under 23's:
Cooks Hill United (1st) v New Lambton FC (8th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: New Lambton 1-4 Cooks Hill United

After securing the club's first piece of New-FM silverware last weekend, the Cookers' 23's return to the AthField with a chance to break the 50 point barrier. They'll be facing West Wallsend next weekend in the 1st leg of the Semi Final so upping the ante will be the goal. Two 1-0 wins in recent weeks against lower opposition is not how they like to do business. Expect a fine-tuned display.

New Lambton's season started very well but has been a headache and half from that point. They've been forced to chop and change the 23's squad most weeks and coach Paul McGuinness and his players will be looking forward to the off-season. Boosting the depth will be a big key for the success of the club next year.

Prediction: The top 23's teams have all had fairly consistent lineups and none more so than Cooks Hill. It's what helped drive Lakes 23's to the title last year and the minor premiers will want nothing more than to impress on the club's Old Boy's Day. The first prize is won but complacency cannot be allowed ahead of the finals.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 3-1 New Lambton

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Under 19's Match of the Round:
Cooks Hill United (1st) v New Lambton FC (3rd)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: New Lambton 0-2 Cooks Hill United

The biggest games of the day at the AthField come in the 19's and 17's and it's a really interesting encounter in the 19's. Cooks Hill enter the round on top of the table and a chance to seal the club's second piece of New-FM silverware after the 23's finished top last weekend. The Cookers have won five in a row and have only let in one goal in the last five weeks.

New Lambton have been unable to knock off any of the top four sides since that infamous 5-0 opening day win over Westy. They come into Saturday with the chance to seal 3rd spot or fall to 4th. It's very likely either way that they'll face the Cookers in finals unless Westy win big against Cessnock.

Prediction: Whatever happens here, it's likely these two will meet again in the Semi Finals. Either way, this is a chance to solidify form ahead of what's expected to be a very hotly contested finals series. Cooks Hill's defence has led the way this year. Cancelling out Jones and Homer is the key.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 2-1 New Lambton

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Under 17's Match of the Round:
Cooks Hill United (3rd) v New Lambton FC (4th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: New Lambton 0-2 Cooks Hill United

This is a very interesting match-up that kicks off a big day at the AthField. Barring a stunning result at Westy, the Cookers cannot win the minor premiership. Finishing 2nd and setting up a date with Toronto will leave them on opposite days to the the club's 19's/23's/1st if all goes to plan on Saturday. Thus finishing 4th wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

Although a look back shows that Cooks Hill have lost both games against Westy and Toronto whilst they won 2-0 last time they played New Lambton. The Eagles have fought gallantly in their first season in New-FM and have picked up draws with Westy and Toronto. It's an even competition and this game could be a sign of what's to come in a very exciting finals series.

Prediction: Regardless of result, Cooks Hill cannot meet New Lambton in the Semi Finals. The Eagles have drawn with Westy and Toronto in both games this year. This game proves a chance to go to the next level at the perfect time. Whether they can or not is the question.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 2-1 New Lambton

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1st Grade:
Kahibah FC (3rd) v Wallsend FC (7th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Wallsend 1-0 Kahibah

Kahibah eyes will be firmly set on the AthField for Staurday's match-up. If Cooks Hill slip up against New Lambton than its a wide-open race for the minor premiership. Kahibah are looking for their first trophy since the 2006 ID 1 Grand Final and their first minor premiership since 1999. It could be a big Old Boy's Day depending on the result with Cooks Hill.

The Green and Blacks have to rely on results elsewhere to go their way just to finish inside the top two. That was the aim this season as the last two years have seen them fall in the away 2nd leg of the Semi Final, first at Valentine and then at Belswans. And after a less than ideal scrappy win last week, Andre Gumprecht will want the side at their very best.

Wallsend are in action for the last time this season and like many thought, they've been unable to push for finals once again and the possibility of a third GF win in a row. Losing the quality and experience that they did was always going to mean a transition year and that's exactly what it's been.

The Red Devils have some exciting youngsters coming through and the 23's have been superb all season. With Chris Gallagher expected to be moving on as Head Coach, there's a chance for a new gaffer to come in and really try to build the club back up. A respectable eight wins shows Wallsend do possess some danger and they did in fact beat Kahibah last time they met.

Prediction: Kahibah's hopes of making the Grand Final rely on finishing in the top two. Facing a trip to Thornton for instance in week two of the finals would be a danger trip and then some. Home advantage in week two is always a key to success (unless you're Lakes). Kahibah need improvement after last week though.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 2-0 Wallsend FC

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Under 23's:
Kahibah FC (5th) v Wallsend FC (2nd)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Wallsend 3-1 Kahibah

Squad depth has been an issue for Kahibah and the club is already reportedly looking at strengthening both 23's and 19's next season in an attempt to better results. Not making the finals once again is a failure for the club in 23's and consistency has been lacking all season. Last week's 2-1 win over Cessnock helped keep Kahibah at the top of the 'also rans'.

Wallsend are heading to the finals there is no doubting that but whether they finish 2nd or 3rd is in their hands. Most coaches would prefer to play for away goals in the 1st Leg and that is probably enough inspiration for them to play their best football here. That and the fact they've lost two in a row for the first time all year.

Prediction: There was little issue in Wallsend cruising past Kahibah last time and the Red Devils will want nothing less than a win here before a tricky test against Thornton over the next two weeks. They've lost two in a row and it's something they'll want to fix.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 1-3 Wallsend FC

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Under 19's:
Kahibah FC (6th) v Wallsend FC (10th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Wallsend 3-0 Kahibah

It's not the same Kahibah team that have languished mid-table all season. The past couple of performances have been quality and has shown what this side was capable of from the start. The ended Belswans' streak, they cruised home against Cessnock last weekend and this final game is a chance to avenge their worst performance of the season, a lacklustre 3-0 loss to then-winless Wallsend. 

The Red Devils have done enough to avoid the wooden spoon which at one stage didn't look incredibly likely. The amount of points they've dropped due to bad luck and tight losses is fairly high and they are capable of causing a stir on their day. Expect them to be keen to finish the year potentially in 8th position.

Prediction: Four straight losses had Kahibah in the pits but now they are eyeing off the chance to finish the year with four wins on the bounce. With good form behind them and a home ground advantage, they deserve to enter this game as the favourites.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 3-1 Wallsend FC

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Under 17's:
Kahibah FC (5th) v Wallsend FC (7th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Wallsend 2-2 Kahibah

Kahibah 17's are a team that could and really should have been higher-placed on the table. A pre-season contender for the premiership, they've drawn eight games which has really hindered their season. With only three losses (one of those due to forfeit), they've shown they're tough to beat. But those draws have cost them. Last week's 2-2 draw with Cessnock was more like a loss for a side that didn't play to their potential.

Wallsend have dealt with one or two injuries but it doesn't excuse their performance which has seen them never really be a contender for finals football. The club aims for finals across all grades so sitting 7th is a disappointing spot to be in. They bounced back from a heavy Derby Day loss with a 2-0 win over Thornton last week.

Prediction: Kahibah will want some revenge for that 2-2 draw with Wallsend. The Green and Blacks will not want Belswans to finish above them an to end their home campaign with a victory. Their form at Kahibah Oval has been decent.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 2-1 Wallsend FC

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
Thornton Redbacks (2nd) v Belmont-Swansea UFC (4th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Belmont-Swansea 1-3 Thornton Redbacks

What a match-up at Thornton Park this weekend. The Redbacks are flying higher than they have done at any point of the last 15 years or so and if Cooks Hill slip up tomorrow, the minor premiership could beckon for a side that on paper no one fancied to match it with Cooks Hill. It's been an amazing season.

The Redbacks last weekend cruised to a 3-0 win over defending champions Wallsend to move back into 2nd position and secure their place in the finals. Home advantage in week two of the finals would be a mammoth coup for the Redbacks and they can secure that with a win here. It's the perfect time for them to step up and show just what they can do.

Belmont-Swansea's 2-1 win over Kahibah was as good a tune-up for finals as any but they were a little off last weekend in a tight victory over Southy, also 2-1. Goals to Steele Harvey and Mitch Harper showed that the side can score from anywhere in addition to having the competition's leading scorer Tega Marcus.

Marcus will face off with Thornton skipper Nathan McAllister and one will leave as the Golden Boot winner. It's a little twist inside the story of a game that is the biggest of the season so far for both these sides. Win, lose or draw there are much bigger things to come over the next two or three weeks.

Prediction: Newysports predicted two weeks ago than Belswans would finish 3rd. That means winning this game. Thornton are good but their form against top four sides lately hasn't been great. They have beaten Belswans this year but the Blacksmiths-based side are on a nine game unbeaten run.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 1-2 Belmont-Swansea

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Under 23's:
Thornton Redbacks (3rd) v Belmont-Swansea UFC (6th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Belmont-Swansea 0-1 Thornton Redbacks

There's no side in better form in the 23's than Thornton. The Redbacks have four-straight wins which on paper doesn't sound too impressive but the fact they've knocked off Cooks Hill and Wallsend in that period is quiet something. Add to that they beat West Wallsend six weeks ago and suddenly this is a side that look like they can go all the way.

Belmont-Swansea's second half of the year has been all about blooding some youngsters and Dan and Josh Rufo both have their eyes on one or two of the club's Under 17's players. Last week was arguably their best performance in recent memory as they beat South Cardiff 4-0. Goalkeeper turned attacker Matt Redmond scored a double on the day.

Prediction: Belswans did the job in the first half last week and required little effort in the second half at 4-0 up. Beating a poor Southy side is one thing but stopping Thornton's form will be another story. The Redbacks will be eyeing off the chance to finish 2nd and perhaps secure the same home final in week 2 as the club will be aiming for in 1st Grade. It'd be a massive boost.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 3-1 Belmont-Swansea

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Under 19's:
Thornton Redbacks (5th) v Belmont-Swansea UFC (2nd)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Belmont-Swansea 4-0 Thornton Redbacks

The second half of the season for Thornton 19's has come nowhere near matching the first half and thus they have fallen out of contention for the finals. The side have had a large turnover of players this season which hasn't helped their cause. Their attack was solid but their defence was always a bit questionable.

Belmont-Swansea's mammoth unbeaten streak came to an end and if anything it seemed to lift a burden off their shoulders. They cruised to a 5-1 win over South Cardiff last weekend to keep in the race for the minor premiership and they'll be hoping New Lambton can stir an upset at Cooks Hill on Saturday. Minor premiership or not, they are guaranteed second spot due to goal difference.

Prediction: With finals starting next weekend, Belswans will want to produce their best. They had one or two outs last week and will believe they are capable of more. They were far too good for Thornton last time and have the quality to see them off again.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 1-3 Belmont-Swansea

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Under 17's:
Thornton Redbacks (8th) v Belmont-Swansea (6th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Belmont-Swansea 2-0 Thornton Redbacks

Thornton recorded back-to-back wins to move firmly away from the foot of the table but were brought back to Earth with a 2-0 loss to Wallsend last weekend. The Redbacks cannot finish any higher than 8th but considering how important Sunday is for the club, the 17's will want to get the day off to a good start. Expect a committed effort as they look to end the year with a win.

Belmont-Swansea fell to an unexpected 2-0 home loss to South Cardiff last weekend which was one of their poorer results in recent memory. Their season started with a lot of promise in a 5-0 win over Singleton but they've been unable to match the form of the top four sides and thus remain in sixth spot.

Prediction: Thornton are mostly full of players too old to play 17's again next season so expect a turnover of players. Their final game together will be one they want to win but Belmont-Swansea should have the quality to get over the line in this final day fixture.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 0-2 Belmont-Swansea

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1st Grade:
South Cardiff (5th) v Singleton Strikers (9th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: Singleton Strikers 1-3 South Cardiff

Season 2017 at South Cardiff has been a reasonable success for a side that many predicted would launder around in 8th or 9th place and never really be in contention for finals similar to last season. Denis Fajkovic admitted last week that he got handed a squad to work with and by all means it has turned out to work fairly well.

The Gunners more than matched it with some of the top sides but lately they just couldn't get a win against top-four opposition. Draws with Thornton and Kahibah weren't good enough and they finally ran out of time last week with a 2-1 loss to Belmont-Swansea. Close but not close enough.

For Singleton it's been another disappointing season. They were very poor in a 3-0 opening day loss and their season never really got going. A very lucky 2-2 away draw with Cooks Hill was the highlight of a year where defensive issues proved costly. A young backline is always a risk and definitely boosting depth will be a key focus for the club in the off-season.

Singleton have conceded 46 goals this season and if they didn't have the highly regarded Stuey Plant in goals it could have been a lot more. They lacked the star goalscorer with Joe Civello their best on eight or so goals at last count. Simply put, they need better quality up front and some added experience in the backline. Bowen Bagnall and Stuart Thomson were a start but more is needed.

Prediction: It wouldn't surprise to see Denis and Dalibor Fajkovic hand a starting debut or two out to a promising youngster. They spoke last week of youth development and with little on the line than pride and bragging rights, why not take the risk. Either way, Southy to win.

My Tip: South Cardiff 2-1 Singleton Strikers

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Under 23's:
South Cardiff (9th) v Singleton Strikers (7th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: Singleton Strikers 1-4 South Cardiff

Both of these sides have been well below par for the majority of the season. South Cardiff made the Grand Final in 23's last season but have been by far very poor this season compared to what was expected. Last week they found themselves 4-0 down at half-time to a youthful Belswans side. The Fajkovic's have already confirmed they'll be looking to improve this grade next season with some promising youth talent.

Singleton haven't scored a goal in their last three appearances and heavy losses to Kahibah (4-0) and Thornton (5-0) had them severely out of form. Last week they improved greatly as they managed to hold minor premiers Cooks Hill to just a 1-0 win. Again it's a story of squad depth being a major issue. The ins and outs has hurt Singo in 1st and 23's all season.

Prediction: A final round 'dead rubber' is always a tough one to predict. Southy cruised home against Singleton last time but neither side look good lately. The Gunners will be hoping to try and impress before the club start looking at options for next year. They might just edge it.

My Tip: South Cardiff 2-1 Singleton Strikers

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Under 19's:
South Cardiff (7th) v Singleton Strikers (9th)
Kickoff: 11:00am
Last Time They Met: Singleton Strikers 2-0 South Cardiff

South Cardiff's mid season revival in the Under 19's was brilliant and saw them charge away from the bottom of the table but there's work that needs to be done in the off-season to take Southy's lower grades to the next level. They will finish 7th regardless of the result but a win on the final day will be the target.

Singleton's 19's have been probably the most disappointing lower grade side at Howe Park this season. They started well but fell away in fairly dramatic fashion. Losing their coach Sam Ford to Weston coincided around the same time things began to go wayward. Singo's best Under 19's are the ones playing in the senior squad. Put Skinner, Muir and Hall into this side and who knows?

Prediction: The final game of the season is always a tough one to predict. Southy's form lately has been better than Singleton so a Gunners win on home turf seems like a rather safe bet. Who knows. 

My Tip: South Cardiff 2-1 Singleton Strikers

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Under 17's:
South Cardiff (9th) v Singleton Strikers (11th)
Kickoff: 9:15am
Last Time They Met: Singleton Strikers 0-1 South Cardiff

Until last week this game loomed as a potential do or die wooden spoon decider but South Cardiff's quality 2-0 win over Belswans lifted them out of contention and left Singleton in bottom spot. The Gunners now have freedom to not have to worry about the spoon but that is not going to stop them from putting their best out there to try and finish the year potentially in 8th spot.

Singleton have found it tough to get results over the past couple of months and indeed for the whole season if you really want to be clinical. The Strikers have been held scoreless in six of their last eleven games and considering they've leaked 63 goals (29 more than Southy) it's not a good mixture.

Prediction: Singleton will finish last regardless of what they do on Sunday. A blunt attack and a leaky defence is never a healthy combination and with Southy coming off one of their better displays this season the home side head into this one as the deserved favourites.

My Tip: South Cardiff 2-0 Singleton Strikers

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Under 15's Fixtures:


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