Thursday, 22 March 2018

PREVIEW: New-FM Round 2 2018



Under 19's:
Cooks Hill United (4th) v Singleton Strikers (11th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: CHU 5-2 SIN & SIN 0-2 CHU

It was a slow start to the season for Cooks Hill 19's as they looked a little bit sluggish at times against Belswans. A 1-0 win got the points but it was nowhere near their best level of football. Their attack couldn't finish chances with defender Chad McCarter of all people proving the difference in the end. Young goalkeeper Jesse Fyfe will be one to watch for the home side. He had a nervous start to his 19's career and unless they find a signing, he'll be the option going forward so expect him to gel a bit more.

Singleton 19's were a mystery side heading into the season and weren't expected to do a lot on opening day. Going down 5-1 to West Wallsend wasn't an ideal start. There's some excitement about the team. The return of Trae Proudlock to Singleton is notable and Brad Fairclough is still the goalkeeper. There's a few inexperienced players and depth is paper thin so it's tough to expect a huge turn-around this weekend.

Prediction: Whilst you don't want to write teams off and try and keep some positives ticking over, anything but a Singleton loss here would be quiet stunning. The Strikers have a lot of improvement ahead to trouble the top teams and that's what Cooks Hill are. They would have seen Westy's score and they'll want to match that intent with a statement of pure attacking class.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 4-1 Singleton Strikers

Additional Tip: Cooks Hill's attack to actually fire. Will Dundas to get a double.

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Under 23's:
Cooks Hill United (4th) v Singleton Strikers (11th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
2017 Meetings: CHU 4-0 SIN & SIN 0-1 CHU

Singleton's start to the season in 23's was about as bad as it could possibly get. Their biggest loss in that grade since July 2014 and now they face the challenge of Cooks Hill. The Cookers weren't at their best last weekend but were fairly comfortable in their win over a young Belswans side. The jury is out now to determine if some of the losses might mean the side won't be as free-scoring as last season but this game is a chance for them to go two from two.

As for Singleton, a look at their lineup showed a side that really shouldn't have been losing 7-0 to West Wallsend. They look severely behind the eight ball to begin the year. There's really not much else to say.

Prediction: Cooks Hill need to prove themselves as the front-runners. Last week, albeit in tough conditions was okay but not exactly spectacular. Westy set the bar high with a 7-0 thumping and now attention will turn the defending premiers to see if they can come close to matching it. It should be a routine win but it might not be a flogging.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 3-0 Singleton Strikers

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1st Grade:
Cooks Hill United (2nd) v Singleton Strikers (=3rd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
2017 Meetings: CHU 2-2 SIN & SIN 1-3 CHU

Cooks Hill are back at the AthField for the second of three-straight home games to start the year and this time they're up against a Singleton side that were one of only a couple of clubs to take anything away from the AthField last season. Brad Millar was the hero that day with not one but two goals and ironically it was that performance that potentially caught the eye of Graham Law and Millar is now at Cooks Hill.

Newysports can reveal that Graham Law will be absent for a few weeks next month as he undertakes a coaching course in Scotland. A caretaker coach is expected to take over whilst he's gone but for now he'll be looking for his side to deliver results. Last week was solid but not spectacular by any means. The clean sheet probably meant as much as the three points to the Cookers as it is their main focus this season.

"We'll be very competitive" were the words that David Willoughby used when asked how his side would match it with the big clubs this season. The Strikers on paper have a fairly thin squad compared to some and they are no doubt punching above their weight this season. That's not to say they can't pick up results. Last week was a fairly solid start for them coming away with a point from Johnston Park.

Joe Civello was pinpointed as being one of the key threats for Singo in front of goals and he proved that last week by scoring their first of the season. It was a club debut last Sunday for Hayden Nicol as well who was a late recruit at the end of the off-season and is expected to play a big role in the side this season. A win for Singleton here would be massive for their confidence going forward this season but it will be a tough ask.

Prediction: Cooks Hill cannot afford to be complacent. It cost them points last season although pure luck cost them the win against Singleton in the corresponding game last year. The AthField must be a fortress this season and anything less than a win will be a disappointment for the home side but a reminder there'll be an extra focus on defence and really knuckling down at the back.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 3-1 Singleton Strikers

Additional Tip: Lee Ashton to bag one or two goals for Cooks Hill. (Be tipping this most weeks)

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Under 19's Match of the Round:
West Wallsend SFC (1st) v Kahibah FC (7th)
Kickoff: 2:15pm
2017 Meetings: KAH 1-2 WWB & WWB 2-0 KAH

This is the best match-up of the week in 19's and arguably in all grades as West Wallsend take on the new-look Kahibah 19's. Westy set the bar high with a 5-1 thumping of Singleton last weekend and as mentioned throughout pre-season have a side that is on paper one of the best in the competition. Last week was an excellent start but the quality of opposition definitely rises a bit this weekend.

Kahibah's bye in Round 1 allowed them to get a gauge on the opposition this week and only their best will get them anywhere near beating the home side. Pre-season was mixed at times but on paper this is a team that should be right up there with the likes of Cooks Hill and West Wallsend. With Westy away on Saturday and Cooks Hill away next week, this is no doubt the toughest way to start the season for Kahibah.

Prediction: With respect to Singleton, West Wallsend's task this week becomes tougher. The NPL experience Kahibah has added to the 19's is quiet impressive and it's no secret they're there to win games and push for the top. This is some game to kick off Round 2 at Johnston Park. An entertaining game with Kahibah to edge out a result.

My Tip: West Wallsend 1-2 Kahibah FC

Additional Tip: Brady McRitchie to produce a late game-winning save for Kahibah.

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Under 23's Match of the Round:
West Wallsend SFC (1st) v Kahibah FC (6th)
Kickoff: 4:00pm
2017 Meetings: KAH 2-2 WWB & WWB 4-3 KAH

This was the only real candidate for 23's "Match of the Round". It'll be intriguing to see if Westy can back up their performance from last Sunday. Jai Webster's hat-trick was the only three goal haul for a lone player in the league last weekend and considering they scored seven against a poor Singo side, the Bluebells will be hoping to go two from two and keep their goal difference ticking over.

Kahibah 23's are under the most pressure of any reserve grade team this season. Mat Moncrieff has assured that results are expected and players will need to perform to push for potential 1st Grade appearances. Kahibah use the term "Senior Squad" but the 23's results last year lacked and some players really struggled. Their goalkeeper woes have been mended with Ben Corling a surprise signing mid-week after departing South Cardiff. 

Prediction: This game last season was a thriller in terms of 23's matches. Jackson Gosling scored an unexpected hat-trick for Kahibah but they still lost it late. That result like no other summed up a season of what-ifs. Kahibah need to be an improved outfit this season in 23's but it's hard to see them overcoming the early pace-setters.

My Tip: West Wallsend 2-1 Kahibah FC

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1st Grade:
West Wallsend SFC (=3rd) v Kahibah FC (=7th)
Kickoff: 6:00pm
2017 Meetings: KAH 3-0 WWB & WWB 2-1 KAH

There was a photo sent to Newysports earlier today showing one end of Johnston Park completely submerged in water during Wednesday's downpour. The club is still confident in the game going ahead and the ground's improved drainage system is helping that chance. It's a significant turn-around from last Sunday when temperatures climbed to 40 degrees at Wembley.

Westy got a point against Singleton last weekend but judging by Gary Rowe's midweek comments in the Northern articles, the Bluebells felt that two points went by the wayside. The gaffer has called upon his side to take their chances in front of goals better and they'll certainly need to improve that area of their game as the year goes on as it's about as crucial as it gets when it comes to winning a game of football.

Kahibah endured another Round 1 bye and if anything it gave them an extra week to work on the game plan and more importantly fitness to which Kahibah would be near-enough the fittest side in the league. Andre Gumprecht is as serious as coaches come when it comes to having players who can avoid fatigue. The ultra-solid defensive line, last year's best in the league are back together and that will prove testing for opposition.

After unexpectedly being named club captain last week, goalkeeper Nick Hartnett will again look to show why he is regarded as one of the best shot-stoppers in the league but he comes up against Jesse Cook who is super talented and imposing in his own right. It's an interesting battle in defence but of course attack is where the game will be won or lost.

Prediction: Westy beat Kahibah last season but that relied heavily on them taking the chances they made. You don't get a lot of moments in the final third against Kahibah so the spotlight is firmly on some of the Bluebells' attackers. Kahibah on paper have the better side but the game is never played on paper. Still, the fitness and quality should show here.

My Tip: West Wallsend 0-2 Kahibah

Additional Tip: Asher Beasley to score on debut for Kahibah FC.

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Under 19's
Cessnock City (=5th) v New Lambton (3rd)
Kickoff: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: CES 0-5 NLE & NLE 7-0 CES

Cessnock 19's produced a hard-fought result against Thornton but with Kyle Ericksson jumping up to 23's for the time-being it isn't exacltly ideal for 19's results but indeed, it's great for his development. The apparent departure of Connor Morgan leaves things up front looking a little thin but Kyle Gillis is definitely capable of doing an attacking job for the 19's, that's if he plays most weeks too. A clean sheet for Jackson Bartlett was the perfect way for him to start his time at Cessnock City.

New Lambton on the other hand don't need to worry about players moving up to 23's as they're such a young squad. This is one of a few "two-year teams" and by the end of next season these players could be really something. Last week's 2-0 win over Southy was a good start but they probably made it harder than what it needed to be. The jury is still out on the goalscoring prowess in this side.

Prediction: Both sides look on a very similar level so this will indeed be one of the more interesting encounters this weekend in the 19's. There are one or two weak points in both squads but the strong points are on the same level. There'll be some handy midfielders on show and at the end of the day it'll be all about taking the chances when they come. Very easily could see a draw here.

My Tip: Cessnock City 2-2 New Lambton

Additional Tip: A Hayden Pearce header to take him to two goals in two games.

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Under 23's
Cessnock City (7th) v New Lambton (3rd)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
2017 Meetings: CES 0-5 NLE & NLE 6-1 CES

Cessnock 23's were beaten late by Thornton last weekend and no doubt the side would have hoped to have left Turner Park with a point. They can redeem themselves in a second-straight home game this Sunday. They've got good depth and some impressive talent in this grade. Kyle Ericksson has been promoted from 19's, Ben Priest and Kyle Gillis are also two players to watch as well.

New Lambton produced a very solid start to their 2018 campaign last Sunday with a comfortable 3-0 win over South Cardiff. Three different goalscorers will no doubt have the Eagles' pleased that they have a few options going forward. Their young defensive line is improving and will likely enjoy the battle against a young Hornets attack. An interesting inclusion last weekend was that of the returning Luke Jovcevski.

Prediction: Despite finishing 8th last season, the Eagles scored 11 goals against a very poor Cessnock side. This game will be a helluva lot closer than both of those encounters. Cessnock should have a sturdier defence than what Southy did and they won't be relying on an outfielder in goals. The two sides on paper really cancel each other out.

My Tip: Cessnock City 1-1 New Lambton

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1st Grade:
Cessnock City (=5th) v New Lambton (=7th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
2017 Meetings: CES 1-1 NLE & NLE 7-0 CES

When Newysports confirmed the schedule for 2018 and had this jotted down for the featured Sunday game in Round 2, the thought was there that this might just be the day that the winless streak ends. Last week the new-look Hornets just couldn't find a way in a very tough outing against rivals Thornton and now attention turns to Round 2 at Turner Park and the chance to end a miserable streak of results.

The Hornets almost got a rare win when they last hosted New Lambton but like every other "near-win" last year, it just wasn't to be. The quality and depth at the Hornets is quiet unreal compared to recent seasons. To see their lineup last week and see Jake Thompson, Pete Brennan & Mat Zechel all on the bench shows what this side has this season. Competition for spots and more to come soon with the eagerly-awaited return of Matt Rae.

New Lambton weren't doing a lot in pre-season to set the headline printers in motion but their performance at the Heritage Cup showed some promise. They would have been itching at the bit to get out and show what they can do in Round 1 but the game was eventually called off so they've had to bide their time for a few extra days.

Despite how disappointing last year was at times for New Lambton they picked up a 7-0 win the last time these sides met. That was after Cessnock had pretty much waved the white flag in their pursuit to avoid the wooden spoon and this match is a much greater test for the Eagles' attack and also a chance to see how their defence may stack up this season after being less than ideal at times in 2017.

Prediction: This Sunday could be the day the streak ends. 637 days will have passed since the last time "we all play the Hornets soccer team" was heard from a 1st Grade New-FM changeroom. Cessnock have the best goalkeeper depth in the league and it'll be interesting to see if Jed Horder remains in the #1 shirt after such a stunning performance last weekend. The Hornets defence may just prove the difference in the end.

My Tip: Cessnock City 2-1 New Lambton

Additional Tip: Just like last week, tipping Jason Zechel to be the man that scores the drought-breaking goal. A winner in the 2nd half.

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Under 19's:
Belmont-Swansea (8th) v Toronto-Awaba (2nd)
Kickoff: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: TAW 0-3 BEL & BEL 3-1 TAW

All the doubt surrounding Belswans attack reared its head again last Sunday as they failed to pounce on the few chances they created. That said, defensively they showed a lot of heart and the team combined put in a very big effort on a tough day. Coach Mick Buckley admitted that scoring goals is the issue and he hopes and it's safe to agree with him that maybe once confidence kicks in the team will pick up some results. Definitely more hope than originally thought about these guys.

Toronto-Awaba on the other hand were the surprise packets in Round 1. The team were quietly confident of their chances and now the covers have come off, Toronto 19's look a team to watch for in the early stages of the season. It's a testament to coach Shaun Paterson who has helped gel this side through 17's last year and now have them looking impressive early on in the 19's. Will Cinello a good pick-up but may be poached into the senior set-up before too long.

Prediction: Toronto 19's have been embarrassed at times against Belswans in recent seasons but now things look a lot different. Belswans aren't the same powerhouse that they were last season and Toronto have a very exciting squad with a couple of big names still to slot back it should strengthen them even more. Never thought this would be the case after the last few years but Toronto 19's to win at Blacksmiths.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 1-3 Toronto-Awaba

Additional Tip: Will Cinello to score another double.

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Under 23's:
Belmont-Swansea (8th) v Toronto-Awaba (10th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
2017 Meetings: TAW 2-5 BEL & BEL 1-1 TAW

Belswans 23's definitely weren't as poor as expected but there's still big question marks surrounding the team. Their defence last week was a bit shaky whilst they were unable to create many notable clear-cut goal opportunities. Dan Rufo is expecting the team to strengthen as players drop back into the senior squad. Rufo himself may be one to make a return in reserves within the next couple of weeks.

There were some hopes that Toronto-Awaba could start the season better in 23's than last year. Instead of conceding 10 goals at home, they only let in five. That is nowhere near what Graham Jones was expecting and no doubt alarm bells are once again ringing for Toronto reserves. One look at the lineup from last week shows a bit of a Central Coast Mariners problem. Decent coach but not sure the troops are there for success.

Prediction: Dan Rufo believes Belswans 23's can make the playoffs this season. Whilst it's very early days, they need to make sure that Blacksmiths Oval is a ground where they pick up success. On paper they have the better lineup and that won't happen every week so it'll be interesting to see if they can answer the call.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 3-0 Toronto-Awaba

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1st Grade:
Belmont-Swansea (10th) v Toronto-Awaba (11th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
2017 Meetings: TAW 4-3 BEL & BEL 3-1 TAW

This may be the first time in a few years that Belswans have found themselves in a bottom of the table clash. It's an interesting stat but means very little for a side that know the whole season is still ahead of them. Last weekend wasn't a poor showing by any means as Rufo's men put in a quality effort on a very hot day at the AthField. It was truly a game where they could have easily left with a result.

Belswans won't be full strength for a few more weeks to come but even with the side they've got at the moment, Josh Rufo will be adamant on his side picking up the result at home. One player to focus on is Cameron Lodge who deputised as the striker last weekend with Dave Hodgson still sidelined. Lodge despite not having a lot of experience will learn from those couple of near-misses last week and he'll be hungry to get a goal this week.

For Toronto, it's the all too familiar position at the bottom end of the table after Round 1. There was a lot of hope that this would be the year the Stags finally return to the upper mid-table and maybe even further. Ball control was apparently decent but options in the final third lacked at times for the Stags.

The Stags have managed to stun Belswans a couple of times in recent seasons, in fact they've won two of the last three meetings. Toronto have potential to be an improved outfit this season but it's safe to say the breakthrough first win has to come within the next two or three games. Confidence needs to be flowing and a win on Sunday would send confidence sky-high.

Prediction: The pressure is probably more on Belswans as this is their home match and their home fans can be very demanding of a result. They've lost just two games at Blacksmiths in each of the last two seasons. Toronto will be a challenge but Belswans will be aiming to get away from the foot of the table with a first-up home win.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 3-1 Toronto-Awaba

Additional Tip: Cam Lodge to write the wrongs from last week and score two goals against Toronto.

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Under 19's:
Wallsend FC (9th) v South Cardiff (10th)
Kickoff: 1:00pm
2017 Meetings: WAL 2-2 SOU & SOU 0-3 WAL 

Wallsend 19's endured an underwhelming start to the new season as they fell to a 3-1 defeat at Toronto. Pre-season was pretty impressive during the early parts but recently the side haven't matched that same expectation for whatever reason. Word from the ground last week said they just looked a little bit off their game. Steve Sarayeldine was missing last week among one or two others so he'll add something to their attack when he returns.

It was expected to be a challenging season for Southy 19's and that was before some of their best players were moved up to 23's. A 2-0 loss to New Lambton highlighted the need for a new permanent 19's goalkeeper and Ethan Cahill answered the call. Just that alone will add so much defensively to a side that weren't too far off the pace of New Lambton. They only lost the game late so signs are they can definitely compete on their day.

Prediction: There aren't too many tougher games to call than this one. Both teams are coming off two goal losses in Round 1 and both look fairly even on paper. A good look at both lineups last week leaves no real option but to tip the draw. Very hard to split them.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 1-1 South Cardiff

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Under 23's:
Wallsend FC (2nd) v South Cardiff (9th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
2017 Meetings: WAL 1-1 SOU & SOU 3-0 WAL

The defending champions got their campaign off to the perfect start with a 5-0 hammering of Toronto-Awaba at Lyall Peacock Field. Attacking depth is quiet impressive at Wallsend and that's where 23's will benefit. Gab Cerda and Trent Richards can both comfortably slot into 1st Grade but played 23's last week and grabbed two goals. If Wallsend can find that perfect blend and keep players happy enough to want to show their qualities in reserves, this year could be another big one for the Wallsend 23's.

South Cardiff were expected to be slow-starters and that was proven last weekend. They are a work in progress but a 3-0 loss to another unproven team in New Lambton was a bit of a shock. The signing of new goalkeeper Keegan Pulik will settle some nerves and he'll likely slot into the shot-stopper role in reserves to prove himself to the Fajkovic's. If it's Pulik or Kyle Furness, it's a major improvement on having to rely on outfielders to pull on the gloves.

Prediction: Southy will get better as the year goes on but for now they look a team that won't threaten the big guns and Wallsend 23's are certainly the big guns. The defending champions should have the quality to go two from two and depending on results elsewhere, maybe take over at the top of the ladder.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 3-0 South Cardiff

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1st Grade:
Wallsend FC (1st) v South Cardiff (7th)
Kickoff: 4:30pm
2017 Meetings: WAL 2-3 SOU & SOU 4-0 WAL

As always the two clubs will be playing for the Gallagher Shield and there's a lot of motivation in this particular match-up. South Cardiff's game was the only one to be cancelled due to the scorching heat last week and they were unable to secure a sanction to play Tuesday night. Therefore their match v New Lambton is now on next Wednesday.

What the Gunners did do in the meantime was secure the services of Keegan Pulik as a second senior goalkeeper. That takes significant pressure off of Kyle Furness but the youngster could very well line-up for his starting 1st Grade debut this Sunday. In other news, it's a big advantage for Southy to have this game played at Ulinga in front of a vocal home support.

Wallsend got the job done in Round 1 and sit firmly atop the Northern League One ladder after a 3-1 victory at Toronto. Goalscoring wasn't an issue with Matt Williams impressing with a double on the day and some pressure being relieved off of Ty Goldsmith as he scored his first goal in the New-FM comp and an absolute screamer of a goal to boot!

This is a very tough test for the Red Devils but one they'll be very keen to take on. If anything the squad might be happy to not have to play on a poor Gardens surface and get the chance to play good football on a good pitch. The change may benefit them as they have a few options going forward who will be prepared to do serious damage to Southy's prized defence.

Prediction: As the case with what will be most of their games this season, Wallsend's attack is the key point to their chances. Whether it be Furness or Pulik who step in goals for Southy, there'll be some pressure for the Gunners goalkeeper to provide support to what was one of the best defences in the competition. This is a very intriguing game on paper and it's likely it'll play out that way too.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 1-2 South Cardiff

Additional Tip: Nathan McAllister to score Southy's first goal of the season.

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