Thursday, 5 April 2018

PREVIEW: New-FM Round 4 2018 (NS Retro Round)


Under 19's:
New Lambton (4th) v west Wallsend sfc (2nd)
KickofF: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: NLE 5-0 WWB & WWB 1-1 NLE

The first game at Alder Park this season is a rematch of last year's Under 17's Semi Final Series with both teams boasting a lot of players from those squads though mostly New Lambton. The Eagles turned over all of their 19's from last year and the new group have shown some positive signs so far although this is their toughest test to date. The team's able to create chances, but taking them is a whole other issue.

West Wallsend looked the best team in the 19's based on their first two results. 10 goals to 1 and two victories to start the year but on Tuesday they were beaten 2-1 at home by Kahibah, though admittedly they did play the better football. They too were unable to take their chances in their last outing so they'll no doubt look to sharpen things up across the pitch to make sure they can produce an improved showing on Saturday.

Prediction: West Wallsend on paper have the better squad and perhaps vitally, just a bit more 19's experience across key positions. New Lambton have done well so far but this might be just a bit too far beyond their current level. The Bluebells are a serious title contender and they'll want this win to get things right back on track.

My Tip: New Lambton 1-3 West Wallsend

Additional Tip: A double to Westy's Khye Drayton.

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Under 23's:
New Lambton (3rd) v west Wallsend sfc (5th)
KickofF: 12:30pm
2017 Meetings: NLE 0-1 WWB & WWB 2-1 NLE

Inconsistency plagued New Lambton's 23's campaign in 2017 but this year they've got off to the ideal start with back-to-back victories before last week's bye. Their first home game comes at a good time with the chance to build on the opening two performances. The depth the side have and the options they have going forward are quiet decent compared to last season and it's shown so far.

West Wallsend made a couple of changes to its side that were beaten 5-1 on the weekend and looked the goods on Tuesday night against Kahibah. Jai Webster looked a constant threat in attack and injecting the likes of Bronson Marshall into the side really boosted the quality on the night. It's safe to say that they cannot afford to be inconsistent. They'll look to build on Tuesday's win with a solid effort here.

Prediction: Both of these matches were very tight last season with Westy winning both. If both teams show up well then it will surely be another close affair once again. West Wallsend will have the physical edge over a New Lambton defence that is still getting use to 23's football. That might be ultimately where the difference is.

My Tip: New Lambton 1-2 West Wallsend

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1st Grade:
NEW LAMBTON (11th) V WEST WALLSEND SFC (10th)
KickofF: 2:30PM
2017 Meetings: NLE 2-6 WWB & WWB 2-2 NLE

Desperate times call for desperate measures and things are approaching that level for these two teams. Whilst it's barely a month into the season, not many clubs come back from not winning in the first four weeks to make finals. New Lambton's two outings have been very uncharacteristically poor for them. A week off probably came at a good time to allow them to reset and realise what they need to correct.

The Eagles were the victims when Cessnock ended their lengthy winless streak and then gave away a 3-2 lead to lose 4-3 in a midweek game at South Cardiff. There were visible and audible frustration from players and coaches alike and it's safe to expect the side to be putting in a solid effort on the weekend. 11th place is not somewhere they'll want to stay for too long.

West Wallsend on the other hand came back from a week off in Round 2 to be smashed for six by Thornton Redbacks on Easter Saturday. With some players potentially feeling the effects of Good Friday, it was a sluggish effort from the Bluebells and one that frustrated coach Gary Rowe and the passionate followers of the club off the field. Last year saw a handful of underwhelming displays and they can't afford to have it happen too often.

Westy to their credit bounced back with a much more committed team effort on Wednesday against Kahibah. Whilst they went down 5-3 in a fiery game, there were signs of Westy's quality that shone through. If defence can be shored up then results will certainly start coming for the side. They'll be boosted defensively as Ryan Van Kemenade returns from a one-game suspension after being sent off against Thornton.

Prediction: The fact this is a bottom of the table clash will frustrate both teams. Of course it's early stages but if a team loses this game, they'll suddenly be bottom and having to play even more catch-up to the top four. Alder Park hosts its first game of the season and the Eagles will want to make a statement after two underwhelming performance. It won't be easy but their attack may just edge this one.

My Tip: New Lambton 3-2 West Wallsend

Additional Tip: Have a feeling this game will be either really bad or really good. Take your pick. I'm hoping the latter.

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Under 19's:
SINGLETON STRIKERS (11th) V BELMONT-SWANSEA (10th)
KickofF: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: BEL 0-0 SIN & SIN 0-1 BEL

It's Round 4 and suddenly this game is one that both sides desperately need to win. Singleton have shown glimpses of quality but have leaked a couple goals too many. With a lot of new players it's taking time to gel and the side is indeed competitive but sitting firm in last place is not something they'll want to be doing for much longer. They weren't too far off a result at home last week so expect them to put in a quality effort.

Belswans are one of a few 19's teams that simply lack an out and out goalscorer. Mick Buckley has been delighted with his team's transitions and the way they play up to the final third. It's in the final third where things go wayward. They simply need to keep trying new things. Harry Dyer up front last week almost provided some answers but for now the questions remain. This game is one they'll be itching to win.

Prediction: There's been some frustrations for both sides in the opening few weeks and it's definitely believable that it may continue. On paper the squads are fairly even. Singleton have a potential game-changer in Jack Clare but for now the draw looks to be the safe bet between two squads looking for their first win.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-1 Belmont-Swansea

Additional Tip: Goals from Jack Clare (Singleton) and Arch Johnson (Belswans)

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Under 23's:
SINGLETON STRIKERS (11th) V BELMONT-SWANSEA (8th)
KickofF: 12:30pm
2017 Meetings: BEL 1-0 SIN & SIN 0-0 BEL

Singleton's horrific opening two games saw them concede 15 goals in 160 minutes but last weekend they solidified things a little bit against Toronto, albeit in a very underwhelming match. The Strikers still had some fragility about their defence but proved they can find the back of the net which is a key requirement for results. Last week was an improvement on the first two games but a lot more is needed.

Belswans have shown improvement every week and last weekend they got their breakthrough result, a 1-0 win over last year's champions Wallsend. Coach Dan Rufo has consistently said that the team can climb the table once things start coming together and whilst last week wasn't spectacular, their defence was rock solid, recording a very hard-fought clean sheet.

Prediction: To expect a high scoring game would be borderline foolish. Both teams have struggled in front of goals and both games last year saw just one goal scored. Their could easily only be one goal to separate this teams on Saturday and if last week is anything to go by, it's tough to say which team may get it. Neither team were thoroughly impressive last week but Belswans looked better.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 0-1 Belmont-Swansea

Additional Tip: Ben Glachan to score and put Dan Rufo in his place 😁

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1st Grade:
SINGLETON STRIKERS (8th) V BELMONT-SWANSEA (6th)
KickofF: 2:30PM
2017 Meetings: BEL 3-0 SIN & SIN 3-1 BEL

Newysports put together a fair few spreadsheets of stats at the end of last year and came up with a spectacular and unbelievable stat in this game. Singleton's last win over Belswans came on August 18th 2007. It was a 6-1 win at Howe Park and since then the sides have met 24 times and not once have the Strikers come out on top. It's by far the longest streak of such kind in this league and maybe in Australian football.

The Strikers began the year with a 1-1 draw at Westy before falling to the Premiers Cooks Hill 5-0. Last weekend they were a lot more solid against Toronto. The game finished 1-1 but Head Coach David Willoughby was adamant that his side played the better football and created more chances. Now they need to capitalise and take said chances.

Belswans have endured a mixed start to the season as they did last season. They picked up a convincing 5-1 win over Toronto but either side of that were losses to Cooks Hill and Wallsend. Last week's 3-2 loss to the Red Devils showed a lot of character in the second half. Rufo's men were 3-0 down at the break and looking absolutely shot but the second half saw them restore some order and almost grab a point.

With players starting to come back from injury and what not, Belswans will improve as the weeks tick by. Big off-season recruit Dave Hodgson is expected back within the next two games. In his absence, Cameron Lodge has shown a lot of promise in attack and will again be one to watch here along with Singleton's Joe Civello. 

Prediction: Will that long-standing streak come to an end on Saturday? Newysports is tipping that it won't. Singleton have shown some good signs but Belswans are a very tough side to beat, especially when they're coming off a loss. Expecting the visitors to just be too strong defensively and if they take their chances they'll leave with the points.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-3 Belmont-Swansea

Additional Tip: Joe Civello to grab Singo's goal and Cam Lodge to get one or two.

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Under 19's:
CESSNOCK CITY (6th) V WALLSEND F.C (8th)
KICKOFF: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: CES 2-1 WAL & WAL 1-1 CES 

Cessnock City propelled themselves to a first 19's win of the season at Southy last weekend but it certainly didn't come easily. The second half saw them lose their grip on the game and with some elements of luck they held on for a 3-2 victory after leading 3-0 at the break. Connor Garrington's double was a positive for a team that lack a true out and out goalscorer.

As for Wallsend, it was an interesting 2-1 win for them last week. Their first goal, from a long ball went against everything their coach Craig Tselembis sets out for them. Their performance in the first half was underwhelming but they showed good signs at time. Steve Sarayeldine was a standout for them last weekend and looks to be the danger man in attack for this side.

Prediction: Both matches were tight affairs last season for these sides with Cessnock winning the last time they met at Turner Park. There's some positives for both teams as well as some things that are being worked on as the season ticks by. It's sure to be an intriguing game regardless. Both teams will be fired up but Cessnock on home turf may edge a result.

My Tip: Cessnock City 2-1 Wallsend FC

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Under 23's:
CESSNOCK CITY (7th) V WALLSEND F.C (2nd)
KICKOFF: 12:30PM
2017 Meetings: CES 0-3 WAL & WAL 5-0 CES

Cessnock's stuttering start in the Under 23's was quickly forgotten last weekend as they beat South Cardiff 4-1 at Ulinga Oval. The Hornets aren't stocked with a lot of pure strikers but Kyle Gillis showed what he can do on a good day with a match-winning hat-trick. Ben Priest also kept his scoring form going from midfield. It was a good first-up win but now they face the defending champions who are coming off a rare loss.

The Red Devils lost just three games in 23 matches last season and last weekend it was a case of just not being clinical enough to find the back of the net against a determined Belswans side. Wallsend certainly had a fair share of chances and no doubt there's no panic buttons being hit just yet. Their defence has been rock solid and the squad as a whole is more than capable of getting back on track in quick fashion.

Prediction: Wallsend won both games convincingly last season but with Cessnock coming off a confidence-boosting victory, this one might not be as easy as they may think. The Hornets have much better depth this year and will be right in the match but Wallsend's quality should shine through on the day. They won't want to let Cooks Hill get too far ahead early in the season.

My Tip: Cessnock City 1-3 Wallsend FC

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1st Grade:
CESSNOCK CITY (2nd) V WALLSEND F.C (3rd)
KICKOFF: 2:30PM
2017 Meetings: CES 1-4 WAL & WAL 2-1 CES

The two surprise packets of 2018 will meet on Saturday in a game that could potentially see either of them move to the top of the table if Cooks Hill lose their match. The Hornets last home match saw them come out 2-1 victors over New Lambton in a game that saw a near two year winless run come to an end. An emotional win where pure joy took over.

One win was never going to achieve too much in the grand scheme of things and Cessnock backed it up in the best fashion as they stormed to a 3-0 away win over pre-season top four favourites South Cardiff. The club's first set of back-to-back wins in five years has them sitting in the unprecedented position of 2nd on the league table. No doubt though, it's one game at a time for Brendan Slade and the Hornets.

Wallsend on the other hand will feel like they could have easily sat on top of the table if not for "that goal" at South Cardiff. The Red Devils went to Blacksmiths last week and came away with their most important win since the 2016 Grand Final as they downed Belswans and moved up to 3rd.

The culture is booming at both clubs and Wallsend particularly seem to be enjoying life under Ben Edwards. Last week's first half was a brilliant example of high-pressure, high-tempo football getting the job done but no doubt the coaching staff weren't delighted with the way they almost threw away a 3-0 lead. Playing the full 90 minutes will be key for them going forward.

Prediction: There was some significant thought put into this prediction. Both teams have potential to win this game and if either do it'd be massive for their confidence going forward. It was so hard to split the two clubs that the draw was the only fair prediction to make. Expect a very entertaining and high-tempo game of football.

My Tip: Cessnock City 2-2 Wallsend FC

Additional Tip: Cessnock to again pull some match-defining saves in goals, regardless of which keeper it is!

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Under 19's Match of the Round:
KAHIBAH F.C (3rd) V TORONTO-AWABA (1st)
KICKOFF: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: TAW 0-3 KAH & KAH 4-1 TAW

The big matches keep coming for Kahibah 19's. After a dominant 4-0 win at Cooks Hill, they did things the hard way midweek to overcome West Wallsend but the most important thing of all for the team is they left Johnston Park with the three points. Now they have a match that sees a few Toronto locals (including coach Jarrod Gorsuch) come up against their old club. It's always fun when Kahibah play Toronto in any grade.

The Toronto 19's sit on top of the table but they've been far from convincing in recent weeks. There were a few nervy moments last week against Singleton and the fact is if they give Kahibah any sniffs like the ones Singo got they'll be likely punished big time. A loss here wouldn't hurt the Stags too much after a great start but a win or even a draw will prove them as a serious top four contender.

Prediction: Toronto come into this game with nothing to lose really. Nine points from three games means they've got a little bit of leeway in the upper portion of the table. Only their very best football will get them the points. Kahibah need to return to the sort of style they showed last Saturday. This is another massive early-season encounter in the 19's and with home advantage and perhaps a size and power advantage in key areas, Kahibah will go in as favourites.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 3-1 Toronto-Awaba

Additional Tip: Former Stag Kurtis McRitchie to score another brace.

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Under 23's:
KAHIBAH F.C (9th) V TORONTO-AWABA (6th)
KICKOFF: 12:30PM
2017 Meetings: TAW 3-3 KAH & KAH 2-2 TAW

A lot was spoken of Kahibah's typically slow starts in the Under 23's and with a draw and a loss to begin the year, it's safe to say the level has to be raised and a win has to be gained in the next couple of outings. Last night saw a bit of improvement in some areas from the weekend but with patches of frustration and infighting amongst the squad, it's a case of everyone needing to be on the same page. That's something for the training ground.

Toronto 23's won back-to-back games for the first time in four years or so with a scrappy (and boy do we mean scrappy) win at Singleton last weekend. The game consisted mostly of Michael Bru and Shaun Paterson yelling in frustration at the underperforming squad. The two experienced heads did lead the way last week and it was Patto's header that won them the game. Still, the team needs to solidify things if they are to be a force this year.

Prediction: Chances are this game might be ugly to watch in patches. There's also a chance there may be a few goals in it after both games last year served up high scoring draws. Kahibah's season last year was very inconsistent and it was proven by the face they couldn't beat the cellar-dwellers of last year Toronto. This will be an interesting encounter but if Kahibah are serious about improvement in 23's, they need this win on home turf.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 3-2 Toronto-Awaba

Additional Tip: A double scored by Kahibah's Jye Hodson.

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1st Grade:
KAHIBAH F.C (7th) V TORONTO-AWABA (9th)
KICKOFF: 2:30PM
2017 Meetings: TAW 0-5 KAH & KAH 6-1 TAW

It's been a very eventful first week of the season for Kahibah FC. Their first game of the season started with disaster as new club captain and goalkeeper Nick Hartnett came off with an ACL issue (still unsure if it's 4-6 weeks or 12 months for the shot-stopper) and Heath Kepreotes coming off with an ankle complaint (expected back in 1-3 weeks)

A 2-0 loss to Cooks Hill wasn't setting off alarm bells but being 2-0 down after two defensive howlers at West Wallsend was certainly causing frustration. The side clawed quickly back to 2-2 but were then caught over-committing players forward. The league's best defence last season were made to look very average. The second half saw the side bounce back to the football Kahibah is known for and they ended up winning 5-3 in a thriller.

Toronto-Awaba are winless from three outings and with nine goals conceded, things aren't looking quiet good for a side that were expected to potentially challenge for the top four. It's safe to say that the Stags need a win within the next game or two to really kick-start their belief and confidence. Fortunately there have been some positive signs.

The Stags go to Kahibah Oval with Jarrod Penfold returning to his old stomping ground and the likes of Todd Cawley and Nick Roberts looking to pounce on a shaky Kahibah defence. The Stags have never beaten Kahibah FC in six attempts. 26-3 is the combined score between these clubs and no doubt if Toronto win on Sunday it'll be their most important win in the last couple of years.

Prediction: Toronto have nothing to lose and that is a worrying proposition for Kahibah. The Stags would have taken notes from Kahibah's first two games and noted the fact they've conceded five goals and are missing easily their two most influential players. Still, Toronto need to shore things up in an attacking sense. Kahibah may just edge it but the Stags definitely are a chance.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 2-1 Toronto-Awaba

Additional Tip: Jarrod Penfold to open the scoring for Toronto.

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Under 19's:
THORNTON REDBACKS (9th) V COOKS HILL UNITED (5th)
KICKOFF: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: CHU 3-2 THO & THO 1-2 CHU

The Redbacks were talked up in pre-season with an attack that on paper looked very good but so far that hasn't translated to goals. Held to a scoreless draw in Round 1, things got a lot worse last weekend as they were smashed 5-0 at home by West Wallsend. Interestingly two of their best players (Matt Gardener & Mitch Preston) started on the bench last weekend. Whatever is happening there, the first two games haven't been ideal.

Cooks Hill were pre-season favourites but their campaign so far shows a side that is just not the same quality as last year's. Defensively they've been fragile at times, conceding four on the weekend and Tom Negline's red card doesn't help that situation. Their midfield hasn't been consistent enough and their biggest issues are in attack. The faster they get Dylan McGarrigle and Gordon Ferguson back, the better. Still no word on the hunt for a permanent goalkeeper either. *Edit: Late mail has revealed former Lakes keeper Chris Teasdale is now a member of Cooks Hill 19's!

Prediction: This game shapes as a very interesting one. Thornton really do need to kick-start their campaign soon. Cooks Hill on the other hand are starting to have real questions asked of their quality and their potential for silverware in 2018. Both teams have big points to prove on the weekend and really it depends on who plays. If those two missing wingers are back for the Cookers, they should get the job done.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 1-2 Cooks Hill United

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Under 23's Match of The Round:
THORNTON REDBACKS (4th) V COOKS HILL UNITED (1st)
KICKOFF: 12:30PM
2017 Meetings: CHU 2-1 THO & THO 2-0 CHU

This is the Match of the Round and quiet possibly of the year so far in the 23's. Two sides that once again look like they'll be up there towards the end of the year. Cooks Hill have started well with two wins and a draw but apart from the 8-0 smashing of Singleton, they haven't looked a class above like they did at some stages of last year. Ben Nichols will no doubt want an 80 minute performance here, regardless of result.

For Thornton, they were 5-1 winners last weekend and suddenly they've rocketed up into the top four. Impressively they boasted five different goalscorers last weekend and three of them are newcomers in 2018. It's a different squad to the one that almost made the Grand Final and they'll no doubt see this as a must win game at Thornton Park. Based on the early results, the two best 23's sides meet on Sunday.

Prediction: There's an extra storyline behind this game. The two coaches Scott Winslade (Thornton) and Ben Nichols (Cooks Hill) have a history with each other over the last few years. They coached together on the Central Coast and they're both super competitive. No doubt this game will be one that both teams will strive to win. So we'll draw a line and tip a draw.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 2-2 Cooks Hill United

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
THORNTON REDBACKS (4th) V COOKS HILL UNITED (1st)
KICKOFF: 2:30PM
2017 Meetings: CHU 4-2 THO, THO 2-2 CHU, THO 0-3 CHU & CHU 7-1 THO

This is a very intriguing early season battle between two clubs that have looked quite impressive. Thornton's opening day scoreless draw could be put down to the heat but they rocketed into scoring form last weekend as they hammered six past West Wallsend. With all the goalscorers being new signings, it would have no doubt brought a smile to Gary Wand's face.

The added element of youth has brought a lot of change to the way Thornton play and they were apparently brilliant to watch last weekend. The important factor is that those players who are in the 18-22 age bracket have NPL experience and have good football minds. The Redbacks are in the four as it stands and now they face the toughest test you can possibly find in this league. A win over Cooks Hill would assure Thornton as a serious finals contender again.

The Cookers were winners of the double last season but their consistency wasn't always there and their main focus this season was defence. They've so far answered the call with three straight clean sheets and three victories to begin the season. The defensive pairing of Stephen Bramley and Jack Wikinson is rock solid and so far no-one has been able to breach pas them or goalkeeper Jake Hamilton.

It'll be an interesting day for the visitors with Graham Law missing for the next three or four weeks and Glen Chapman taking over the reigns as Caretaker Coach. Anyone that knows local football will know Glen's capabilities and he is sure to be adamant on continuing the good form to start the year. This is their toughest test of the opening month against an exciting Thornton attack.

Prediction: This could be one of the games of the season at Thornton Park. The Redbacks were clinical last weekend but now they face a defence that have gone 270 minutes without conceding a goal. It's possible that Thornton may breach that defence but Cooks Hill's attack is a whole other story. Cookers to get the win here in a hard-fought contest.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 1-2 Cooks Hill United

Additional Tip: A goal for Thornton's Luke Lambert.

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YOUTH GAME OF THE WEEK: This weekend's set of matches between Kahibah FC and Wallsend FC promises to be entertaining. The 14's sees Kahibah up against a brilliant Wallsend side, 15's will see the two top four sides clash and in the 17's, Wallsend will look to go three from three to begin the season.


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