Thursday, 26 April 2018

PREVIEW: New-FM Round 7 2018


Under 19's:
Belmont-Swansea (7th) v New Lambton (5th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: BEL 2-2 NLE, NLE 0-2 BEL & BEL 2-3 NLE

Eight months ago these sides contested a thrilling Grand Final but things have changed since then. New Lambton's entire squad has changed and most of Belswans too. The 7th-placed Belswans were escape artists against a hungry Thornton side last weekend as they pulled off a late 3-3 draw but performance-wise, they are a fair way off their potential best. Finding a routine goalscorer is still a mission for them to complete

New Lambton too lack a clear goalscorer. No player in either side have more than two goals this season and that's alarming. The Eagles have dropped off in recent games after starting in very good form. This year was always going to be a learning curve for the young side and this is a game they'll no doubt have marked down as a potential three points. Both defences need to mark up after letting in a few goals recently. All in all, a very even match-up on paper.

Prediction: Despite being 7th v 5th, five points separates these two teams. If Belswans are any chance of inserting themselves into top four calculations they need to win games like these. New Lambton coming off back-to-back losses will be switched on for a result and with Belswans looking a little bit off, it may very well happen. Don't expect a lot of goals though.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 1-2 New Lambton

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Under 23's:
Belmont-Swansea (5th) v New Lambton (4th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
2017 Meetings: BEL 1-0 NLE & NLE 0-4 BEL

The class gap in 23's was on show last weekend as Belswans were hammered 5-1 by a Thornton side that are playing better than anyone else in the league and scoring goals for fun. That loss last weekend highlighted the need for improvement from Belswans. Squad numbers aren't great for the senior bunch so they've had to do things the hard way as of late. Josh Rufo at #9 is likely not a long-term option.

New Lambton cruised home against lowly Toronto-Awaba last weekend and it was just what the doctor ordered for a side that were winless in the last few weeks. Nic Pepper was a big influence last week with two goals and it was a much-needed return to scoring form for Luke Homer who also bagged a brace. Defender Harry Benbow scored his third goal in recent weeks from the penalty spot. A win here would really cement a top four spot for them.

Prediction: As it stand there's only six teams able to make finals in the 23's based on potential. Wallsend and Belswans are the ones that aren't occupying the top four. The rest of the league in Newysports' eyes are simply making up the numbers. Belswans are showing frustrations across the grades and simply do not have much going on in attacking form. Expecting New Lambton to be getting the points here.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 1-3 New Lambton

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1st Grade:
Belmont-Swansea (10th) v New Lambton (11th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
2017 Meetings: BEL 2-1 NLE & NLE 0-2 BEL

Things are getting very, very desperate for the 10th-placed Belmont-Swansea side. They showed a lot of fight for a good 50 minutes or so against arguably the league's best side in Thornton but their makeshift attack never really fired and crucially they fell away pretty disappointingly in the second half. Club captain Joel Shearer cut a dejected figure on the bench after his substitution. It was obviously a bitter result for the club.

Questions were asked in pre-season about how this side would replace Tega Marcus and with David Hodgson suffering an ongoing knee issue and Cameron Lodge still a few weeks away, the side need to pull a rabbit of the hat and find a way to score some goals. Midweek news stated a newcomer may join up soon that will raise a few eyebrows but for now they simply have to find a way to produce goals and importantly a complete 90 minute performance.

New Lambton eased some of the pressure on them with a thrilling 5-4 win over Toronto-Awaba. That result certainly didn't help their defensive woes in 2018 but it gets them to within a point of the struggling Belswans and Kahibah above them. Simply put, a win here would lift the Eagles off the bottom and send Belswans crashing down to a very shocking position after seven rounds.

The stunning announcement of Jim Foley to be the new Head Coach of the club will no doubt have a lot of eyes on this game to see how the highly experienced Foley will handle his first game back in a senior Head Coach role. It's very intriguing and very exciting at the same time. Can the Eagles win their second game in a row and give their new coach the perfect start to his new role?

Prediction: It's not make or break just yet for Belswans but it's certainly a desperate time. The loser of this game will find themselves sitting dead last so there's certainly a lot on the line. New Lambton can score goals as last week shown and on current form, Belswans cannot. Still, expecting a tight game and a draw might occur.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 1-1 New Lambton

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Under 19's:
Toronto-Awaba (3rd) v South Cardiff (11th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: TAW 1-2 SOU & SOU 0-1 TAW

Toronto 19's returned to form last weekend with a 2-0 win over New Lambton and no doubt despite not reaching their full potential at times this year, the Stags will be very happy about sitting in 3rd spot as we head into Round 7. Doing the job without Will Cinello and two 17's players on the bench is even better so a lot of positives for the Stags heading into this one but they need to be switched on.

Steve Blunt returns to Toronto-Awaba for the first time since back-to-back wooden spoons and his side sit in 11th, albeit without such an atrocious defensive record. The coach has favoured development over results and is pleased with a few of the things he's seen from his side but last week's 5-0 loss to Cooks Hill was a bit worrying for their form guide. Before that their defence hadn't been too bad. Attack is a bigger worry. With just three goals in five games, they are the lowest scoring senior NL1 team.

Prediction: Can Southy pick up just their second win of the year so far? The answer to that is of course maybe. But in Newysports' opinion, it's unlikely. Toronto have clicked back into form and at home will be itching to keep touch with the top teams. Southy are coming off a 5-0 hiding at the hands of Cooks Hill and that's just not really eye-catching.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 2-0 South Cardiff

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Under 23's
Toronto-Awaba (9th) v South Cardiff (11th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
2017 Meetings: TAW 1-4 SOU & SOU 1-1 TAW

With only 10 goals scored between these two sides, it's definitely not unrealistic to expect a bit of a slug-fest at Lyall Peacock Field. The Stags have been in free-fall ever since the departure of Graham Jones and were never that convincing before that. On paper there are a couple of players who wouldn't make a ZPL Ressies squad and as for players pushing for 1st Grade spots? Forget it. Still, they'll see this as a game they can potential win.

South Cardiff head to Toronto with a pretty simple focus, win at all costs. After Singleton's recent improvement, the Stags are now the worst-performing team in the entire top three grades and if Southy are worth anything this season they should be winning this game. Sitting nine points outside the top four and two points adrift in dead-last, now is a better time than ever. To their credit, the Gunners showed a lot of improvement last weekend.

Prediction: This is one of those games that just suck to write about. 9th v 11th. Southy though have shown some signs and they have the players to win this against a Stags side that are heading in a downward spiral faster than the Manly Sea Eagles (that pains me to say). Southy simply have to win. As has been the case in recent weeks with the Stags, the score is anyone's guess.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 2-4 South Cardiff

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1st Grade:
Toronto-Awaba (8th) v South Cardiff (7th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
2017 Meetings: TAW 1-0 SOU & SOU 1-0 TAW

Toronto find themselves in an all-too-familiar position after the opening six rounds sitting in eighth place. The Stags have shown a lot of positives at times but in a similar fashion to West Wallsend, it's all about producing it consistently. Last week's 5-4 loss to New Lambton highlighted a weak point for Toronto and that is defensively. They can be good but some days they can be terrible.

With the league so even in 2018 it's all about building up a solid points return for the Stags. Five points from the first six isn't quiet going to do the job in the long run and 18 goals conceded is the highest in the league. Both games were tight affairs against Southy last week so above all else this game needs to be a much more refined effort for Toronto. Scoring four goals in each of their last two away games shows the attack can do the job.

If it weren't for regular competition heavyweights Kahibah and Belswans sitting so low, a lot more talk would have been about South Cardiff's underwhelming start to the season. Denis Fajkovic said it was all about getting back to basics and Southy's 2-1 victory over Cooks Hill certainly re-installed some much needed belief to the team but alas Toronto and the rest of the league it's all about consistency.

The addition of Dan Bartlett hasn't been highlighted too much but he adds some much-needed experience and quality whilst Nathan McAllister is really starting to find his feet with his new side. Defensively they showed a lot more steel last weekend and they'll certainly need that to continue against a quality Stags attack.

Prediction: The Stags will be looking to return to winning form but it's going to difficult against a Southy side that has seemingly found its touch. The attackers that the Gunners possess will trouble an out of form Toronto defence and that might just be where the away side come away with the three points. Don't expect to see Klaudon Ahmataj in the Southy side. Rumours are he has departed the club.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-3 South Cardiff

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Under 19's:
Cooks Hill United (2nd) v Cessnock City (7th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: CES 1-6 CHU & CHU 2-0 CES

The pressure on Cooks Hill 19's was enormous after a 4-0 loss to Kahibah but they've ticked all the boxes since then. Chris Teasdale has been a huge addition in goals and it's now five halves of football without conceding a goal whilst Will Dundas has four goals in the last three games to be right on the tails of the leading scorers. These players have proven that it is possible to gain results without their regular coach there. Michael Best has been on a honeymoon and the 19's don't seem to be lacking in the same way as the Law-less 1st Graders.

Cessnock 19's have shown a lot of fight defensively and so far new goalkeeper Jackson Bartlett has really shown some positives. The issue for the Hornets is a lack of a routine goalscorer and this weekend they'll be doing things the hard way. Injuries and a certain music festival will mean six or seven players miss this match. Luckily the 17's have the bye but it's safe to expect a depleted Cessnock lineup in the 19's on Saturday.

Prediction: Even with their best lineup, Cessnock would still head into this one as the underdogs but now with a few missing it's surely only heading one way. Cooks Hill have rocketed into form and are currently the best-performing side in the 19's competition. Five goals to nil last week and it could be a few again this week.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 3-0 Cessnock City

Additional Tip: Jackson Bartlett to stop this one getting ugly for the Hornets.

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Under 23's:
Cooks Hill United (2nd) v Cessnock City (8th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
2017 Meetings: CES 1-8 CHU & CHU 6-1 CES

Cooks Hill 23's are sitting in second place but have yet to find their best form this season, apart from the 5-0 win over Singleton and even then it was a game where their effort level dropped off at times. Ben Nichols has been pleased with some of the stuff he's seen but lamented their lack of scoring form last week. To put it simply, they are making chances but unable to take them and that's what their last two results have shown.

Cessnock's form in the 23's wasn't going too badly but when goalkeeper Jed Unicomb was shown a straight red card just ten or so minutes in last weekend, things were always going to be difficult. They'd end up going down 6-0 to an improving West Wallsend side and suddenly the Hornets have slid down to 8th position. Beating Cooks Hill at the AthField would be a massive shot in the arm but it's going to be tough.

Prediction: The Cookers should be winning this one on home turf but it's unlikely on current form that they'll blast in goals for fun like they did last year against the Hornets. If they take their chances then it may get ugly but if it's a low-scoring affair you never quiet know what could happen. Kahibah stole a point at the AthField and New Lambton were close so the home side certainly need to be wary.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 3-1 Cessnock City

Additional Tip: Tipped Emerson Augey to score last week and it turned out to be the only goal. He has eight now but probably could and should have more. One or two here.

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1st Grade:
Cooks Hill United (1st) v Cessnock City (5th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
2017 Meetings: CES 1-3 CHU & CHU 7-1 CES

This is a very interesting game heading into the weekend. Cooks Hill have won five straight games against the Hornets and the only blemish on their record against Cessnock is a draw all the way back in CHU's inaugural New-FM match. 26 goals to 10 is the running total so it's safe to say this particular rivalry has been completely one-sided. But on current form, this isn't a Cooks Hill side playing their best football.

The team simply haven't been in the same form without Graham Law pitch-side. Glen Chapman is an experienced coach but it appears the team is lacking without the ever-demanding Scotsman on the sideline. Despite last week's loss to South Cardiff (their third loss in four games without Law), they remain top of the table but Thornton are hot on their tails. Questions need to be answered by the Cookers here.

Cessnock head into this game on the back of their first loss of the year and a lot of eyes will be on how they react to that result. Brendan Slade revealed the team trained hard and well on Tuesday night but confirmed Josh Dwyer and Kyle Williams will miss the game on Saturday. Groovin' The Moo has left the club without around a dozen players across the three senior grades.

The Hornets attack lacked last weekend and without their key striker it will be difficult for them but Slade is a coach that always has a game plan ready. Make no mistake, an away win against a team they've never beaten would be the biggest win for Cessnock in at least five years. Now is perhaps the best time for them to do battle with the premiers but they'll need their very best to win it.

Prediction: The Cookers will be hoping to head into next week's bye with a victory or else they may find themselves ousted from top spot. Graham Law will return before the home match against West Wallsend but for now the question remains, will they produce without their gaffer there. Cessnock could produce their biggest win in years but for now it's a tough ask.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 2-1 Cessnock City

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Under 19's:
Singleton Strikers (9th) v Thornton Redbacks (8th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: THO 5-0 SIN & SIN 1-1 THO

It's a clash between two sides that have shown some promise but really need to kick into gear. Singleton's breakthrough win over the struggling Wallsend was good and they really took the challenge to ladder leaders Kahibah last weekend. It's all about transitioning well into the final third for the Strikers. Players like Trae Proudlock, Nick Watson and Lachlan Neal are critical in connecting with Jack Clare up front and all of them need to combine well. That's what lacked at Kahibah Oval.

Thornton combined well in attack last weekend and scored three goals which was greatly needed but their defence simply had a few too many lapses as they threw away three goals and indeed three points. It was great to see Matt Gardener find the back of the net twice for his first goals in Thornton colours whilst it's also positive to see how far Brock Thomson has come since last year. The young midfielder is now the captain of the team and got stuck in well last weekend. The Redbacks are too good to be in spoon contention.

Prediction: This is a very interesting battle. Both sides have proven they can be better than their ladder positions suggest. Defensively the Strikers look a little bit more solid and if they can keep Thornton quiet than they deserve to head into this one as the favourites but Thornton's attack is probably better on paper. A draw is definitely a very possible result

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 2-2 Thornton Redbacks

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Under 23's:
Singleton Strikers (10th) v Thornton Redbacks (1st)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
2017 Meetings: THO 5-0 SIN & SIN 0-5 THO

Singleton 23's have shown a little bit of improvement in recent weeks. They're not conceding bucket-loads of goals and they did manage to pick up their maiden win at The Gardens two weeks ago. Defensively they struggled against a mid-table Kahibah side so it's safe to expect them to find this challenge very, very difficult. At this point keeping the scoreline respectable would be a decent outcome.

Thornton's stunning start to the season has seen them rocket into title favouritism, especially with Cooks Hill not looking as good as last year and defending champions Wallsend sliding off dramatically. Last week's 5-1 win over Belswans wasn't an 80 minute display but when they were at their best they looked the best team in any grade this season. The attacking fluency was just brilliant to watch and so seldom seen in this league of long balls and low percentage plays.

Prediction: The Redbacks will win this one and if they play to their best form they may win it by a few goals. The most interesting part is to see how stoic Singleton can be. The dangerous thing is Thornton's ability to finish strong like they did against Belswans and with Singo lacking fitness in some areas, it could get very, very ugly. Sorry Singo but this could be a field day.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-6 Thornton Redbacks

Additional Tip: At least three different goalscorers for the league leaders.

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
Singleton Strikers (5th) v Thornton Redbacks (2nd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
2017 Meetings: THO 2-0 SIN & SIN 0-3 THO

It's one of the games of the season so far and perhaps the biggest game Singleton have hosted in the last few years. The Strikers have enjoyed their best start to a season since 2008 with nine points from the opening six rounds and on top of that they should have added two extra points in their draw with Wallsend. David Willoughby has been delighted with the way he's side have started the season.

Singleton have a very thin depth though and it's paramount they keep their best eleven on the park each and every week. A lot of talk as normal about Joe Civello and what he brings but Hayden Nicol was a clear stand-out last weekend and Jackson Cox is really starting to hit some decent form in the midfield. The Strikers on paper aren't a side that boast big names but the spirit they've shown so far is second to none.

Gary Wand's Thornton Redbacks have rocketed into the top two and are fast becoming a few people's pick to win the premiership this season, especially with Cooks Hill's stuttering form. The Redbacks are unbeaten and their newcomers have added something truly special to the club. It's a side that's young, exciting and potently fluent in the way they play the game.

It was a pleasure to watch Thornton do business against Belswans last week and the team added even more quality to their line-up with the midweek signing of Nick Thompson from Maitland. Thompson will add even more to what is the equal-best defence in the league but it's further forward where the Redbacks are very hard to stop. MacKellar, Millsteed, Lambert, Partridge, take your pick. They are the best attack in the competition today.

Prediction: This could turn out to be the game of the season but with a fair few players in both sides the sort that'd attend Groovin' The Moo it may be safe to expect a hangover or two. Newysports is considering heading up to this game but still unsure based on the possibility that "festival fatigue" may play a part. Jokes aside, expecting a high scoring affair with Thornton to win.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 2-3 Thornton Redbacks

Additional Tip: Jye MacKellar to strike again. Can easily just copy and paste this every week.

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Under 19's:
Wallsend FC (10th) v Kahibah FC (1st)
Kickoff: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: WAL 3-0 KAH & KAH 0-2 WAL

Wallsend 19's return from the bye with a need to kick-start their season after a fairly underwhelming opening. The good news for the Red Devils is that they haven't been losing by large margins. Coach Craig Tselembis believes it's more than possible for his side to click and begin picking up the results. The team will be fresh after the aforementioned bye round and no doubt keen to turn things around quickly.

The challenge for Wallsend this weekend is a big one as they face the league leaders Kahibah F.C. The team in green and black have assembled an impressive squad and whilst still finding their best scoring form, they have so far earned five wins from five starts, including victories over Cooks Hill and West Wallsend. The Gardens was the scene of one of their heaviest losses last season and coach Jarrod Gorsuch will be assuring his side there is no room for complacency.

Prediction: There's a lot of respect shared between the two coaches in Tselembis and Gorsuch. The latter will know that Wallsend cannot be underestimated and Kahibah need to show up for a fight because the Red Devils simply need to start winning more games. On paper Kahibah have the better attack but they need to fire. An interesting encounter indeed but Kahibah should win it.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 1-3 Kahibah FC

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Under 23's:
Wallsend FC (7th) v Kahibah FC (6th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
2017 Meetings: WAL 3-1 KAH & KAH 1-2 WAL

Wallsend 23's have slid down the table after three consecutive defeats and suddenly the pressure is on for the defending champions to keep touch with the top four and solidify their form. The Red Devils only lost three games in the 2017 regular season so to match that in the last month is an alarming stat. Like the 19's, a few tweaks and a bit more focus may really turn things around. The team on paper is capable of so much more.

Kahibah sit just above the Reds on the league table and have too suffered from some inconsistency. A 3-1 win over Singleton would have restored some belief in the squad and a bit of form will no doubt see them, just like Wallsend, climb the table fairly rapidly. Kahibah lost both matches against the eventual champions last season so a win here would do them a world of good but it won't come easy as Wallsend look to restore their winning form. A tough game for both sides.

Prediction: The Kahibah 23's won last weekend but there is still so much to be desired. Simply put, they aren't matching the quality shown by the top four sides. Wallsend's decline has been a shock and after watching their loss to Singleton, it's clear that it's more of a lack of desire than anything else. They've got the quality to beat Kahibah but whether they do it or not is the question.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 2-1 Kahibah FC

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1st Grade:
Wallsend FC (4th) v Kahibah FC (9th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
2017 Meetings: WAL 1-0 KAH & KAH 6-0 WAL

Wallsend finally got to play on home turf at The Gardens two weeks ago after the first two home matches were played elsewhere but unfortunately for the Red Devils they were held to a 2-2 draw by Singleton. After a red card and a couple of late chances for Singleton it may have been a point gained rather than two points dropped. Wallsend remain in the top four and return to the field after last week's bye.

The corresponding game last season saw Wallsend score early and win 1-0 but they were beaten 6-0 at Kahibah Oval in a final round game that saw Kahibah playing for a spot in the top two. That defeat will be a distant memory and the goal this weekend for the home side is to return to winning ways after back to back draws. Leading goalscorer Ty Goldsmith is on five and will be hoping to keep his scoring form going.

Roles have reversed since the sides last played with Kahibah suddenly finding themselves in the lower portion of the table. Alarmingly Kahibah's league-best defence from last season has been missing for the first six rounds this year. Injuries have hindered the team in green and black but with that said, they have a team and players who'll be looking to climb the table sooner rather than later.

The big question heading into Sunday's game is where will German import Tom Butzmann play? When he has featured in the backline Kahibah have been rock solid but temptations are always there to play the game-changing German in the midfield where he can be more involved in forward movement. It's a catch-22 situation but after last weekend it's safe to expect a more refined defensive effort.

Prediction: Similar to Belswans, the question is, when do Kahibah start climbing the table? Do they start? Wallsend have established a very tough brand of football and play to their strengths very well. The Red Devils deserve to head into this one as the favourites but if Kahibah throw Butzmann into defence they'll stand a chance. Still, Reds to win it.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 2-1 Kahibah FC

Additional Tip: Ty Goldsmith to strike again...as he usually does.

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YOUTH GAME OF THE WEEK: A stand-out game this weekend sees a clash between two sides that have played a combined eight games and not conceded a single goal. Kahibah 15's v New Lambton is sure to be a tight affair with both goalkeepers Cooper Clarke and William Poulsen looking to keep their perfect records alive.

*Singleton v Thornton will be kicking off at 10am.



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