Thursday, 10 May 2018

PREVIEW: New-FM Round 9 2018


Under 19's:
Singleton Strikers (8th) v South Cardiff (11th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: SIN 2-0 SOU & SOU 2-1 SIN

Mathematically speaking, Singleton are only six points outside the top four but realistically speaking these are the sort of games they simply must win in order to perhaps push up the table and try to make something special of this season. A win here and with Westy facing a difficult AthField trip, suddenly Singo could be three or four points outside the four. It's not a make or break game but it is one that in Newysports' opinion is must-win for the Strikers.

South Cardiff on the flip side have been horrendous in attack. Steve Blunt confirmed pre-season that the side would be more about development over results but also said they're capable of a decent mid-table finish. No 19's side have been more ravaged by players being plucked up to 23's and indeed 1st Grade so it's understandable they have struggled a little but that stat of being the lowest scoring team in the entire senior New-FM competition isn't good reading.

Prediction: Southy's attack simply haven't had the answers this season and they conceded three goals last week so it's safe to say confidence isn't too high defensively. This is a key fixture for Singleton as they've shown some quality at home this season and they have the players to do the job over a struggling Southy. The midfield battle will be crucial but in attack one side simply look a bit more formidable at this moment.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 2-0 South Cardiff

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Under 23's:
Singleton Strikers (11th) v South Cardiff (10th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
2017 Meetings: SIN 1-4 SOU & SOU 0-1 SIN

The battle of the 23's cellar-dwellers is not something that stands out on paper but one side is travelling a little bit better than the other. Singleton is the other and they sit bottom of the table for a good reason. Their defence is the worst in the New-FM senior competition and their attack is the equal second-worst. It about sums it up when it's noted that this team have conceded twice as many goals as their opponents who sit 10th.

South Cardiff have seen some positives in recent weeks, including their breakthrough victory but the pressure is firmly on them to continue that improvement and turn it into results. To put it simply, if they are any hope of climbing up the table, they need to win this match. A loss will send Southy crashing to the bottom of the table and that doesn't reflect the potential this team has.

Prediction: Whatever you do, it's probably best not to expect a goal-fest here. Instead it could be a very scrappy affair between two lowly sides. Southy have shown some positives as of late but they've simply got to win this if they are to do anything notable this season. Expecting the away side to edge out a result by one or two goals.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-2 South Cardiff

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1st Grade:
Singleton Strikers (2nd) v South Cardiff (6th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
2017 Meetings: SIN 1-3 SOU & SOU 3-0 SIN

Is this the biggest game of David Willoughby's coaching tenure at Howe Park? The answer simply has to be yes. Singleton sit in 2nd place and looking at their history, it's nosebleed territory for a club that has always punched above its weight. Not many expected Singo to be a contender this season and so far it's not quiet proven as there's a lot of football to come but win this and suddenly they are looking quiet the formidable force.

The jury has to be still out. Singleton were big winners last week; in fact their biggest win in 15 years as they hammered New Lambton 8-2. Four or five of those goals could have been so crucially useful in any of the whopping four draws the Strikers have. They should have left with three points against Wallsend and that would have had them equal top. It's that tight though that a loss could drop them as far as 7th if results elsewhere go against them.

South Cardiff on the flip side sit in sixth position but could jump as high as 2nd with a victory. Their purple patch of form saw them take down ladder-leaders Cooks Hill and blast eight past Toronto but last weekend they were somewhat fortunate to escape with a point after scoring a last grasp equaliser against a determined Belswans defence.

Denis and Dalibor Fajkovic seem to be of the "tinker-man" variety of football coaches. Southy have changed tactics several times this year as they try to find something that works and obviously the aim is to solidify a formation and tactics that produce consistent results. One key positive for the Gunners is that they've seemingly fixed their leaky defence, only conceding three goals in the last four games.

Prediction: This is a very difficult game to call and David Willoughby is certainly going to like it but Newysports is tipping yet another 1-1 draw! Singleton have shown they are very difficult to beat, they're unbeaten in the last six. Southy however have shown they are willing to get down and dirty and fight for each point (not literally!). So expecting a tight and gritty game but ultimately a draw.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-1 South Cardiff

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Under 19's:
Belmont-Swansea UFC (6th) v Cessnock City (7th)
Kickoff: 12:15pm
2017 Meetings: BEL 8-0 CES & CES 0-5 BEL

This is one of those classic "six-point" games that pundits talk about. Belswans are on the improve and sit in a position where a win can certainly pile pressure on the top four but on the flip a loss would see them lose that momentum. Their goalscoring woes still aren't fixed with no clear top quality scorer but Harry Rapp has made a bit of form for himself popping up in good areas and using his size to trouble backlines. Arch Johnson got big wraps in the Newysports Monthly Review but Charlie Herivel has been strong too. Those two have been excellent to watch this year.

Cessnock City were beaten by Toronto-Awaba last weekend and the Hornets sit firmly in the middle of the table. A win would really fire up some belief for them whilst a loss could send them sliding a place or two. It's a key match-up for their campaign and Jason Zechel will make sure his side is aware of that fact. The Hornets 19's were regularly embarrassed when they played Belswans in years priors but this side is much more defensively solid.

Prediction: This is a very difficult match to call as neither side possess a goalscoring striker. Cessnock haven't won since Round 4 and that stat will have them really focused to get a victory on Saturday but with home advantage, the favouritism tag slightly sways Belswans' way and expecting them to maybe edge out a result.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 2-1 Cessnock City

Additional Tip: Jim Orr to score for New Lambton. Has been a very good addition.

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Under 23's:
Belmont-Swansea UFC (5th) v Cessnock City (7th)
Kickoff: 2:00pm
2017 Meetings: BEL 1-0 CES & CES 1-2 BEL

With four wins and four losses, inconsistency is the word to describe things for Belswans 23's this season. With a few injuries and squad changes they've struggled to keep a consistent squad at times and lacked a bit of firepower in key positions. A look at last week's squad showed the re-addition of Matt Ellis into the side as well as Luke Lethbridge. Two big returns for a squad that needed a boost.

Cessnock's biggest win in since April 4th 2014 (88 games) coincided with the huge milestone 400th game for club captain David "Skip" O'Hearn. The skipper was heavily involved in a defensive display that saw the Hornets Reserves keep their first clean sheet in 16 games. A far cry from a team that lost 6-0 at home just a couple of weeks ago. Good signs for the club's depth once again.

Prediction: The Hornets have three players doing the damage. Kyle Gillis (5), Ben Priest (4) & Brodie Williams (4) have been their only goalscorers, excluding the cameo starting appearance of regular 1st Grader Kyle Williams last weekend. Going to predict one of those three to score but Belswans to win it.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 2-1 Cessnock City

Additional Tip: Kyle Gillis, Ben Priest or Brodie Williams to score for Cessnock.

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1st Grade:
Belmont-Swansea UFC (9th) v Cessnock City (7th)
Kickoff: 4:00pm
2017 Meetings: BEL 1-1 CES & CES 1-2 BEL

Newysports is prepared to call this "must-win" for Belswans. To sit in 9th place after eight rounds is a long way below expectations and although they've had injuries go against them, they've got the players on board now to turn that around and indeed the time is now for them to pull their socks up and get on with climbing the table. One win from eight is a very underwhelming start and surely something has to give?

The club were simply desperate to find the answers to their attacking questions. David Hodgson and Cameron Lodge both have missed games via injuries/surgery and the club have seemingly been proactive in securing the services of Clayton Poole recently, in addition to Klaudon Ahmataj. This is a team that on paper should be pushing for the top four and making it. Their attack needs to fire.

Cessnock City come into this game on the back of their biggest win in four years and their first six-goal haul in five or six years. Their win over Toronto-Awaba saw them storm to a confidence-boosting victory and more importantly gave their under-performing attack a little bit of a boost. Kyle Williams is finding some form and seems to be the one to watch in the #9 role.

As far as history goes, despite Cessnock City being at times a laughing stock over the last three years, they're unbeaten at Blacksmiths Oval with two wins in 2015 and 2016 and a 1-1 draw last season. It's a rare hoodoo that actually favours the underdog Hornets. Brendan Slade is not the sort of coach to read into history so he'll have them prepared for a very difficult match against a desperate Belswans.

Prediction: Like the other games this weekend, it's tough to call as it's been such an unpredictable season. What is safe to predict is that Josh Rufo's side will click eventually. Belswans simply can't go on the way they're going and Newysports can see this weekend being the catalyst for change as they put to bed the "Hornets Hoodoo".

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 2-1 Cessnock City

Additional Tip: Clayton Poole to score his first for Belswans.

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Under 19's:
Kahibah FC (1st) v New Lambton (5th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: KAH 2-3 NLE & NLE 2-2 KAH

Kahibah 19's are seven from seven and keep finding new ways to win. Last week was certainly done the ugly way and included two penalty misses in the process. This team can play badly for sixty minutes and trail 1-0 and then seemingly press a button and suddenly be up 2-1. It's a sign of a champion team and at this stage they are the side to beat but no doubt they'll want to get back to their very best on Sunday.

New Lambton perhaps overachieved in the opening month after winning their first three but they've worked hard to get things back on track. The inexperience factor was always going to hinder them with most of last year's 17's moving up and physicality isn't their strong suit. This is a team that builds from the back. Blake McDonnell has been superb for them. It takes quality to get past him.

Prediction: These sides met in pre-season and Kahibah were 5-0 winners. That means nothing now but they head into this game as very short favourites. New Lambton lack a clear goalscoring striker but have some decent players in the attacking third. Really like the Eagles squad but can see them getting muscled out of this game and unable to match the pure quality of Kahibah...that's if Kahibah play to their best.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 3-1 New Lambton

Additional Tip: Ryan Stuchbury MOTM...again.

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Under 23's:
Kahibah FC (8th) v New Lambton (2nd)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
2017 Meetings: KAH 1-5 NLE & NLE 0-4 KAH

It seems as though every step Kahibah 23's take forward is met by two backwards. They led runaway ladder-leaders Thornton away from home but then a disastrous two goals in three minutes saw them fall apart and once again fall to another defeat. Despite leading last week, they never looked comfortable as things were just too fast-paced for their own good. These guys need to go back to basics and simply work at controlling the game.

New Lambton were stung by inconsistency last year and they've seemed to address that glaring issue. Underwhelming results against ten man Westy and Belswans' side had them lacking a little bit of confidence but they've kicked on from that. A comprehensive 3-0 win over struggling Singleton lifted Paul McGuiness' side above the defending premiers Cooks Hill. This team is seemingly ticking all the boxes that 1st Grade can't at the moment.

Prediction: The points were split last year with both games being four goal blowouts. There is potential for that to happen again if the Eagles fire but Kahibah put in a much sturdier display defensively last week compared to the horror show at Wallsend. Expect New Lambton to win but they'll need to work a little bit for it.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 0-2 New Lambton

Additional Tip:  Luke Homer to score and haunt Kahibah once again.

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1st Grade:
Kahibah FC (8th) v New Lambton (11th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
2017 Meetings: KAH 2-2 NLE & NLE 1-2 KAH

Before last weekend this was destined to be a bottom of the table clash but Kahibah have seemingly woken from their slumber...for now. The Rams were blown away by Wallsend in Round 7 and needed to answer some big questions. The return of Tom Butzmann to the backline added defensive quality and striker Asher Beasley returned to the starting squad and put in his best display of the season.

Suddenly Kahibah find themselves just five points outside the the top and the next few games will certainly make or break their hopes in 2018. Fortunately for the Rams it is such a tight competition that a few wins will shoot them right up the table but the question is, can they do it? The defensive line ticked a lot of boxes last weekend but attacking fluency and clinical prowess up front is still a work in progress.

New Lambton on the other hand were struggling and have only gotten worse. They'd seem to have turned a corner with decent showings against Cooks Hill and Belswans but then they fell to pieces in their biggest home loss in 18 years. Yes Harry Benbow's first half send off didn't help but some of the selections were a little bit unusual. Two or three players were slotted into 1st Grade for the first time this year and it didn't seem to work.

Discipline is also lacking with two red cards now in the last two games. With a fairly thin squad depth, they can ill-afford to have that happen even at the best of times. Jim Foley was never expected to work miracles overnight but it seems his job may be tougher than originally expected. All this aside, New Lambton were average last year but always, always found a way to trouble Kahibah.

Prediction: There's a good chance that New Lambton will show up and put in one of their better displays as they usually do against Kahibah but the pressure is firmly on the home side here. They've conceded seven goals in two home matches and lost both. This is a game Kahibah have to win to continue their ascent up the ladder.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 2-1 New Lambton

Additional Tip: Asher Beasley to score for Kahibah.

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Under 19's:
Cooks Hill United (3rd) v West Wallsend SFC (4th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: CHU 1-1 WWB & WWB 0-1 CHU

It's been a big rivalry in the lower grades and Cooks Hill and Westy's 19's match still has some feeling in it from a fierce 17's Grand Final. Rory Kalnins was public enemy number one that day (at least for the Bluebells) and no doubt West Wallsend's former 17's players will want to get one over their old nemesis. There's more importance for the Cookers too than any normal game. If they slip here they could fall further behind Kahibah.

West Wallsend were lacklustre in the final third last weekend and it ultimately cost them the Wallsend Derby. Cracks have appeared in their attack and suddenly there seems to be calls for a change and that change may very well be "demoting" newcomer Cameron Wamsley into the 19's. It'd be a smart move to start him here and play him off the bench for 23's and 1st if need be. Westy 19's do not have a recognised goalscorer and the rest of the teams are starting to realise that.

Prediction: Both 19's matches were tense affairs last year and ironically both were midweek catch up games. The last meeting saw Cooks Hill quiet frankly steal a late win with a scrappy goal so no doubt whichever team wins on Sunday will need to be defensively solid. Thinking the home side may just edge out the result and prove they're a serious premiership contender.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 2-1 West Wallsend

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Under 23's:
Cooks Hill United (3rd) v West Wallsend SFC (6th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
2017 Meetings: CHU 5-3 WWB, WWB 2-3 CHU, WWB 4-3 CHU & CHU 1-2 WWB

Who could ever forget arguably the most entertaining 23's Semi Finals in recent memory. Cooks Hill and Westy did battle in two fierce encounters with the latter securing a Grand Final spot. Cooks Hill won the Premiership last season but missing that GF stung them big time and no doubt a few players will have revenge on the mind. It's more than that for them though, they sit seven points behind Thornton and that will have them fired right up.

West Wallsend were looking the better side last weekend against Wallsend but that never guarantees a result. The Red Devils completed a smash and grab and now the Bluebells will be out to try and climb back into the top four. With Josh Knight in some decent form and showing a lot of energy, they'll sure be a tough test to handle. Keep an eye out for Cameron Wamsley against his old club too, one of the brightest stand-outs of a fairly forgettable 2016 Season at the club.

Prediction: The side the Cookers put out against Cessnock in a 2-2 draw should have been good enough to get a result. The club thrives on its depth and so far the 23's have trailed behind the pace set last year. Will that continue or will they overcome the challenge of West Wallsend? Thinking the home side might get the win here to possibly avoid falling further behind Thornton.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 3-1 West Wallsend

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
Cooks Hill United (1st) v West Wallsend SFC (3rd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
2017 Meetings: CHU 4-1 WWB & WWB 5-2 CHU

What a game this could be on Sunday. Perhaps the biggest game West Wallsend have played in several years as they look to win their fifth-straight and perhaps move to the top of the league. Cooks Hill certainly haven't been themselves over the past month or so but the return of Graham Law has most expecting them to find their best football or face the demanding wrath of their gaffer.

Last week's bye came at a good time for the club with the A-League Grand Final taking centre stage but Round 8 also saw the likes of Singo and indeed Westy move right up below the Cookers. The defending Premiers certainly have their work cut out for them and it was around this point last year when they began their sloppy form. Cooks Hill simply need to kick on. Their last game was an severely undermanned 3-1 win over Cessnock and that no doubt restored some belief.

West Wallsend's incredible turn-around came as a result of a fairly lacklustre effort against Thornton in Round 2. They were humbled 6-1 on that day and since then they have shown excellent belief and performance qualities. One win turned into two, into three and now it's four in a row for the first time since their last Grand Final win in 2007. Who could have foreseen the Bluebells playing their best football in over a decade?

Westy aren't a pretty team to watch at times but they have a brand that is simply difficult to combat. They are strong, they are slick and most importantly they are determined to make something truly special of Season 2018. This is a team that don't carry any passengers. Everyone has a job to do and over the last month, everyone have done their jobs. The job is nowhere near done and Gary Rowe will no doubt have his side firmly grounded, despite sitting in 3rd position. It's one game at a time and this could be their biggest in years. 

Prediction: The pressure is firmly on the home side here. With Graham Law back and coming off the bye, Cooks Hill are expected to win this. Even if they lose, West Wallsend are still in a very good position hence they come into this game with the knowledge that it isn't "must-win". Still, if Westy do manage to produce an upset, then surely they are to be considered a contender in 2018? It could be their biggest win under Gary Rowe.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 3-1 West Wallsend

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Under 19's:
Wallsend FC (9th) v Thornton Redbacks (10th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: THO 2-1 WAL & WAL 2-0 THO

There's no bigger match for Wallsend than Derby Day at Johnston Park and the Red Devils were winners in the 19's in quiet dramatic fashion. Craig Tselembis' underdog side took the lead through Lincoln Harwood and then Nick Bull haunted his former side. More impressively the Reds put everything into holding out a fast finishing Westy with goalkeeper Jacob Gallagher super impressive. A win that maybe, just maybe kickstarts the season.

Thornton have had similar issues to Wallsend in the Under 19's. Predicted to sit a lot higher on the table, the Redbacks have underperformed and at times have been unlucky to not come away with results. They remain winless and that makes them a very dangerous force as they'll simply put all they have into getting a breakthrough win. They've scored only two goals in three away matches so they'll hope to improve that stat.

Prediction: The Redbacks aren't a walkover but they seem to lack clinical ability where it matters and that is in the attacking third. Jacob Bartlett's cameo in the past fortnight has added something and surely Josh Davies will offer something again this week. Wallsend lacked big time in attack but got the job done albeit in ugly fashion. They don't have a striker banging in goals for fun so it's tough to say they may win this. Maybe a draw?

My Tip: Wallsend FC 1-1 Thornton Redbacks

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Under 23's Match of the Round:
Wallsend FC (4th) v Thornton Redbacks (1st)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
2017 Meetings: THO 1-3 WAL, WAL 1-2 THO, THO 1-2 WAL, WAL 2-1 THO

This Sunday sees the Semi Finalists from 23's last season all meet (Cooks Hill v Westy is the other match) for the first time since last season. Wallsend sent Thornton packing with consecutive 2-1 victories and thus a 4-2 aggregate win but certainly the Redbacks have improved since then. As for the Red Devils, they had luck on their side last weekend as they pulled off a last second Derby Day win against Westy. No doubt the team would rather do things the easy way then rely on late drama.

Thornton enter Round 9 on top of the table with seven victories in a row to start the season but Newysports has attended their last three games and it's safe to say the squad is capable of more than was shown in a scrappy 2-1 win over Kahibah last weekend. Scott Winslade's midweek comments were simply "we were rubbish" and the side no doubt will look to show its true ability on Sunday.

Prediction: This is difficult. Both sides won 2-1 last week but Newysports was on hand for both matches and both sides indeed were pretty average on the day, Thornton more so. Wallsend seem to lack a little bit of attacking class that they possessed last year but seem to be slowly getting it back. Expecting Thornton to be too good if they show up to play their best football.

*News*: Unsure if it made the 23's Review last weekend but Thornton keeper Mick Hugo has apparently injured his ACL and is expected to be out long-term. 19's keeper (although still eligible for 17's) Aidan Flinn filled in last week but Scott Winslade is looking at external options for the long-term role and of course to be back-up for James Wand.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 1-3 Thornton Redbacks

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1st Grade:
Wallsend FC (5th) v Thornton Redbacks (4th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
2017 Meetings: THO 1-2 WAL & WAL 0-3 THO

They say a week is a long time in football and for Wallsend that echoed true as they went from a big win over Kahibah to a Derby Day loss to arch rivals West Wallsend. The 5-3 victory at The Gardens saw the Reds put an astonishing five first half goals past routine Semi Finalists Kahibah. As seen at Blacksmiths earlier this season, the second half saw Wallsend drop off a little and concede twice. However a win is still a win.

What was more worrying for Ben Edwards and co. was the way Wallsend succumbed to a defeat to Westy. Just not enough chances created on the day and quiet possibly the most underwhelming performance of the year from a side that had started so well. Panic isn't setting in at all as the Red Devils sit firmly on the edge of the top four, ironically on the same amount of points as opponents Thornton Redbacks.

The Redbacks will be hoping their away from can improve. In their three away matches in 2018 they've managed three draws and scored just one goal. That is not the best reading for a side that have scored 14 goals on their home turf. They won at The Gardens last year which will give them a little boost but certainly this is a key "six-pointer" for them and Wallsend with both sides sitting on the edge of the top four.

Interestingly there's some extra motivation in this game with two Golden Boot contenders colliding. Wallsend's Ty Goldsmith and Thornton's Jye MacKellar both have six goals this season but were kept quiet last weekend. Hence they'll both be keen to find the back of the net in what is expected to be a very tight game. The result could go either way but more than likely there'll only be one goal in it.

Prediction: Tight games are what Wallsend are typically known for in the New-FM competition. The Gardens has served up plenty of games where only one goal separates the sides and Newysports can see this being one of them. Both teams coming off poor results but definitely Thornton will be a lot to handle for Wallsend's defence. Can see them winning this one.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 0-1 Thornton Redbacks

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YOUTH GAME(s) OF THE WEEK: Two games to look for this week. On Saturday it's the rematch of the 17's Grand Final as top of the table Cooks Hill host West Wallsend whilst on Sunday, can New Lambton be the ones to slow down the free-scoring Wallsend 14's? Both sides sit firm in the top four so surely a good encounter awaits.





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