Friday, 29 June 2018

PREVIEW: New-FM Round 16 2018




Under 19's:
Thornton Redbacks (7th) v Toronto-Awaba (3rd)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: TAW 1-1 THO

Thornton's unlikely late tilt towards possible finals football was effectively ended by Cooks Hill last weekend as the Redbacks really failed to follow up on what they produced the week before at West Wallsend. Disappointingly for them it'll be another year with a mid-table finish but they do have potential to cause some headaches for teams above them. And of course there is potential to impress 23's coach Scott Winslade and try to make the bench in enough games to maybe sneak into that team's finals lineup (ala Brock Thomson last season).

Toronto followed the script of their season by losing to a fellow top four side in Kahibah and then going on to beat a team that's well out of contention in Wallsend. Doing that will be enough to get to the finals but they need to certainly rise up a little bit to avoid being bundled out in straight sets. It's not a match that'll assure a finals spot but it'll be another step closer.

Prediction: The Newysports comments about Toronto's coaching brought a couple of messages of support from inside the camp and there was to be a midweek meeting to discuss what everyone is feeling. That's a positive. On the field, expect a physical match-up. Thornton have size at the back and they'll need to use it to stop the likes of Cinello and Appleby. Stags to win though as they have more to play for.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 1-3 Toronto-Awaba

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Under 23's:
Thornton Redbacks (1st) v Toronto-Awaba (11th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: TAW 0-8 THO

On paper this game looks like a complete and utter mismatch. Thornton saw their unbeaten streak come to an end last weekend which was always eventually going to happen but to have it be at the hands of their closest challenger in Cooks Hill would have really annoyed them. Cooks Hill being gifted an extra three points over the Kahibah player drama made it even closer at the top. They'll want to get right back to business.

Toronto's 3-1 loss to Kahibah last weekend was as boring as you'll find a game in this division. The second half dropped off as the game was sealed around the 45th minute and really it can be said that the Stags simply gave up. One or two players tried to motivate the rest but it didn't work. Their 2-0 loss to Wallsend midweek wasn't too bad given ladder positions but things will get a lot tougher here.

Prediction: Scott Winslade would have been fuming inside over his side's loss to Cooks Hill and considering he is as competitive a coach as you'll find in the lower grades, expect Thornton to come out firing with a point to prove. It's harsh to say but the Stags at this point are a walkover, especially for a side that put eight past them last time they met. This score could be anything.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 7-1 Toronto-Awaba

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1st Grade:
Thornton Redbacks (2nd) v Toronto-Awaba (11th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: TAW 1-1 THO

Last week's 4-2 loss to Cooks Hill was a kick up the gut for Thornton's Premiership hopes and certainly even they'd admit their chances are slim with Cooks Hill unlikely to lose three of their remaining six fixtures. It just doesn't seem plausible. Either way, for any hope of finishing top, this is a must win game for the Redbacks and considering the time of year, a victory is important for more pressing reasons.

It's about consistently picking up the desired results and last week was a bump in the road for a side that is still working towards a finished product. Gary Wand's no doubt got one eye on next year as this isn't a one and done sort of season but their intentions will be to break a New-FM Grand Final drought and it's all about building confidence and belief heading towards the finals. That said, they do have to qualify first as well and the top two would be ideal for them. Therefore a very important game.

Toronto are simply playing for pride and there was none of it earned midweek as they slumped to their second eight goal hiding in the space of four weeks. The Stags scored twice but conceded ten times. It was 5-0 before the half hour mark and it's safe to say they'll want to move on quickly from the embarrassment they suffered at the hands of Wallsend.

The season is long gone but there is a pressing need to restore some sense of pride in the badge and to make Toronto a decent looking place to play next season as they attempt yet another rebuild. Blake Glennie has the toughest job in Newcastle football at the moment and certainly there are no easy answers. Back to square one for them and trying to get through five or ten minute intervals without conceding. They've got to try and stay in the game.

Prediction: Thornton did cop a knock of two injury-wise at Cooks Hill so it'll be interesting to see how they line up but even their 23's squad would go close to taking down a very out of sorts Stags side. The Redbacks have depth and they have quality and anything but a win here on home turf would be a shock. Here's hoping it's not a huge scoreline but on current form, it could very well get ugly.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 6-1 Toronto-Awaba

Additional Tip: Tallan Martin to score a double. Think he may take a starting spot if Jye MacKellar isn't fit enough.

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Under 19's:
New Lambton (6th) v Cooks Hill United (2nd)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: CHU 2-0 NLE

You can talk all you want about mathematically chances but this game is essentially make or break for New Lambton's season. 6 wins and 6 losses and now a chance to improve on that and take down a Premiership-chasing Cooks Hill side. Apart from the win over Westy, they've struggled against teams above them. The bigger picture is the next couple of years but with finals still a chance, they might as well go for it.

Cooks Hill would have enjoyed the news of Kahibah's maiden defeat as it closes the gap a little at the top. With the table-topping Rams six points clear with a game in hand, the Cookers' job is pretty simple. Win every game and hope for the best. Their form lately has been patchy so definitely a confidence-boosting win like last week's will do them well.

Prediction: A loss for Cooks Hill and a win for Kahibah over Belswans would be nearly the final blow in the title race considering Kahibah have a fairly easy draw going forward. They need to win yet so do New Lambton. The Eagles have hovered around the edge of the top four all season and now is their chance to prove they are a contender. Can't see it happening though.

My Tip: New Lambton 0-2 Cooks Hill United

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Under 23's:
New Lambton (6th) v Cooks Hill United (2nd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: CHU 2-1 NLE

New Lambton 23's haven't won a game since May 5th and haven't even played a game since June 2nd so it's tough to predict just what they might serve up here. The wheels have fallen off in recent outings for them and the next couple of weeks will either make or break their campaign. All in all, a similar story to last year where inconsistency just cost them in the end.

Cooks Hill were able to pick up three points midweek without even playing. Their result at Kahibah was a big blow but is no longer a concern. More importantly, they produced their best win of the season last weekend to knock off the unbeaten Thornton and claw their way back into title contention after the race for 1st place looked won and done. Thornton have a game in hand and should be beating Toronto so this is a key three points for the Cookers.

Prediction: Top goalscorer Emerson Augey has booted in 16 goals for the Cookers this season and is certainly the main danger man to watch for New Lambton's young defence. The Eagles have gone a long time now without playing and that may hurt them a little bit given how confidence Cooks Hill will be after knocking off Thornton.

My Tip: New Lambton 0-2 Cooks Hill United

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1st Grade:
New Lambton (10th) v Cooks Hill United (1st)
Kickoff: 4:30pm
Last Time They Met: CHU 2-1 NLE

Newysports will be on hand for a match that last year served up goals, goals and more goals. 17 goals were scored between these two sides last year in their two meetings and in a twilight game at Alder Park, it's safe to expect there'll be no 0-0 draw between two very keen attacking outfits.

New Lambton like Toronto are playing for pride though a shock win here and other results going their way may very well be a jolt to revive their hopes. For now it's one game at a time and their efforts against Cessnock midweek were positive. A 3-1 victory and now a four point gap to Toronto in last place. They'll hopefully put in a good fight here.

Cooks Hill come to Alder Park with seven wins in their last eight fixtures and they indeed haven't lost since Graham Law returned to the country. It's 20 games unbeaten for the Law-man in New-FM football and their only blemishes this year came when he was absent so most would be calling them the short-priced favourites here.

The Cookers have more quality across the park in each position than any other side and it's starting to show with an 11 point buffer at the top. Lee Ashton was away last week and Newysports is uncertain he'll be back here. Sam Parker was decent but couldn't replicate the explosive quality. Nick Russell though went to another level and showed why he is a front-runner for New-FM Player of the Year. The CHU machine is running smoothly. 

Prediction: You can expect New Lambton to try and put in their very best effort but this should be a bridge too far. The Cookers are just three wins or so away (assuming Thornton drop at least one point in their last seven games) from hoisting another trophy. Graham Law puts the Premiership above the Grand Final so expect his side to be very determined to win this one.

My Tip: New Lambton 1-3 Cooks Hill United

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Under 19's:
Singleton Strikers (10th) v Wallsend FC (9th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: WAL 0-2 SIN

It's that time of year where we get to talk about 10th v 9th with neither team any chance of making finals. Always good fun. It's been a mixed season for Singo. Good enough on their day but that day just hasn't been often enough. 3 wins in 13 games is not a return that'll get you anywhere near finals football. Development has been positive with Jack Clare and Marcus Morris both making a name for themselves at the club.

Wallsend on the other hand had a pre-season where they were talked up by opposition coaches and have fallen short of where they expected to be. Would have liked to have seen how they went with Noah George in their backline but again the club is one that develops players quickly and it does leave the 19's short. Either way, they could jump to 7th possibly with a win and sit as the "best of the rest".

Prediction: The first meeting was a 2-0 Singleton win but the Strikers are winless in their last four matches. Wallsend are coming off the Thursday night 3-1 loss to Toronto and therefore fatigue may play just a little part in this. Singo's home form this year has been convincing enough to warrant being tipped to win here.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 2-1 Wallsend FC

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Under 23's:
Singleton Strikers (10th) v Wallsend FC (4th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: WAL 1-2 SIN

It looked like Singleton had turned the tables when they picked up just their second win of the year in a barnstorming 4-0 victory at Toronto. That result saw Nathan Hall score a hat-trick and with him not in the squad last week, they went back to their usual losing form, a 5-2 defeat at the hands of Belswans. Granted they did play a much sturdier team in Belswans. For now it's a similar story to a few teams, it's all about pride.

Wallsend 23's have managed to turn their season around after a three-game slump during April. Since then their only blemishes are a draw with New Lambton and losses to the top two teams in Thornton and Cooks Hill. Considering there are three teams capable of overtaking them if they lose this game, they can ill-afford any slip-ups. It's a game they're capable of winning and they'll want revenge for the earlier loss this season.

Prediction: The Red Devils did play on Thursday night so it's a somewhat short turn-around but definitely nothing they can't handle. Singo's home form has improved in terms of letting goals in but it's very hard to see the Strikers getting a win against a Wallsend side that will be hoping to cement their spot inside the top four.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 0-3 Wallsend FC

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1st Grade:
Singleton Strikers (3rd) v Wallsend FC (8th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: WAL 2-2 SIN

With just one win in their last five outings, the pressure is growing on Singleton to try and lock down a spot inside the top four. Their six draws this season is a record across all New-FM grades and certainly plays a part in why they still sit in 3rd but now time is ticking and teams below all have a game or two in hand. They have a bye in the final round meaning they must assure themselves at least a four point buffer or risk missing the playoffs.

The Strikers did bounce back from back to back losses where they were held scoreless by Westy and Cooks Hill with a 1-1 draw at Belswans but they were perhaps fortunate to escape with a point from that fixture and no doubt David Willoughby will want more from his team this weekend. At this stage, this really is their most important match of the season.

After 5 straight losses saw them slump down the ladder, Wallsend simply needed to produce some answers in their midweek game against Toronto. To say they were ruthless would be quiet the understatement. They punished a poor Stags defence and in return ended up turning their -8 goal difference into an even zero. 10-2 the final score as Ty Goldsmith alone bagged five in the Reds' win at The Gardens.

But of course, that was a heavy win over a side that sit on the bottom of the table. Kahibah brushed the Stags aside 4-1 and were found out midweek so the pressure isn't relieved just yet for Wallsend. If anything it intensifies as they travel to Howe Park for what will be a very difficult match against a determined Singleton side. Singleton aren't a side that score a lot of goals so a good start for Wallsend could really help them.

Prediction: This is a tough one to call. Wallsend are coming off a double digit score against Toronto but whether or not they can back up that display with a win on a short turn-around is the question. Singo have scored just once in their last three home games. Either their attack needs to fire or Wallsend will ultimately win this game. Can't see Singo winning with any score but 1-0 and can't see them keeping Wallsend scoreless.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-2 Wallsend FC

Additional Tip: A late winner for the Red Devils

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Under 19's Match of the Round:
Kahibah FC (1st) v Belmont-Swansea (5th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: BEL 1-3 KAH

No teams at this level go the whole year winning every game so obviously the bump in the road was always coming for a Kahibah side that has at times rode their luck. Kurtis McRitchie being out hurts them but perhaps more so has been Isaac Zek's stint on the sidelines. The latter returns this week which should add something more to midfield. It's not that they lost, it's how they react and bounce back that will define their true Premiership credentials.

Belswans have been gallant this season in their matches against the big guns. Their 3-0 win over Westy a few weeks back signalled a serious change but alas they couldn't knock off Wallsend the week after. A win over Singo last time out lifted them to 5th but now the pressure is firmly on. Can they take that next step and knock off the best team in the competition?

Prediction: Kahibah's attack isn't as potent without Kurtis McRitchie and that's probably the key concern for their Premiership ambition. That said, they've still got a team that can finish in top spot. Expect them to take some risks and roll the dice a little if things aren't going their way. Belswans are decent but this is a tough ask.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 1-0 Belmont-Swansea

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Under 23's Match of the Round:
Kahibah FC (7th) v Belmont-Swansea (5th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: BEL 2-0 KAH

Kahibah's anger over their stripped points turned into a good performance and result against Westy midweek as they came away with a 2-1 victory. Some individuals amongst a few clubs are asking why the punishment was befitting of Toronto earlier this campaign over the Will Cinello drama but nonetheless life went on for the Rams. Most other teams have a game in hand which means they're a little off the pace still. A win here is paramount.

Belswans 23's are in a very similar situation to New Lambton 19's that were mentioned earlier. 6 wins and 7 losses. At the bare minimum they've got to find a way to rescue losses and pick up a draw or two but no doubt wins are much more vital to their hopes this season. They've proven they are capable but need to show it much more often. Just like Kahibah, a win is very important on Sunday.

Prediction: The earlier game this season finished 2-0 to Belswans and they'll like their chances given their win over Singleton last week. But in reality, Kahibah have "won" three games in a row and are playing better football than they were just a few weeks ago. With 1st Grade gone, it's perhaps a chance to maybe flirt with the temptation of putting a Matt Lee or someone like that into 23's and giving him a chance to lift a trophy at the club. Heath Kepreotes too has been very solid in his return through 23's.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 2-1 Belmont-Swansea

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1st Grade:
Kahibah FC (9th) v Belmont-Swansea (6th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: BEL 0-0 KAH

It's going to be strange not having Kahibah face rivals Belswans in the Semi Finals but that is no longer a possibility after the always-present finalists saw their slim hopes go up in flames at the hands of West Wallsend. Mathematically they are still a chance but the team have obviously conceded they're all but out of contention. It has been coming and it doesn't come as a huge surprise.

Kahibah looked to have turned the corner with a 4-1 win over lowly Toronto but if anything that was a case of the Stags just not being good enough on the day. Westy prevented Kahibah from playing the way they wanted to and really it was only Rhys Tippett who sparked Kahibah's chances on the night with his brace. Nothing more than pride to play for now.

Belswans on the other hand are firmly in the hunt for another finals appearance after slowly climbing their way up the table. Unbeaten in the last seven, it's been a similar turn-around to last season and now all eyes are on whether they can do it again. Their 1-1 draw with Singleton was marred by a red card incident but performance-wise, they considered themselves unlucky not to win it.

It's becoming increasingly obvious that Josh Rufo will be moving on at the end of the season to pursue opportunities elsewhere and ultimately the club have to start putting one eye on next year. There's still a lot of football to play in 2018 though and Belswans has put in the hard yards to put themselves in touching distance. Now it's up to the squad to get the job done and return to finals once again.

Prediction: Kahibah may be a danger given they consider Belswans a fairly big rival but in simple terms, the away side have it all to play for. The earlier game this season was a nervy 0-0 draw and it's likely that both teams will be pushing hard in attack, Kahibah for pride and Belswans to try and push towards the top four.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 1-2 Belmont-Swansea

Additional Tip: Dave Hodgson to show up in the crowd and stir some banter from the hill.

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Under 19's:
South Cardiff (11th) v West Wallsend (4th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: WWB 3-0 SOU

Southy coach Steve Blunt brought his side together post-game at Thornton to effectively hit the reset button and since then not a lot has changed in terms of results. The key issue is their misfiring attack that has just 10 goals all season. Add to that the fact they've had 12 out of 13 matches were they've conceded two or more goals and suddenly you can see why they haven't had the most memorable campaign. Again, development is positive so it's not all a total write-off but avoiding the wooden spoon is looking tough.

The major news story of the midweek games was the streak-ending 1-0 win for West Wallsend over Kahibah. The 5-0 loss was arguably the best thing to happen to the Bluebells this season as it was a very serious wake-up call. They've won two in a row now and are back in the top four. Where they go from here is the question but certainly they'll like their chances against the Gunners.

Prediction: To go from beating Kahibah to losing to Southy would be quiet a stunning turn-around so very much expecting Westy to get the job done here. Southy are playing for pride and to avoid bottom spot but can't see them matching the quality and more so the physicality of a very good Bluebells side. Score could blow out.

My Tip: South Cardiff 0-4 West Wallsend

Additional Tip: Insider news says to expect a new face in the Westy 19's squad.

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Under 23's:
South Cardiff (9th) v West Wallsend (8th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: WWB 2-2 SOU

Looking at the ladder, this may be the most important 23's match of the lot this weekend. Making finals will be very hard for whoever losses this game. Southy to their credit have really managed to make something of a season that looked long gone not that long ago. Back-to-back wins over New Lambton and impressively Cessnock, have them right back in the mix but no doubt, they've got to continue that form.

West Wallsend on the other hand are at a point where they need to swim or sink. Three losses on the trot has seen them crash down the ladder rather rapidly and they can ill-afford another one. Having regular goalkeeper Zac Park back in action certainly helps their cause but main concern has to be how quiet their attack has been, averaging just one goal in each of the last six games.

Prediction: The teams are evenly-matched on the table and considering the earlier meeting was a draw, it's a bit tough to see how this might go. Newysports is tempted to go with the Bluebells but the fact they've lost their last three and Southy have won two in a row makes it very difficult to go with anything but a Gunners win. Westy just don't have that same mongrel and determination as they did last year and that comes as a result of losing some older heads.

My Tip: South Cardiff 2-1 West Wallsend

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
South Cardiff (5th) v West Wallsend (4th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: WWB 2-1 SOU

The standout match this weekend has to be the battle between 5th-placed Southy and 4th-placed West Wallsend. Just one point separates the side and indeed the Gunners do have a game in hand so West Wallsend will head into this with firm pressure on them. The home side will be coming off the back of a very unexpected 4-2 loss to Cessnock and they simply have to up the ante in defence if they are to stand a chance here.

The goals keep coming from Nathan McAllister who essentially has scored half of Southy's 1st Grade goals this season. He is the danger man but Troy Runge is also one to watch out for. This could be a very physical match-up and that seems to be something Southy really thrive on. A hustle and bustle game with a very solid Westy side. It could very well have finals-like feeling this match.

West Wallsend returned to winning form with their 3-2 win at Kahibah but really it wasn't the most convincing display of their season. The pace and tempo shown by Westy in the first half was blitzing and really laid down the foundation for what they did on the night but their finishing was inconsistent in a game they probably should have won by two or three more goals.

The key concern is Southy are sitting much higher on the table than Kahibah and will likely be more of a challenge so indeed the away side will need to produce similar to what they did midweek and if anything maybe a little bit more. They've played an extra game compared to Southy and certainly their minus 5 goal difference doesn't do them any favours with Belswans, Cessnock and Wallsend also chasing them down.

Prediction: This could very well be one of the hardest-hitting games of the season. West Wallsend were able to really throw Kahibah off their game with a quick intent but they face a difficult test of trying to close down Nathan McAllister. The Gunners are at home and that'll play a big part. It's a very tough game to call, so you know what that means.

My Tip: South Cardiff 1-1 West Wallsend

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YOUTH GAME(s) OF THE WEEK: Saturday's big match is in the 17's where the unbeaten Cooks Hill face 4th-placed Toronto-Awaba. As it stands this would be a Semi Final preview and it is a chance for the Stags to prove themselves against the best. Sunday sees a big 14's match-up with Wallsend facing their derby rivals Westy. The latter are sitting just outside the top four so they'll look to close down Wallsend's dangerous attack.


Thursday, 21 June 2018

PREVIEW: New-FM Round 15 2018




Under 19's:
Belmont-Swansea (5th) v Singleton Strikers (10th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: SIN 1-2 BEL

Every game gets a little more important for Belswans' 19's who sit on the verge of pushing into the top four. They spurned that chance last weekend when they could only muster a 1-1 draw with Wallsend but their form as of late has been a considerable improvement on the form they displayed earlier in the campaign. With three of their five games at home, it's all about consistency and building on their quality results at Blacksmiths (three wins from the past four outings).

Singleton last weekend were left frustrated as Toronto prevailed 1-0 and kept the Strikers down in 10th. That result leaves them eight points outside the top four and that deficit may be a little too much for the inconsistent team. With multiple teams above them gunning for finals, they simply need to win this. Only three senior New-FM sides have more losses than this team which tells a story.

Prediction: The match could go either way as Singleton on their day are a much better team than 10th place suggests but the problem is clearly that day is just not very often. Belswans on the other hand have the top four in sight and with Westy playing New Lambton, this weekend could be a big one for them. Three crucial points is all they need.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 2-1 Singleton Strikers

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Under 23's:
Belmont-Swansea (7th) v Singleton Strikers (10th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: SIN 0-5 BEL

The finals are starting to appear on the horizon and the 23's competition is beginning to tighten once again. With Kahibah and Southy right below them, Belswans need to hold them at bay and look at climbing back towards the top four. They only sit two points outside the top four which means there's no need for alarm just yet but some good form could rocket them right up the ladder.

The battle of the cellar dwellers last weekend played as expected as a refreshed Singleton side picked up a convincing 4-0 win over Toronto to leave them with the burden of sitting on the bottom of the table. As for Singo, the finals are surely out of reach but this team could certainly show some improvement over the next six weeks or so based on last week. Whether they will or not is the question.

Prediction: Belswans have to pull their finger out and put together some consistency or else they will ultimately fail in the race to make the finals. Singleton might not be as bad as they were earlier in the season but still, they sit equal last on points and it's safe to say if Belswans have any plans to make the playoffs, this is a must-win game.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 3-1 Singleton Strikers

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1st Grade:
Belmont-Swansea (6th) v Singleton Strikers (3rd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: SIN 1-0 BEL

It was quiet the dramatic result last time these sides met as Singleton broke what was around a 25 game winless run against their long-distance rivals. The result wasn't quiet as important to anyone who doesn't care for records and stats but certainly this weekend is much, much more crucial than the last meeting with time ticking towards finals.

Belswans got the job done against Wallsend last time out to move within a point of the top four. It's been a stunning rise for a team that were lingering towards the bottom of the table after the first month of the season. The midweek signing of Josh Sutton is yet again another brilliant addition and even better he is a local junior. Speaking of local juniors, David Swain was given a 1st Grade debut last weekend after impressing in 23's as of late.

Singleton are a very realistic bunch and knew that their unbeaten run would be put to the test against Cooks Hill. What they didn't expect was being brushed aside 3-0 by Westy the week before. Back-to-back losses had them swaying on the edge of the top four but last weekend's win over Toronto whilst not convincing by any means was a big boost to their hopes.

Singo are the lowest scoring side in the top five and also have conceded the most goals. Their wins have largely been tight one-goal victories so the backline might need to tighten up after the 3-2 win last week because it's unlikely they'll score three against Belswans. Nathan Hall is one to watch after three goals in 23's last week and then a goal off the bench in 1st Grade. He is the club's in-form goalscorer at the moment.

Prediction: This is a game where Belswans will likely show the experience factor. Every game they've played recently has felt like a Semi Final. They're determined to break into the top four and with Southy having the bye, the chance is there for them to do it. Twelve years have passed since Singo last won at Blacksmiths. Expecting that run to continue.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 2-1 Singleton Strikers

Additional Tip: Josh Sutton if he plays to mark his return with a goal or assist.

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Under 19's:
West Wallsend (6th) v New Lambton (4th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: NLE 2-0 WWB

West Wallsend's 19's are old enough and wise enough to know that last week was nothing short of an embarrassment. They were simply torn to shreds on their home turf and it had some of the home fans disgusted with the effort. It was un-Westy like and it goes against all they've done across the lower grades in recent years. Eight goals conceded and none scored in the last two games. They're capable of much more than that.

Facing them is a team that's been the definition of inconsistent in 2018. Their last six games have been loss-win-loss-win-loss-win and that isn't ultimately going to be enough to seal a spot in the finals series. This team was all about a two-year cycle but with the 19's potential changing to 18's next season, that goes right out the window. The chance is there and they know that. They'll hopefully give it all they've got.

Prediction: This result could very well shape the rest of the season for these sides. It's a huge match-up in the grand scheme of things and with Westy in horrendous form, it's a very important home game for them. Neither team has a goalscoring striker so it's going to be interesting to see what happens. Hard to call so perhaps a draw.

My Tip: West Wallsend 1-1 New Lambton

Additional Tip: Both teams to rue some missed chances in front of goals.

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Under 23's:
West Wallsend (6th) v New Lambton (4th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: NLE 1-1 WWB

It was a rough day at the office for the Bluebells last weekend and whilst the 23's weren't as poor as the 19's, they still were brushed aside with ease by the ladder leaders Thornton. Ultimately it begs the question of if they make finals will they just be cannon fodder? So finishing 3rd might be their preference just the avoid the likely Premiers. Anyway, football's all about results, and they need this one.

As for New Lambton, really you could copy and paste a lot from the other teams that sit in this log-jam of the mid-table. Yes they're in the top four but they haven't shown much to suggest that they'll do anything but crash out of finals in consecutive games to the Premiers, whether it be Thornton or Cooks Hill. It's time for them to raise the bar and this is a good place to start by building a gap on Westy.

Prediction: Writing these 23's previews is fast becoming the low point of a Newysports week. The inconsistency is simply staggering. Three points separates fourth from ninth and it's truly anyone's guess as to what may happen. We'll go with Westy for this one who need to capitalise on home field advantage and man up a little bit after last week's loss. If they get in the faces of Eagles they'll go close to winning.

My Tip: West Wallsend 2-1 New Lambton

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1st Grade:
West Wallsend (7th) v New Lambton (10th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: NLE 1-3 WWB

West Wallsend picked up a much-needed win at Singleton two games ago and showed exactly why they are considered as good as any side in a convincing 3-0 display. Things didn't go so well for them last time out as they went down 2-0 at home to Thornton. It wasn't a bad performance by any means and more so than anything else, it just seemed a day where luck wasn't on their side in front of goal.

Inconsistency like theirs may be rewarded in the 23's but it won't be in a very difficult 1st Grade competition this season. Gary Rowe will firmly have his team's mindset fixed on a week to week, game by game basis and a win here would release a pressure valve or two. The win over New Lambton earlier this year was one of their best displays this season and they'll be looking to produce more of that on home turf.

New Lambton's still sitting down in tenth but have shown a big improvement since Jim Foley took over. From the outside looking in, at least the feeling around the team isn't doom and gloom. With that being said, their last result was in fact a 4-1 home loss to South Cardiff which doesn't do them any favours when it comes to trying to move away from the bottom of the table.

The Eagles' main concern continues to be in defence. Only Toronto have conceded more goals this season and for a team that has the usually-reliable Josh Cox in goals, that highlights a back four that simply needs to produce consistency much more often. This is a big test for them away from home against a very desperate Westy side.

Prediction: It's probably established by this point that New Lambton are normally good for at least one goal every week. They know how to score but they also know how to concede. It's hard to foresee anything but a West Wallsend win here as a draw or loss for the Bluebells would really hurt their belief for the season. 

My Tip: West Wallsend 3-1 New Lambton

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Under 19's:
Cooks Hill United (2nd) v Thornton Redbacks (7th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: THO 1-2 CHU

What a dramatic blow to their Premiership hopes it was for Cooks Hill last weekend. All the talk surrounded Kahibah as they made it 11-straight wins but on the flip side, it was a huge missed chance for Cooks Hill. Apart from the highly publicised penalty attempt from Brady Conlan, they didn't create many meaningful goal chances. The defence and midfield worked hard but the play just wasn't there enough in the final third. Improvement needed for them.

And this game has more intrigue to it then a top two side facing a team that's most likely not doing anything this season. Until recently that's what was looking to be the case for Thornton but they've turned things around. The 5-0 win at Westy was as good as any 19's performance this season and now they are on the march towards the most unlikeliest of finals appearances. A win here would make things very interesting. 

Prediction: If last weekend was anything to go by, there's no reason Thornton can't win this game. Their work down the flanks and smartly timed passes simply tore Westy to shreds and with Cooks Hill's defence not the best going, that's where they'll look to go this weekend. Cooks Hill will likely be better against a team that's not as defensively rock solid but still, an upset could be on the cards. We'll go the draw to save some suspense!

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 2-2 Thornton Redbacks

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Under 23's Match of the Round
Cooks Hill United (2nd) v Thornton Redbacks (1st)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: THO 3-1 CHU

Now here's a 23's game that's actually got some substance to it. Newysports is prepared to call this the Premiership decider if Cooks Hill fall to the Redbacks once again. If the gap becomes 10 points with Thornton still having a game in hand, it's surely all over. Cooks Hill were poor against Kahibah and need to work firmly on their efforts in the final third. Some composure will go a long way if they can create the chances.

Creating the chances against the unbeaten Thornton is going to be the hardest part of the game. Just eight goals conceded for Scott Winslade's side this season and the more important stat is 44 goals scored in 12 matches. There is a very long way to go but their form is just seemingly unstoppable. They may lose one or two but it's all but their title to lift if they win this match at the AthField.

Prediction: There's every chance this may be the best match of the year in the 23's and hopefully it is. Only Cessnock look any chance of preventing this being the eventual Grand Final. Thornton were sniffing around last year but have taken it to a whole new level this season whilst Cooks Hill have been good but not great. Expecting a Redbacks win and Northern NSW Football being able to prepare a plaque that reads "2018 U23's Minor Premiers-Thornton Redbacks F.C".

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 1-3 Thornton Redbacks

Additional Tip: Jack Stoneman to score and attempt the world's longest knee slide 😂

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
Cooks Hill United (1st) v Thornton Redbacks (2nd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: THO 4-2 CHU

The Premiership will be firmly on the minds of the teams this weekend as this game is just like 23's a very key fixture in the race for top spot. You have to consider the chances of Thornton winning the title very, very low if they are beaten by the ladder leaders on Saturday. Simply put, Cooks Hill can put one hand on the title with a victory here, given they haven't lost a game with Graham Law present in around a year (19 games since Westy beat them 5-2 on July 5th last year)

Add to that, the Cookers have won 10 straight league games at the AthField including all seven matches at home this campaign. All of that makes it a difficult ask for Thornton. Cooks Hill's 2-1 win over Kahibah last weekend wasn't entirely easy but they managed to get the job done and come through that game without any injuries. A good day at the office.

Thornton's tilt at a potential Premiership rests greatly on this fixture. Their main focus at this stage is most likely all about securing 2nd and a home final in the second week of the playoffs but a win here would certainly put them right back into contention in the title race. Their display against Westy last week was solid but not spectacular by any means.

The Redbacks will likely have to go up a gear or two if they are to come away from the toughest away venue in the league with a point or three. Their defence has been a bit understated at times but it was a very reliable display last weekend and it seems as though goalkeeper James Wand is worth at least one goal per game. That's where they need to really raise the bar to give their attack any chance.

Prediction: Ultimately the game will come down to taking your chances. Thornton likely won't have a bucket-load of opportunities so it's up to their attackers to pounce. Cooks Hill are a team that can strike anytime in any situation (Ash Balcombe aka Paul Pogba) so Thornton must find a way to stop them. Can they? That is the question.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 2-1 Thornton Redbacks

Additional Tip: Like last week, CHU score first.

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Under 19's Match of the Round:
Toronto-Awaba (3rd) v Kahibah FC (1st)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: KAH 4-2 TAW

It wasn't all that long ago that Toronto sat inside the top two. With Cooks Hill stuttering and the Stags holding two games in hand, there is once again an opening to be taken. More importantly than that is the fact that they have yet to beat one of the "big two" this season. They were brushed aside easily by Kahibah and beaten 3-1 by Cooks Hill. Something has to give for this team to be considered a Championship contender.

Kahibah's unbelievable winning streak hasn't been the result of brilliant attacking football but more so a rock solid defence and a near unbeatable goalkeeper. Brady McRitchie's eighth clean sheet this season is a league best in any grade and to even get a chance at him, you have to get past Kahibah's league-best backline. Five goals conceded in eleven games is the key stat. Toronto will need to be at their attacking best.

Prediction: Until they can knock off Kahibah or Cooks Hill, Toronto will continue to have question marks about them. They do very well for themselves against the lower-ranked sides but have so far been unable to take that next step. Kahibah's attack isn't at its best lately so expecting a tighter affair than last time but if anyone will win it, it's the away side. Fair chance of a draw though.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-2 Kahibah FC

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Under 23's:
Toronto-Awaba (11th) v Kahibah FC (8th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: KAH 3-0 TAW

Toronto 23's officially hit rock bottom last weekend with a 4-0 home loss to Singleton. Whilst it's not really fair to beat a dead horse, this team has conceded sixteen goals in the past two matches both at home. Sixteen unanswered goals! The troops simply aren't there and all that is a left is the shell of a team that once was. The 19's have been gallant in backing up but they're not going to give 110% for a team coming dead last and risk getting hurt from playing 160 minutes each week. It's a sad situation really.

Now onto the opponents. Kahibah's inconsistent season has been yet another chapter in their miserable 23's book over the last few years. Last weekend was something different. It was a backs-against-the-wall and determined display to survive against a much-fancied Cooks Hill team. Three huge points for the Rams but ultimately just one game. They need to find the consistency that teams in this grade mostly lack.

Prediction: There doesn't need to be a huge tactical analysis. Unfortunately Toronto are in a rough boat at the moment and likely will be looking forward to re-booting for next year. If Kahibah are worth any chance of breaking their finals duck they simply have to go to Lyall Peacock Field and come away with a routine three points. It doesn't have to be pretty but it has to be a win for the visitors.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 0-3 Kahibah FC

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1st Grade:
Toronto-Awaba (11th) v Kahibah FC (9th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: KAH 3-4 TAW

Lyall Peacock Field hasn't been a fortress (at least for the Stags, the Scorps have gone okay) for a while but this year it's been a ground that Toronto have picked up just one single point in five matches. 21 goals conceded in the last three home outings just about sums up what has been a torrid old time for the bottom-placed side. Granted, last week was a major improvement compared to other recent results.

Still, the problem continues to be the leaky defence. The Stags have just one less goal than Singo and with two games in hand they may overtake them but ultimately it's been at the other end of the field where Toronto's season has again simply fallen apart. They may like their chances a bit more against the out-of-form Kahibah. Last week did see a memorable day for Robert Mackay as he scored his first 1st Grade goal.

Kahibah will likely change one or two things from last week's game in one last all-or-nothing desperate crack at keeping their very slim finals hopes alive. Southy's loss last week meant the gap could be cut to seven or so points (assuming Belswans, Westy or Cessnock win) to the top four. Anything less than a win and it's game over for Andre and co in 2018.

The key issue for Kahibah remains their lacklustre attacking form. Only one team (Belswans) have scored less goals this season and that is simply not good enough, especially when factoring in two of their three major injuries have come at the opposite end of the field. Asher Beasley's goal last week was the perfect example of what Kahibah needs to do. Just take the chances.

Prediction: The Stags have a chance here to take a small step away from potentially escaping another wooden spoon. They did beat Kahibah last time out in what was arguably their biggest result in the last two years. With that being said, expecting the visitors to get the result here. Expecting a certain German to play a big part (which German is up to you to guess!)

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-3 Kahibah FC

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Under 19's:
Wallsend FC (9th) v Cessnock City (8th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: CES 2-1 WAL

A quick look at the ladder shows these teams on a very level standing with similar results. It also highlights how important this match could be when it comes to potentially staying a realistic hope in the race for finals football. Wallsend's club mentality is to never say never and a win here and then again in their catch-up game with Toronto would fire them back into contention. Last week's 1-1 draw at Belswans was a good foundation to build on.

Cessnock deserve some praise for their much improved defence (and that goes for all three senior grades) this season but their attack has struggled at times for consistency. Last week they scored twice against last place South Cardiff but they let in two and ended up dropping points to the lowly Gunners. Like Wallsend, they have to find a way to win a couple of games on the bounce to stay in touch with the top four.

Prediction: There's been so little football played it's hard to gauge where these teams currently stand. Cessnock fixed their goalscoring woes but still drew with Southy. Wallsend on the other hand drew away to Belswans which is on paper a better result. With that in mind and home field advantage... (this is why I get paid the big bucks to make predictions that are only 57% of the times correct!)

My Tip: Wallsend FC 2-1 Cessnock City

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Under 23's:
Wallsend FC (5th) v Cessnock City (3rd)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: CES 1-2 WAL

Like the other grades at The Gardens, another match that is generally very important to both side's. The 23's competition is a wide-open field at this stage of the season. Wallsend's defensive record has been stronger than most but they have like most 23's side had their fair share of inconsistent performances. Last week's 2-1 win at Belswans propelled them up to 5th and a win here could see them leap back into the top four.

Cessnock were until last weekend the form side of the competition. They drew with Cooks Hill away, won four straight and then became the first team to take points off of Thornton, also away from home. Last weekend they'd go down 2-1 at home to South Cardiff which certainly halted their form. Still, sitting in 3rd at this stage is definitely a good result

Prediction: It's safe to expect a couple of goals with four of the top six scorers in this grade coming from these two clubs (three of which play for Cessnock). The pressure won't really heat up for a few more weeks with the competition still very tight but certainly a win for either team would do them very well. Can't really call it either way so again it's going to be a draw tip. How boring...

My Tip: Wallsend FC 1-1 Cessnock City

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1st Grade:
Wallsend FC (8th) v Cesnsock City (5th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: CES 1-1 WAL

It's doubtful any other 1st Grade teams are under more pressure than Wallsend this weekend. Trophies or finals spots aren't earned in April and after five consecutive losses, suddenly the top four seems a world away. With catch-up games still to come against Toronto and Southy, the next couple of weeks will ultimately determine the fate of the Red Devils in 2018.

Looking at recent form, it's obvious their backline has struggled a little bit and more obvious, their attack which was among the league's best not that long ago hasn't been firing, averaging just one goal a game in the last five outings. With zero clean sheets this year, they obviously need to score two or more goals a game. A key positive has been goalkeeper Joel Magnee who has earned praise and respect from around the league.

Cessnock are actually a good inspiration for Wallsend. After some disappointing results and a heartbreaking loss to Thornton (conceding twice in the final ten minutes), they produced the goods with a 4-2 victory at home against South Cardiff to claw their way back to 5th and ultimately doing Wallsend a favour and keeping the top four closer. They simply put their form behind them and earned the three points.

With South Cardiff having the bye, a win (barring Belswans winning by seven or so goals) would take Cessnock back into the top four so they'll no doubt be fired right up for a big result. A lot of their games have been low-scoring and gritty affairs but the last two games has seen eleven goals scored between the teams. Therefore, it might be safe to expect a more refined defensive effort.

Prediction: This is probably the toughest match to call for Round 15. Both clubs have so much riding on the result but more so Wallsend. A loss here would leave them upwards of seven points outside the top four. Cessnock are a very tough team to predict. On home turf, you could expect a Wallsend win but their form is very poor. We'll go the Reds but wouldn't be putting it in any multi's that's for sure.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 2-1 Cessnock City

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YOUTH GAME(s) OF THE WEEK: Wallsend Park is the place to be this weekend. The 15's and 17's sees Wallsend trying to boost their hopes of finals football but the real stand-out match of the round comes in the 14's. Kahibah found a way to minimise Wallsend's free-scoring form last time but the Reds have had time to improve. It's sure to be a big game.