Friday, 1 June 2018

PREVIEW: New-FM Round 12 2018





Under 19's Match of the Round:
Belmont-Swansea UFC (5th) v Cooks Hill United (2nd)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: CHU 1-0 BEL

They've won their last four in a row and now suddenly Belswans 19's sit firmly on the edge of the top four. It's been an amazing rise from where this team sat earlier in the year. They were never terrible but they looked a team that needed an answer for a goalscorer. Even more amazingly that answer has so far been Harry Rapp. The big defender has moved forward and is really causing issues for opposition backlines. A win here would do them a world of good.

Cooks Hill have woken from their slumber with two super impressive victories. A 6-1 home win over Wallsend was a professional showing and then a 5-1 win over fellow top four side Toronto has them flying high in 2nd place. As the only team capable of taking the Premiership off of Kahibah, this game when Kahibah have the bye is of very high importance.

Prediction: Belswans are only second to Kahibah when it comes to form at the moment and that is a very impressive stat. This is the second hardest test they'll get in this competition and perhaps even the toughest at the moment because Cooks Hill are in such confident scoring form. Huge test for Belswans and can see them really giving it a crack but Cookers to win.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 1-3 Cooks Hill United

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Under 23's:
Belmont-Swansea UFC (6th) v Cooks Hill United (2nd)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
2017 Meetings: CHU 2-0 BEL

Not many times this year has a 23's fixture on paper stood out as hugely compelling viewing but there's two big games on one day this weekend. At Blacksmiths, the in-form Belswans side take on the free-scoring Cooks Hill. Dan Rufo was adamant about his team's potential this season and they look poised for a big second half of the year. Five wins, five losses, now is the time to raise the bar higher and push on towards the top four.

Cooks Hill on the other hand are coming off back-to-back wins and importantly back-to-back clean sheets. Last weekend resembled shooting practise more than a football match as they blasted twelve past a helpless Toronto side. Certainly no putting the cue in the rack so to speak as Cooks Hill lead from the front and went on with it and then some! Eight different goalscorers and two hat-tricks for them last week. Safe to say things will be much tougher this week but still, what a performance last weekend.

Prediction: Cooks Hill can ill-afford to bring complacency into this game. After having it so very easy last week, they face a much stiffer opposition on Saturday and therefore they need to realise they're in for a tougher assignment. Interestingly, David Hodgson returned from an injury hiatus with the 23's last weekend for Belswans. Hopefully he got through that well. In terms of a result, Cooks Hill to win.

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 1-2 Cooks Hill United

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
Belmont-Swansea UFC (7th) v Cooks Hill United (1st)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
2017 Meetings: CHU 1-0 BEL

Belswans built their run to the Grand Final last season on a near-perfect second half of the season. This year has followed a similar pattern. Their form was very poor for their standards but they've brought in one or two recruits and have some players returning from injury that will really boost their attacking stocks. Defensively they haven't been too bad on reflection so scoring goals is no doubt their key focus.

The return of David Hodgson to the 23's was a notable point last weekend although it's not certain when he may slot back into the top grade but one key return perhaps even more crucial than Hodgo was that of Cameron Lodge. The pacey attacker is someone who Belswans look for a fair bit and he's value to the team cannot be underestimated. Back-to-back home wins has restored their belief, now it's time to prove they're back to their best.

Ever since Graham Law jetted back into Cooks Hill, the Champions have gone to another level and last week it was a level beyond that of anything they did last year as they completely destroyed Toronto-Awaba. It was a ruthless 10-1 win that some reports say could and probably should have been worse for the Stags. That is simply scary attacking form.

With their normal gaffer on the sideline, Cooks Hill have won 12 straight games dating back to last season. Their away form until last weekend was patchy at best and with a whopping seven away games in their remaining ten fixtures, that is going to be what either wins or losses the Premiership. It was a lone Dan Rufo goal that gave Belswans the win last time these sides met at Blacksmiths.

Prediction: This really could be one of the games of the season. Belswans have found some decent form as of late and are suddenly climbing back up the table. Cooks Hill on the other hand are in stupendous scoring form with 17 goals in their last three outings so no doubt the away side come into this as the rightful favourites..

My Tip: Belmont-Swansea 1-3 Cooks Hill United

Additional Tip: Nick Russell to score again. He is in some form as of late.

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Under 19's:
Thornton Redbacks (10th) v Cessnock City (7th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
2017 Meetings: CES 0-0 THO

Newysports was prepared to write off Thornton's hopes of winning a game this year if they didn't do the job against South Cardiff last weekend. They found themselves down 1-0 and playing poorly but answered the questions with a 3-1 victory. They now sit four points clear of the bottom and have to believe they can continue to pick up wins. They are capable of beating teams and hopefully they've turned a corner with last week's result.

Cessnock on the other hand continue to be pretty difficult to predict. They were awful at Belswans, they then beat Singleton and last week despite being beaten were very good in portions of the game against Kahibah. The one area they lacked in last week was attack and even if you have an in-form keeper and some hard-working players in other areas, you need to score goals. That's the test for the Hornets at the moment.

Prediction: Don't expect an attacking thriller if past performances are anything to go by. Both of these teams are still firmly a work in progress but there has at times been positive signs. Jacob Bartlett has been understated for Thornton. He has been vital for the 19's over recent games. The Redbacks will want another win on home turf but it certainly won't come easy.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 2-1 Cessnock City

Additional Tip: Thornton goals from Jacob Bartlett & Travis Howard.

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Under 23's Match of the Round:
Thornton Redbacks (1st) v Cessnock City (3rd)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
2017 Meetings: CES 0-1 THO

Well it's the Match of the Round and potentially the season so far in the Under 23's. Thornton's winning streak hasn't been under this much threat on paper until this fixture. To complete the perfect first half with ten wins is a statement of this team's quality. Realistically they look certainties for the Premiership with a nine point buffer at the top. Even with their top scorer Jack Stoneman out they still won 4-0. Why not win ten more in a row?

Cessnock were already talking about this game pretty much immediately following their win over Kahibah. They want to be the team that finally pulls the brakes on the Redback train. It was a tame first half last week but the second half saw the Hornets put Kahibah to the sword with some decent goals. They've won four in a row and conceded just one in that time. But can they knock off the best team in the competition?

Prediction: Thornton have produced some scrappy displays at times. Their effort against Kahibah was terrible and no doubt the winning streak would come under enormous threat if they aren't at their best. If they are at their best then sorry, no-one is beating them. Not Cessnock, not Cooks Hill, not no-one. Hornets to be stung.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 3-1 Cessnock City

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1st Grade:
Thornton Redbacks (2nd) v Cessnock City (5th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
2017 Meetings: CES 0-0 THO

Well it's Weston v Maitland New-FM style as all the ex-NPL heads meet each other once again, this time not on a 40+ degree day in Round 1 so it's much safer to expect a match that'll see goals rather than a scoreless encounter. It'd be interesting to hear what Gary Wand has to say about what Newysports would call Thornton's lack of game management or the inability to kill off matches. 4 wins, 5 draws, 1 loss. It's good but it should be better.

For a team with just 4 wins from 10 games to sit 2nd shows just what a crazy year this has been but certainly the Redbacks are now in a situation where three points is pretty important. They've won just one game in the last five which is in hindsight a quarter of their season. Anything less than win on Saturday and it's going to be very tough to wheel in Cooks Hill for the Premiership, barring a Cookers collapse.

Cessnock City are in a very similar situation with a few more draws than what they would have liked. They only have one win in their last seven fixtures which is not the sort of form that will carry a team into finals football. Most years a team on 13 points from 10 games wouldn't be in calculations but certainly the door is open for the Hornets to break their finals drought. It's going to take some improvement though.

Last week's match at Kahibah was one they should have won on reflection of the chances they created but again it just wasn't to be. Their defence has been the highlight of the season and that is a credit to Brendan Slade for focusing so heavily on restoring some order at the back with his recruits. One notable thing is how some players panicked under pressure last weekend. Perhaps a sign of inexperience for some.

Prediction: This could be one of the best battles this season. Cessnock's rock solid defence has been difficult to get through for some teams and Thornton certainly have some attackers that on their day are tough to handle. That's probably where it'll be won or lost. Cessnock's attack needs to fire and it's questionable that they will. Either way, Newysports likes the draw here.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 1-1 Cessnock City

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Under 19's:
New Lambton (6th) v South Cardiff (11th)
Kickoff: 12:45pm
Last Time They Met: SOU 0-2 NLE

It's really one step forward and two steps backwards for New Lambton in the 19's. The lineup they took to Wallsend last week on paper was good enough to get the points but failed to score. The goalkeeper situation isn't ideal with outfielder Aidan Galvin filling the void but their defence has also been a bit off at times. The door to the top four is still swinging wildly and it's time they decide to try and walk through it.

South Cardiff sit firm at the foot at the table after an underwhelming display against Thornton last week. A bomb of a goal from Aidan Kirkaldy put them ahead but again they lapsed in key areas and lost 3-1. They were torn apart in the midfield last week. The coach Steve Blunt read the stats post-game. 10 games, 1 win, 9 losses and only eight goals. The team were told it's a new season starting this weekend and certainly the only way is up.

Prediction: The Eagles need to really up the ante over the next few weeks. Winning the next two (Southy and Cessnock) before the bye is hugely paramount for their finals hopes. They have some good players but they just seem to be lacking as a unit. Southy will get them if they aren't up to the task but as the home side and sitting on the edge of the top four, New Lambton should get the win.

My Tip: New Lambton 2-0 South Cardiff

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Under 23's:
New Lambton (4th) v South Cardiff (9th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: SOU 0-3 NLE

Very similar to the 19's, New Lambton 23's have indeed hit a crossroads at the halfway point of the season. Back-to-back heavy losses to Kahibah and Thornton left them in free-fall but they steadied things to a degree with a 1-1 draw at Wallsend.. Their attack is clearly struggling when compared to the other top four sides and really that is where work needs to be done. A bit of scoring form and a bit of luck may really give their season a boost.

South Cardiff on the other hand are in a different situation. They sit fairly low on the table and with just two wins. Their wins came against even worse teams in Toronto and Singleton so it's hardly anything to get excited about. This is a team that will build into next season and perhaps even beyond depending if U23's remains a thing in 2020. They're a young outfit but at this point they are clearly struggling for results. 

Prediction: With West Wallsend being odds on to down lowly Singleton, New Lambton's position in the top four is under serious threat. If they can't beat a team in ninth then you can ask do they even deserve to be in the top four but on their home turf with a couple of underwhelming results in recent times, it's safe to expect a very energised effort.

My Tip: New Lambton 3-0 South Cardiff

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1st Grade:
New Lambton (10th) v South Cardiff (4th)
Kickoff: 4:30pm
Last Time They Met: SOU 4-3 NLE

After just their second win of the season, suddenly some belief was there that maybe just maybe New Lambton can keep their playoff hopes alive. They don't have long to ponder about it as this weekend's match really is make or break for the Eagles this season. A win over 4th-placed Southy could very realistically leave them just three points outside the top four. That was almost unthinkable a few weeks ago but in such a tight competition, anything is possible.

New Lambton's improvement under Jim Foley cannot be understated. The coaching change has so far been a very big boost to the team and it seems Foley is really getting the best out of a team that looked long gone not that long ago. Riley Taylor has been a big part of the Eagles' attack and as the second best goalscorer in the league is the key man to stop in this fixture. He scored a hat-trick in the 4-3 loss to Southy earlier this year so knows how to hurt them.

South Cardiff's patchy form sees them teetering in fourth and a bit of luck went their way in staying there as West Wallsend fell to Belswans despite leading and Cessnock were unable to finish their chances against Kahibah. Last weekend saw them address a stat of only scoring one goal a game over the prior few weeks. They showed a lot of desire to fight all the way till the final whistle and secure a draw at Thornton.

A big part of last week's 2-2 draw was Nathan McAllister as he took over at the top of the goalscoring chart once again. A brace against his former club was as pleasing as any goals he's scored in his career but a lot of onlookers are starting to see Macca as Southy's only way to goal. Other players just can't seem to find the target or the luck needed to score at the moment. It'll be interesting to see who comes out on top in the battle of the top goalscorers.

Prediction: This is a prediction more so with the heart rather than the head. Newysports is perhaps buying too much into the Foley effect at New Lambton but it's obvious the Eagles have turned a corner. Southy are doing well for themselves but aren't overly impressive in attack apart from the aforementioned McAllister. Another game, another 1-1 draw.

My Tip: New Lambton 1-1 South Cardiff

Additional Tip: Riley Taylor & Nathan McAllister to score the goals.

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Under 19's:
Singleton Strikers (9th) v West Wallsend (4th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: WWB 5-1 SIN

For a portion of time, it looked as though Singleton 19's may have been capable of turning their poor start around and building towards the top four but recently that form has gone out the window. They lost to Cessnock in their last fixture and sit in 9th position which makes it hard to believe they can suddenly become a contender. Certainly a win here would help but they need to really up the ante.

West Wallsend however aren't exactly on easy street themselves. A 3-0 win over Toronto restored their confidence but then things went wayward as they lost 3-0 to Belswans. This team has underachieved so far with the squad they have on paper and only remain in the top four thanks to New Lambton's inability to produce consistent results. This team is in real need of a win here or they may fall out of the top four.

Prediction: Anything but a win here for Westy and it's highly likely they'll find themselves outside the top four for the first time all season. A few weeks ago the top four looked impenetrable but now the Bluebells are in need of proving their credentials. Singleton's attack will make you pay for missed chances so the shots simply have to go in. 

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-3 West Wallsend

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Under 23's:
Singleton Strikers (11th) v West Wallsend (5th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: WWB 7-0 SIN

The combination of the bye and Toronto's horrifying 12-0 loss means Singleton 23's no longer possess the worst defensive record in the league but that is hardly anything to be too delighted with. The struggling Strikers side continue to linger at the foot of the table and as the old saying goes, the only way is up for them. Hopefully they've taken the week off as a chance to train hard and work on their team-play. We'll soon find out!

West Wallsend come into this game with a real need to pull up their socks and record an important victory. With only one win from their last four, they've fallen outside the top four and that will have them very frustrated. Frustrations boiled over last week as the team finished with nine players after two red cards. It's time to cut out the stupidity, keep all eleven players on the park and prove that they are worthy of being a top four side.

Prediction: Singo's mission from here is no doubt to avoid the wooden spoon. Being 14 points outside the top four, that's probably the most realistic target for them. West Wallsend will be without key goalscorer Josh Knight after his second red card of the season but they should still have enough quality to win this. It might not be 7-0 with Knight missing but who knows.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 0-4 West Wallsend

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1st Grade:
Singleton Strikers (3rd) v West Wallsend (6th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: WWB 1-1 SIN

The bye saw them fly under the radar of course but we cannot forget the form that the Singleton Strikers find themselves in. The longest unbeaten streak left in the competition stands at eight games. Since their undermanned 5-0 loss to Cooks Hill, Singo have not lost a game in this competition. It's been an amazing run and with the competition being so tight, it allows a team with 17 points to sit 3rd after the halfway point. The pass mark this time last year for 3rd place was 21.

Like Thornton, the one thing that needs addressing at Singleton is turning their draws into wins. Five draws from ten matches leaves a thought of what could have been if two or three of those were wins. Player-wise, everybody is doing a job for the Strikers. Hayden Nicol has gone to another level as of late and has lessened the burden on Joe Civello who was looking their key goal threat. Importantly, their defence has been incredible. Nine goals in nine games when taking out the 5-0 loss to CHU.

The "Wallsend" effect has reached from Birmingham Gardens all the way out to West Wallsend. Both Wallsend clubs started well and have endured a slide down the table. For the Bluebells, it was a draw and two losses to begin the year and then four straight wins followed by three straight losses. It's a strange run of events and certainly they have to do something about it.

Here's two additional stats. Westy have less points now (13) then they did this time last year (15) and they haven't won at Howe Park in five years. It's going to be a difficult road trip for the out of form side against a team that is playing their best football in years. Certainly a win would ease a lot of the pressure and put them back on track but definitely one of their best performances of the season (ala New Lambton away) is needed.

Prediction: This game is a key one in the shape of the season. Singleton will be looking to strengthen their grip on a top four spot whilst Westy need to get back to winning ways. A draw wouldn't be a surprise like the first match they played but at Howe Park, Singleton might just get the job done. They know how to grind out tight results.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 2-1 West Wallsend

Additional Tip: Hayden Nicol to continue his scoring form for the Strikers.

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Under 19's:
Wallsend FC (8th) v Toronto-Awaba (3rd)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: TAW 3-1 WAL

Wallsend 19's have had some luck go against them at times and at other times have simply lacked the quality needed to find success in matches. The latter was certainly the case as they were brushed aside 6-1 by Cooks Hill. The second half effort had coach Craig Tselembis incredibly frustrated but the players produced one of their best efforts yet in reply as they downed New Lambton 2-0. This team is still just six points outside the top four. A win here would certainly have them believing in their hopes once again.

Toronto 19's sit in third position which isn't a bad return at all for a side largely made up of last year's 17's team but their confidence no doubt has taken a bump or two because they've now lost to all three of the other teams in the top four. A win over 8th place Wallsend won't help erase that particular stat but it will keep them locked firm in the four. 

Prediction: This is a really interesting game. As mentioned, if Wallsend win then suddenly they are on 13 points and climbing towards the top four. A loss will no doubt send them backwards. Toronto need to focus as they have the quality to win it. Some players were dragged through the mud of 23's last weekend and that'll likely continue but their main focus has to be making the finals in this grade. They can ill-afford to have their confidence dented by the senior squad's woes.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 1-3 Toronto-Awaba

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Under 23's:
Wallsend FC (7th) v Toronto-Awaba (10th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: TAW 0-5 WAL

Wallsend 23's are in need of some consistent results to try and bridge the gap to the top four. After back-to-back losses to top two sides Thornton and Cooks Hill, the Reds were only capable of a draw at home against New Lambton last weekend. With 5 losses in ten outings, it's not the best return and certainly the team would have liked a couple of extra draws or indeed wins in those games. This is a game where they'll be very focused on leaving with three points.

Unfortunately the player movement at Toronto has left their depth paper thin and last weekend a bare-bones 23's side were beaten heavily by Cooks Hill. A double digit loss is never good for morale and hopefully they can keep their heads up but certainly it's a difficult time with a fair few 19's players required to perform double duties at the moment. The best thing the Stags can do is forget about last week. It's a new week and a new challenge.

Prediction: Inspirational words aside, Toronto are in a very vulnerable position at the moment. The side they fielded last weekend was chock full of 19's players backing up and after a 12-0 hiding, confidence will be extremely low. Anything less than three points for Wallsend will be disastrous. They beat Toronto 5-0 in Round 1 and it's very possibly similar will happen again. 

My Tip: Wallsend FC 6-1 Toronto-Awaba

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1st Grade:
Wallsend FC (8th) v Toronto-Awaba (11th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: TAW 1-3 WAL

This game is one full of desperation for both clubs. Wallsend need to correct their poor form and Toronto want to restore some of their belief after having it trampled out of them in a record loss last weekend. Firstly onto the Red Devils who weren't that long ago sitting firm inside the top four and pushing towards the upper echelon of the table. Four losses on the trot have seen them slide down to 8th.

Frustration has obviously grown among the team and Ben Edwards will want nothing more than a win to bring some confidence back to the Reds. Their defence was never expected to be one of the best in the league but their attack was and that hasn't been firing as of late. The sort of wins Wallsend picked up earlier this year were often high scoring affairs so they need to re-find that scoring form to boost their hopes.

Toronto on the other hand have certainly seen their season fall apart. They conceded 19 goals in just three matches after starting the season with better form than recent years. A coaching change and a few player departures had them on the ropes but surprisingly they produced a stirring effort to beat West Wallsend 3-1.

Last weekend things reached their lowest point yet as Cooks Hill hit double digits against the struggling Stags. Without a doubt everyone involved in the New-FM competition hope not to see lopsided scorelines like that occur and we can only hope that is as bad as it gets for Toronto. Beware a wounded animal and the Stags will be fired right up to show what they're capable of at The Gardens.

Prediction: The fact Cooks Hill were ruthlessly perfect last week means this scoreline won't be a crazy one. Toronto won't cop a loss like that again this season. The Stags will likely head out with the knowledge that a win against a desperate Wallsend is going to be difficult. Blake Glennie is a realist and will probably be looking at performance rather than the result. Here's hoping it's a much firmer output this week from Toronto but Reds to win.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 4-1 Toronto-Awaba

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YOUTH GAME(s) OF THE WEEK: The standout fixture this weekend looks to be at Ulinga Oval in the Under 15's. 2nd-placed Southy against 4th-placed New Lambton will be a decent test for both teams. And in a key clash in the 14's, the Thornton v Toronto match certainly looks to be a vital one given where both teams sit at the halfway point of the year.

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