Friday, 13 July 2018

PREVIEW: New-FM Round 18 2018





Under 19's:
Kahibah F.C (1st) v Wallsend F.C (10th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: WAL 0-5 KAH

Kahibah's Premiership chase in the 19's is approaching the end result and every week gets them a step closer to claiming the top spot. Their streak-breaking loss to West Wallsend fired them into action with a tough 1-0 win over Belswans and one of their best showings of the year as they knocked off Singleton 2-1 last weekend. They'll be very much full of confidence here and a win would keep them six points clear with a chance to make it nine next weekend to all but claim the title.

As for Wallsend, fatigue will be a key factor after they played last night. Newysports was on hand for another inconsistent display from this team that have routinely shot themselves in the foot with horrible defensive errors. Kahibah are a far more dangerous side than Cessnock so that'll be their goal, to try and sure things up at the back and build from there. Both games against top two sides Kahibah and Cooks Hill have ended in heavy losses so they'll want to prove something here.

Prediction: The Kahibah attack has been a bit off without Kurtis McRitchie leading the line. He's slowly coming back but attention will again turn to others and really they have players who can really do damage to a Wallsend defence that look all over the place based on recent displays. Kahibah haven't put teams to the sword very often but they may do so to Wallsend, yet again.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 4-0 Wallsend FC

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Under 23's:
Kahibah F.C (7th) v Wallsend F.C (4th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: WAL 5-0 KAH

Well it's safe to say that this is pretty much it for Kahibah. This is the game that could make or break their finals hopes looking at the table and the fact that the season is fast counting down to the end. With Thornton next week, the next two games will ultimately put them into the top four or rule them out of contention. The 3-0 win at Singleton was nice but was very much expected and now it's on to bigger challenges. Hat-trick hero Alex Evans will miss the next few games with an injury so they'll have to find a way to win without him.

Wallsend on the other hand come into this one with some pretty uninspiring form. Their 2-2 draw against Southy came as a result of very good fortune as they scored in the dying seconds and then last night they gave away three valuable points late on against Cessnock so it leaves them in a spot of bother with multiple teams right behind them on the table. This needs to be an 80 minute display and quiet frankly better than what they've served up recently.

Prediction: The 23's finals race is starting to really heat up but really it's not just finishing in the four, it's about proving that teams are capable of offering Thornton and to a lesser extent Cooks Hill something in the finals. Especially the Redbacks. There's no more time for inconsistent results, it's got to the point where teams have to put up or shut up. And it must be said, it adds some intrigue to this grade. As for this one, you'll hate me for it...but 1-1 draw.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 1-1 Wallsend FC

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1st Grade:
Kahibah F.C (10th) v Wallsend F.C (7th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: WAL 5-3 KAH

All the talk around Kahibah Football Club is about Season 2019 and the possibilities that await in the future as this season has been a total write-off. Even with close to their top lineup back on the park in recent weeks, it's clear there needs to be a little bit of a shake-up to get the side back to where they aim to be. 10th place is not where Andre Gumprecht and Mat Moncrieff expected to be, even after the injuries earlier this year.

The home performance against Belswans was borderline embarrassing but they showed a lot more ticker in the 1-1 battle with Singleton last weekend and indeed a game they could and probably should have won. The Wooden Spoon shouldn't be a worry barring a Toronto purple patch but there may be a change or two that reflects the future. It'd be nice to see a Ryan Stuchbury or Preston Cunningham get a decent run.

Turning the tables on Wallsend, their current situation is a little more interesting. Their recent form has been an improvement but they took a hit with their midweek 3-2 loss at home to Cessnock City. They realistically need to win three of their last five matches and that includes Thornton away, Cooks Hill at home and indeed the Wallsend Derby at The Gardens.

For as good as the season has been at times for Wallsend, they still sit in 7th which is exactly where they finished last year. Their test is to really up the ante over the coming month because it is the climax of what they've put together in 2018 and it's make or break over the next few games. This game isn't do or die, but it's approaching must-win for the Red Devils.

Prediction: The last two matches has seen embarrassing scorelines. Wallsend were brushed aside 6-0 by Kahibah in Round 22 last year but then returned the favour with a barnstorming five goal first half at The Gardens this year. That result brought a change to Kahibah's formation and their defence has looked a lot more solid since then. No embarrassing scoreline here. Reds to win though.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 1-2 Wallsend FC

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

After taking the fight to Cooks Hill last weekend, it's onto Toronto now for the lowly Gunners and then West Wallsend so if anything it might not be about avoiding the Wooden Spoon as that would take some doing but purely showing that they are capable of causing issues for the higher sides. They've fought hard and that's a credit to their side's culture. Steve Blunt runs a very positive squad on a game-by-game basis and last week showed that.

Toronto-Awaba are starting to feel some pressure after looking very much on track to finish in the top three for the majority of the season. Westy have got past them but more importantly, Belswans and New Lambton are right on their tails, especially the latter. The Eagles have two games in hand and if Toronto cough up a draw or loss here, it won't be good. They need to show their class and get the job done.

Prediction: Toronto's shock loss to New Lambton was a bump on the road but they should be capable of moving on quickly from that and slamming the door shut on the teams below them. Southy are not to be taken lightly and have a very detirmined defence. If the Gunners can fire in attack (which has been a rare feat for them), this may be a very interesting game. Stags to win though.

My Tip: South Cardiff 0-2 Toronto-Awaba

Additional Tip: Tom Appleby to score for the Stags.

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Under 23's:
South Cardiff (9th) v Toronto-Awaba (11th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: TAW 2-3 SOU

South Cardiff's unexpected win over Cooks Hill kept their season alive and the recent addition of Dan Bartlett into the side is a big reason behind that. You can generally tell when an experienced 1st Grader can't be bothered trying for the 23's but Bartlett is giving it a real go and helping turn this side around from the front. Make no mistake, this is a game they have to win. Anything less than that and you can put a line through these guys.

Toronto's torrid season continued with another double digit loss last week, this time to New Lambton. 19's coach and 23's player Shaun Paterson was growing frustrated with his Semi Final-bound side having to back up in consecutive games. As a result, the 17's are now starting to prove a good chunk of this team and that's probably hurting their finals hopes. It's a very difficult situation but unfortunately it'll continue for four more games.

Prediction: The Gunners should have this in the bag even if the aforementioned Dan Bartlett isn't a feature. Zach Tapp is back in action for Southy and the likes of Tanner White and James Wootton should be doing the job for the Gunners in attack. Toronto may get one but can see Southy rounding up a few in reply. Can't see it being 10+ unless Bartlett plays again. He'd have a field day.

My Tip: South Cardiff 6-1 Toronto-Awaba

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1st Grade:
South Cardiff (5th) v Toronto-Awaba (11th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: TAW 0-8 SOU

It's unlikely Belswans will let their spot in the four slip nor Thornton so it ultimately comes down to four teams competing for the fourth and final spot in the playoffs. One of those teams is South Cardiff, a side who'll feel they should have been the team to finally end Cooks Hill's unbeaten run at the AthField. That 2-2 draw was an unlucky result but showed a lot of positives about this Gunners side.

A bit of research finds that Southy have finished in the top four just once in the last 13 years and that was the season they went all the way to the NBN State League Grand Final with Broadmeadow Magic. That year was 2011 and for a six-season finals drought to end, the Gunners need consistency. Considering they travel to face in-form Belswans next week, this game is very important, especially with Westy on their bye week.

Toronto-Awaba are long gone and faced a must-win battle last weekend with New Lambton that they ultimately lost. That likely sealed the deal for the Wooden Spoon and indeed their lowest finish in 10 years. Back then they were in the top-flight and accessible records don't go back far enough to see the last time they finished bottom in the second-tier competition.

It's safe to say the Stags have hit rock bottom and now attention turns as to how they turn this around and avoid what could be the increasing possibility of being thrown into the Zone League system. Something needs to be done and indeed there are whispers around that next year will bring a change. As for now, the only thing Toronto can do is cause havoc for the teams in the finals race.

Prediction: The Stags were disgraceful last time these sides met. An 8-0 loss on home turf was their biggest in years and rumours at the time put the blame squarely onto a music festival. They need to show up and that they've managed to do at times in 1st Grade. Still, there's absolutely no way Southy should be dropping points here. If they can't beat Toronto at home, they sure as hell ain't beating Belswans away.

My Tip: South Cardiff 4-1 Toronto-Awaba

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Under 19's Match of the Round:
New Lambton (6th) v Belmont-Swansea (5th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: BEL 2-1 NLE

The bell is tolling for one of these teams as they both put their finals hopes on the line in the Match of the Round. New Lambton were prematurely buried by yours truly after their embarrassing 4-0 loss to Cooks Hill but bounced back in style by knocking off Toronto. Contrary to popular belief, they can actually win a game without Hayden Pearce leading them from the back. Jim Orr was back against the Stags and that's one player who can really add life to this team going forward. They MUST win this game though.

Belswans are higher on the table but don't have the luxury of two games in hand on Toronto (let's face it, Westy aren't dropping out now). Mick Buckley's side missed a glorious chance to make ground last weekend as they could only draw 2-2 with Thornton and now they really have to up the ante if they are to continue their impressive form of making the finals. Belswans haven't missed the U19's Finals since 2012.

Prediction: The teams have changed massively since last year but this Grand Final rematch will ultimately put one side out of contention. New Lambton worked hard last week to salvage their season and with two games in hand on Toronto, it's firmly in their hands. Considering Toronto have Westy and Cooks Hill in the last two weeks, the Eagles will be hoping to intensify the pressure. That said, can see a 2-2 draw here....sorry!

My Tip: New Lambton 2-2 Belmont-Swansea

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Under 23's:
New Lambton (5th) v Belmont-Swansea (6th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: BEL 0-1 NLE

This game is a vital one for both sides, especially after Wallsend dropped points to Cessnock. By the time Sunday rolls around, these teams will know the result from Kahibah v Wallsend which will also play into their minds. A draw in that game would do both these sides a favour. As for this game, New Lambton scored ten last week against Toronto but that is no indication of where they sit in the finals race just yet. This game and in particular the upcoming midweek clash with Cessnock will prove their credentials.

Belswans are in a bit more of a dire situation. With an extra game played, they cannot afford another loss as it'll likely be the end of their inconsistent chase towards finals football. The fact a side who've lost half their matches sits one point outside the top four speaks volume. Anyway, they are still in it and you've got to be in it to win as they say. Thornton was beyond their skill level and this looks more a game they might get something out of. They simply need to.

Prediction: Newysports has seen both these sides in action recently and even at their best, they're making up the numbers in what looks to be Thornton's season. Both need to step up to the plate and prove themselves as worthy challengers. Beating up poor old Toronto is one thing but winning a crucial match in the finals race is another. Expecting a draw to be quiet honest. New Lambton's 1st Grade injury woes will hurt the 23's as a result.

My Tip: New Lambton 1-1 Belmont-Swansea

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1st Grade:
New Lambton (9th) v Belmont-Swansea (3rd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: BEL 2-2 NLE

You could copy and paste portions of the Kahibah preview and put it here. New Lambton recently have been struck by a torrid injury curse but the key difference to the Kahibah situation is, not many were expecting the Eagles to be a serious title contender in 2018. The club was and is still building into a New-FM club and that comes over time. Have things been better under Jim Foley than Andrew Packer? That's not something anyone from outside the club's inner sanctum can probably answer.

Looking at the results, there has seem to be an improvement and certainly it's a positive to see a lot of players getting a chance to prove themselves. Foley is a coach that is more than happy to promote the club's depth although that said, it's come as a result of their injury toll as well. It can be summed up in one sentence...it's all about pride from here and building for next year.

The Eagles will avoid the Wooden Spoon but were put in their place (with all due respects) by Cooks Hill in their last home game and that's mentioned here because the same thing may happen against Belswans. Shortly after their clash with New Lambton, around early May, there was a point where Belswans just said enough is enough and since then they've rocketed up the table into equal 2nd.

All season Belswans had the experience and the quality in some positions but they lacked a true live-spark, someone in the ilk of Tega Marcus last year who just caused all sorts of issues of the opposition. Josh Sutton's recent return has ironically coincided with arguably their best run of the season, which culminated in a 2-0 home win over Thornton Redbacks last weekend.

Prediction: The Eagles will give their best. It's very rare they don't put in 100% although one or two games this year have been way under par (Singleton at Alder for example). That said, it's hard to see them getting this result. Thornton last week lacked experience whereas the Eagles lack experience and harshly enough, quality. This is a game that on paper could get ugly. We'll go with a 3-0 though.

My Tip: New Lambton 0-3 Belmont-Swansea

Additional Tip: Belswans to score in first 20 minutes and boss the game from there.

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Under 19's:
Thornton Redbacks (8th) v Singleton Strikers (9th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: SIN 3-1 THO

These are indeed the game where three paragraphs trying to build it up become a little bit of a struggle. Both teams are out of contention and you sort of ask yourself, what's the point? Well the point is for the teams to continue building with an eye on next season. Thornton have consistently looked like the "best of the rest" but have fallen behind Cessnock after last night. They'll want to win this one at home and build confidence for the Kahibah game.

Singleton too are in a very similar boat and have looked good on days but if that day is only going to be once every so often then it's not going to result in a decent end result table-wise. Whether it was "reckless" as Westy put or "mistimed" as Singleton put, their disciplined lacked midweek as they picked up two red cards and an abundance of yellows. Either way, they haven't won away from home since Round 5 so there's some inspiration for them.

Prediction: To be honest, you wouldn't be blamed for not arriving until just before 2:30 at Thornton as 1st Grade is the big one. Unlike the 23's, this promises to perhaps be an even affair and sometimes these "dead-rubbers" can be quiet open and as a result entertaining if you like goals. Jacob Bartlett is gunning for the Golden Boot so there's that to consider as well. We'll go the crazy high-scoring draw, why not?

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 3-3 Singleton Strikers

Additional Tip: Singo's Jack Clare to score a hatty and enter the Golden Boot race, again...why not?

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Under 23's:
Thornton Redbacks (1st) v Singleton Strikers (10th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: SIN 1-5 THO

Well this on paper looks nothing more than a mismatch. Firstly it's Thornton who come into this game with a load of good form after scoring thirteen goals in their past two matches. Their confidence will be rising after Cooks Hill's recent stumbles and really the Premiership at this point is theirs to lose. The difference between Scott Winslade's side and others who have been this good is that they do not go easy on lower-table opposition. There's no putting the cue in the rack so to speak and that's why they have 58 goals in 15 games.

Singleton have shown some improvement from where they were but they are still a team that just don't look like winning one anytime soon. Kahibah's 3-0 win over them last week was fairly routine and yes they have a very good addition in Jarred Castledine but he won't fix their defensive issues. 56 goals conceded in just 16 games paints the picture. Their best bet would be to still have the game situation manageable at half-time. Keeping Thornton to one goal in the first half would be a good starting point to build on.

Prediction: There's not much chance for Singo to get a result here. They were brushed aside by Thornton easily earlier this year and if memory serves correctly the Redbacks weren't at their best that day. This game is a team gunning for a trophy against a team that has little to play for so it could get very lop-sided and harshly-speaking, it's up to Thornton as to what the score ends up.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 6-0 Singleton Strikers

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
Thornton Redbacks (2nd) v Singleton Strikers (6th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: SIN 0-0 THO

This week's Match of the Round sees what could be an absolutely cracker at Thornton Park. It's not the be all, end all for the Redbacks but it is for Singleton. Firstly, let's talk about Gary Wand's side. Their patchy form as of late has all but ruled them out of the Premiership race and they'll be the first to admit that they need to find their best form and definitely find that on a consistent basis before the finals.

Thornton now see their top two spot under significant threat which could cost them the chance to play for a Grand Final spot in front of their home supporters. They've got to really gain some experience in winning big games. That's possibility the thing they've lacked this year is the ability to win the tough ones on a consistent basis. That's got to change if they are to take the club to its first 2nd-tier Grand Final.

The pressure on Thornton is definitely not on the same level as the pressure on the away side Singleton. The Strikers find themselves in need of a big win or else the curtains will start to close on their potential drought-breaking finals qualification. Their league-high seven draws tells a story of what could have been and perhaps what should have been some days.

Singo were able to gain a draw with Kahibah last week in a game that they were outplayed in on home turf. Injuries have started to hinder them but at the end of the day, the finals are just four short games away and they must put together the best effort they can regardless of who they have avaliable or the conditions around the match itself. David Willoughby was simple with his summary, if they make it they'll deserve it, if they fall short they just didn't do enough.

Prediction: This is a tough game to predict. Leaning towards a Thornton win but it could end in a draw. Cannot see Singleton winning it and that may be very costly for them as it is pretty much a must-win match-up for the Strikers. Thornton's home form has been strong this season and they'll look to gain a big three points here.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 2-1 Singleton Strikers

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

Cessnock's first win in five weeks came against Wallsend last night and was their second victory of the campaign against the Red Devils. That result came largely thanks to the inclusion of senior squad member Josh Dwyer who showed his class and vision to tear Wallsend to shreds in the second half. Their was still parts of the game that hihglighted Cessnock's weak spots and it's safe to say this game is a far tougher test for them, especially with a short turn-around.

Cooks Hill are playing on a week by week basis trying to somehow retain the Premiership and pip Kahibah at the post. Three straight wins has kept them in with a sniff but they just need to keep winning. Last week against Southy was a fairly gritty display as they came out with a 1-0 win but it was far from convincing and with the bye next weekend, they need something here to keep momentum building for finals.

Prediction: The Cookers have come a long way from their early season form and have built themselves into what many consider the best team in the competition. Whether that's animosity for the very successful Kahibah or not, a lot of players from other clubs look at the Cookers as the benchmark. They need to prove that with a win here and they should have the quality to get it done. Cessnock's defence is a bit shaky and this is a much harder test than Wallsend.

My Tip: Cessnock City 0-2 Cooks Hill United

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Under 23's Match of the Round:
Cessnock City (3rd) v Cooks Hill United (2nd)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: CHU 2-2 CES

Well this certainly is a cracking fixture compared to some this weekend. Cessnock still have a chance of finishing in the top two as a win here would see them five points behind Cooks Hill and with importantly two games in hand. They've picked up draws with the Cookers and Thornton and have for the large part been the only team that's been there or thereabouts just below the top two sides. Their late win over Wallsend was a big three points but this would easily eclipse it. Form and confidence must keep growing.

As for Cooks Hill, this is a danger game. Their form has gone out the window. Take away the reversed result against Kahibah and they've only won one of their last four. Admittedly that win was against Thornton and showed that this team can be capable of winning silverware in 2018. It's the inconsistency, especially in front of goal that's killing their Premiership hopes and denting their confidence.

Prediction: Newysports has watched the last four Cooks Hill matches and really they are there to be beaten, especially at home for the Hornets. Cessnock on their best day are a genuine contender and that can't be said about the large majority of the competition. Can definitely see Cooks Hill returning to form but have a feeling that the Hornets will win it here.

My Tip: Cessnock City 2-1 Cooks Hill United

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1st Grade:
Cessnock City (8th) v Cooks Hill United (1st)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: CHU 3-1 CES

Cessnock City's finals hopes are all but gone but coach Brendan Slade was keen to highlight the positives and put the season in perspective with a rather insightful comment on a Newysports post. The club has come a long way in the last two years and some of that credit deserves to head the way of Lino Gatti who "drained the swamp" so to speak and tried to improve the culture on and off the field. 

Unfortunately that left them depleted in 1st/23's but this year has seen them boost their quality and importantly the depth. The 23's have been superb and it shows a bright future heading into next season. Their midweek 3-2 win over Wallsend really hurt the Reds finals tilt and that's all they can do from here, play for pride and cause some ruckus. Cessnock have never beaten Cooks Hill in seven meetings, enough said. There's the challenge.

Their opponents Cooks Hill are in a different situation. They're very likely to be locking down another New-FM Premiership in the coming week and it could all be done right here at Cessnock if Thornton cannot overcome Singleton. That's what they'll be hoping for as it'd be a little underwhelming to win it all during next week's bye. Either way, expect some celebrations soon enough.

Last week's 2-2 draw with Southy proved that maybe there is a chance that this side may be stopped from what looked a highly likely 2nd-straight double (Major/Minor). The Cookers were very lucky to keep their unbeaten run alive. Their goal was to finish on top once again albeit with a harder opposition. If anything it's gone the opposite way. It's been easier for them or perhaps they've just been better in 2018. Either way, they've got one hand on the trophy.

Prediction: The Hornets can delay what looks a certainty in Cooks Hill winning the Premiership again. A win over the benchmark of the competition would be Cessnock's greatest victory in several years and really highlight how far the club has come. Will it happen? It's always possible but hard to see it eventuating as Cooks Hill will want to wrap it up on Sunday.

My Tip: Cessnock City 1-3 Cooks Hill United

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YOUTH GAME(s) OF THE WEEK: Saturday is all about the clash between two very good youth clubs in New Lambton and Kahibah. All three games have meaning in the finals race and it's sure to be a competitive day of football. On Sunday, it's a massive game in the 17's as 4th-placed Westy face 5th-placed Toronto. Three points would do a world of good for both sides.


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