Thursday, 2 August 2018

PREVIEW: New-FM Round 21 2018






Under 19's:
Singleton Strikers (8th) v Cessnock City (9th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: CES 2-0 SIN

Due to a Round 22 bye, this weekend marks the end of Singleton's season and none of their six teams will play finals football, extending a 14-year drought finals drought for the club and the last time any of their Premier grades finished in the top four is not known as records date back only to 1999. This 19's side probably could have done better than what they have but the curse continues.

Cessnock City have actually managed to send some teams to finals and they'll do so again with the 23's but as for the 19's, it's been a bit of a write-off season. Yes there has been significant improvement on recent years but with two games left, they look destined for another disappointing finish. There's a selection of players that look promising and some that might be let's say, excess to requirements.

Prediction: The Hornets got the job done earlier this season when these teams played and Singleton certainly would remember that day. The Strikers at home will want to go out on a positive note and a look ahead to next season. Singo have won two in a row and that's probably enough to warrant them heading into this as favourites.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 2-0 Cessnock City

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Under 23's:
Singleton Strikers (10th) v Cessnock City (2nd)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: CES 5-0 SIN

Rather fortunately, there is only one game left for Singleton in the 23's. Most of the players are likely looking forward to having a break and resetting things for the future. What is for sure is that the club needs to look at boosting their depth next year and adding some quality into this grade. That is not an easy thing to do with such a small talent pool to choose from. Finishing the year on a high would be a good way to go out but it's going to be a tough ask.

Cessnock come into this game on the back of a frustrating draw with Belmont-Swansea but they'll look to put that behind them and zero in on a top two finishing position ahead of the finals. Conditions were tough last weekend but their performance just lacked a little bit compared to recent times and this is a good chance to tune things up in attack. 

Prediction: Truth be told, it'd be nice for Singo to go out with a victory but it doesn't look likely. They've lost 13 of the last 14 and their only win in that time was against Toronto. They tend to do a little bit better at Howe Park than away so it might not be a blow-out but Cessnock being in 2nd place should be winning this one.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-4 Cessnock City

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1st Grade:
Singleton Strikers (7th) v Cessnock City (8th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: CES 1-1 SIN

Alas it is a "dead-rubber" and that's something that neither team would have been hoping for earlier in the season. Indeed things looked very bright for Singleton and at one stage they led the competition for the first time in a while but injuries combined with a lack of depth hindered them but more so it was an over-abundance of draws. 

Nine draws in 19 matches this season has summed it all up. It's been close but not close enough. They've had stability over the last few years with David Willoughby now one of the longest-serving coaches in the league but work next year will come on and off the field as they look to prove their value for the re-structured competition in 2020. This game is a chance to beat their local Hunter Valley rivals and enjoy a cold one after it to reflect on the positive year that was.

Cessnock still have two games left and last weekend probably summed up their campaign in a nutshell. A very solid defensive performance but lacking up front and rumours are the club hierarchy are keen to look at bringing in someone who can routinely bag goals. Who that is isn't yet known but they definitely need more in attack.

Newysports was struggling to remember who they even play next weekend (it's Kahibah!) so definitely two games the Hornets will feel they can get something out of to end the year on a high note. And credit to the squad who are getting right behind the 23's as they march towards finals football. A rare win on a ground they have become accustomed to being embarrassed on would be a brilliant result for this much-improved team.

Prediction: The tip is rather simple. Both teams drew their games last weekend and there's some stuff to like about both and some stuff to not like. Singleton drawing yet again and finishing the campaign with 10 draws from 20 games would pretty much wrap things up in a neat-little bow. Both sides will aim for more but can see this ending in a stalemate.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-1 Cessnock City

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Under 19's:
Thornton Redbacks (7th) v New Lambton (6th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: NLE 3-2 THO

It's been a familiar story for Thornton 19's in 2018. A team that were tipped for big things but have lacked the consistency needed to make the top four. Their second half of the season has seen an improvement and really there are probably more positives than negatives in recent times. They're trying to play a decent brand of attacking football and can work well as a team. They've got nothing to lose so hopefully another free-flowing game from them.

New Lambton on the other hand are one of the three teams vying for that elusive 4th spot ahead of the finals. Their chances are only still alive thanks to Toronto's "misfortunes" and really they have to show up here or it'll all be over. The team hasn't been brilliant by any means but on their day are solid and can definitely knock off Thornton and Wallsend to put themselves in firm contention.

Prediction: The Kahibah game last weekend was one New Lambton wasn't expected to win but with their finals hopes on the line here, they have to beat Thornton. It's not unrealistic to expect Westy to do a number on Belswans and Toronto to fall to Westy and Cooks Hill. This finals race is still alive and here's hoping New Lambton keep it a three-horse race, perhaps for 24 hours at least...

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 1-2 New Lambton

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Under 23's Match of the Round:
Thornton Redbacks (1st) v New Lambton (4th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: NLE 0-3 THO

Newysports won't lie to you, there isn't a team that is consistently on the same level as Thornton in this 23's competition. The ladder shows that and the fact is it's hard not to envisage the Redbacks being there on the last day of the season. They'll be keen to continue their good form and send a message to the 4th-placed Eagles. This is a Thornton team that don't even need to be at their best to beat teams. It's been proven a few times.

New Lambton's season has led to this moment and a chance to rock the competition with their biggest win of the campaign. The Redbacks cruised to a 3-0 win last time but New Lambton didn't have Ben Prangemeier in the defensive line. He was a one-man army at times against Kahibah last weekend and is instrumental in the team's chances. Considering an overwhelming goal difference, they can afford to lose this game. Will they risk it and go for glory though?

Prediction: The Eagles could likely head to Thornton with a defensive-mindset. A draw would be enough for them on the day and give them a chance to hammer home their finals tilt next weekend. As mentioned, a loss won't hurt them but can see them trying to frustrate Thornton and keep it on level pegging. Will it work? Not quiet sure.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 2-0 New Lambton

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1st Grade:
Thornton Redbacks (3rd) v New Lambton (9th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: NLE 1-1 THO

Mr. Newysports has been telling anyone who cares to listen that the Redbacks are on shaky ground and look heading for an early exit. Ever since that loss at Blacksmiths this team have struggled week in week out to get what they need and that at this point is simply three points. Whether it's attitude, poor performance, inexperience, bad luck, or a combination of all, the rot has simply got to stop or the Redbacks will fall.

The Northern Preview for this weekend saw two words quoted from Gary Wand to Quentin Conners. Those words were "pathetic" & "disgraceful" to describe the Redbacks' first half performance against Wallsend. No doubt Wand's half-time address would have fired them up. The second half was a major improvement but ended in heartbreak. This week, there can be no complacency or poor attitude. Their campaign is on the line.

New Lambton's 1-1 draw with the Redbacks back in middle point of the season came as a real shock and really it was at that point that Thornton began their slow-burn decline that has turned into a more rapid pace lately. For the Eagles, their finals hopes are long gone but they have continued to put in efforts that define their club culture.

Back to back wins against Singleton (to end that team's season) and Kahibah have been big positives as they look ahead to next season. Club captain Dan Luther has found himself a routine goalscorer recently and the side is growing with belief in time for what will be a big day as Old Boys' Day at Alder takes place in Round 22. Injuries have hit them hard but what a job they've done lately to combat them.

Prediction: New Lambton have had some growing pains in the league but under Jim Foley have established a very good brand and keen eye for the future. They'll head into this with firm belief and that means the out-of-form Redbacks need to produce their best. There's names in this Thornton squad that just need to play to their potential. Got a gut-feeling that this may be the defining blow to Thornton's hopes.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 2-3 New Lambton

Additional Tip: We'll keep that late drama tip going. Newysports will be on hand at the game and definitely will keep the camera switched on until the last blast of the whistle!

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Under 19's:
Kahibah FC (1st) v South Cardiff (11th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: SOU 0-2 KAH

It was business as usual last weekend as Kahibah scored twice in the first half to close down New Lambton and then pretty much cruised home from there to secure the 19's Premiership and just the third trophy Kahibah have won in this competition. The job is far from done and attention now turns to the finals where they'll be looking to undo this torrid Kahibah curse in Semi Final football.

Steve Blunt promised Southy would be right up for games against the big guns and they proved that not that long ago with their efforts at Cooks Hill. Recently they've dropped off though and have collected the wooden spoon. Losing a host of eligible U19's players to the 23's (Furness, Wolfe, Currey & Burns) all come to mind says a lot of Southy's development mentality but meant the 19's lost some quality. Still, finishing dead last was likely never something anyone imagined.

Prediction: It'd be quiet easy to predict goals, goals, goals based on the ladder position but it wouldn't surprise to see this be more of a low-scoring affair. Kahibah have rarely put teams to the sword and really it doesn't matter if it's a 1-0 or 5-0 win, they have won 16 of their 17 matches this season and their game-plan is defensively-focused. Expect Kahibah to score early and frustrate the hell of out Southy before collecting one or two more.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 2-0 South Cardiff

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Under 23's:
Kahibah FC (9th) v South Cardiff (5th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: SOU 1-1 KAH

Last weekend just about summed the year up for Kahibah 23's. And it feels like that statement gets used more and more often. A performance where they were close but not close enough. On reflection though, the go-forward from Kahibah was fairly lacklustre on the day compared to their usual standard. On a positive note, it's been good seeing Mat Moncrieff play some of his 17's in this grade to give them a taste of senior football.

All the attention for this game will be on the away side as they look to continue their unlikely push towards finals football. The Gunners sat dead last after six rounds but the young side were always expected to improve as the year passed by and just like he did with the 19's last year, Chris Moylan has worked his magic. Yes the experienced players have helped but a lot of the upcoming players have really improved as a collective.

Prediction: The hope is that Southy will get the win here and set up a grandstand final round. That won't come easy as you never know what you're going to get out of Kahibah 23's and Southy learned that last time in a 1-1 draw. Still, the Gunners have everything to play and Kahibah very little. That normally means something at this time of year.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 0-2 South Cardiff

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1st Grade:
Kahibah FC (10th) v South Cardiff (6th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: SOU 1-0 KAH

For 45 minutes at Alder Park, Kahibah were an absolute shambles. Their defensive mishaps this season were highlighted once again as New Lambton stormed to a 3-0 lead but as they've become known to do, Kahibah turned it around in the second half and only lost 3-2. But...they still lost. Being 3-0 down at half-time is never going to work out well and definitely the focus must be on a complete 90-minute display.

Even at the peak of their powers in 2017, Kahibah couldn't beat South Cardiff and based on how things stand now, the home side are big outsiders. Perhaps the most-scathing part of the season summary is the fact that Kahibah have not won a single game on their home turf in 2018. That is a horrifying stat that reflects their 10th-placed finish. It is Old Boy's Day and it's safe to say the players will hear about it from the crowd if they don't perform.

Alarm bells were ringing in the preview above for Thornton but for Southy it's all-out panic. Something has been very off about this team all season and there results have shown it. Whether it's a question of fitness or clinical ability, who knows but there is no doubt that the Gunners did not expect to sit 6th with two games to go. They MUST answer the call or they will be prepping themselves for Mad Monday.

Last week was another frustrating outing as they could only muster a 1-1 draw with Singleton and despite word from the ground describing them as "unlucky at times", they have to find a way to win at Kahibah. These games are typically low-scoring so the Gunners defence needs to aim up. Nine clean sheets in 2016 and only three this season. Defence is one area they need to lock down on Sunday.

Prediction: Kahibah must put excuses aside and perform because finishing the year without a home win will simply not be acceptable given the club's proud history. Tom Butzmann's suspension was believed to be two games so their defence will be missing an vital piece. They need to start well but it's very hard not seeing Southy winning this considering the massive implications riding on the result for them.

My Tip: Kahibah FC 1-2 South Cardiff

Additional Tip: Macca to put one hand on the Golden Boot trophy with one or two goals.

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Under 19's Match of the Round:
Toronto-Awaba (4th) v West Wallsend (3rd)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: WWB 3-0 TAW

A lot of mystery surrounds this week's Match of the Round in 19's. Firstly, this game is absolutely must-win for Toronto ahead of a difficult trip to the AthField next weekend. The Stags' form against the top three sides has been to put it frankly not good enough and the next two weeks' either makes or breaks their finals hopes. Yes the drama two weeks ago cost them dearly but the reality is if they can't beat Westy or Cooks Hill now, they probably wouldn't in finals. It's time for these Stags to rise to the occasion.

Now the mystery in this game comes for the away side. Some thought they must have rested a big name or two with their 3-0 loss to Cooks Hill last weekend but in fact they named quiet a strong squad. So that doesn't do their belief much good ahead of what could be another clash with the Cookers in the playoffs. Westy need a leg-up after last week and will be looking to return to winning ways. But who knows what they may produce on the day.

Prediction: Toronto's hopes are cooked if they lose this game. Yes they have Cooks Hill next week but a win at the AthField just doesn't seem all that likely and really they need to answer their bad form against top sides ASAP. Injuries have hit them but there's no excuses here, this is a must-win game. The result depends on how Westy lineup. If last week's squad, Westy to win.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-3 West Wallsend

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Under 23's:
Toronto-Awaba (11th) v West Wallsend (7th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: WWB 2-1 TAW

Toronto 23's have had the season from hell really and they officially hit rock bottom before the bye with what was the first forfeited fixture this competition has seen for a while. It was unusual considering they'd been using the 17's to boost numbers and they were indeed avaliable on the day but the club appeared to just run out of players. 42 Stags have donned the 23's jersey this year and that tells the story. Fortunately the finish line is close.

West Wallsend head into this one on the back of a very good victory over Cooks Hill last weekend but a lot of thoughts would have been about "what if". What if they had that form every week and managed to produce consistent results. 6 wins, 6 draws, 6 losses, it's been a run of the mill return this season and they'll look to end it in style. After last week, they'll be full of belief.

Prediction: Toronto have lost 14 matches in a row (not counting the forfeit) and that does not bode well for this game. There has been a group of players that have braved the storm all year in this squad and continued to play for the badge and that is commendable. Westy aren't the type to put a cricket score on teams so expecting a comfortable win but not a huge scoreline.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 1-4 West Wallsend

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1st Grade:
Toronto-Awaba (11th) v West Wallsend (4th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: WWB 1-3 TAW

About five years ago West Wallsend were in a very similar spot to Toronto-Awaba and under enormous pressure to find something, anything to keep their ambitions alive. The Stags have endured arguably the worst year they've had in recent memory. Everything that could go wrong has and there'd be a few players just counting down the days until they can put it all behind them.

Attention has turned to next year and as is normally the case rumours are swirling that players might leave and back-room staff might leave meaning 2019 looks a mystery for this proud old club. They should make it but moving into an NPL 2-style system in 2020 looks very doubtful at this current moment. Like West Wallsend in 2014, Toronto need to prove to the powers that be at Northern NSW Football that they have a future in Premier level football.

West Wallsend put their hand up back then and said "we need help" and they managed to band together and here they stand in a very healthy position. But make no mistake, their goal is to end their five year finals drought and really it is all in their hands. Not many were expecting them to beat Cooks Hill but nearly all are expecting them to beat lowly Toronto. If they fail to do so it may all be over.

Westy's game last weekend showed how good their attack can be but highlighted their issues defensively. They're prone to lapses and that's what they cannot afford against a Stags side that although being dead last still have attacking players who can hurt you. If Westy stroll into Lyall Peacock thinking the job is done they may be in for a rude surprise. They need a routine 90-minute performance to build for what looks a mammoth clash with Belswans next weekend.

Prediction: There's a few connections here between the teams and definitely Toronto would love nothing more than to pretty much end Westy's tilt at finals football. The Stags though have been in horrendous form defensively and whilst it's possible they may get one or two goals, they could concede a few in reply. High-scoring affair ahead.

My Tip: Toronto-Awaba 2-6 West Wallsend

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Under 19's:
Wallsend FC (10th) v Cooks Hill United (2nd)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: CHU 6-1 WAL

It isn't good reading to look at Wallsend's form heading into the final two weeks. They've won just one of their past eleven matches and lost their last five in a row. A lot of it has been their own doing with some unfortunate defensive errors and that has been very costly considering their attack hasn't hit more than two goals a game all season. They were embarrassed last time they faced Cooks Hill and definitely their focus will be on a positive start.

Cooks Hill's form is pretty much the opposite of the Reds. Nine wins in the last eleven matches and contrasting to Wallsend, five wins in a row. The Cookers will finish 2nd regardless of results in the last two rounds and are really looking a formidable outfit as they tune up for another finals appearance. They can't afford any complacency against their lower-ranked opponents and it's doubtful there will be any as they are a very focused football team.

Prediction: This could be an absolute mauling based on recent form. If Wallsend serve up the start they did against Westy two weeks ago they could realistically cop double-digits. The Reds need to switch on defensively from the get-go against a CHU team that have plenty of dangerous players going forward. You'd probably get Panama v England odds here and we know what happened there. The score could be anything.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 0-4 Cooks Hill United

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Under 23's:
Wallsend FC (6th) v Cooks Hill United (3rd)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: CHU 2-0 WAL

Wallsend's championship defence in the Under 23's has ultimately come down to this, a clash with a Cooks Hill side that are in the need of a win themselves. For the Reds it hasn't been a bad year by any means but a year where results have not been consistent. Player development has been good with names like Noah George and Dylan Death establishing themselves as consistent senior squad members. Their minds will be set firmly on winning and staying alive in the race for the finals.

Cooks Hill bizarrely have won just one of their last five and have now lost their last three on the bounce. They were once the nearest challenger to the runaway Premiers Thornton but now sit a whopping 15 points behind the Redbacks. It's been alarming form for a team that consider themselves a serious contender and they'll be keen to find some answers this weekend.

Prediction: It's a mystery just what has happened to this Cooks Hill team. Newysports hasn't watched their last two games but it wasn't long ago when they knocked off the ladder-leaders Thornton. Surely they are to wake up from this slumber soon enough and it may be at the expense of Wallsend's season. But, who knows.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 1-1 Cooks Hill United

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
Wallsend FC (5th) v Cooks Hill United (1st)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: CHU 4-1 WAL

If one game could define a team's season, it's this one. Wallsend looked dead and buried last time they played at The Gardens. A 4-1 hiding at the hands of their biggest rivals in West Wallsend left the Red Devils on the brink of missing the top four but then the most dramatic game of the season would ensue at Thornton Park.

Wallsend were 4-1 up at Thornton but the Redbacks came storming back to life to make it 4-4 with only a few minutes to go. Once error was pounced on and Ty Goldsmith scored perhaps the biggest goal of Wallsend's season to win 5-4 and suddenly rocket right back into finals contention. A very valuable three points but definitely also a warning that even a big lead can evaporate. They must step up defensively in this one.

Cooks Hill are the benchmark of the competition and their second-straight NL1 Premiership proves just that. Now Graham Law's side have turned their attention to tuning up for another tilt at winning the Grand Final. They will come into this game with confidence and belief after brushing aside West Wallsend 5-3 last weekend.

But that said, those three conceded goals wouldn't have gone down well with the gaffer and no doubt a defensive focus will be enforced this week as the side can ill-afford to leak multiple goals in the finals. But alas, high-scoring wins is what Cooks Hill have done better than anyone in the last two years so for Wallsend, it's all about keeping them at bay.

Prediction: If last week is anything to go by, goals...goals, goals, goals! Wallsend's defence isn't their strong point nor is it for Cooks Hill so both teams will likely get on the scoresheet but how many is anyone's guess. Cooks Hill should be winning it based on their pure quality across the park and indeed they closed Wallsend down last time. Feel like this'll be the end of the line for the Reds.

My Tip: Wallsend FC 2-5 Cooks Hill United

Additional Tip: Golden Boot battle between Nick Russell and Lee Ashton. Both to score two here.

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YOUTH GAME(s) OF THE WEEK: The key game on Saturday comes in the 17's where Toronto's season is on the line. 5th v 4th against Kahibah and both sides gunning for three valuable points. Sunday doesn't have any clashes between two teams in the finals race but Thornton 15's v Wallsend should be a decent one and let's see what happens in the 14's Premiership race this weekend.

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