Friday, 10 August 2018

PREVIEW: New-FM Round 22 2018





Under 19's Match of the Round:
West Wallsend (3rd) v Belmont-Swansea (5th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: BEL 3-0 WWB

Everything is on the line this Saturday in the 19's as Belswans look to produce the unlikely and secure a finals spot. Their chances will be boosted because it appears likely that West Wallsend will not risk a couple of names sitting on their fifth yellow card, including form goalscorer Josh Knight. Westy are guaranteed third spot so this game is more so a non-event for them but that being said, they won't want to head to finals on the back of three games without a win.

The situation is simple for Belswans, they need to perform. It's possible a draw would be enough considering Toronto's daunting trip to the AthField but they'll want to win this and earn the spot in the top four. That said, if Toronto do upset the Cookers, it's game over for Belswans. There'll be nervous times ahead but the thing that'll boost belief is that they knocked off Westy 3-0 last time they met. 

Prediction: Without bringing in any claims of "throwing the match", West Wallsend are very much unlikely to throw the kitchen sink at this and especially if they find themselves chasing the game late on. Their rise to 3rd came on the back of Josh Knight's inclusion and if he is indeed missing, it takes away a crucial piece of the puzzle. Firmly expecting Belswans to rise to the occasion.

My Tip: West Wallsend 1-2 Belmont-Swansea

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Under 23's:
West Wallsend (7th) v Belmont-Swansea (8th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: BEL 3-1 WWB

This week's previews are mostly a piece on where things went wrong as it's a time of reflection more than anything. For Westy 23's, a vast amount of draws hurt them and one key factor behind their form has been a drop in experience from last season. They lost some very passionate and focused players. They are a fairly decent side and the table reflects that. They'll look to end the year on a high.

Belmont-Swansea have suffered from a fairly chopped and changed squad throughout the season and some weeks were a bit short on numbers which never helps. Again there's more positives coming out of the season then negatives. The young talent coming through is the key thing for the club as the Cooky's, Gazzard's & Matthews' of the world won't be around forever with no disrespect intended to those highly accomplished and experienced players.

Prediction: This game will hopefully be one of the more entertaining "dead-rubbers" of recent weeks. A chance to maybe see some upcoming talent do their thing in a game where both sides can play with freedom knowing the result doesn't really matter in the grand scheme. Thinking a draw is the more probably outcome. Hoping a few goals in it.

My Tip: West Wallsend 2-2 Belmont-Swansea

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1st Grade:
West Wallsend (4th) v Belmont-Swansea (2nd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: BEL 2-1 WWB

This is without a doubt the biggest Round 22 in recent memory and it all surrounds two huge do-or-die fixtures. The first of which is on Saturday and sees West Wallsend reach the final hurdle of their campaign. It feels as though the last few years at the club have led to this moment and a chance for them to enter their first finals series in five long years. With rumours swirling of a coaching change, this could be the swansong for Gary Rowe.

Rumours aside, a lot has been said about how close to extinction these Bluebells came in 2014 and to be hosting double Grand Finalists Belswans on the club's Old Boys' Day with a chance to make history, this is the single biggest game West Wallsend have played in recent memory. Everyone who's ever been anyone at the club should be getting out to this game and turning Wembley into the fortress of old.

Cooks Hill, Belswans, Southy. Those are the three teams Westy wouldn't want to be hosting because in all honesty those are probably the only three teams that wouldn't get overawed by what could be a very intense atmosphere at Johnston Park. The team from Blacksmiths have made back-to-back Grand Finals and know all too well how to succeed in big-time matches. 13 games unbeaten tells a big story.

The big news of the week came early on Wednesday morning when it was confirmed that Mick Stafford will be the Head Coach for Belswans in 2019. The current assistant coach is local and has done a lot of work behind the scenes to help create a community connection. He was there when Brad Paul coached them to the 2016 GF and he was indeed there last year when Josh Rufo did it. Highly-experienced and a big passion for the club. Great appointment!

Prediction: As a neutral it's hard not to be hoping Westy can do this. The thought of Semi Final football at Johnston Park is delightful and it'd be quiet a story for this club to finally claw their way back into the Semi Finals. You wouldn't dare tip Belswans to lose on their current form but maybe a draw. Just one point is enough for Westy to keep the dream alive.

My Tip: West Wallsend 1-1 Belmont-Swansea

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Under 19's:
Cooks Hill United (2nd) v Toronto-Awaba (4th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: TAW 1-5 CHU

The second chapter of a huge day of 19's football sees Cooks Hill look to stick a fork in Toronto. The Cookers will finish 2nd regardless of any scenario this weekend but they aren't a side that will put their feet up and "take the week off". It was a routine win for them at Wallsend last week and that made it five consecutive victories with only two goals conceded in that time. It's ominous form for the Championship contenders.

All eyes will be on Toronto here. Their season is on the line although if Westy beat Belswans it won't matter. That can't be guaranteed and the Stags know it. Toronto 19's have been the side's shining light in the senior ranks and credit must go to the players who have put their best foot forward and indeed coach Shaun Paterson. Patto has had his fair share of negative press but the coach bleeds yellow and blue and would love nothing more than his team to keep the dream alive.

*EDIT: Toronto 23's have forfeited their game meaning the 19's will now have the luxury of knowing the result for Westy v Belswans. It's safe the news will spread as they start their game at 12:30pm.

Prediction: Life must move on from the drama of the Cessnock game for the Stags. And it did as they kept their hopes alive with a late draw against Westy. A draw might not be enough at the AthField. They would have loved this game to be on Sunday and thus having knowledge of what they needed but all they can do is play to win. That said, it's hard to see the Cookers going down at home.

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 3-1 Toronto-Awaba

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Under 23's:
Cooks Hill United (2nd) v Toronto-Awaba (11th)
Last Time They Met: TAW 0-12 CHU

***TORONTO-AWABA HAVE FORFEITED***

*Cooks Hill 23's have now locked in a friendly against the club's ZL1 side which is a positive move as it'll give them a chance to get out of this rut that they've been in and in all honesty will potentially be a tougher test than the depleted Toronto side if the ZL1 boys decide to go for it. Hopefully a friendly but competitive match to kick off proceedings on Old Boy's Day.

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1st Grade:
Cooks Hill United (1st) v Toronto-Awaba (11th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: TAW 1-10 CHU

Results are never a sure thing in football but this is probably as close as it'd come. It's simply a mismatch of sizeable proportions as the double Premiers Cooks Hill United host Wooden Spooners Toronto-Awaba. Two years ago they met on CHU Old Boys' Day and it was an embarrassing day for the hosts as they fell to a defeat. Cue a shake-up, cue Graham Law, cue all these new players and cue becoming the best team in the league.

Since that day in 2016, Cooks Hill have rocketed forward whilst Toronto have undoubtedly gone backwards. For the home side, this is a tune-up for what could be a tough Semi Final next weekend and also a chance to do right by the people that paved the way for these guys to be wearing the black and white stripes. A year ago it was the most famous day in the club's history. It's not as big this time round but it's still a sentimental day.

For the Stags this horrendous season finally comes to a close and with that brings a sigh of relief. It started positively in pre-season but it's been a year where Toronto-Awaba have ultimately hit rock bottom. There's nowhere left to go and definitely work is needed to restore what is a highly-damaged brand and a club that has lost it's identity at times.

Darrel McAllister signing on as Head Coach next season ticks a lot of boxes. He will bring a sense of competitive edge back to the club and with a lot of the behind the scenes things being worked on, McAllister has promised that Toronto will be a better club next year. The only way is up for the sore and sorry Stags and they'll be right onto the planning phase next week.

Prediction: If anything this could be a chance to gauge just the magnitude of the job ahead for Darrel McAllister and company. It's not hard to imagine Toronto being heavily beaten here if the Cookers are at their ruthless best. And in all honesty, it's possible Law will want his side at their competitive best. Russell and Ashton going for the Golden Boot, some blood-hungry Old Boys' on hand to watch and a Stags defence that have conceded 82 goals in 19 games. Good luck!

My Tip: Cooks Hill United 6-0 Toronto-Awaba

Additional Tip: Expect one or two speculators from Lee Ashton and Nick Russell. Both players will likely be given the freedom to go for the Golden Boot.

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

New Lambton 19's were given a second life in the finals race but like the first one they couldn't take it. To lose 5-1 in a do-or-die season-defining match is highly disappointing but it has been a positive season at times. With no potent striker they had to rely on others whilst their two best players left them (Blake McDonnell to Thornton and Hayden Pearce to Eagles' 1st Grade). The majority of the team can play 19's again next year so hopefully the club stay loyal to those that deserve another go and they can continue their development.

As for Wallsend, it's really the same old story. Could of, maybe should of, but didn't. Losing a couple of names to the 23's (Noah George a big one) didn't help but so often this team let themselves down more than anything. It's hard to find a team that's shot themselves in the foot with basic errors as much as this team and to their credit they are content to put their hand up and admit it. It should have been better but life goes on and they'll look to finish on a high.

Prediction: This game is anyone's guess. You'd go New Lambton on ladder position but Wallsend beat them last time they met. What Wallsend you get on the day will determine the result. If they can defend well then they are a good chance of producing the goods. And have a feeling that may be the case.

My Tip: New Lambton 1-2 Wallsend FC

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

Well the top four is decided (can't see Southy overcoming the goal difference) but the Eagles could finish as high as second given results elsewhere. Nonetheless, they need to continue their good form after upsetting ladder leaders Thornton last weekend. Whilst they are others involved, a decent chunk of this team are from last year's 19's Championship squad so there is finals experience involved.

Wallsend's 23's title defence has come to a premature end and really it's not a huge surprise given that form slump in the run-up to the half-way point of the season if memory serves correctly. They just haven't been consistent enough. They've had a few close games where they've fallen short and ultimately that's what has cost them in the end. It's going to be very strange to not have any Wallsend teams in the Senior finals and especially no red and white army on hand for Grand Final day.

Prediction: The 23's competition has been tough to predict all year and remains the same here. Wallsend will want to go out with a victory and on paper have some players that can trouble New Lambton. That said the Eagles are in decent form, especially defensively and will look to play their part on the club's Old Boys' Day. A win here would boost their hopes for the finals.

My Tip: New Lambton 2-1 Wallsend FC

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1st Grade:
New Lambton (9th) v Wallsend FC (6th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: WAL 1-3 NLE

The editor is writing these in a weird order and with only Southy v Thornton 1st Grade to go, this is the last time a "dead rubber" needs to be talked about this season. Thank heavens! New Lambton have managed to make something out of all these latter season games. Their finals hopes have been long gone but again it must be said they they have showed some improvement and potential for 2019 and beyond.

The Eagles took the fight to a desperate Redbacks team last weekend and came close to snatching a huge draw but it wasn't to be on the day. Still, there is a lot to like about this team and with some key recruits in the off-season, it's not hard to imagine them as serious finals contenders. Jim Foley has made a lot of connections and it's likely there may be some new faces come into the team in 2019.

Wallsend on the other hand only had their hopes dashed last weekend but really the damage was done in that Derby Day loss to West Wallsend. Both their games against their biggest rivals were fairly...let's not gloss over it...pathetic. They showed potential to do good things this year but again their consistency has been off and one or two games have really cost them in the end.

The coaching rumour mill has been in overdrive as of late and sources indicate there may be a shake-up at Wallsend with Ben Edwards linked to a role with Broadmeadow Magic. Again, water under the bridge and we'll see what happens but it'll be interesting how player retention goes at Wallsend. They've done alright this year and should look to remain stable to build on it next season.

In terms of a venue, it's obvious the club need to move away from The Gardens if the NPL application is to ever pay off fully. It's yet to be addressed on Newysports but there have been whispers of talks between Wallsend FC and Maryland-Fletcher. Again just rumours but get used to plenty of them in the off-season as the dust settles!

Prediction: It's a big weekend for New Lambton at Alder Park with the club's WPL team capping off their inaugural season with a Semi Final appearance on Saturday and then "Golden Eagles" Day on Sunday for the men. Finishing the year on a high will be the goal for the 1st Grade NL1 team and definitely potential there to do it. Have a feeling Wallsend will get them though.

My Tip: New Lambton 2-3 Wallsend FC

Additional Tip: Ty Goldsmith to go for glory in the Golden Boot race.

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Under 19's:
Cessnock City (9th) v Kahibah FC (1st)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: KAH 1-0 CES

This could be a fairly one-sided match-up given the ladder positions. Cessnock 19's have endured a fairly tough second half of the season and indeed it's obvious that in some areas of the park they just don't have the troops needed. Their 2018 campaign will end on Sunday but there's a question of 2019 already. Safe to expect a change of some players and interesting to see if coach Jason Zechel stays on.

Kahibah stuck firm with Jarrod Gorsuch after an underwhelming season last year and it paid dividends as the coach put in a lot of hours trying to persuade the likes of the McRitchie brothers, Preston Cunningham and Kallum Garbett to give Kahibah a go. For the price of a pie and a coke (upgraded to beer for the older ones) per week, this team have put in a consistent effort all season. Now comes the business end. This is nothing more than a tuning-up chance ahead of the finals.

Prediction: There's a clear gulf in class between the two teams and if that offends anyone at Cessnock than so be it. The Hornets defence has at times been embarrassing though their last three halves of football have been improved as they have stepped up their work rate in defence. They'll need it again here. Typical Kahibah win inbound. No thrills, just reliable football.

My Tip: Cessnock City 0-3 Kahibah FC

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Under 23's:
Cessnock City (3rd) v Kahibah FC (9th)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: KAH 0-3 CES

Just like the 19's, this looks a mismatch but this time the positions are flipped. Cessnock City 23's are heading to the finals and waving the flag for the club this season. They have been superb throughout the second half of the season but have fallen a bit short as of late. A draw with Belswans was followed by a shock draw against Singleton. Confidence needs to return and up against Kahibah, they'll like their chances.

A major "clean-out" is expected through Kahibah's reserves as it simply wasn't good enough this season. The side have been stuck in neutral for a few years but have gone backwards if anything this season. Players that were good previously have had shocking outings at times and really all they can do is look ahead to next year. How many players will be left once the Gorsuch brothers take control of the team is anyone's guess. A select few have impressed and even then not on a consistent basis.

Prediction: There's something very wrong if Cessnock can't win this one on the club's Old Boys' Day. Last weekend against Singleton simply wasn't good enough for a team that occupies 2nd position and they may fail to finish top two if they drop points here. They can't rock up and expect the result to just happen. It needs a good effort and ultimately they have the cattle to do it.

My Tip: Cessnock City 4-0 Kahibah FC

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1st Grade:
Cessnock City (8th) v Kahibah FC (10th)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: KAH 1-1 CES

At the start of the year, this game loomed on the calendar as maybe a chance for Cessnock to stun a top two Kahibah team and secure finals football. Fast forward to now and it hasn't worked out like that, especially for Kahibah! The Hornets will be hosting their Old Boys' Day and fortunately they've restored some respect in the badge and some stability in the culture of the team.

There are still one or two teething issues behind the scenes but it's been a largely positive year for the Hornets. One big aspect off the field has been the ground upgrades and news is that a major re-painting job will see the venue turned black and yellow. Painted dugouts, fences, etc. Results-wise, last week was a let down and they'll want to end their campaign with another victory.

As for Kahibah, injuries were an acceptable excuse in the first half of the campaign but lately their team have just lacked, especially in the backline. Big names like Gumprecht, Leyland, Kepreotes have all had some unreliable moments and goalkeeper Riley Hill will want to put last weekend deep into the memory bank. For a club that built itself on defence over 2015-2017, this year's 43 goals conceded is simply not good enough.

They lack that true inspirational leader in the form of Nick Hartnett. You'd almost say he is the heart and soul of that team and they had that ripped away just minutes into the new campaign. Tom Butzmann has been their best player but has faded as the year passed by and lacked vocal discipline at times. Plenty of questions to be asked when the dust settled. The key one being, is this the final time we see the legend Andre Gumprecht pull on the green and black stripes? He'll coach next year but it could be a playing farewell.

Prediction: Newysports was heading to this one but alas there is more important matters to handle at Southy v Thornton. Best of luck to both teams and hoping the Hornets get a big turn-out for their Old Boys' Day. If Kahibah play the full 90 they are a big chance but they've been suffering some rather costly lapses as of late. Hornets to sting them.

My Tip: Cessnock City 3-2 Kahibah FC

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Under 19's:
South Cardiff (11th) v Thornton Redbacks (7th)
Kickoff: 10:45am
Last Time They Met: THO 3-1 SOU

Last weekend summed up the year for Southy in the 19's. Just not doing enough in attack to take control of a match they were right in and ultimately fading away in the second half. Again this is one of those teams that lost some damn good players to the 23's and they pay the price of being a club that promotes development. There has been some improvement across the season and all they can do now is plan to go again for next year with a few of the 17's promoted up.

Thornton picked up 7 points in the 1st half of the year and 14 points in the second. It's safe to say they are an improved outfit and nothing showed it more than when they brushed aside New Lambton 5-1 last weekend. The Redbacks will have an overbearing feeling of "what if" about their campaign but there's a lot to like about this team and hopefully a few stay on depending on ages and what not. Some may indeed go to 23's.

Prediction: It'd be nice to see Southy end the year on a high and pick up their second win of the year but Thornton looked the goods last weekend and will come into their final game full of confidence. Southy need to find a way to score because it's unlikely they'll keep their opponents out. Potentially, Thornton to cruise home.

My Tip: South Cardiff 0-3 Thornton Redbacks

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Under 23's Match of the Round:
South Cardiff (5th) v Thornton Redbacks (1st)
Kickoff: 12:30pm
Last Time They Met: THO 4-0 SOU

Mathematically speaking Southy can still achieve the impossible but here's a scenario. If New Lambton are flogged 6-0 by Wallsend, Southy would still need to put nine past Thornton. Barring a case of the Redbacks standing aside and letting the Gunners win 15-0 or so, it just isn't going to happen. Southy simply left their run too late. They are a better side than Cooks Hill. We'll put that out there.

Thornton's shock loss to New Lambton pretty much buried the Gunners but none of that will be on their minds. Whilst they had their entire backline out, coach Scott Winslade was not happy with the result and didn't want to make excuses. The players Thornton fielded were still good enough for a result and didn't get the job done. A re-assessment will be done and they'll be keen to get into top form ahead of finals.

*EDIT: Toronto's forfeit has ramifications here too as it means Jack Stoneman can overtake Emerson Augey if he scores twice in this game. Will he play and will he score? Find out Sunday but he now knows what's needed to claim the elusive Golden Boot.

Prediction: It's a story of what could have been for Southy. They'd be easily in the top four if Zach Tapp had of been avaliable all season. He has been excellent since returning and the young brigade have improved as the season has passed. This on paper should be a Redbacks win and it'll be interesting to see if Jack Stoneman returns from a head knock and goes for glory in the Golden Boot race.

My Tip: South Cardiff 1-3 Thornton Redbacks

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1st Grade Match of the Round:
South Cardiff (5th) v Thornton Redbacks (3rd)
Kickoff: 2:30pm
Last Time They Met: THO 2-2 SOU

It's hard to remember a bigger match in the final round then this. Yes last year's Premiership race went down to the wire but this is something else entirely. It's make or break for the finals hopes of South Cardiff and potentially Thornton. The scenario is easy for Southy, they have to win. Anything less than three points and it's all over red rover for the Fajkovic's and their team.

It's been obvious that Southy have not played to their potential week in week out this season and it shows with their spot on the table. Even last week against Kahibah they somehow found a way to get into a dogfight when it looked like they'd cruise home after three goals in five minutes or thereabouts to come back from 1-0 down to 3-1 up. This is the single biggest match Southy have played since being relegated. It's all-or-nothing for them.

The situation is not so clear for Thornton. They could indeed go through even with a loss and they'll know a lot more about what's needed once West Wallsend play on Saturday. If Westy get a result over Belswans, then obviously this game becomes a must not lose for the Redbacks. A draw will be good enough for them but ultimately they will want to win.

Many have critiqued the form of what was arguably the best team in the competition earlier this season, in particular when Cooks Hill dropped off a little with Graham Law overseas. The inexperience and potentially complacency has shown and in all honesty, even last week's breakthrough win was not a huge selling point. This will be a pressure cooker game for the Redbacks and it's time to see what they're truly made of in 2018.

Prediction: This could be one of the all-time Northern League One games. The Westy result will add some more drama whatever that may be but this on paper just looks an amazing match-up. The last game was dramatic and saw Nathan McAllister sink his old side with two goals. The Golden Boot leader will look to do it all again. Get to Ulinga as this will be something. As for the result, Southy to get the job done and maybe just maybe send Thornton packing.

My Tip: South Cardiff 2-1 Thornton Redbacks

Additional Tip: Macca to be man-marked but watch out for Troy Runge. Jeez he was potent last week!

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YOUTH GAME(s) OF THE WEEK: The 17's Premiership could be decided if Cooks Hill knock off Wallsend on Sunday whilst it'll be an intriguing 15's clash when South Cardiff travel to Johnston Park. The New Lambton games v Toronto are apparently staggered on Friday night and Saturday morning whilst Belswans 14's will experience their first taste of the league's longest road trip. No doubt some frustrated parents about a Singo trip!


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