West Wallsend (9th) v Thornton Redbacks (4th)
Some teams will try to deflect pressure at this time of the season but West Wallsend are in a big spot of bother after a lacklustre start to the season. The draw has done them no favours but they'd believe they can match it with and possibly beat the likes of Belswans and Cooks Hill. Sitting 9th will not sit well with many of the players and they'll be keen to get things back on track quickly.
The Bluebells have three home games in the next week with top four contenders Thornton, the resurgent Toronto and 3rd-placed Singleton all to visit in the next eight days. You'd probably expect two out of three wins to be a pass mark given where they sit on the table so that increases the pressure. They've got to start taking their chances or they will linger in the lower half if other teams keep improving.
Thornton faced a real turning point sort of game last weekend when they traveled to Kahibah. The Redbacks have made a knack of finding it tough to beat the Rams even when Kahibah were going through their struggles last year. And again that notion proved to be true as the Redbacks went from 2-0 up to 3-2 down, albeit with two penalties being called against them.
A lot of teams would have fallen apart after conceding three quick second half goals but intense character was shown as Thornton came roaring back to win it 4-3. These are the sort of wins that can define a successful season in the long-run and it no doubt boosted their self-belief that they can find a way to win from any situation. Another meeting with their Semi Final rivals will surely have the Redbacks fired up.
Prediction: This is poised to be a crucial game for both teams. Another loss for Westy will heap the pressure right back on them whilst a win could lift them above Thornton into 4th place. The Redbacks are poised to move one point behind 2nd-placed Belswans with a game in hand. It's a vital midweek clash and it could go either way. Going the Redbacks though.
My Tip: West Wallsend 2-3 Thornton Redbacks
The Inside Word: Expect the Bluebells to be keeping tabs on Jake Millsteed. The playmaker will no doubt be a headache for the defenders.
|Last year's Grand Finalists are under increasing pressure to get into winning form.|
Cooks Hill United (2nd) v Cessnock City (8th)
The majority of Cooks Hill's 19's team is brand new to the club or at least that grade and last week they got their first taste of the classic West Wallsend physicality and mindgames. It was at times surprising to see the normally reserved Cookers side become vocal and on occassions cost themselves with silly errors that resulting in time being wasted. Lessons learnt there.
It was a thrilling match in which the passion shown was on another level to your average 19's game but it would have taken a lot out of the team in black and white. A short turn-around is not easy but with this weekend being a bye it's safe to expect them to put in their best effort on Wednesday night. They'll be hoping last week was simply a blip on the radar.
Cessnock aren't exactly a terrible side, at least when compared to those a little lower on the table but they're probably not enjoying sitting in 8th position. Promotions to higher grades have left them a little short in attack with Zac Kronholm and Ethan Garrington bouncing up to 23's and indeed 1st Grade at times.
Attack seemed to be where this team were lacking the most against West Wallsend. Ben Fuenzalida's goal against the run of play was impressive but for the large majority they simply didn't do enough and eventually the scoreline turned in the second half. They've got to find a way to put the pressure onto the scoreboard early.
Prediction: The Hornets held the Bluebells to a decent score and of course Westy then beat Cooks Hill but Newysports is going against those stats and tipping a heavy loss for the visitors. Cooks Hill's multi-layered attack is the best in the competition and if the home side can find the target they could very well set an impressive example. This could be more of a venting session after the disappointing result on the weekend.
My Tip: Cooks Hill United 6-0 Cessnock City
The Inside Word: Sean Crook could have had a hat-trick on the weekend with better luck. If he can find the target he'll be hard to stop. Lock him in for three goals.
|Cooper Floyer-Kell and the Cookers will be nursing some bumps and bruises from the Westy game.|
Cooks Hill United (1st) v Cessnock City (4th)
After Cooks Hill were scoring goals for fun against Singleton and Toronto, it was a little disappointing as a neutral to not see them hit their best heights against Westy last week. Still, the 4-1 win over the Bluebells was very comfortable and they were never under any significant pressure, definitely not with Luke Muller putting on a defensive masterclass against the potent Josh Knight.
He is always a talking point on Newysports but Emerson Augey's goal streak came to a halt last week which of course was an interesting note. But a teammate took the limelight instead with Jonah Kinnavong highly impressive in attack and scoring a wonderful goal to get proceedings underway against West Wallsend. It's that multi-dimensional attack that is truly the main cause of concern for Cooks Hill's opponents.
Cessnock's start to the season has been impressive, especially when compared to that of the 1st Grade squad. Newysports thought that with Kyle Gillis, Zac Kronholm, Ben Priest and Ethan Garrington that the 23's Hornets were the club's most impressive attacking lineup, at least in the senior ranks. Now with a couple of players leaving it's probably safe to expect some of them to get a crack in 1st Grade.
It was a game of two halves when Cessnock hosted West Wallsend two weeks ago and with five goals conceded in four games, it's definitely not a bad return but it's probably one or two more than what the likes of Skip O'Hearn and co. would have liked. They let the door swing open against Singleton and Westy and can't afford to give Cooks Hill a sniff. It'll need to be their best defensive display to date if they are to leave with anything.
Prediction: This Cooks Hill 23's team would beat Cessnock 1st Grade. That's how solid this team has been. They are players who eclipse the depth at other clubs and the results have proven that so far after five games. They'll endure a tricky test against a 4th-placed Cessnock but they look a class above all other 23's teams.
My Tip: Cooks Hill United 3-0 Cessnock City
|Luke Muller's defensive effort on the weekend was absolutely superb for the Cookers.|
Cooks Hill United (1st) v Cessnock City (11th)
Well it's first vs last and history says that it normally only goes one way. Graham Law is an expert at keeping his side grounded and the Cookers will know all too well that a slip-up tonight will open the door for Belswans to possibly claw back to within a win of top spot. This game caps off a six-game home stay before the Easter weekend bye and could cap off the perfect start.
As mentioned a few times, the Cookers aren't exactly blowing teams off the park with large scorelines but their ability to control a match is just too much for some of the chasing pack. West Wallsend learnt that on the weekend and ultimately the Premiers will be hoping to do the same to Cessnock. If Cooks Hill play well enough they should be winning this, everybody is probably thinking that same way.
Cessnock returned to last place after Toronto's stunning upset of Belswans and they'll look at that as inspiration for what would be their greatest victory in a few years. The Hornets have never beaten Cooks Hill even during the formative years where the Cookers struggled at times under Warren Spinks and Blake Glennie. The team in black and white have always had the wood over those in yellow and black.
Another Head Coach change saw Arthur Hodgetts depart the club and Lino Gatti return after leading the Hornets in 2017. That's the fifth coach change in four years and when you factor in the entire committee shake-up this past off-season, the Hornets are a club that have been through more changes than a lot of others. Losing Klaudon Ahmataj and Lachlan Hodgetts takes away from their attack but in all honest they weren't fitting the system. It's time for new blood and hopefully it works, but maybe not an instant result.
Prediction: This is a cauldron of a game for the Hornets. No-one is giving them a chance which will suit some of the players perfectly. Anything but a Cooks Hill win would be a surprise and a Cessnock victory would be not just the upset of this season but perhaps the greatest upset in the last five years of this competition. Some will expect a landslide but the Cookers don't seem to be scoring for fun yet.
My Tip: Cooks Hill United 3-0 Cessnock City
The Inside Word: It could be Kyle Gillis who gets the first chance to lead the new-look attacking line for Cessnock. He's got three goals in the 23's so far this season.
|How will Cessnock react after yet another Head Coach change?|