Thursday, 18 April 2019

PREVIEW: New-FM Round 7 2019

Under 19's Match of the Round:
West Wallsend (2nd) v Toronto-Awaba (3rd)
Kickoff: 3:00pm

The Bluebells were on top of the table at the end of last round but Cooks Hill won their catch-up game to retain that spot. Still, the defending Champions can wrestle it back if they win this week's Match of the Round. Westy produced a performance to remember last weekend but there's a need to keep that intensity and belief ticking over on a week by week basis.

Losing the skipper Lachlan Coombes to a suspension takes away more than what most people would realise. His leadership and effort in the midfield has been a key piece of their success not just this year but last. The attack is still capable of scoring more which will be something they'll be trying to improve on when they clash with the Stags.

The pressure is on Toronto heading into this game. They did well to overcome Belswans last week with key players like Arbi Watt (promoted to 1st Grade) and Tom Appleby not in the squad. The skipper Jasper Offen suffered a knee injury and will be under an injury cloud which means they'll be tested again.

Toronto fell short against Cooks Hill a couple of weeks ago but a win here would fire them above the Champions into outright second spot and equal first. There's no harm in the Stags losing as it's a long season and they're in a very healthy position but if they can pull off a victory they can be thrown into the conversation with CHU and Westy as the top contenders. 

Prediction: The Stags will be there or thereabouts for the rest of the season but still look a little off the pace of the top two teams. Potentially heading into the game understrength doesn't help their cause either. Can see Westy winning this one and moving to outright 1st place.

My Tip: West Wallsend 4-1 Toronto-Awaba

The Inside Word: Replacing Lachlan Coombes will be tricky. Perhaps Bailey Cooper an outside chance to slot in to CDM if he is fit enough to play the full 80.

Jacob Gallagher and the Stags will be in for a very tricky battle against Westy.


Under 23's:
West Wallsend (8th) v Toronto-Awaba (9th)
Kickoff: 4:45pm

Looking at the table and given it's now Round 7, this is a fairly crucial game for both these teams heading into the middle portion of the season. West Wallsend have found themselves in eighth after a fairly disappointing start to the year which was compounded with a loss to Cooks Hill last weekend. One win in the first five is not reflective of where the Bluebells aim to be and they'll know that.

The drama between Kyle Clarke and the coaching staff was a flash-point to say the least and has seen the former captain seemingly frozen out of the squad. There's no link between that and the form slump but it doesn't exactly help team morale. Again looking at the ladder, the Bluebells just aren't scoring enough in the 23's to help counter their defensive woes.

Toronto were seeing their season spiral out of control but turned a corner with a hard-fought result at Blacksmiths last weekend. The 23's team is a far better one on paper in 2019 and certainly they'll be hoping to start patching together some victories. It's a tight competition and a couple of wins on the bounce could certainly lift them into top four contention.

Team belief would have been boosted with that result last week and they'd be feeling inspired after watching the magnificent 1st Grade victory. The Stags enjoyed one of their best days in a long time last weekend but alas it's a tough trip to a hostile Johnston Park that awaits. A loss for either team would leave them lingering.

Prediction: There's a real temptation to go out on a limb and tip the Stags to get all three points. After last week they'll be feeling confident of their chances but just feeling unsure it'll happen. Therefore going to toe the neutral ground and tip the draw but wouldn't be surprising to see the three points go to either team. A very interesting battle indeed.

My Tip: West Wallsend 2-2 Toronto-Awaba

Westy will be very happy to have seen the back of Cooks Hill after a tough outing last week.


1st Grade:
West Wallsend (5th) v Toronto-Awaba (9th)
Kickoff: 6:30pm

The script for this game has certainly changed over the last week. Both teams have picked up big wins to perhaps give them hope of climbing towards the top four. West Wallsend's result on Tuesday against Thornton certainly wasn't perfect but it was a much-needed 2-0 win to relieve some pressure and ultimately turn the pressure now onto those teams in the top four.

It's such a tight competition that three points hoisted the Bluebells from 10th to equal 4th and with back-to-back home games on Friday and next Wednesday (v Singleton), they could be poised to cement their spot inside the top four. The skipper Jarrod Olivieri will miss this one through suspension which is a certainly a big out but the Bluebells will be quietly confident of a big Good Friday victory.

On the other side of the ledger is a Toronto side that caught everyone off guard with their spectacular upset of Belmont-Swansea last weekend. The Stags have enjoyed some success at Blacksmiths before but this one was on another level as they took down the defending champions and picked up their first victory under Darrel McAllister's guidance.

The next two weeks are vital for the Stags. They can prove themselves with away games against Westy and Thornton before the bye. Toronto will want to show that last week's win was not just a one off positive result. Again it's a very tight competition so one or two wins on the bounce can certainly take a team into the top four.

Prediction: The Stags were given credit by a few sources last week and most notably Mick Stafford. They fought very hard and they'll need to do the same again. West Wallsend will be confident after their midweek win but this is a very tricky one to call. Feel as though the Bluebells are starting to find their form so will stick with them for a tip.

My Tip: West Wallsend 3-1 Toronto-Awaba

The Inside Word: The result will hinder on how each team take their chances. Westy haven't had the best of luck in the attacking third.

19's Stags player Arbi Watt's recent form has seen him handed a chance to play with the 1st Grade side.


Under 19's:
Singleton Strikers (10th) v South Cardiff (5th)
Kickoff: 3:15pm

The less said about Singleton's form in 19's and indeed 23's is probably the better with the Strikers finding themselves struggling in both grades. Newysports will watch the 19's play for the first time since their trip to Cessnock and given how things have gone you could argue that they're in an even worse spot now than they were then.

With four games played, the Strikers are still yet to have scored a goal and have conceded 18 but due to Thornton's slow start, they sit one goal above the Redbacks on differential. That could all change here unless Singo find a way to stem the bleeding. It's hard to pull positives out of thin air to put in this paragraph but here's hoping the positives may be written this Friday.

Southy make the trip up the Hunter Expressway in need of a win after last week's underwhelming loss to New Lambton and their scoreless draw with Belswans before that. Again factoring the Kahibah result being a draw on the day and the Gunners are now winless since the opening round.

South Cardiff haven't been playing terribly and have managed to get into decent areas but what they are sorely missing is some composure in the final third and more importantly some confidence in front of goals. They had good momentum going against New Lambton in the second half but were unable to make it count on the scoreboard.

Prediction: Poor old Singo are in a hole that they might not be getting out of anytime soon. Wallsend used the game last week to fine-tune their attack and it wouldn't surprise to see Southy do the same. If the Gunners can't fire and slip up in any way then you can probably cross them off of being on that upper echelon of the 19's comp.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 0-6 South Cardiff

Josh Allen is one of the Gunners' mainstays in the 19's and is a key part of their midfield.


Under 23's:
Singleton Strikers (11th) v South Cardiff (6th)
Kickoff: 5:00pm

Where do you start when talking about Singleton 23's. Newysports can normally pull positives for most teams but there just isn't much doing for the Strikers in either of the lower senior grades. The 23's had that quality performance at Turner Park where they lost 3-2 but in their three other matches they haven't scored and have conceded 26 goals.

After being spared the wooden spoon due to Toronto's struggles last season, the Strikers are on track for a record-breaking poor season. It's near headache-inducing to look at their results over the last year or so and here's hoping it can get better. Though after letting reporter turned footballer Quentin Conners score twice, it's safe to say it can't get worse! (We have to have laughs in these situations).

South Cardiff were comfortable winners over New Lambton last week but would have felt the 3-0 scoreline perhaps didn't truly reflect the chances they created. They would like to really get their attacking belief together and with the likes of Zac Tapp, James Wootton, Cameron Utiger and Jayden Carmody, this could be a landslide.

The toughest test for Steve Blunt will be to have his side grounded heading into this game. They'll know Singleton's record but they can ill-afford to head into the game without a professional and competitive attitude. They may get a result whilst "taking the piss" so to speak but if they put their best foot forward they could really make positive inroads on their goal differential.

Prediction: The Strikers have somehow dug themselves into a hole that is getting deeper by the week. There were hopes that the depth would be stronger but now that cricket has ended it doesn't appear that things are improving. Southy if they are serious should win and win well. Newysports is stopping the kind tips this week and going with an old-fashioned Good Friday flogging, except Singleton won't rise again on Sunday.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 0-8 South Cardiff

Cameron Utiger and Jayden Carmody are just two of the players who will look to hurt Singo.


1st Grade Match of the Round:
Singleton Strikers (3rd) v South Cardiff (4th)
Kickoff: 6:45pm

Newysports isn't too excited about the prospect of seeing the 19's and 23's games which could be very one-sided but the 1st Grade fixture under lights at Howe Park will surely serve up a Good Friday feast. Singleton are coming off a win last weekend and have flown under the radar a little to move into 3rd place. Certainly not a lot of talk about them over the first few weeks but that may change.

The Strikers have notably not played finals football since 2004 and haven't hosted a finals match in Singleton since before the turn of the century. There's a long way to go but it's safe to say this team is adamant on breaking the long-standing drought and they've started reasonably well and most importantly with improvement in the tank to build on. Depth is a key concern given the 23's and 19's woes but the 1st Graders are going alright.

Newysports expected South Cardiff to bounce back soon enough from a couple of uncharacteristic results and they did just that with a hard-fought 3-1 win over New Lambton last weekend. Certainly it wasn't the most dominate victory they'll have this year with a few shaky moments after conceding in the second half. 

Dino Fajkovic's double last week sees him building some confidence in front of goal which should worry the rest of the league and further back their defence were a lot more convincing against New Lambton than they were against Belswans. There's too much quality in this lineup to not be heavily involved in the top four calculations and they'll be hoping to make it back to back wins and climb above Singo.

Prediction: This is a very intrigiung match. Newysports has only seen Singo once in pre-season and at Cessnock in Round 2 so to say they're flying under the radar is an understatement. On the flip side, this will be the fifth-straight Southy game covered by Newysports and the Gunners are looking formidable again. It's tough to call but thinking Southy.

My Tip: Singleton Strikers 1-2 South Cardiff

The Inside Word: Dino Fajkovic is getting into the right areas and if he can hit the target he'll be a serious Golden Boot contender this year.

Jackson Cox was one of the three goalscorers in Singo's big return to Howe Park last week.


Under 19's:
New Lambton (4th) v Kahibah FC (7th)
Kickoff: 1:00pm

The 19's competition has broken into different levels. Cooks Hill and Westy are in a league of their own at this stage with Toronto a little lower and New Lambton alongside. The Eagles have a side that can definitely cause some trouble for the big dogs and proved it with a solid first half at Ulinga last weekend. Although their second half performance left a lot to be desired.

It's a talented side but you can't forget to factor in that multiple players are still new to the 19's level. Alex McConnell, Jed Grant, Jayden Pryor, Jacob Brain and Angus Gow have all stepped up and are still crafting themselves as regular 19's players. Fortunately they have solid defenders Marcus Morris & Aidan Galvin as well as NPL experience in the form of Pat Nolan and Jasper Burley. This is a very good team on paper and they'll likely be there come late August.

Kahibah had looked to have turned a corner when they downed Belswans in convincing fashion but they were brought down a peg with a very disappointing performance against last placed Thornton. The Rams return to Kahibah Oval didn't go as planned and they were very lucky to leave that game with a victory after allowing the Redbacks to get back into the match.

Now they're in a tricky spot facing a difficult trip to Alder Park where the Eagles won 4-0 against Wallsend last time out. The bottom half of the table seem to be below the standard of those higher up but this game could be a catalyst for Kahibah's season. Fun fact: the last time the Rams 19's visited Alder Park they were crowned Premiers. Not the same scenario this time round.

Prediction: New Lambton are one of the more entertaining sides to watch when they're at the best and they'll be hopeful to improve on last week's second half. Kahibah enter as the underdogs and are still finding it tough to address their attacking shortcomings. Six goals (technically seven) so far is one of the poorer returns. If they play like last week it could get tough.

My Tip: New Lambton 3-1 Kahibah FC

The Inside Word: Kahibah's fullbacks will face their toughest test yet. New Lambton enjoy spreading the play wide and could do so on Saturday.

The Eagles' key midfielder Pat Nolan will come against his former club when Kahibah arrive at Alder Park.


Under 23's:
New Lambton (7th) v Kahibah FC (3rd)
Kickoff: 2:45pm

It wasn't all that long ago that New Lambton capped off a superb second half of the season to appear in the 2018 Grand Final but at the moment that feels like a distant memory. The team despite having a strong lineup on paper have been unable to hit their straps and are now sliding slowly down the league table. 7th position is where they currently occupy but it could be 8th by the time Saturday arrives.

The defensive output last weekend was pretty poor compared to usual as they went down 3-0 in an underwhelming display against South Cardiff. It was noted that the keeper Ryan Fuller had a 21st party the night before the game so perhaps that explains why this team looked under the weather. That aside, three goals scored in five outings is a worrying record for a team that boosts an impressive attack. Something has to change.

Kahibah sit in 3rd position and their opening game loss to Southy will feel like a fair while ago now. Mitch Gorsuch's side were impressive against Toronto-Awaba and Belmont-Swansea but toiled in a tricky game with Thornton last week. Yes they were more than fortunate to leave with all three points but they won't care much about how the win was attained.

It's a shame we have to wait so long for the Wallsend v Kahibah game as that'd be a proving ground for the Rams but their schedule coming up isn't easy. Okay Singleton isn't exactly a daunting task but an away trip to Cessnock and hosting Cooks Hill certainly is a tough two games. They'll look to keep their form ticking over at Alder Park and perhaps try to do it in a more convincing fashion than last week.

Prediction: The Eagles seem to be missing the experience of Peter Juchniewicz and the overall defensive quality of Ben Prangemeire in 2019 but Dan Luther has put his best forward to help this team. Kahibah have that sort of input in Andre Gumprecht and Rob Gorsevski but importantly the Rams also have an attack that has been firing.

My Tip: New Lambton 1-4 Kahibah FC

New Lambton 23's will be under pressure to bounce back from a poor outing last week.


1st Grade:
New Lambton (7th) v Kahibah FC (8th)
Kickoff: 4:30pm

Nothing sums up the tightness of the competition than this game. It was only a week or two ago that both teams were hovering around the top four but they both lost last weekend to suffer a setback. New Lambton's performance against South Cardiff was pretty lacklustre at times given their potential quality and given they also lost to Wallsend, it's safe to say that they'll be gunning to avoid a third-straight defeat.

Better composure will be a key focus given the way their defence gave away possession easily in transition. The Eagles couldn't settle into the game against South Cardiff so their first twenty minutes here will be crucial to their chances of a result. Lachlan Hodgetts' debut goal was a standout moment last week but ultimately their attack needs to do a little more than what they did at Ulinga.

Kahibah's decision to move Old Boy's Day to the first home game certainly helped lively up the home support a little bit but ultimately it was yet another loss at Kahibah Oval for the Rams who have now not won on home turf since Round 22 2017. Their away form hasn't been as bad and they'll carry that knowledge to Alder Park where they always face a tricky test.

Last week's match was a topsy turvy affair with Kahibah coming from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 and then go on to lose 4-3. Certainly an emotional rollercoaster of a game and the Rams were very disappointed not to get anything out of it. They've shown a lot of fight and hunger so far this year so expect that to continue as they and a seemingly endless group of teams battle it out to try and move into the top four.

Prediction: The Eagles won what was essentially a dead rubber when these sides last met but alas this game can fire either team right back into the mix with a crucial three points. Kahibah's shown a lot of ticker so far in 2019 but after a stirring defensive display at Belswans, they let themselves down in that area last week. If they can plug the holes they'll stand a chance. A very even match up.

My Tip: New Lambton 2-2 Kahibah FC

The Inside Word: Both teams have a similar attacking style that could cancel each other out. Maybe expect the wide-men to try and drag their fullbacks out to create space.

Heath Kepreotes will need to help rally the Kahibah defence after conceding four last week.


Under 19's:
Thornton Redbacks (11th) v Belmont-Swansea (9th)
Kickoff: 3:15pm

Newysports wasn't expecting much at all from the Thornton 19's last weekend. Firmly expected the Redbacks to play a "Singo-like" card and just be there to boost the goal difference. Was pleasantly surprised though to see the 11th-placed side warm into the game and force their way back into it, albeit against some poor Kahibah defending.

Now there's not much chance of Thornton beating the likes of Cooks Hill, Westy and co. as they are on another level but this game is one that Thornton could very well get something out of. Their attack still has some question marks around it but they seem to be a little further ahead on the team development phase than fellow lower-table side Singleton.

Belmont-Swansea went down fairly disappointingly to an under-strength Toronto side last weekend which was another setback for a team that has been hit harder with injury than any other senior NL1 team and one that is now starting to rack up the losses. Belswans are winless through five and barring a miracle will finish the season as also-rans.

This game could very well shape the next 15 weeks for the boys from Blacksmiths. If they can't beat a team sitting 11th well there's not a lot of hope. They need to try and find the spirit and energy that saw them come roaring back from certain defeat in the season opener. They'll be itching for a victory to get things in motion.

Prediction: These lower-table games are always difficult to predict as it could go either way. Belswans probably have the better side on paper but that hasn't done much for them so far this season. Thornton are getting their affairs in order and will hopefully improve but can't see them winning this. Belswans should win it but wouldn't be surprised with a draw either.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 0-2 Belmont-Swansea

The Inside Word: If Belswans lose this one you can almost break out the red pen and draw a line through their top four aspirations.

Dylan Delaporte's efforts in the first half kept the scoreline in check/


Under 23's:
Thornton Redbacks (10th) v Belmont-Swansea (5th)
Kickoff: 5:00pm

Times are very tough at the moment for Thornton 23's. They've found themselves in the worst patch of form during their time under Scott Winslade's guidance and the coach himself was left fuming after an officiating call again cost them dearly against Kahibah last weekend. These guys are due for a change of luck so hopefully the football will do the talking and there'll be no controversy to try and overcome.

Admittedly last week probably lacked a little in the attacking department where they're normally so solid. Only Singleton have scored less goals in the 23's competition and for the defending Premiers that is a horrific stat. Cooks Hill are merely a blip up ahead with a seventeen point lead but a win here will lift the Redbacks a little and get them back on track to climb to where they believe they rightfully belong.

Belmont-Swansea occupy 5th position but are still working hard to prove themselves as a solid 23's unit. Their effort against Kahibah was severely underwhelming and then they were held to a point by Toronto last weekend. They conceded just once in the first three games but have now let in seven goals over their last two matches. That's where it's all gone wrong.

With a fairly youngish defence they are probably missing that key experienced head. Isaac Reeves last season comes to mind as an example of the sort of player they could use in that area. Going forward they're certainly got potential for goals but they'll need to address the defensive woes, especially against the desperate reigning Premiers.

Prediction: Thornton are too good a team to continue this form slump. Eventually they're going to click into winning form. They won't match the heights of last year but they can definitely be around the chasing pack come the business end and what better time to sort out the form slump than by winning their first home game.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 3-2 Belmont-Swansea

Scott Winslade has had to work hard at keeping things positive after a run of bad luck.


1st Grade:
Thornton Redbacks (6th) v Belmont-Swansea (2nd)
Kickoff: 6:45pm

The Redbacks sit rooted in the middle of the table after two wins and two losses from their opening four games. They managed to back their win over Wallsend up with a dramatic 4-3 win over Kahibah but alas that game did show some signs that the Redbacks might be a little fragile in defence. West Wallsend added more pressure onto them with a 2-0 midweek win.

When you compare this year to last so far there's been a big difference. At this point last season the Redbacks were unbeaten, had only let in four goals and had flogged Westy and beaten Cooks Hill and Belswans. They will be hoping that a return to "the Park" will bring a change in fortunes and a better run of form. They've got the capabilities to be doing better than what they've been doing so far this year.

Belmont-Swansea's impressive start to the season had a few eyebrows raised but they have been brought back towards the chasing pack by a dramatic late draw with Kahibah and a shocking loss to last year's wooden spooners Toronto. A loss here would leave them eight points behind ladder leaders Cooks Hill.

There's absolutely no need to panic as the Champions have a very strong squad with some key experienced heads who will help get them back in the winners' circle soon enough. But the competitive nature of this club will be feeling a bit dented and they'll know that three points is a must to keep in touch with Cooks Hill. Expect a very determined Belswans side.

Prediction: This is another very intriguing game (saying that a lot so far this year!). The pressure is seemingly on both to perform and with Thornton's defence leakier than normal (11 goals in four games), they'll be focused at stopping the visitors. Belswans in this pundit's eyes are too good to lose back to back games. Expecting them to bounce back.

My Tip: Thornton Redbacks 2-3 Belmont-Swansea

The Inside Word: Belswans' normally rock solid defence have conceded three times in the last 140 minutes of football. That's an area they'll look to fix.

Belswans' skipper Corey Wilson loves the big games. This is certainly a test for the Champions.


Under 19's:
Cessnock City (8th) v Wallsend FC (5th)
Kickoff: 2:15pm

Cessnock City 19's coach Brad York praised his side during pre-season and was hopeful they could improve on last year and perform well in a grade where the Hornets have struggled for a few years. Wednesday night's loss to Cooks Hill showed a lot of the quality that Cessnock can give. Granted it didn't last the full 80 minutes but there's foundation to build on.

This is a far more settled team than last season and dare we say a better ran team (that's going to go down well...) than that of last year. Bowen Schmidt's role as captain has seen him take a step up in vocal leadership and he was urging his team on in the CHU game. It wasn't to be though. Further forward, Zac Kronholm continued his wonderful season (although he may be promoted this Sunday) and Callan McNamara wasn't too bad either.

Wallsend's attack has been decent this season but they needed to boost their goal difference and did just that with a 6-0 smashing of Singleton last weekend. Cody Faulks has certainly taken a step up in front of goals with four goals in his last three matches. He'll be itching to get some more against Cessnock and stake a claim in the 19's Golden Boot tally.

Defensively nine goals in five games isn't an ideal return but four of those came against New Lambton. The Red Devils have so far got the best of teams lower than them on the table and that's why they occupy 5th position. It's games like this that they'll want to win so they can build form before their next two games which come at home against Cooks Hill and West Wallsend.

Prediction: This could turn out to be a really intriguing game given how important it is for both sides. Cessnock will be believing they can start climbing the table after the CHU performance whilst Wallsend would love another win before they face the top two teams. Going an unusual prediction, Cessnock to win if Zac Kronholm starts but Wallsend to win if he doesn't. Is that technically allowed as a tip?

My Tip: Cessnock City 2-1 Wallsend FC

The Inside Word: Cessnock keeper Link Bushell suffered a case of the "wobble's" midweek. He'll be hoping for a more settled and routine performance.

Zac Kronholm is arguably the best player aged under 19 at the Hornets so far this season.


Under 23's Match of the Round:
Cessnock City (4th) v Wallsend FC (2nd)
Kickoff: 4:00pm

Well this one looks to be interesting given where the two teams sit on the table. Cessnock were in action at the AthField last night and unsurprisingly they fell short against the ridiculously good Cooks Hill side. The Hornets know they need to put that behind them and simply move on but it'll be tricky if Angus Bland can't recover from an ankle injury as he looked a key player in transition for them.

Cessnock have won three home games on the bounce so that has to be factored in because this team seem to thrive on playing at Turner Park. And of course with Lino Gatti's arrival (or re-arrival), there's a doorway to 1st Grade minutes if the players can perform. The likes of Ben Priest and Matt Rees come to mind as two who can definitely try to put their hand up.

Wallsend's start to the season has been brilliant. They've shown they are prepared to work very hard for their wins although they did suffer a setback against New Lambton. One key area of concern was in attack as the Red Devils didn't have that impressive of a return compared to some. All that went flying out the window last weekend when they smashed nine past a hapless Singleton.

Granted Wallsend are playing a far tougher opponent this week, a couple of goals will give some of the Reds some confidence. Lachlan Donnelly is one who has toiled hard but struggled for luck in the attacking third. He got on the scoresheet last week and great to see Trent Richards doing the the job too with a casual hat-trick.

Prediction: The Hornets have a strong squad but looked underwhelming last night. The short turn-around won't help them and with Wallsend in goalscoring form, it's hard to go past the visitors. If the Red Devils win they'll move to within one win of ladder leaders Cooks Hill who they indeed will face next week in a mouth-watering top of the table clash (barring Kahibah smashing New Lambton or Cessnock smashing Wallsend to knock them off 2nd).

My Tip: Cessnock City 1-3 Wallsend FC

The Inside Word: Cessnock's attack just lacked a little against Cooks Hill. They need to start the game well and try to find an early goal to relieve some pressure.

Wallsend's Lachlan Donnelly will be hoping to build his goal tally some more.


1st Grade:
Cessnock City (11th) v Wallsend FC (10th)
Kickoff: 5:45pm

The lone Easter Sunday fixture is a battle of the cellar dwellers but there's been some added intrigue in the form of Lino Gatti's return and Cessnock's gallant display at Cooks Hill. Don't let the 5-0 scoreline fool you, the Hornets made it hard for the runaway ladder leaders and put their best foot forward. A high tempo gameplan that was the best effort they've brought all season.

Now with Cessnock showing a little more fight, can they start producing against teams that aren't Cooks Hill. This game is against a team who have a very solid attack but a revolving door defence after the opening month and a half. For all the good work Cessnock produced midweek, they still lacked the sting so to speak in attack. They need to start putting the ball into the back of the net or they'll linger around the bottom for longer.

After Wallsend produced the goods against New Lambton, the general feeling was that maybe the Red Devils had turned a corner and were ready to string together some victories. That was halted at the first hurdle by Singleton last weekend as the Reds went down 3-1 at Howe Park. Always a tough road trip up the valley and it's another long away journey this Sunday.

Lez Wallace was the scorer last week and now has three to his account. No doubt he has brought another dimension to the attack and will likely continue troubling opposition defences. But unless Wallsend can start scoring goals for fun, they must address this defensive record. 18 goals conceded in five matches is the worst in the league by six goals. Something has got to give if they are to climb the ladder.

Prediction: This has potential to be decent but could wind up being a bit of a dour affair depending on which Hornets show up. Wallsend's got the worst defence but Cessnock have the worst attack. Therefore Newysports is expecting the away side to get the job done with the Wez, Lez and Ty show to cause some headaches.

My Tip: Cessnock City 0-3 Wallsend FC

The Inside Word: The Hornets have to find their groove in attack. If they can't do it against Wallsend's leaky defence then it could be a question with no answer.

Lino Gatti (aka the Full Blooded Italian, aka the Italian Stallion, aka The Godfather) has returned!



YOUTH GAME(s) OF THE WEEK: It seems as though the big matchdays keep getting served up. Westy have been a strong youth club for a few years but Toronto are now putting in hard work and seeing it pay off. Should be a decent Good Friday out there. New Lambton v Kahibah is always a good clash in the younger grades too.

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