NPL Northern NSW Round 9 Preview











 SPROULE SPORTS FOCUS

 DECLAN PAYNE 

Match of the Round
Lambton Jaffas v Hamilton Olympic
Saturday 12th May, 2:30 pm at Arthur Edden Oval 

Two sides who have clawed their way back among the winners will each be desperate to make it two in a row, but each for different reasons. 

Jaffas has the upper hand in recent history between these two sides, beating Olympic 2-1 in both legs of their semi-final last season. Lambton also won the regular season clashes in rounds one and twelve, 3-2 on both occasions.

Before Saturday, Lambton hadn’t won since round three. They only lost one match in that time though, and with just two defeats so far this season they sit just a point off the top four.

Round eight was a good one for Lambton, their third win of the season against a tough Jets outfit. Two goals is a comfortable enough margin, and it may have been more if not for some desperate defending at the opposition end.

Home form has been one of Lambton’s strong points this season. From their four fixtures at home, they have ten points – their only stumble was a draw with Adamstown in round five.

Scoring goals haven’t been the issue for Olympic this year but rather conceding them – they’ve let through 16 in seven matches, conceding three goals in a single match on four occasions.

More goals than the opposition is the name of the game though, and Hamilton did just that last time out in a high scoring affair over Lakes. The winning goal, a penalty, was controversial but it won’t matter to Olympic who desperately needed the three points.

It ensured they avoided a slip to the bottom after results were largely positive for those at the bottom of the ladder. Repeat performances from the likes of Simon Mooney, last week’s hat-trick hero, will go a long way in securing three more points this weekend.

What the coaches said
Peter McGuinness (Hamilton)

“I watched Lambton play last week (against Jets Youth) and thought they were very well organised and they have a lot of quality across the park, a lot of experience and they play good football. They know their jobs, they know their roles, and they’re well-coached.

“We’ve got to reshuffle this week a bit, Jacob Bailey will be missing and so will Rhys Cooper, who’s going to Spain for futsal with the Australian side, so a little bit of a reshuffle but we just have to make sure this is a game where we don’t give things away easy and we stay disciplined and play to a good structure, if we do that we’ll do alright.

“Training has been good even though we’ve lost games because the performances have been quite good, the players have felt there’s not a game we’ve played this year where we didn’t think we could win it… the boys have been really good, they seem upbeat and they know they can play good football, it’s just about being a bit more disciplined.”

 

Lake Macquarie City v Maitland Magpies
Saturday 12th May, 7 pm at Macquarie Field 

There were defeats for both Lakes and Maitland in round eight, but an evening match on the lake may be just what they each need to jump back among the winners.

It will have only been 12 days since Lakes last played Maitland when the two sides kick off on Saturday evening after their clash in the FFA Cup last Wednesday night. Lakes won that match 2-0, but the Magpies won their two encounters in the league last season.

That midweek win over Maitland and a first clean sheet of the season would have been a big boost to a season for Lakes which has been up and down. A big win over Valentine is in contrast to consecutive league defeats to Jets Youth and Hamilton.

Last weekend’s result, the loss to Hamilton, was a tight one. Lakes were ahead twice early in the first half, but unable to see out that lead as they went down to a Hamilton side which was desperate for a victory.

Three goals in that fixture moved talisman Lakes striker Sam Walker to the top of the goal-scoring charts. He now has seven goals from seven appearances and will be keen to add to his tally this weekend to maintain his place at the top.

A good run for Maitland was brought to an abrupt halt last weekend against Edgeworth. That run, four league games without a loss was enough to ensure they shot into and remain in the top four.

Maitland boasts the equal-first most potent attack in the league, and they’ve managed to do it without any key stand out goal scorer. They have four players on three goals each so far this season – Ryan Clarke, Matt Comerford, James Thompson and Alex Read.

Incredibly, the Magpies have only played two matches away from home this season despite being eight rounds in – one in the league, and one in the cup. They’ve lost both of those, one at Lakes, and will be looking to put an end to bad away form before it can start.

What the coaches said:

Nick Webb (Lakes)

“We expect Maitland to be very strong, they were understrength in the pre-season and we played them understrength in the FFA Cup, we’re expecting them to be reeling from their loss on the weekend and going pretty hard, and we’ve got to stop leaking goals and put in a much more structured performance.

“I don’t think beating them in the FFA Cup gives us an edge, every game is a new game and they were undermanned in that game with about five or six out, we did really well but they certainly didn’t have Matt Thompson on the field and he makes an enormous difference to their squad.

“The loss last weekend won’t fire us up especially, we make sure to discuss all those things at training on Tuesday night and understand that there was a mistake and we move on. It might have been a point missed, but we’ve thrown away nine this year so it’s a bit hard to complain about one when we’ve thrown away nine. We’ve got to dig in and be defensively better.”

Michael Bolch (Maitland)

“Lakes are very good on the counter-attack, they set up well defensively and have a fair bit of pace up front. Sam Walker has been scoring a few goals lately so we’ll have to keep a close eye on him, he’s always a danger… they do very well on the break, (Nick) Webby has them set up very structured with the five-man back line.

“Things will be different from the FFA Cup loss, we rested six starters against them due to injury and fatigue so it’ll be a different game this weekend, three competition points up for grabs, we want to stay in contact with the top four so it’s a game that we want to win.

“We changed a few things up against Edgeworth last week and I thought we did really well for about 60 minutes against them, Matt Comerford back this weekend gives us a bit more of an x-factor in the final third. I think we’ve been a bit off the pace in the front third, we’ve created plenty of opportunities without being clinical so I think we need to improve that side of our game.”

 

Charlestown City Blues v Valentine Phoenix
Sunday 13th May, 2:30 pm at Lisle Carr Oval 

The match before the bye for Charlestown is one which they’ll be desperate to win and mark out some sort of advantage in the top four, but it won’t be an easy task given Valentine has finally snagged their first win of the season and will want to make it two. 

It’s been almost five years since Charlestown has beaten Valentine – a 7-1 victory back in August 2013. Phoenix beat the Blues on both occasions last year, the most recent a 3-1 win in late May.

After a barnstorming run to kick off the season, Charlestown goes into this weekend without a league win since round six. Last weekend’s loss to Adamstown was a shock to the league.

Their place inside the top four is safe no matter the result this weekend, and they’ll be eyeing a return to the top. A big win could do it, and they may be looking for more goals given they’re currently the lowest scoring side in the top four.

Injuries are mounting up at Charlestown with Kane Goodchild, Daniel Minors and now Riley McNaughton sidelined. McNaughton came off in the 17th minute in last week’s outing with a torn medial ligament.

Valentine has been hit with injury problems of their own, with striker Daniel Ott set to not play a single match for the club. The Achilles injury he suffered in the pre-season looks to have forced him into retirement.

Darren Sills has brought in Matt Paul as an injury replacement and he played his first league match for Valentine this season at the weekend against Weston. That match was their first win in the league this season.

This is the first of a difficult run leading into the bye for Valentine. Charlestown on Sunday, followed by Adamstown and Edgeworth. If they can spring a second upset on Charlestown, it bodes well for Phoenix who now sits bottom of the ladder after Weston’s midweek win.

What the coaches said

Sam Griffin (Valentine assistant)

“Charlestown will be a bit fired up given they’ve probably been below their own expectations the last couple of weeks so we’re expecting a bit of an onslaught I think.

“There will be times where we’ll sit and counter against them, but it’s just about playing what’s in front of us but we’ve turned a bit of a corner now and scored eight goals in two games, so we’ve gone from being really defensive to quite offensive so we’re still trying to find that middle ground, and we’re getting closer.

“There’s no powerful force in football than a win, just look at Adamstown at the moment who have hit a bit of form and they beat Charlestown last week who no one but they would have expected, so they’ve got the belief like we have and there’s no reason why we don’t see ourselves as a massive chance to win this game.” 

 

Edgeworth Eagles v Adamstown Rosebud
Sunday 13th May, 2:30 pm at Jack McLaughlin Oval 

The now league leaders and perennial premiers, Edgeworth will have to be wary of an Adamstown side which finally looks to have clicked if they want to extend their unbeaten run to eight matches.

Back at the top of the heap, it’s where Edgeworth was last year when they did away with Adamstown on two occasions last year – an aggregate score of 9-0 in their two fixtures last season. Rosebud hasn’t beat Edgeworth since July 2015.

Things are clicking for Edgeworth. They extended their unbeaten run to six matches at the weekend with a tight win over Maitland and exhibited the type of defensive performance to which we’re accustomed to seeing from the Eagles.

Daniel McBreen is one playing who seems to be enjoying a new lease on life this season as he scored his fourth goal in three appearances at Maitland on Sunday. His experience, combined with the pace of the players around him could cause Rosebud issues this weekend.

Edgeworth’s record with sides outside the top four so far is stellar this season – maximum points in the three games over Jets Youth, Weston and Hamilton. The Eagles have a recent form on their side, but Adamstown will be full of confidence after a fantastic week.

That fantastic week began with a round seven victory over Weston, followed by an FFA Cup win over Northern League One side Toronto and culminated in a huge upset victory over Charlestown.

Adamstown is likely to set up for this match similarly to how they did against Charlestown last weekend, given the success they had. It’s another well-drilled, experienced opponent this weekend and another big match.

One highlight of their season thus far has been the form of Connor Heydon, who currently has five goals from eight league matches this season. Those five account for more than half of Rosebud’s total of nine this season.

What the coaches said

Shane Cansdell-Sherriff (Adamstown)

“Edgeworth have a lot of experience, they’re well organised with a lot of confidence and we’re expecting a tough game. Our approach will be very similar to Charlestown, a lot of experience in the side so we have to respect that and their position in the league, the quality of the players in their team, we’ve just got to work hard and fingers crossed.

“The boys have taken a lot of confidence from the past three games, some good results but we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve had two good performances from the three results, I don’t think the Weston win was a good performance, but we’ve still got a long way to go, hard work to do and places where we need to learn things.

“Connor (Heydon) is always going to be a threat, so hopefully we can utilise him in the right way and I’m just happy he’s out there enjoying his football, he’s playing with a smile on his face which is great to see.”

 

Broadmeadow Magic v Newcastle Jets Youth
Sunday 13th May, 2:30 pm at Magic Park 

Fresh from a week on the sidelines, Magic will be keen to put the pressure on the top two with a win over a Jets Youth outfit this weekend which could jump into the four with a win.

A stellar record over the Jets will give Magic a little more confidence going into this match. An aggregate 7-1 record across two matches last year is in Magic’s favour, and they’ve not lost to Jets Youth since June 2014.

Magic slipped only one place last weekend with the bye, and are still both inside the top four and within reach of first place. They did play a match in that period though, a 4-1 win over Wallsend in the FFA Cup.

With seven games behind them, Broadmeadow currently boasts the best defence in the league. They’ve conceded just seven goals this season, two less than the next best side, Lambton.

They’ve also got the equal best attack in the league. It’s no surprise though, with the type of attacking firepower they’ve got up front though, which will only be boosted by the huge sign in of Mitch Oxborrow.

Oxborrow returns after a stint with Brisbane Roar and coach Ruben Zadkovich will hope he can have the same type of explosive impact he did for Magic last season. He will be especially important this weekend, given Magic will be without Dino Fajkovic (suspension), along with James Virgili, John Majurovski, Takebe Soma (injury). Kale Bradbury is also in doubt after copping a knock in their FFA Cup win over Wallsend last weekend.

It’s been a yo-yo type of season so far for Jets Youth, who haven’t been able to put two wins together despite three victories so far this season. This will be their third league match in eight days.

The first of that run was last Saturday against Lambton, where they went down 2-0. Misery was compounded on Wednesday night with a 2-1 loss against to a desperate Weston.

Despite the midweek loss, the inclusion of Angus Thurgate at Weston appeared to have a big impact on the side in the final third. They’re the third lowest scoring side in the competition, and they may look to the attacking midfielder to help create more.

What the coaches said

Ruben Zadkovich (Magic)

“I don’t read too much into recent results around the competition, what I do know about the Jets Youth team is they have some handy boys in there, people like Angus Thurgate are quite crafty and potentially some of the younger boys who are in there because they’re good footballers and they’re talented.

“I expect them to be good on the ball, mobile, and we’ll have to defend as a unit… we had four or five days off with the bye after the cup game last weekend, let the boys have time with the family, no football and a bit of a freshen up which was good.

“Mitch Oxborrow will bring hard work to the side. He’s a quality talent, he’s everything we want at Magic, he’s a good quality asset and he’s happy to play whatever role we give him, he wants to be there for the boys and having a player of his talent and his attitude is awesome. He trained with us Wednesday night.”

 

Weston has the bye




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