NPL Northern NSW Round 11 Preview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPROULE SPORTS FOCUS

 DECLAN PAYNE 

 

Match of the Round

Charlestown City Blues v Newcastle Jets Youth

Sunday 27th March, 2:30 pm at Lisle Carr Oval

Both Charlestown and Jets Youth have had a weekend away from the NPL NNSW pitch, but each spent it vastly differently.

The now third-placed Blues had the bye which pushed them out of top spot, while Jets Youth claimed the Main Plate at the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens.

The history between Charlestown and Jets Youth doesn’t give either an advantage – they’ve each won six each since 2012. The Blues won both matches last season, scoring four times in each encounter.

Without a match in 11 days thanks to the bye, Charlestown will be fresh, fit and keen to get back to the top of the league this weekend. They finished off on a high, beating Valentine 2-0 in the league and progressing to the final eight of the FFA Cup with a 3-1 win over Lakes.

The Blues have relied on a strong defence to carve out their lead at the top, and have conceded just ten goals this season. They have scored the least out of the sides in the top four – just 16.

This weekend will be a good test of where Charlestown are now in the aftermath of the bye. What will encourage them is the best home form in the league – four wins from four games at Lisle Carr Oval.

A large swath of the Jets Youth squad arrived back in Australia early this week after they claimed the Main Plate at the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens over the weekend.

Their trip overseas meant their last match in the NPL NNSW was a fortnight ago at Magic Park, where they went down 4-2. It was their third loss in eight days, but a cup win will have imbued the squad with some confidence.

Kent Harrison is the man to watch up front for Jets Youth. He’s scored six goals in nine matches for the side in the NPL NNSW this season and has double that of his next closest teammate Cai Tipaldo.

 

What the coaches said

Labinot Haliti (Jets Youth)

“We’ve just come back from Hong Kong and we’ll train again a few times before Sunday, obviously it’s great to play Charlestown because they’ve been the benchmark of the league so far. We’re looking forward to it, it’s great for our boys to be playing teams like that.

“The young kids will see first hand what those experienced boys can do and the benchmark… they’ve got a good side, our boys are looking forward to it and I’m sure it’ll be a good game.

“We haven’t looked too much into Charlestown given we’ve just got back from a massive week in Hong Kong, so it’s been about refreshing and trying to get rid of niggles. As we get closer to the game, we’ll look at more things, where their strengths are… I’ve watched some of Charlestown’s games through the year and there’s a lot of experience there, they totally deserve to be where they are.”

 

Lambton Jaffas v Lake Macquarie City

Saturday 26th May, 2:30 pm at Arthur Edden Oval

Two sides with contrasting fortunes in recent weeks will be a crucial clash for both Lambton and Lakes as it will be all on the line for them.

In six fixtures between these two sides since 2013, Lakes hasn’t claimed a single win over Lambton. Jaffas has five wins, including a clean sweep with two wins in their two league matches last season.

The defeat last weekend would have left Lambton a long way from the top four and a shot at the premiership, but a rampant first half against Maitland did enough to edge out a 3-2 result.

A swag of attacking ability seems to be doing the trick for Lambton as they look to hit a good run of form. They’ve lost just once in the past five matches and won the other four, and sit just a point outside the top four.

Braedyn Crowley has helped give Lambton a bit of a kick-start since his arrival, with three goals in three league matches. Ryan Griffiths leads their goal-scoring charts with five goals in the league.

Without a win in the league since their round five demolition of Valentine, Lakes are sailing precariously close to the wind at the bottom of the ladder. They’re in tenth, level on points with last-placed Valentine but ahead with a goal difference which is four better.

The Roosters went close last weekend against a high-flying Edgeworth, but were unable to take anything away from the match and went down 2-0. It means they’re only scored once in their past three outings.

It’s not like Lakes are short of goalscorers though – Sam Walker has seven, and Mitch Hunter and Paul Sichalwe each have four. That’s 15 of the side’s 17 goals this season, so chances are if Lakes are to win it will be because of one of these three.

 

What the coaches said

James Pascoe (Jaffas)

“Lakes are a bit of a handful, they haven’t been disgraced in any of their games and have had a couple of wins, really competitive. We tend to follow them in the draw so I’ve been out and watched a fair bit of Lakes, I think they’re dangerous and have goals in them in Sam Walker and Paul Sichalwe. They’re youthful in big parts of the team which gives them lots of energy and intensity so it will be an interesting game.

“Results have been a little bit frustrating but confidence hasn’t really dropped, we know what we’ve got within our roster and what we haven’t had the opportunity to do is play people week in, week out and get that stability into the starting 11 and even on the training pitch. The more results we can string together the better everyone feels, including the FFA Cup games we’ve won four of the past five now.

“Our top 15 players are all available this weekend, but out of that 15, there are three or four that if they were to start they’d be making only their first or second start of the season. We’ve relied on a core group of about nine payers that have played a lot of minutes, and the other half dozen have only had dribs and drabs because of various reasons.”

 

Edgeworth Eagles v Valentine Phoenix

Saturday 26th May, 5 pm at Jack McLaughlan Oval

Despite this match standing as a clash between second place and last place, it’s far from a result set in stone as Valentine desperately fight for a positive result ahead of the bye.

In 20 meetings between these two sides since 2008, Edgeworth has won 11 of the encounters. Things were close just last week when the Eagles edged out Valentine 1-0 in their sixth round FFA Cup fixture.

Bouncing back from that shock 1-0 loss to Adamstown in round nine was the goal for Edgeworth at the weekend, and they managed just that with a 2-0 win over Lakes last Saturday.

Just one loss in the past ten for Edgeworth has them sitting level on top, and deservedly so. A side which was gutted by a number of departures at the end of last season has suffered another hit, with goalkeeper Nate Cavaliere heading now to Kingston City in the Victorian NPL.

Cavaliere has helped Edgeworth take the mantle of one the best defensive sides in the competition, a position which they’ve adopted again this season conceding just 12 goals in nine games. Josh Low will now step up as the side’s first-choice goalkeeper, and with two clean sheets in his Edgeworth’s last two matches looks a worthy replacement.

Contrasting fortunes for Valentine has them sat down in last-place and with the least amount of goals of any side in the competition (ten) they may be hard-pressed to find one this weekend.

Just the one goal last Sunday in a 2-1 loss to Adamstown which prevented them from moving away from the bottom spot, but it could have been two and a point if the finishing had been slightly improved.

One man on whom Valentine lean on for goals is striker Joel Wood, who missed last weekend through injury. If a return is on the cards for him this weekend, he’ll need to have his eye in and make the most of any chances which come his way. Zac Sneddon and Chris Brown are also in line to return.

 

What the coaches said:
Damien Zane (Edgeworth)

“A few people said to me after the cup match against Valentine ‘they’re not a bad team’, and I know that the boys didn’t take that match easier. They’re a team which has lacked a bit of luck and have been unlucky not to get a result or two and at the moment it’s probably what’s separating the league… we won’t be underestimating them.

“It’s a good opportunity for Nate [Cavaliere], we knew about it [the move to Kingston City] and Josh Low has had two games, the cup and the NPL game and has kept two clean sheets, he had a decent start and we’ve been prepared. When someone moves along, someone moves up into that spot and we have every faith that Josh is ready.

“We told Josh that next season was yours but it’s happened early, he has been very good this year and has improved more than we expected, and he’s probably ready now. Dylan Holz trained Tuesday so we’re hoping he’ll be back in this weekend, Aaron Oppedisano next week and Mitch Dobson next weekend.”

 

Sam Griffin (Valentine assistant)

“It’ll be same old Edgy, they’ll be high tempo and up in your face and getting forward quickly, which everyone wants to do but they just seem to execute it better than most. We were reasonably successful in the FFA Cup playing quite direct against them, I think we were unlucky not to push them a little further so we’ll probably try to play similar and cause enough problems to get something out of it.

“The performance against Edgeworth in the FFA Cup will give us confidence, to walk away disappointed against the premier team in the competition because we didn’t get something out of it because we felt we could have got something out of it is the best way we can take a loss.

“Touch wood, all three (Brown, Sneddon and Wood) will make an appearance, as long as they get through training on Thursday night. It’d be really good to see Chris Brown back on the park, he lifts everyone because he’s that good a bloke that everyone wants to play with him and be around him.

“He’s so passionate about the game and about Valentine that he lifts the other players on the field, and training as well the level increases and it’s another steady head at a crucial time in the game. He’ll be invaluable.”

 

Weston Bears v Hamilton Olympic

Sunday 27th May, 2:30 pm at Rockwell Automation Park

Just eleven days will have gone by when these two sides meet again on Sunday, and judging by that match this weekend it’s anyone’s game.

That match, a sixth-round FFA Cup clash ended in a 2-0 win to Hamilton but wasn’t a straightforward affair. There have been 25 encounters between these two sides since 2008, and Weston has won ten of them. Hamilton takes bragging rights though with 14 wins and has won the past eight encounters between the two.

The Bears haven’t played since the last time they met Hamilton, thanks to a round nine bye and their round ten match against Jets Youth which was brought forward to May 9th.

Weston won that match against Jets Youth 2-1 but went down to a near full-strength Hamilton side 2-0 last Wednesday. A win on Sunday could take Weston above this weekend’s opponents, and as high as seventh on the ladder.

The likes of Josh Maguire, Cooper Buswell and Kamon Bol weren’t on the team sheet for Weston in their FFA Cup match, while Chris Hurley started on the bench. A side closer to full-strength may give Weston a good chance at a result.

Full-strength is something which Hamilton won’t be at this weekend after yellow cards last Sunday mean Scott Pettit and Simon Mooney are suspended for this clash.

The 4-2 loss to Magic at the weekend brought a halt to a good run of form which Hamilton had built up and denied them a shot to close the gap on the top four.

Peter McGuinness’ side has enjoyed some solid results on the road so far this season, winning four of their five matches away from home across all competitions. They’ll be keen to make it five this weekend.

 

What the coaches said

Peter McGuinness (Hamilton)

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s 2018 or 2008, it’s always a tough game up there at Weston and they’ve always been very strong at home which is something I don’t expect to be any different this time around.

“The players Weston promoted in the FFA Cup match acquitted themselves well, they were pretty organised, tough to break down and they did a good job which says there’s a bit of depth in the club. They should be a little more experienced this weekend, whether they have more energy than the youngsters maybe, maybe not, but they’ll be certainly much more experienced than they were on that night.

“Rhys Cooper comes back into the squad, but we lose Simon Mooney and Scott Pettit which takes away a fair bit of speed. They’re two pretty quick players up front, they can get forward pretty quick but it takes away a little bit of penetration from us. Jed Hornery will come in as well, he played in the FFA Cup match and he’s coming back through from injury.

“Stuart Musalik will get some game time in the 20s this week which is great for him, great for the club. He’s worked really hard to put himself back in the picture, he’s had a few knockbacks and a few injuries and different things that have gone on, he’s ready to get some minutes this week.”

 

Broadmeadow Magic v Maitland Magpies

Sunday 27th May, 2:30 pm at Magic Park

There’s an outside chance that Maitland could jump Magic into first place with a win on Sunday, but it’s certainly a tall order.

This weekend’s home side has the advantage when you look at the history between the two since they’ve shared the NPL NNSW stage. Broadmeadow has won five of their six encounters, but Maitland’s sole victory was that 7-1 battering at Magic Park last year.

Seven wins on the trot now for Magic has them flying, equal leaders with Edgeworth and Charlestown but Broadmeadow is the side which currently sits atop on the top of the ladder thanks to a superior goal difference.

26 goals in nine games is the best output of any side in the league, four of those coming in the 4-2 win over Hamilton last weekend. It means Magic now boast the two top scorers in the league – James Virgili and Kale Bradbury both have eight goals each.

Last time Maitland and Magic left, Virgili scored one and Mitch Oxborrow also got one in what was his last match for Broadmeadow before he signed for Brisbane Roar. His return this weekend would strengthen an already solid Magic side.

It could have been a four-way dead heat at the top last weekend, but an injury-hit Maitland stumbled and went down 3-2 at the hands of a classy Lambton outfit. The Magpies are now sit in fourth, three points from the top spot and one clear of fifth place.

Those injured men included attacking weapon Ryan Clarke, and now there’s confirmation that Josh Dutton-Black has ruptured his ACL and is out for the season after he went down early in the first half.

One aspect of Maitland’s season which is less than stellar so far is their record against the league’s big sides. They’ve lost matches against Charlestown, Edgeworth, and Lambton so far this year.

 

What the coaches said

Michael Bolch (Maitland)

“Magic are the form team of the comp at the moment, I think they’ve won their past eight including the FFA Cup, scored the most goals and conceded the least so they’re obviously buzzing but realistically we’ve got to deal with their front three. Bradbury and [James] Virgili are leading goalscorers at the moment, Dino is doing well too.

“They seem to dominate teams that leave space in behind by using their pace, so we’ve just got to be wary and switched on as to how high a line we play, and the boys have to be mindful of their roles for the 90 minutes. We’ve got to do the one percenters, they punish mistakes and they’re very good in transition, chasing the ball, and counter-attacking really quickly.

“The losses to those teams in the top five is not a concern at this stage, I’ve noticed it myself and coming towards the end of the year I’ be a lot more concerned. You need to beat those guys to be in the semis and the run we’ve got coming into the semis is Magic, Jaffas, all those sorts of sides. We’re probably just a little bit off those two or three sides at this point in the year, we need to be better in key areas.

“Josh [Dutton-Black] has ruptured his ACL and he’ll be out for the season. It’s a big loss, he’s been good and has been doing quite well. We get Grant Brown back [on Sunday] thanks to work commitments, Mat Swan is still out after a knock he picked up against Lake Macquarie [in round nine], and Alex Read and Ryan Clarke are probably 50/50.”




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