NPL Northern NSW Round 8 Preview











 SPROULE SPORTS FOCUS

 DECLAN PAYNE 

Match of the Round
Valentine Phoenix v Weston Bears
Sunday 6th May, 2:30 pm at CB Complex

Anchored to the bottom and desperate for a first league win of the season, Valentine has it all to play for when they host Weston this Sunday afternoon.

Weston turned heads with a win against Broadmeadow back in round four but after three losses on the trot, they’re in desperate need of a shot in the arm themselves.

History may be on the side of the hosts though, who haven’t lost to Weston since they were promoted back to the top flight in 2016. A 3-0 Valentine victory in August was the last time these two sides met.

With Adamstown’s win last weekend, Valentine is now the only side without a league win so far this season. Their 4-3 triumph over Zone League side Dudley in the FFA Cup will have given the side some confidence.

In a loss for Valentine, it’s been confirmed with the opening of the NPL transfer period that they’re now without midfielder Aden Gardner, who made his debut for new club Charlestown in the FFA Cup on Wednesday night.

The lowest scoring side in the competition, it’s evident the loss of Jalon Brown is hurting Valentine immensely. The singing of former NPL NSW striker Daniel Ott was expected to go some way in filling his absence, but Ott is yet to play for Valentine this season due to injury.

Their low scoring record has only been exacerbated by a pair of misses from front-man Joel Wood in the past fortnight. After a pair of clinical finishes against Hamilton in round three, Wood has been missing that solid finish in past weeks. Reclaiming it may be the difference on Sunday.

Despite last weekend’s defeat, Weston didn’t lose their position on the ladder and remain in eighth. It’s an improvement on last season but it’s still a tenuous position; if results go against them this weekend, they could end up in the last place come Sunday evening.

It was a finally clinical Adamstown outfit which got away with Weston last weekend, the Bears unable to find a breakthrough to take at least a point. They weren’t able to create many clear-cut chances in the final half hour despite dominance in the front third, and a glaring Tega Marcus miss in the final minutes topped off a bad day for Weston.

In a blow for the Bears, young winger Regan Lundy looks to be out for an extended period after suffering a serious leg injury midway through the second half on Saturday afternoon. The full extent of that injury will be clearer when he goes for scans later in the month.

Sunday shapes as an opportunity for Weston to shake off their malaise away from home. They’ve not taken any points from four matches on the road so far this season and conceded at an average of three goals a game. A good result this weekend leading into the bye could make all the difference to the Bears’ bigger picture.

What the coaches said

Sam Griffin (Valentine assistant)

“There’s no particular area where we think we can target Weston, a bit of a change of fortunes from last year when they were at the bottom and we were doing well. They’ve certainly lifted their game, especially that game against Broadmeadow (2-1 win in round 4) and they’re a force to be reckoned with.

“They’ve got experience back in the there with Nathan Morris and that’s helped out their backline a lot, they’ve got players that can hurt us… the FFA Cup win has given us confidence we can score, and confidence has a lot to do with goal scoring, you’ve just got to expect goals will come but we haven’t been playing well enough or been clinical enough.

“It’s not just our finishing but it’s our passing to get into those areas, but that win last night (against Dudley) will give us confidence that we can get the ball into those areas and we can score. Wilson Edwards sat out against Dudley but he’ll back for Sunday, and Scott Carter is likely still out.”

 

Newcastle Jets Youth v Lambton Jaffas
Saturday 5th May, 2:30 pm at Arthur Edden Oval

It’s fifth versus sixth, and eight rounds in these are positions the punters expected neither of these sides to occupy at this stage this season.

Despite recent form, Jets Youth has a solid track record against Lambton with two wins against Jaffas in the past two seasons. The most recent encounter between the two saw Lambton emerge with a 4-2 win, in August last year.

With this match set to act as somewhat of a curtain raiser to the A-League grand final across the road just hours later, both coaches will have to work to ensure their troops have their mind firmly on the job.

None more so than Lawrie McKinna and Labinot Haliti, who have the task of preparing their young Jets for their quest to win back-to-back for the first time since July last year.

They were clinical last weekend, scoring five goals with three of those coming directly from Lakes’ mistakes – but make no mistake, they weren’t the easiest of finishes.

A string of good results so far this season has Jets Youth sitting in the fifth spot on the ladder. They could jump into the top four if results work in their favour, but make no mistake Jets Youth are not the easy beats they were for much of 2017.

That type of level-headedness will be absolutely necessary once again this weekend, as they face a side which has been one of the competition’s best for a number of years and boasts their share of ex-Jets.

That side, Lambton, come into this one without a league win since round three. A midweek rout of South Cardiff may have helped boost confidence amongst the group, however, the 11-0 win including a hat-trick for Luke Remington.

The big news during Lambton’s week off was their signing of former Newcastle Jets and Melbourne City man Brayden Crowley. He’ll offer something different to their stack of talented front men, and James Pascoe will hope he can help kick Jaffas into gear this week.

 

Hamilton Olympic v Lake Macquarie City
Sunday 6th May, 2:30 pm at Darling Street Oval

Despite scoring five goals between them in last week’s matches, both Olympic and Lakes come into Sunday’s match off the back of losses.

Runners-up in 2017, Hamilton has a slight edge over Lakes in terms of recent history with a 4-0 victory and 1-all draw in rounds 21 and 10 respectively.

It’s been a case of so close, yet so far for Hamilton in all three league games since they played the bye in round four. A tight 2-1 defeat to Jets Youth in round five, with misery compounded by last-gasp defeats to the hands of Edgeworth and Maitland in the ensuing weeks.

Results have been poor, but performances not so and Hamilton desperately need to convert good play into three points. Doing so this weekend could propel them as high as seventh in the ladder, from their current place in tenth.

Hamilton has a midweek FFA Cup clash against 10th placed Northern League One side Kahibah to play on Thursday, leaving less than 72 hours to turn around for Sunday’s match. Player management will be vital for Olympic if they’re to get a result.

Lakes had their own midweek FFA Cup clash, emerging 2-0 victors over fellow NPL side Maitland with just their second clean sheet of the season so far. It’s a far cry from last Sunday’s result, wherein they went down 5-3 to Jets Youth.

Individual errors at the back were perhaps the Roosters’ biggest problem against Jets Youth, and the signing of Stuart Plant from Charlestown will give them depth between the sticks. His experience with Singleton in the Northern League One last season, and Charlestown in the early stages of this season will serve Lakes well.

One of Lakes’ biggest strengths this season has been their lethality in front of goal. With 14 goals so far, they’re the fourth most potent side in the league. Sam Walker has been their best in front of goal with five, Mitch Hunter is close on his tail with four.

What the coaches said:

Nick Webb (Lakes)

“As we proved on Wednesday night (against Maitland), if we just play to our structures without really concentrating on where to break opposition down essentially, we’re quite confident in creating chances in our front third but it’s a matter of taking them, and keeping things tight in the back line and the clean sheet on Wednesday was an improvement on last weekend.  

“That win over Maitland has given us a boost, they were weakened there’s no doubt but our biggest focus in that game was a clean sheet… it was a good debut by Stuart Plant, he gave us some real leadership at the back and he’s been a great addition already.

“He brings that leadership at the back, the other boys are great competitors but they’re just not mature as yet like you need in a ‘keeper and Stuey give us that extra bit of confidence.”

 

Adamstown Rosebud v Charlestown City Blues
Sunday 6th May, 2:30 pm at Adamstown Oval

Two wins from two games after a poor start to the year will have Rosebud bouncing this week, but with both eyes firmly on what is a monumental task this weekend.

Charlestown comes into this one with a history largely on their side – they’ve lost only twice to Adamstown in their last 11 matches in a run which stretches back to the two team’s time in the Northern League One.

Last weekend was a happy one for Adamstown, who managed to grind out a 2-1 win away to Weston and jump out of the last spot on the ladder.

It will be their third match against sides currently in the top four at this stage of the season and with the aggregate score in the previous two matches at 13-1 against Adamstown, they’ll have to dig deep to find a result.

The combination between Chris Berlin and Connor Heydon up front seemed to finally come together last weekend and spark plenty of chances. If they can find that again this weekend, and finish chances as they come, they may be able to rock the boat.

Rosebud made it back-to-back wins with a victory over Toronto Awaba in the FFA Cup on Wednesday night. There were four different goal scorers for Rosebud in the 4-1 win.

There have been comings and goings for Charlestown with the short opening of the transfer window this week, with Valentine’s Aden Gardner linking up with the club while reserve goalkeeper Stuart Plant has gone to Lakes.

They’re likely not to cause too much disruption to the league leaders, who boast the equal best defence in the league which was penetrated only once by Edgeworth last weekend in their 1-all draw.

Kane Goodchild’s return to the side was delayed last weekend thanks to an aggravation of his hamstring injury at training throughout the week, which has pushed his return back to around round 11. Daniel Minors is out this weekend and is looking at a similar timeframe for his return.

Charlestown didn’t miss him too much midweek though, as they romped home to a huge win over Zone League rivals Hamilton Azzurri. The huge 10-0 win included two goals for debutant Aden Gardner.

What the coaches said

Shane Cansdell-Sherriff (Adamstown)

“I haven’t made my mind up about our approach to Charlestown, but they’re leaders and we’ll respect that and we will have a game plan to try and stop them play their game, they’re a good side.

“Every win is great, especially with young boys in the team because it’s big for their confidence and helps them on the right way but importantly it shows we’re going in the right direction and they’re taking on board what we’re talking about in training, and last night (4-1 win over Toronto in the FFA Cup) was a good run out, especially for the young boys.

“I think we played better against Broadmeadow than we did against Weston, but we lost 4-0. Against Weston, I didn’t think we played particularly well but we got a result so I’m more concentrating on the FFA Cup performance and get the boys playing along those lines.”

David Tanchevski (Charlestown)

“I don’t look too much at what the other teams are doing, I focus on what my team needs to do and we approach every game as they come and we don’t look further than the week ahead, Adamstown has a couple of good results and can beat us on the day.

“This competition is like that, anyone can beat anyone on their day if you don’t turn up and we’ve seen that with Lambton drawing to Adamstown and Valentine, so we have to focus on this weekend and there will be a reshuffle due to an injury to Daniel Minors.

“The FFA Cup match hasn’t had too much of an effect, we probably cruised through a little bit too with one eye on the weekend so we were able to play a few of the younger boys and rest some key players… Jarrod Purcell impressed with a goal and played well, but we won’t change a team which is doing well but there will be opportunities with injuries and suspensions.”

 

Maitland Magpies v Edgeworth Eagles
Sunday 6th May, 2:30 pm at Cooks Square Park

Third plays fourth this weekend as both look to take all three points and keep up the pressure on Charlestown at the top.

There have been some thrilling games between these two sides in the past years, with the two-leg semi-final clashes back in 2016 evidence of the type of entertaining football these sides can produce.

Both teams come into this match off the back of late goals which rescued points. In Maitland’s case, it was an Alex Read goal in the 89th minute which secured their fourth win of the season.

They lead 2-0 before allowing Hamilton back in to score twice and level things up, but it’s the first time they’ve surrendered a lead so far this season.

That win means Maitland also boasts a near perfect home record this season (the only blip a 1-all draw with Valentine), which will be tested this weekend.

Maitland did go down midweek in the FFA Cup, losing 2-0 to a near full-strength Lakes side. There may be some tired legs on Sunday, but coach Michael Bolch did rest a number of players in the Wednesday night game.

While the Magpies’ home record is good, Edgeworth’s away record is nearly as good with two wins and a single defeat in three matches on the road this season.

The move to a 4-4-2 against Charlestown last weekend was an interesting one, prompted perhaps by a desire from coach Damien Zane to have Jamie Byrnes and the returning Daniel McBreen work together.

So strong was their squad last weekend, talented youngsters Tyson Jackson and Adam Cawley were pushed to the bench. With Aaron McLoughlin on the mend also, they have some tremendous depth and will look to take advantage of that this weekend.

The big signing news for Edgeworth during the week was former Central Coast Mariner Josh Rose has joined. The defender retired from A-League football just last month, and coach Damien Zane expects him to have an ‘immediate impact’. His signing and McLoughlin’s return will give Edgeworth improved depth throughout their defence.

Damien Zane used Wednesday night’s FFA Cup clash against Northern League One outfit Singleton as an opportunity to try new combinations, and they appear to have worked as they emerged 4-0 victors. Daniel McBreen was dangerous, involved in a number of goals on the night.

What the coaches said:

Damien Zane (Edgeworth)

“Maitland is always a place where you need to compete and you have to defend well, and make sure you compete every loose ball, the pitch there looks good so hopefully with no wind, we can play a bit of football. They’re a very competitive team and have some quality up front, so a good defensive performance is probably going to be key.

“We used Wednesday night to get some more game time into guys who were behind, Dylan Holz is back from injury and Aaron McLoughlin got sixty minutes so in that sense it was good. Jett White is back (from loan to Weston) and did quite well, and Macca (Daniel McBreen) was able to get another run under his belt.

“Rose in and McLoughlin back gives us the option of moving guys like Pat Wheeler and Dom Bizzarri into the midfield, so it just opens up heaps of options… with these cup games, a couple of teams have picked up an injury or two but we’ve had a good cup run as well as the league every year and if you don’t have a squad that’s deep enough, you just can’t do it.”

 

Broadmeadow Magic has the bye 




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