NPL Northern NSW Round 14 Preview
Match of the Round
Edgeworth Eagles v Broadmeadow Magic
Sunday 24th June, 2:30 pm at Jack McLaughlan Oval
It’s now arguably the biggest match-up in local football, and the stakes are high come Sunday. For Magic, failure to win last weekend while Edgeworth had the bye means they’re just one point ahead of the Eagles, who have a game in hand.
A Broadmeadow win would give them a four-point buffer despite Edgeworth’s game in hand – a loss, and Edgy go clear at the top.
It was Edgeworth who triumphed last time the two sides met, back in round three. It wasn’t an easy one, as Magic fought back from two goals down before a late own-goal earned the Eagles a 3-2 victory.
A week off thanks to the bye will have been ample time for Damien Zane’s side to recover from the heartbreak of missing out on the FFA Cup Round of 32 for the first time since 2014.
Whether it’s been enough time for Daniel McBreen and Will Bower, who were injured during that FFA Cup loss to Hamilton, to recover is another question.
This weekend is a case of the league’s two best defences battling it out. Edgeworth has conceded just 13 goals in 11 league matches this season, but have a big task this weekend.
That task is containing a side which has scored 30 goals in 12 matches and boasts the league’s two top leading scorers in James Virgili and Kale Bradbury.
With Virgili declaring to The Newcastle Herald this week that ‘everything is in our hands’, the question now is whether or not Broadmeadow will wilt under the pressure and the chance to stretch our their lead of the league.
The mix of youth and experience in the side suggests that the latter will ensure this doesn’t happen – the likes of Josh Piddington, Paul Bitz and John Majurovski will be vital in steering the ship.
Weston Bears v Lambton Jaffas
Saturday 23rd June, 2:30 pm at Rockwell Automation Park
Contrasting results is probably the best way to describe the way these two sides come into Saturday’s only fixture.
Comprehensive is the only way to describe the result the last time these two sides met, as Lambton earned the chocolates on Easter Saturday with a 4-1 win.
Fresh off what coach Steve Piggott described as the ‘worst display of football by a team I have coached in 30 seasons’ to the Maitland Mercury, a Weston outfit which was down on troops is in desperate need of improvement.
Coming off the back of a huge win over a strong Maitland side, many expected that form to continue against Lakes but a string of missed chances and an inability to make passes stick seen them go down 2-1.
It was a result which could have been much worse if not for a couple of key saves from both Kane Runge and defender Jordan Jackson.
That type of desperate defending might be crucial against one of the most potent offences in the league, despite injuries cruelling that strike force.
Joel Griffiths is set to be out for at least three weeks with an injury he picked up in the 1-1 draw with Magic last weekend, which will give more responsibility to the likes of Braedyn Crowley and Pat Brown.
Lambton sits just inside the top four, level on points (20) with third (Maitland) but with two sides below them which could jump into the top four if a win isn’t forthcoming this weekend.
Charlestown City Blues v Lake Macquarie City
Sunday 24th June, 2:30 pm at Lisle Carr Oval
After an anticipated gruelling schedule which was given some relief thanks to midweek rain, Charlestown needs a win against a resurgent Lakes on Sunday.
Ljubo Milicevic was on hand to give the Blues a 1-0 win over Lakes on Good Friday, the last time these two sides met.
He scored in the wrong net last weekend as Charlestown was thrashed by Maitland 5-1 in blustery conditions at Cooks Square Park.
After sitting top of the ladder with five wins from five games at the start of the season, Charlestown has now won just one of their past five matches in the league and has slipped out of the top four.
Injuries are piling up at Charlestown, which wasn’t helped by Kev Davison’s red card at Maitland last weekend.
Relief was on hand when rain delayed their catch-up game against Hamilton pencilled in for Wednesday. It will allow the Blues to catch their breath but is a match which will prove crucial when it eventually comes around.
It’s been a good week for Lakes after they earned their third league win of the season with a good performance in the 2-1 win over Weston.
The good times kept on rolling on Monday when the club announced that incumbent coach Nick Webb has signed a contract extension which will keep him at the club until the end of next season.
It will allow him to continue to work with the quality players at his disposal – the likes of Campbell Ross and Tom Sparre, who each earned their place in last week’s NPL Northern NSW Team of the Week.
What the coaches said:
Nick Webb (Lakes)
“Happy to have signed a new contract, when I signed on at the start there was always the option to extend to the end of next year and although results haven’t gone our way the committee has shown a bit of faith and they can see what we’re working towards. We’ll get through the next few weeks, then we’ll start recruiting.
“Charlestown is just about in the top four, they’re a quality team with some quality players and we have to make sure we’re up for it. Last time we played them at our ground, we should have got something out of the game. We’ve looked at that game and the last few, we’ve analysed what we need to do to win and we’ll be trying to do that.
“Everyone is vulnerable at different times and we can all look at injuries and some of the bigger rosters have more depth than others, Charlestown being one of them, we don’t have as big a roster as those guys. It’s 11v11 at the end of the day, whoever turns up is what we have to face. We don’t really look at ins or outs for them, we focus on what we have to do and attack where we need to.”
Adamstown Rosebud v Maitland Magpies
Sunday 24th June, 2:30 pm at Adamstown Oval
A resounding defeat with ten men for Adamstown, and a resounding victory against ten men for Maitland last weekend.
If those trends are to continue, then we may see a repeat of their Good Friday clash and the incredible 9-1 Maitland win – but that seems unlikely.
What’s more likely is that last weekend’s result against Hamilton, the 4-1 defeat, isn’t perhaps a fair reflection of the game which it was.
Two Hamilton goals in the final ten minutes blew the score-line out and restored their unwanted record of the league’s worst defence, with 31 goals conceded.
In what is perhaps the biggest loss from the result last weekend is the double loss of two key players. Luke Vallone and Connor Heydon are set to miss the rest of the season, with a torn hamstring and fractured ankle respectively. They’ll also be without defender Luke Rutledge this weekend, who was sent off.
Perhaps a further concern for Adamstown is their record at home this season – just one win at Adamstown Oval from six attempts. Maitland’s record on the road isn’t stellar, but it might just be good enough.
Of course, Maitland’s home record is strong this season and it was made even stronger with a 5-1 win over Charlestown on Sunday.
Matt Comerford pushed his tally for this season out to seven with a hat-trick and solidified Maitland’s reputation across the league as free-scoring.
Inside the top four once again after that win on Sunday, Maitland has the chance to go one spot better if results go their way over the weekend. Three points on Sunday could jump them into second.
What the coaches said:
Shane Cansdell-Sherriff (Adamstown)
“We’re aware it (the 9-1 loss to Maitland) and of what happened last time, but we haven’t focused on that. I’ve said to the boys from the start keeping moving forward, don’t look back, the past is in the past. Every week we’re learning a little bit better, we’re performing good for large parts of the game and then little things are slipping in which are letting us down.
“Maitland has a lot of experienced NPL players in there, they’re going to be confident and know what’s in front of them. Like I’ve said before, everyone has a 50/50 chance of winning the game so it comes down to who turns up on the day and who wants to perform.
“Last weekend we could have been 1-0 up, even 2-0 up before half-time and even after we got our first goal we had chances. We need to be more ruthless around the goal, but looking back at the goals we conceded last week against Hamilton and the week before against Magic in the Cup, they’re goals that are coming from our individual errors.”
Valentine Phoenix v Hamilton Olympic
Sunday 24th June, 2:30 pm at CB Complex
The final fifteen minutes proved pivotal for both sides last weekend, but more complete performances are a must if three points are to be forthcoming this weekend.
A fight-back from a two-goal half-time deficit and a Rhys Cooper bomb saved Hamilton a point in a 2-all draw back in round three when these two sides last met.
Two goals down inside the opening fifteen minutes, and it looked like it could well have been another long day at the office for Valentine last weekend but the fight-back was superb and in the end, it was a deserved point in the 2-all draw with Jets Youth.
With reports from The Newcastle Herald, Valentine has added depth to what is a thin squad, some competition for spots may just prove the catalyst for an improved run home.
Key to that will be putting goals in the back of the net. Valentine has only 12 goals from 11 matches this season and has been kept scoreless on four occasions this season.
Goals have not been a problem for Hamilton this season, who sit third on the goal scoring charts despite being three places and four points adrift of the top four.
Injuries to key men like Jarryd Sutherland, and more worrying the suspected ACL injury of Simon Mooney will undoubtedly play a role in the coming weeks but Olympic did well without them last weekend.
The 4-1 win over Adamstown was a demonstration of the depth within that squad, with two men under injury clouds doing much of the damage – Scott Pettit off the bench, and Jed Hornery whose fitness was in question during last week. Pettit pulled up well, but there are still question marks over Hornery.
What the coaches said:
Peter McGuinness (Hamilton)
“We’ve rested the whole group, and had a few recovery sessions in the ice bath and the hydrotherapy pool. We’ve had the week off, we’re doing a light session on Thursday night just to freshen everyone up. I think we had four games in ten days or something like that.
“The amount of rain we’ve had, I’m thinking we could be off on the weekend… I certainly hope not, we’ve just been through a tight schedule and if we’ve got last weekend back up and we lose this weekend as well there’s two catch-ups and we’ll go through a similar period (as four games in ten days). I’d rather play consistently.
“I read the paper and they’ve (Valentine) brought in a couple of boys which will help them. When we played them in round three, I thought they got off to a good two-goal lead then we put the foot down and went hammer and tongs for the rest of the game and I thought we could have won that. Valentine aren’t a bad side and they’ll be itching to get up above where they currently sit so it’ll be tough.
“We’re taking our games one at a time (rather than talking about positions) but we used the FFA Cup as a springboard and said let’s get a run on in this and get some results, which we did. Ultimately, we needed one more to get through to the next round but we used that we took that good form into weekends and got a few wins. It’s one at a time, but we know that if we don’t win one at a time it makes it harder for us.”