NPL Northern NSW Round 15 Preview
Match of the Round
Lambton Jaffas v Charlestown City Blues
Saturday 30th June, 2:30 pm at Arthur Edden Oval
You have to look back over a month since either of these sides has picked up three points in the league but it looks like another tall task for both come Saturday.
It took penalties to separate the two sides when they met in the FFA Cup just a few weeks ago, and a 94th goal to pinch Charlestown the win back in round four.
Goals have been hard to come by for both sides – take the FFA Cup out of the equation, and in their last three games Charlestown has just scored one goal, Lambton two. Could another stalemate be on the cards this weekend?
Last weekend was just that for Lambton – a scoreless deadlock against Weston, and one which they came very close to losing. A strong penalty save from Brad Swancott ensured they took away a share of the points.
Draws have been an unfortunate staple of Lambton’s game of late. Three draws in their last three league matches have kept things turning over, but wins must come if a run on the premiership is a part of Lambton’s plans this season.
First priority is the top four, however, and Lambton is still inside that. A win on Saturday would extend their buffer to at least three points come to the end of the round.
On the other hand, Charlestown is outside the top four and adrift by two points – in stark contrast to their form at the start of the season. This weekend shapes as a vital opportunity for them to jump back into the four – but it’s not a simple task.
It’s a task which was made slightly easier perhaps when their midweek catch-up clash against Hamilton was called off. It’ll have given Kane Goodchild a little extra time to build his fitness, who was pencilled in to return off the bench on Wednesday night.
One man who will especially welcome his return is strike partner Scott Smith, who leads the goalscoring charts for Charlestown with seven so far this season. It’s a combination which produced 23 goals last season for Hamilton.
Edgeworth Eagles v Newcastle Jets Youth
Saturday 30th June, 2:30 pm at Jack McLaughlan Oval
Hovering would be a good word to describe each of these sides thus far this season – Edgeworth hovering around the top spot, Jets Youth around the top four, but neither able to make either spot their own.
The Eagles have a good record against the young Jets – they haven’t lost to them since 2014. Edgeworth edged their earlier encounter this year, 1-0.
Edgeworth was kept scoreless for only the second time this season last weekend, in a 0-0 draw with Broadmeadow. They failed to take the chance to jump into first place, but with just a point between them and plus a game in hand, there’s plenty of time.
Reinforcements are incoming for the Eagles this weekend with Daniel McBreen and Will Bower set to return from injury. There are still question marks over Dylan Holz after that horrific head injury last weekend – but there’s no doubt he’ll be keen to play.
It was Edgeworth’s fourth clean sheet of the competition on Sunday, second only to Broadmeadow’s seven. They have the second-best defence in the league and face a relatively low scoring side this weekend.
Relatively is the operative word in that sentence – Jets Youth have scored 19 goals this season, which is tied-fourth lowest in the league. They had the bye last weekend and will be chomping at the bit this weekend.
In their last match back in round 13, Jets Youth managed a 2-all draw with Valentine where they went ahead by two in the 12th minute and conceded the lead in the 85th. A clinical performance is key against a strong side like Edgeworth.
In recent weeks they’ve made a habit of winning by slim margins. Their last match was a 2-1 win over Adamstown back in the first weekend of June – of their five wins, all but one has been by a single goal.
What the coaches said:
Damien Zane (Edgeworth)
“We’re expecting a tough match, I think when the Jets play against us it’s always a good match because we’re a fairly young team and we like to play football. I think it actually suits them, the pitch is looking immaculate for this time of year and it’s always a good contest. It’s a big one for us, we just need three points.
“No movement from us in the NPL transfer window, we’re happy. We’ve got Sam Maxwell back last week, he was the last player we had injured but he’s back on deck. We’re pretty happy, we’re fit and the competition for spots is good. There’s no real need for change, and there are a few young boys who are starting to progress well so there’s plenty of healthy competition in that squad already.
“Daniel McBreen and Will Bower will probably come off the bench, they’re progressing well but there’s no need to rush them into things. We’ll give Sam Maxwell a full game in 20s to help get his fitness up for the coming weeks, so everyone is back on deck.
“Dylan Holz will be out, he didn’t receive a clearance but we’re confident he’ll get one and be back for Weston next week. He had the cut, it was sensationalised a bit. There’s no doubt it was a fair knock, but there was no concussion and he went to work the next day. He’s the toughest bloke around, he’s got an amazing ability it’s like he doesn’t feel pain.”
Valentine Phoenix v Maitland Magpies
Sunday 1st July, 2:30 pm at CB Complex
A rivalry which took hold during a hugely competitive 2014 Northern League One season, this is sure to be a hard-fought match between a Maitland side down on troops and a Valentine team looking to fight its way back up the ladder.
It was 1-all up at Cooks Square Park the last time these two sides met back in round four, with all the action taking place in the first half.
Valentine was washed out last weekend when they were meant to face Hamilton at home, meaning they’ve only played one match in the past month. That match was a 2-all draw with Jets Youth back in round 13.
It’ll be another opportunity which Valentine almost need to take in order to rise up the ladder, given that a good run for Lakes has now left them five points adrift at the bottom.
Three points have been tricky to come by for Valentine this season – one win and four draws have earned them their seven points. They have scored the fewest goals of any side in the competition.
It’s in stark contrast to Maitland’s stats. They are the highest scoring side in the competition with 31 goals in their 13 matches this season, at a rate of just under 2.5 a game.
They added two more goals to that record last weekend, in a drama-riddled 2-all draw with Adamstown. Two red cards to Maitland will leave them with places to fill up front this weekend – Ryan Clarke and Chris Fayers will miss out.
One man who will not miss out is Matt Comerford. He scored two last weekend to make it five goals in two games, and eight for the season. He is the danger man and will be a handful for Valentine.
Broadmeadow Magic v Weston Bears
Sunday 1st July, 2:30 pm at Magic Park
Solid and scoreless draws for both these sides last weekend will have each searching for all three points this weekend. On paper, it looks clear-cut, but round four proved it’s anything but.
That result, a famous 2-1 Weston win, came after the young Bears dug in after scoring two quality goals and held back the rampant Broadmeadow Magic. It was their first win in the past six matches between the two, and for Weston to take all six points from Magic this season would be a remarkable achievement.
Last Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Edgeworth was Magic’s second draw in as many weeks, following round 13’s 1-1 with Lambton. There’s no time to rue points not taken, however, their one-point buffer at the top remains intact.
This will be James Virgili’s last match for Magic before he sets off to China with the Newcastle Jets after being given the opportunity to resurrect his Hyundai A-League career. He’ll likely return for round 17 against Adamstown, but will be keen to go into the China trip with goals under his belt.
Getting the side refocused on the task at hand will be important after Tuesday night’s FFA Cup draw handed them an away trip to Canberra FC. There was plenty of excitement and cautious optimism after the draw – but three points this weekend is the immediate priority.
While Magic’s scoreless draw could be seen as lost points, Weston’s with Lambton is a big plus for a Bears side who desperately needed a reaction after their performance against Lakes the week prior.
It’s been a frustrating season for Bears supporters, as the side has shown on occasions they’ve got more than what it takes to match it with the big boys but haven’t been able to string together a good run of form.
Keeping things tight at the back will be absolutely key this weekend. The third-worst defence in the league could be bolstered by the return of Kew Jaliens this weekend, who doesn’t play on Saturdays for religious reasons. He did play up front in his only league appearance this season so far but made his name in the backline.
Lake Macquarie City v Adamstown Rosebud
Sunday 1st July, 2:30 pm at Macquarie Field
It’s a battle of two teams looking up the ladder now, and after coming through some poor early season form a win could really rocket either up the ladder.
Adamstown was rolled the last time these two sides met, Lakes taking a 4-0 win with two goals in the final twenty minutes to stretch out the scoreline.
Lakes, buoyed by a win in round 13 and a contract extension to coach Nick Webb, went for the jugular against Charlestown last weekend and came away with a resounding 3-0 win.
Two goals to Sam Walker shot him into second on the goalscoring charts with ten goals in 12 appearances this season, but perhaps, more importantly, it put further distance between Lakes and Valentine at the bottom. Five points now separate the local rivals.
A win on Sunday could pull Lakes out of tenth and see them replace Adamstown in eighth position. With two wins on the trot, the momentum is certainly with the Roosters and a clean sweep over Adamstown this season may be on the cards.
That clean sweep is something which Adamstown will be keen to avoid, but their task will be made all the harder with the absence of Benn Kelly who was sent off last weekend.
It was one of three red cards in a drama-riddled 2-2 draw against Maitland, a result which was in stark contrast to their meeting earlier in the season. What would have been most encouraging about the result was the fight back though – Maitland did hold a two-goal advantage after twenty minutes.
Judd Duncan was the sole Adamstown representative in the NPL NNSW Team of the Week for round 14 after a stellar performance in the centre of midfield. He’ll need to step up once more on Sunday.
What the coaches said:
Nick Webb (Lakes)
“It’ll be another tight match, we’re used to those. Adamstown are a well-coached side so they’ll be well-structured, and hard to break down. We’re going to have to be at our best to get anything out of the game, and we go into it knowing it’s a huge challenge for us.
“There’s a bit of an air of confidence about the boys, two wins does that. We’re definitely aware that it is just two games, and we need to put more than two games together to make it a reasonable season. We need to continue finishing goals and keeping them out, we had a clean sheet [last weekend] which was magnificent we’ve just got to continue on this week.
“We’ve got some clear targets as to where we think we should end up, if we get there it will be an achievement. It’s certainly not where we wanted to be, we wanted to be pushing for the top four and I think with any sort of luck in the first round we’d certainly be sitting there. It’s tight around the fourth, fifth, and sixth and we’re bitterly disappointed we’re not part of that.
“Josh Casey was struggling with the travel back and forth to Port Macquarie so he’s gone back up there, and we picked up Zane Winslade from Adamstown who joined us during the week.”
Hamilton has the bye.