NPL Northern NSW Round 18 Preview
Match of the Round
Hamilton Olympic v Maitland Magpies
Sunday 22nd July, 2:30pm at Darling Street Oval
This match is shaping up as a crucial ‘six-pointer’ of the season, as two depleted squads look to stake their claim for playing time in September.
Fresh off a 4-1 win over Valentine mid-week, Olympic are a chance to catch the top four if they take the three points from the Magpies.
If the Magpies swoop in with a win, they’ll shoot six points clear of Hamilton and virtually ensure their place in the finals series.
Last time these two teams came head-to-head, Maitland lead, trailed, and snatched the win in the 88th minute.
Tight games like the one Olympic played against Edgeworth last weekend, have become something of a staple between the two sides in recent times.
In the end, it took a goal-keeping blunder from Olympic’s Tyler Warren and an incisive Edgeworth finish to deny Olympic a point last weekend – but they made up for it during the week.
Olympic welcomed back Kyle Hodges in their win over Valentine on Wednesday night and another win on Sunday would make the race for the finals very interesting.
On the contrary, a Maitland win could just about spell the end of the race as they could move as many as six points clear of the rest of the chasing pack.
A hard-fought win 2-0 over Jets Youth last weekend featured goals to two mid-season recruits in Sean Pratt and Justin Micallef, and pushed them three points clear on the ladder.
Form on the road hasn’t been one of Maitland’s strong points this season as they’ve won just once away from home – over Lakes back in Round 9 – and it’s area they’ll need to improve this weekend.
Newcastle Jets Youth v Lake Macquarie City
Saturday 21st July, 2:30pm at Macquarie Field
Eight goals and a hugely entertaining match was showcased last time these two sides met. Could we get the same this weekend?
That match, the 5-3 thriller in which Jets Youth emerged triumphant, was one of the highest scoring matches of the season.
It was by far Jets Youth’s highest scoring match of the season, in fact, that single match has accounted for almost a quarter of the young Jets’ goals this season (23).
They didn’t add to that tally last weekend though, going down 2-0 to Maitland in a match where they may have felt hard done by to not take a point following what was a solid performance.
Sitting five points adrift of the top four, Jets Youth are still a chance of making a late push into the top four but it does look unlikely. A win on Saturday would do those hopes no harm.
Lake Macquarie had the bye last weekend and slipped down the ladder into ninth following Adamstown’s draw with Broadmeadow. To make matters tighter, Weston behind them gained ground with their win over Charlestown.
It puts the Roosters in the middle of that lower-mid-table logjam, which has just four points between tenth and seventh. They’ll look to take confidence from their last result beating Valentine 2-1.
While Lakes are just about out of the running for the finals, there is still one honour that could head out to Macquarie Field this year – the Golden Boot. Sam Walker is equal with James Virgili at 12 goals apiece and could take the lead with a strong showing on Saturday.
Adamstown Rosebud v Weston Bears
Sunday 22nd July, 2:30pm at Adamstown Oval
Solid results for both sides last weekend will have imbued each with confidence ahead of this weekend.
With just a point separating the two on the ladder, Adamstown will be hoping for a result similar to their 2-1 triumph over Weston back in Round 7 to boost them up the ladder.
If Adamstown win, it’ll be their first clean sweep over an opponent since they managed two wins over Maitland in the league last season.
The performance against Magic last weekend earned Adamstown a point in what was something of an upset result.
Two Rosebud youngsters were picked in last weekend’s Team of the Week – Oliver Davies and Finn Beasley – and the latter will look to prove a handful once again for Weston defenders this weekend.
However, if two players in the Team of the Week is good, then how about three? It’s a feat which Weston managed last weekend with Jackson Burtson, Jamie Subat and Nathan Morris all earning selection in the side.
Burston’s two goals, Subat’s birthday strike and Morris’ defensive marshalling was crucial in last weekend’s surprise 3-0 defeat of Charlestown and they’ll once again be crucial for the Bears this Sunday.
It’s been a common trend this season for the Bears who have shown they can turn up for the big games against big teams. With Steve Piggott’s reign at Weston down to it’s fourth-last match, the Bears will want to step up and finish the season strong.
Charlestown City Blues v Edgeworth Eagles
Sunday 22nd July, 2:30pm at Lisle Carr Oval
Crucial for things at either end of the top four, Sunday out at Lisle Carr Oval shapes as a mouth-watering encounter between two sides who need all three points.
A draw doesn’t hurt Edgeworth but could knock down Charlestown’s hopes of making the top four, however it was 1-1 the last time these two sides met back in Round 7.
A depleted Charlestown defence struggled last weekend, and went down 3-0 to battlers Weston. They weren’t without their chances though, and if they’d found a little more luck, it could have been a different result.
It’s two defeats on the trot for Charlestown now, and they’ve only scored twice in their last three outings. In fact, they’re the equal second-lowest scoring side in the competition despite sitting in sixth.
Finals hopes for Charlestown depend on the results of sides around them, but the best way to ensure they keep touch is by grabbing three points. Edgeworth are the top opponent though and have plenty to play for themselves.
A potential fourth consecutive premiership is up for grabs out at Edgeworth, and they’re three points clear at the top of the ladder with a game in hand on Lambton and Magic who sit in second and third respectively.
This match comes smack-bang in the middle of a tricky run of three matches, the first of which came last weekend in the tight 1-0 win over Hamilton.
Victory this weekend could see the Eagles shoot six points clear at the top of the ladder, if results elsewhere go their way. It’ll lead into what’s always an enthralling clash against Maitland next weekend.
What the coaches said
Damien Zane (Edgeworth)
“Charlestown have struggled, but they beat Broadmeadow two weeks ago and I thought they were in that match against Hamilton (2-0 defeat). I watched the game against Weston, they hit the post at 1-0 and were in that match so it hasn’t been as bad as what the results have indicated.
“They’e going to be desperate, it’s going to be a tough match. We’re not turning up thinking they’re going to roll over, it’s do or die for them over the next five weeks. We’re expecting a tough match.
“Mitch Dobson is a big loss, the way he’s been playing, but we’ll move on. [Josh] Rosey can go back into the centre, Sam Maxwell and Aaron Oppedisano are back on the right, Maxy can go into the centre if needed. Aaron McLoughlin can come in on the left if needed, Josh Evans will be back and we’ll make a decision as to rushing him back in…we’ve got plenty of options there, and it won’t be an excuse for us.
“We’re five weeks out now, and we’ve created a condition where now we can look at it and say that a win can really give us the upper hand in the race for the premiership. To go six points clear would be massive, and it just puts pressure then on the chasing pack to continue winning. That’s massive, but we just want the three points.”
Valentine Phoenix v Broadmeadow Magic
Sunday 22nd July, 2:30pm at CB Complex
At opposite ends of the ladder, this match is a must-win for each but for completely different reasons.
A Magic win would see them jump back into second place thanks to Lambton’s bye, while a win for the Phoenix would pull them closer to the pack in their bid to avoid the wooden spoon.
This will be Valentine’s third match in eight days, and they’ll be keen to ensure it doesn’t end the same way as the past two.
They were resoundingly beaten by Lambton last weekend in Round 17, 3-0, before being thumped 4-1 by Hamilton on Wednesday night.
Two results which have left them eight points adrift at the bottom of the ladder, with five games to play and to avoid the wooden spoon, they need to start picking up points.
To chase the prize at the other end of the ladder, Broadmeadow need to win their remaining four matches and hope results elsewhere go their way.
What they must avoid this weekend is a result similar to last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Adamstown. It was a match which they were expected to win but couldn’t get the job done.
What Broadmeadow do have in their corner is their incredible defensive record – they’ve conceded just one more goal (14) than Valentine has scored all season (13). If they can add to their league-high tally of 34 this weekend, they’re good odds to keep a clean sheet.
Lambton has the bye.