MATCH OF THE ROUND
MAITLAND FC V WESTON WORKERS FC
COOKS SQUARE PARK, SATURDAY 2PM
Maitland host Weston in a special instalment of El Clásicoal on Saturday with a place in the final four of the Australia Cup preliminary rounds on the line.
The winner will progress to the Australia Cup seventh preliminary with the loser eliminated, giving the meeting between an added spice for what is already a hotly contested fixture.
The Magpies come into the match in red-hot form, fresh from dispatching Cooks Hill United albeit with some anxious closing moments, securing their sixth victory of the league campaign and solidifying third spot on the NPL Men’s NNSW table.
Strike partners and co-captains Braedyn Crowley and James Thompson were instrumental in last weekend’s win, combining for five goals and will no doubt be looking to inflict that same damage on their coalfields rivals.
Weston are fresh from sharing the points with reigning premiers Lambton Jaffas last weekend, seeing them keep in touch with the top five despite only winning three of their nine matches heading into this weekend’s Australia Cup match.
Weston’s dangerman Moustafa Mohammad is starting to deliver on the promise that coach Leo Bertos was hoping for when he lured the Dutchmen over to Australia, scoring a clever header against the Jaffas last weekend and looking dangerous whenever he touched the ball.
Maitland will have to contend with a mid-week game against Lake Macquarie on Wednesday night and coach Michael Bolch has indicated he may rest players in anticipation of the elimination game this Saturday.
But Maitland will be buoyed by their last performance against Weston, a 2-1 win in round six.
Bolch said his side were aiming to emulate their 2019 run where they reached the national round of 32 and recognised the rivalry the two sides have built over the years.
“We have made the Australia Cup one of our priorities,” Bolch said.
“We had that good run a couple of years ago and it was really big for the club and the whole community. It’s always tough games against Weston, there is more on the line than usual this time though it’s knockout, it’s a cup game. Competition games against Weston are usually tense enough but we are expecting a different level come Saturday.
“The four youth games actually play Weston [at Cooks Square Park] on Saturday as well, so it’s going to be five grades against Weston. I expect it will be a pretty big crowd, that rivalry [between the two clubs] I’m sure it will be built into every game.
“It’s a bit of big brother, little brother [between the clubs]. For 20 years Weston was the dominant force up the valley, all through the 90s and early 2000s. It’s sort of changed hands in recent years after we made the finals for the last four or five years but there has always been that rivalry.”
Weston assistant coach Anthony Richards said he expected a fierce battle on Maitland’s home turf but indicated his side may be missing some players for the match.
“It should be an exciting match, a tough game in Maitland,” Richards said.
“It’s a bit disappointing we have had to reschedule our Cooks Hill fixture [on Sunday], which means we will be missing a few players [due to the day change for the fixture]. But we will do really well with the players we have got.
“There are probably two or three we will be missing but the difficulty won’t be who we are missing, it’s who Maitland has got. They’re littered full of star players, so hopefully fans can get out to the match as we are playing well and Maitland have James Thompson and Braedyn Crowley playing really well.”
Maitland thrashed reigning NPL Men’s NNSW premiers Lambton 6-0 to reach the sixth preliminary round, while Weston scored an entertaining 3-2 win over Edgeworth.
NEWCASTLE OLYMPIC V LAKE MACQUARIE CITY
DARLING STREET OVAL, SATURDAY 2PM
Newcastle Olympic will look to take the next step towards the round of 32 when they meet Lake Macquarie City in their Australia Cup clash.
Newcastle Olympic are fresh from sharing the points with table-toppers Broadmeadow Magic in a tightly contested instalment of their derby in the NPL Men’s NNSW last weekend, with the the result seeing them slip to fifth on the table.
Joel Griffiths’ men will now be looking to secure a place in the Australia Cup seventh preliminary round when they meet Lakes on Saturday.
Lakes on the other hand are on a three-game slide that saw them slip to 10th spot on the table but Keelan Hamilton’s men will be confident heading into Saturday’s fixture after taking three points from Olympic in a heated affair last time they met in the league in round five.
Lakes will also be on the quick turnaround, with their mid-week clash against Maitland taking place on Wednesday.
Olympic downed NPL Men’s NNSW leaders Charlestown Azzurri 3-0 to reach the sixth preliminary round, while Lakes edged Adamstown Rosebud 2-1.
COOKS HILL UNITED FC V COFFS COAST TIGERS FC
FEARNLEY DAWES ATHLETIC FIELD, SATURDAY 2PM
Cooks Hill United coach Dave Tanchevski says fixing their defensive lapses will go a long way to progressing to the next round of the Australia Cup.
Cooks Hill are fresh from pushing high-flying Maitland right to the death in the NPL Men’s NNSW last weekend but will rue conceding five goals after a late flurry from Tanchevski’s men saw the match end 5-4.
Despite a tough introduction to the top flight Cooks Hill are on track to make their mark in the Australia Cup competition as they turn their attention to their sixth preliminary round match with North Coast Football side Coffs Coast Tigers on Saturday.
Cooks Hill were without star Samuel Webb for their clash last weekend and he will also likely be missing for their mid-week match against Edgeworth Eagles but Tanchevski said he should be available for their match against Coffs Coast Tigers.
Tanchevski said his side does not seem to have an issue in front of goals lately but will need to fix their defensive line if they want to start winning consistently.
“We gave away a couple of soft goals on the weekend,” Tanchevski said.
“We just need to look at tightening up at the back and make sure we are defending a bit better, not just in the backline but across the midfield also. We missed Sam Webb on the weekend, he got injured during the warm up.
“Our first four games (in NPL Men’s NNSW) we weren’t scoring goals, which was a concern but we look at our last four or five games and we have scored seven goals against teams like Charlestown and Maitland and then put nine in against Lakes and Adamstown. So we probably just need to focus on fixing our defence.
Tanchevski also said while he does not know much about his opponents, he knows the Coffs Harbour area is always competitive.
“I don’t know much about them but I know Coffs Harbour teams are always in this stage of the Australia Cup,” he said.
“They have given some of the other NPL teams a bit of a run so I am expecting a tough game against them at the weekend.”
Coffs Coast Tigers thrashed Oxley Vale Attunga 9-2 to reach the sixth preliminary round, while Cooks Hill edged Northern League One club New Lambton 2-1.
BROADMEADOW MAGIC V COFFS CITY UNITED FC
FORSYTH PARK COFFS HARBOUR, SATURDAY 5PM
Broadmeadow Magic coach Damian Zane says he hopes the flu that ravaged his team last weekend is well and truly behind them as they prepare to travel to Coffs Harbour this weekend.
Magic fought out another tense instalment of their derby against Newcastle Olympic last weekend, sharing the points with a 1-1 draw against Joel Griffiths’ men.
But Zane said not only was he missing players for last weekend’s match like Jarred Baker and Bailey Wells due to being unwell but much of his squad was also sick going into the match.
Magic will now turn their attention to their next task, travelling north to take on Coffs City United FC in the sixth preliminary round of the Australia Cup on Saturday.
In a boost for the NPL Men’s NNSW table-toppers, Wells and Baker are expected to return for the clash but Jordan Jackson and Jake Harris will be unavailable through suspension and injury respectively.
Newly arrived goalkeeper Ben McNamara has also been given clearance to make his club debut for Magic, with the goalkeeper unable to play in the NPL Men’s NNSW until the next transfer window.
Zane commended his side’s resilience during the tough period and said they looked forward to their do-or-die clash against Coffs City United.
“I don’t think many squads could have handled what we went through [with the flu],” Zane said.
“I’ve tried to have a look at [Coffs City United] but I did watch them last year, which could mean nothing now but in the scope of things I think they have been closing the gap (with the NPL Men’s NNSW) for a few years now.
“Last year I know they beat Lake Macquarie and they pushed Newcastle Olympic all the way. When I was back at Edgeworth, we played the backend of our squad against them and we were comfortable but I think those days are gone.
“Our team probably needs a full hit out. I know as a club we want to do well in the Australia Cup and be a part of that main draw so we won’t be giving anything other than our full attention to it.”
Broadmeadow downed Valentine 3-1 to reach the sixth preliminary round, while Coffs City United downed Port Macquarie Saints 4-1.