NEWCASTLE OLYMPIC V VALENTINE PHOENIX
DARLING STREET OVAL – SATURDAY 2:30PM
Two clubs who got off to differing starts last round will collide for the first NPL match at Darling Street Oval for the new season.
Newcastle Olympic fought back from a goal down and a missed penalty to down Weston on their home turf 2-1, with Blake Green grabbing both goals in a match-winning performance.
New head coach Alex Tagaroulias enjoyed the fruits of an opening day win and will look to replicate that showing in front of the Olympic faithful on Saturday.
With so much optimism in the air surrounding Valentine, the Phoenix suffered a disappointing 5-0 defeat at the hands of Broadmeadow Magic to deflate some expectations with a poor defensive performance.
But the orange and navy will be desperate to atone for their previous showing and shake off the defeat with a victory this weekend.
Olympic introduced new signings Anthony Marenghi, the Fajkovic brothers and Nate Cavaliere in their win over Weston, while recruits Danny Ireland, Adam Hughes and Alex Read all featured for Valentine.
In the previous encounter between the two sides, Newcastle downed Valentine 4-0 in the final round of last season, although the last two meetings at Darling Street Oval have been tense affairs with the games ending in draws.
The order is more of the same from Tagaroulias as the new coach was highly impressed with his side’s previous effort.
“It was fantastic [against Weston last week]. I had very little time with the guys before the game and the manner of the victory, to go 1-0 down and there was chances for us to lose the battle. But the guys stepped it up even further,” Tagaroulias said.
“The boys do have some fight in them. I think [last week’s result] will hold them in good stead for the weeks to come.
“It’s very good to be back at Darling Street and Valentine have some great experience and you can’t deny their line-up and be very wary of them.
“I would like to see the same kind of fight and stick to whatever game plan we come up with. I think we’re in with a chance.”
The bounce back factor will be on the agenda for Valentine to quickly rebound from their opening loss and co-coach Sam Griffin said he believed his side was more than capable.
“I think we realised we had been effected by the break a bit more than we thought. Obviously the scoreline doesn’t help but it wasn’t all doom and gloom as we found some positives,” Griffin said.
“We’re aiming for a bit of success and the players want to show that what happened on the weekend doesn’t represent them properly. The loss wasn’t what we’re about and prove to themselves they’re up for the competition.
“Hopefully nice and flat conditions and we play without any fear, so we need to turn up and play to our capacity.”
LAMBTON JAFFAS V WESTON WORKERS
ARTHUR EDDEN OVAL – SATURDAY 2:30PM
After a scintillating return of football last weekend, NPL Northern NSW football is back for round two with a huge clash between Lambton and Weston the highlight. Many have touted the Jaffas as a premiership contender this season and the side, who placed second last year, enjoyed an opening round 1-0 win over Lake Macquarie.
The side registered 12 shots on target during the game but could only register the sole goal through a fantastic Kale Bradbery effort to seal the all-important three points, while introducing new faces Mitch Oxborrow, Matt Thompson and Bradbery to the line-up.
Weston on the other hand were leading for a period in their opening encounter against Newcastle Olympic only to eventually fall to two late goals and come up short in coach Leo Bertos’ first game in charge.
The Bears were without a couple of key players including late recruit Marcus Duncan but will be eager to get off the mark on Saturday.
Chris Hurley scored an incredible solo goal in their narrow loss to Olympic and will be a danger again in this fixture while new signings Connor Heydon, Aaron Niyonkuru and Jarryd Sutherland all featured in a new-look Weston attack last week.
Bradbery and Hurley were included in the opening round’s Team of the Week due to their notable performances and goals for their sides, which shapes as an intriguing contest in this fixture.
Arthur Edden Oval isn’t a happy hunting ground for the Bears having not won on the Jaffas’ home patch since 2014, the year the two clubs featured in the grand final when Lambton came out on top.
Lambton have had a great record against Weston in recent seasons while they could not be split last season in their two fixtures, with both teams winning their home games against each other respectively.
It will be the first opportunity for Lambton to run out at Arthur Edden Oval this year and coach James Pascoe said looked forward to the occasion.
“Pre COVID, we had some severe issues with our ground that forced us to play all of our pre-season games away from home, so it really has been quite a long time,” Pascoe said.
“We had a lot of individual unforced errors [last week] from very good footballers in my team so I don’t think I’ll see that two weeks in a row. So I expect to see an improvement, although in saying that I think we had 12 shots to three last week so I think there will be a natural improvement.
“I saw that after four or five rounds last year [Weston] were going to be really competitive and they were a pleasure to watch. I think Leo Bertos has the potential to do the same sort of thing for them, so I expect it to be a real tough game.
“Hopefully it pans out to be a good game for people to watch.”
After a disappointing loss and a surprise home defeat, Bertos and his side will be hungry to chalk up their first points of the season.
“I think it will be good to get our starting line-up on the field this weekend which is something we didn’t get to do for round one,” Bertos said.
“The opposition doesn’t get any easier with Lambton with the quality they have. A very proven, all-round defence and some lethal attackers backed up by some great midfielders that can dictate the game. So it will be a great challenge for us.
“We didn’t keep the ball as well as we would of liked [against Olympic] and our defensive structure needs to be more disciplined as we need to give them as few chances as possible.
“I think they had the best defence of last season so we need to take advantage of our opportunities.”
ADAMSTOWN ROSEBUD V EDGEWORTH EAGLES
ADAMSTOWN OVAL – SUNDAY 2:30PM
Adamstown will be tasked with toppling the high-flying Edgeworth Eagles but will be optimistic after their positive opening round win.
Both sides acquired the three points in their first outing, although it could be said Edgeworth’s giant 4-1 victory over premiers Maitland was a massive statement of intent.
The Eagles were in fine goal scoring form in the grand final rematch with four different goalscorers getting on the scoresheet including off season recruit and former Newcastle Jet, Kristian Brymora.
Captain Josh Evans also grabbed a goal to be announced in the Team of the Week but was accompanied in the opening round 11 by Rosebud defender and skipper Luke Rutledge, who was instrumental at the back for Adamstown.
The red and green held on for a clean sheet against Charlestown Azzurri which is something they failed to do during the entire 2019 season.
The last time Adamstown kept a clean sheet was round nine of 2018, intriguingly against upcoming opponent Edgeworth.
The result was a huge step moving forward for the side who finished last in 2019 and Sunday’s opponent, being the reigning champions, will be a great test to see where the Rosebuds are at.
The two historic clubs met in the annual Heritage Cup at the start of the year, with the Eagles running out 4-1 victors on that day to lift the pre-season silverware.
Adamstown were not flashy against Azzurri however ground out a result but coach Shane Cansdell-Sherrif said the side can go to another level.
“My approach has always been one game at a time. Last week, although a great win, it wasn’t a great game and we weren’t at our best so this week we will try to get that right and be firing,” Cansdell-Sherrif said.
“Edgeworth are a good team and club and we will show them their respect. We have a game plan but my focus is on more about what we do.
“The boys are excited to play at home. Let’s hope the weather has not affected the pitch too much.
“We invited as many of the local fans as possible to come down and support the boys.”
Edgeworth are a team all about consistency and interim coach Keelan Hamilton said the team would not get carried away with their latest outing.
“I think it’s going to be a different type of match for us this week. Obviously with the grand final rematch and everything surrounding the week, I think this week will be a standard match week and our mentality and approach will be key,” Hamilton said.
“We definitely have to improve. The result was great [against Maitland] but the performance probably wasn’t as good as we would of liked particularly around retaining possession in key areas.
“Last week was a physical match so there is a few little knocks but we’ll see how they come up and go from there.
“As a young coach it’s hard to get opportunities and the pathway for young coaches who didn’t have a big profile as a player is twice as difficult. So it’s exciting to get an opportunity [with Edgeworth]. Over the next couple of weeks I want to prove that I’m more than capable to do a job at this level and successfully.”
MAITLAND MAGPIES V LAKE MACQUARIE CITY ROOSTERS
COOKS SQUARE PARK – SUNDAY 2:30PM
Lake Macquarie will travel to play Maitland at Cooks Square Park, with both clubs looking to get on the board with points and kickstart their 2020 campaign.
Last season’s premiers, Maitland, suffered a tough 4-1 defeat to Edgeworth on opening day although showed positive signs with a handful of chances in attack but a couple of lapses in concentration at the back cost the black and white.
The Magpies introduced new signing Braedyn Crowley against the Eagles and last year’s Golden Boot winner showed glimpses of the damage he can cause defenders this season in his new colours, scoring a remarkable backheel goal to open his account for the year.
On the other hand, Lake Macquarie went down narrowly to Lambton 1-0, but certainly had their own moments to win the game with a couple of one-on-one opportunities.
Stuart Plant was monumental in goal for Lakes pulling off some impressive saves to earn an entry into the Team of the Week while the Englishmen and the entire Roosters defence will need to be on their game against Crowley, Joel Wood, James Thompson and co.
Maitland boast a tremendous record at their home ground remaining undefeated at Cooks Square Park on their way to their maiden premiership last season, which is a stat they would love to maintain this weekend.
It is a new look side for the Roosters this year under head coach Josh Rufo but Lakes showed their defensive nous to almost come away with a draw against Lambton.
Maitland will be keen to make amends for their opening day defeat and coach Mick Bolch said the Maitland side will be raring to go.
“We’ve got to compete more in the contest. We created enough chances against Edgeworth,” Bolch said.
“I think [Lakes] will be hard to break down which I expect from Josh as he sets his sides up fairly well and we’ve got to be patient and have a bit of composure on the ball.
“That was our best starting eleven ([ast week] and we’re happy with that. One bad result shouldn’t change a great deal and I’m sure if anything it will galvanise the boys and give them a point to prove this weekend.
“The boys enjoy playing [at Cooks Square Park] so it will be good to have the young guys and the youth up there watching to spur the boys on again this week.”
It doesn’t get any easier for Lakes to take on a wounded Magpies team on their home turf but Rufo said if his side stick to their guns, they can walk away with their first points of the year.
“NPL realistically every team is a challenge. Obviously Maitland are one of the top teams around but every week will be challenging and an exciting one,” Rufo said.
“To win stuff you have got to beat the good teams so that’s the mentality we have.
“In terms of the setup and principles of play nothing will change. We’ve just got to make sure we’re prepared to work harder than the opposition.
“Every game our work rate and attitude needs to be no different to what we put in against Jaffas. We do that every week we’ll score a goal and win a game.”
BROADMEADOW MAGIC V CHARLESTOWN AZZURRI
MAGIC PARK – SUNDAY 2:30PM
It will be the form side of round one in Broadmeadow Magic playing host to a wounded Charlestown Azzurri looking for a shot at redemption this weekend.
With both clubs vying for a coveted top four spot last year, it came down to the final match day between these two clubs and it was Magic who ended Charlestown’s season with a 1-0 win over Azzurri to move into the playoffs and end the blue and white’s hopes of a semi-final shot.
This season, the red and yellow are hot off a 5-0 thumping of Valentine and are excited for their return to Magic Park for the first time in 2020.
James Virgili hit the ground running scoring a double against the Phoenix while new recruits Sam Walker and Mitch Rooke also slotted straight into the line-up, with Rooke scoring a debut goal and earning a spot in the Team of the Week alongside the Virgili brothers and Jon Griffiths.
Along with the blow of losing their opening game against Adamstown, Azzurri will be without proven NPL goalscorers Scott Smith and Kane Goodchild for an extended period of time, while pre-season recruit Regan Lundy is still a couple of weeks away from a return.
Smith was the leading goal scorer in the league in 2013 while Goodchild has won that award three times and picked up the Player of the Year in 2016.
The significant losses won’t deter a determined Charlestown side who have had to blood a couple of younger players but will be desperate to show their quality and knock over Magic this weekend.
It will be tough though with Magic scoring over two-thirds of their league-best 46 goals last season at Magic Park, a stat they would love to reproduce this year.
Broadmeadow would have been jubilant with their opening showing and coach Anthony Richards knows the sign of a great side is to reproduce it the next week.
“That’s the challenge with the young team that we’ve got to back up a good result week in, week out and that’s our challenge to get to that level,” Richards said.
“It’s a terrific venue [Magic Park]. It is really good to play there, even for a visiting team it’s always good to play there.
“They’re a good side [Charlestown] Don’t be fooled by round one. They’ve got some good experienced players in Matt Tull, Rene Ferguson and Nathan Archibold. They will be tough to beat.
“We’ll have the same squad. We might try and rotate it this week but everyone got through last week injury free so we should be good to go.”
After a tough start to open the season with injuries and a loss, Charlestown coach Graham Law said he thoroughly believed his squad had enough quality to still compete.
“The guys are going to have to share the load. We’ve lost two of the most prominent goalscorers in the league, so we need to be able to replenish that across the park,” Law said.
“I’ve got a lot of belief in this squad. I know what they’re capable of and there is still a strong squad there and we’ll give it a crack.
“I will look to the youth and give these guys a chance over this year.
“There is an expectation for Magic to take the game to you [at home] and we’ll plan accordingly. And if we compete at our potential we can get a result.”