HIT106.9 Northern League One Round 15 Review: BelSwans with a point to prove against Stags, while Westy and Gunners face off

Match of the Round
Belmont Swansea United FC v Toronto Awaba FC 
Blacksmiths Oval, Saturday 2:30pm 

All eyes will be on this weekend’s match of the round when Belmont Swansea United hosts Toronto Awaba at Blacksmiths Oval to kick off round 15. 

It has been a week of turmoil for league leaders BelSwans after Mick Stafford was informed his services as the first grade coach were no longer required.  

But after mediation between Stafford, players and committee members throughout the week, Stafford was officially reinstated on Wednesday and is now refocused on guiding the club to NPL promotion, as are his players. 

BelSwans are 11 points clear at the top of the table and the next five to six weeks could wrap up the race for first position given the packed schedule ahead with all sides to play midweek washed-out matches.  

But Stafford and his men are only focused on Saturday’s clash against a side he has great respect for. 

“The squad is ready to go. They should be proud of how they acted. Leaders led the way and showed the qualities we all knew they had to do what was right for the best interest of the club,” Stafford said.  

“I know they want to let the football do the rest of the talking from this point forward. As a coach, I couldn’t be prouder of the men they are. 

“The relationships with these players, young and old, have been bonded through many years on and off the pitch. We are open and honest and the results show this. As a leader, I do strive to do my best, but yeah, I make mistakes all the time. 

“Stags are the reigning premiers, well-coached by Jarrad (Hiles), and have quality all over the pitch.  

“There’s plenty of respect from our group. Looking at a great battle at home, a sharp and physical match-up, a very exciting game after a tough week off the pitch.” 

While BelSwans are eager to get out on the pitch and put the events of this week in the past, Toronto Awaba are just itching to get back on the park to play a game.  

Five of their past six league matches have been washed out and rescheduled and they have only played twice since the Easter long weekend, one of which was an Australia Cup game. 

They are sixth on the table but are just four points behind the second-placed South Cardiff with two games in hand on them. 

“We’re going to be underdone but we’re just keen to get out there. Whatever happens, happens,” Toronto Awaba’s coach Jarrad Hiles said. 

“I know the boys are keen to have a run and have a kick, and whatever happens, we’ll improve off the back of that, no doubt. 

“Even training has been difficult, trying to find grounds. We’ve been on our field once in eight weeks. Training facilities have been a bit of an issue but we’ve been doing the best we can. The boys are pretty positive, they’re a good bunch of fellas.” 

As for their opponents this weekend and the issues they have had to deal with during the week, Hiles expects BelSwans to come out firing on Saturday afternoon. 

“I’m expecting them to be their same selves,” Hiles said. 

“They’ll be more determined than ever to get out there and make a statement. They’ve all stuck together through it, the playing group and the coaching staff and what they’ve done beforehand to start the season is unbelievable. 

“They’ll be looking to continue that and make a good statement in support of Mick.” 

The two coaches said they expect their sides to be rusty as a result of the recent washed-out games that have affected all teams’ momentum, but they will put their best foot forward to earn the three points. 

The Stags will again be without their captain Zane Winslade, who is sidelined with a fractured foot.

BelSwans will also be without one of their key players, as defender Sam Kirk serves a suspension.  

West Wallsend SFC v South Cardiff FC
Johnston Park, Saturday 4:30pm 

A grand final rematch will be in action on Saturday afternoon when West Wallsend and South Cardiff meet at Johnston Park for the first time since the Bluebells were crowned 2023 champions in September last year. 

They have faced off once since, but that match was at Ulinga Oval back in round six in March when the Gunners prevailed 4-2. The Bluebells were off the pace that day but are unbeaten in their three games since the most recent two of which they won.  

It has been a frustrating few weeks for Bailey Cox’s men, having played just two league games since the Easter long weekend. They have had four washouts and a bye since then and are hungrier than ever to get back on the park on Saturday. 

South Cardiff have also had four washouts and a bye since the Easter long weekend, but they played one of their rescheduled matches this week when they met Wallsend on Tuesday night. A Brendon King hat-trick guided the Gunners to a 4-1 win in that match. 

The win was South Cardiff’s second in a row and extended their undefeated streak to five games as they climbed into second spot on the table. 

The Bluebells are fourth on the table and are three points behind the Gunners. A win would see them overtake the Gunners on Saturday. 

South Cardiff’s coach Perry Mellon expected a tough encounter with West Wallsend at Johnston Park. 

“We’re lucky enough to train at Speers Point every week, so we weren’t rusty in terms of skills (on Tuesday), but maybe a bit rusty in terms of gameplay,” Mellon said. 

“It’d only been two weeks since we played Kahibah but, so it wasn’t too bad. I thought we played pretty well overall. 

“This weekend we’re back at the place where we played the grand final. Westy are a class team and they’ll be tough to beat. They haven’t played for a while so they’ll be champing at the bit for a proper game.” 

Wallsend FC v Thornton Redbacks FC
The Gardens, Sunday 2:30pm 

Wallsend and Thornton will go head-to-head at The Gardens on Sunday afternoon as first grade football returns to the venue for the first time since March. 

The Red Devils, like all other teams in the competition, have been affected by wet weather in recent weeks. Between a bye, washed-out games, a home fixture that was relocated to the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility and three away games, the Red Devils have not played on home soil since round six. Their opponents that day were Thornton who beat them 4-1. 

Wallsend went down 4-1 again this week when they took on South Cardiff in a rescheduled round 10 match at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility on Tuesday.  

The loss was their ninth in a row since their opening-round victory against South Cardiff which they won 4-0 (not 4-1 as was reported last week). 

While the Red Devils are at the bottom of the table and are looking to avoid a 10-game losing streak on Sunday, their opponents Thornton are third and are three games unbeaten. They can finish the weekend in second place should they defeat Wallsend for the second time this season. 

Cessnock City Hornets FC v Kahibah FC
Turner Park, Sunday 2:30pm 

Cessnock City Hornets will welcome Kahibah to Turner Park on Sunday afternoon where they will be eyeing off a rise up the table. 

The Hornets are seventh on the table but are only one point adrift of fourth-placed West Wallsend SFC. If they can score a home victory and other results go their way, the Cessnock men can finish the weekend in the top four for the first time this season. 

Cessnock is coming off a win in their most recent league match after their game against Wallsend at Turner Park was the only round 13 fixture that went ahead. They were 2-0 down after 13 minutes in that match but produced a mighty comeback to win 4-2. 

The Hornets were in action again on Wednesday at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility where they met Adamstown in the Australia Cup. They went down 4-0 in that clash but there were plenty of positives to take out of the night, which included the starting debut of 16-year-old Aiden Gibson. 

Kahibah enter this clash coming off losses in their most recent two league matches and they are eager to return to winning ways and get back into the top four. They are fifth on the table but can finish the weekend as high as third. 

Singleton Strikers FC have the bye. 

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