HIT106.9 Northern League One Finals Week One Preview: Westy take on the Strikers, while Kahibah and the Gunners battle it out to stay alive


Qualifying Final 

West Wallsend SFC v Singleton Strikers FC  

Johnston Park, Sunday 2:30pm 


A place in the major semi-final against premiers Toronto Awaba is on the line this Sunday when West Wallsend hosts Singleton in a highly-anticipated qualifying final. 


This year has seen West Wallsend return to the finals for the first time since 2019. Their second-place finish was their best since they joined the competition after dropping down from the first division back in 2013 and now they have their sights set on something much greater. 


The Bluebells accumulated 49 points to fall four short of the first-placed Stags following 16 wins, a draw and seven losses in 2023. Four of those losses were suffered in the opening seven rounds as the group took longer than hoped to gel with several new players on deck, but they powered home to the second-place finish with nine wins in their last 10 games.  


The five-game winning streak they ended the campaign with is the longest active streak in the competition.  


The Strikers have also had an impressive regular season. They finished fourth in 2022 but went one better this year as they amassed 43 points following 14 wins, a draw and nine losses to claim third spot. 


The Singleton side have been riddled with injury and unavailability during the back end of the year but have started getting most of the missing players back, which saw them finish the season positively with three wins in the final four games. 


The Strikers’ only loss during the final month of the regular season came at the hands of their qualifying final opponents when the Bluebells scored late through golden boot leader Kane Goodchild to prevail 1-0 at Johnston Park in Round 25. 


Earlier in the season, Singleton thumped Westy 5-0 in Round 7 back in April and then beat them 2-1 in a much closer Round 16 game in June. 

Those results are now distant memories, with both sides well and truly backing themselves when finals football begins. 


West Wallsend’s coach Bailey Cox has delivered success already during his maiden campaign in the top role and he now wants to see his side go on with the job. 


“The boys are excited. We know it’s only the first step, but it’s the step in the right direction,” Cox said. 


“Being at home too, it’s sort of prep for what it will be like on grand final day. We’ll get a big crowd there I’m hoping on Sunday. 


“Singleton will be tough and gritty. It’ll be a good solid performance from them I’d say. But I’m not really too worried about what they’re going to do, it’s more about what we’re going to do. If we stick to our game plan and the boys rip in for 90 minutes, I’m pretty sure the result will go our way.” 


The Bluebells rested several players during their final-round victory against South Cardiff and Cox is now expected to have a full team to choose from for the qualifying final.  


Singleton’s coach Mick Jarvis said that while anyone can win on their day in this competition, he is confident that no one can match the Strikers when they are at their best. 


“Everyone knows that there’s plenty of work to do, but what we’ve seen across the past couple of weeks has been a good sign,” Jarvis said. 


“This season has really shown that anyone can win on their day, so all five sides are a good chance. 


“Westy are always tough. In years gone by, they have troubled us a bit, but over the last two years, we have kind of turned that around, although they got us late a few weeks ago. They have some very good quality players and a lot of experience.  


“While we’re cautious of all sides in the comp, we know that on our day, there’s not a side that can beat us when we’re at our best, so the focus is being at our best.” 


The Strikers enter the finals full of confidence off the back of a dominant 7-0 win against an understrength Toronto Awaba side in Round 27, and they will only get stronger as Lachlan Nichol returns from injury for Sunday’s clash against the Bluebells. 


Elimination Final 
Kahibah FC v South Cardiff FC  
Kahibah Oval, Saturday 2:30pm 

It’s a do-or-die clash at Kahibah Oval this Saturday when Kahibah and South Cardiff kick off the 2023 finals series in the first elimination match of the campaign. 


The 27-round regular season got underway all the way back in February and finally wrapped up last weekend when Kahibah dropped from third place to fourth as they sat out with a bye, and South Cardiff remained in fifth place. 


Kahibah ended the year on 40 points following 12 wins, four draws and eight losses, 12 points clear of the Gunners who won eight matches, drew four and lost 12. 


The big question surrounding this Saturday’s game between the two sides is whether or not South Cardiff’s explosive attack can get the job done against Kahibah’s rock-solid defence.  


Kahibah set the standard across the entire league this year with 32 goals conceded in 24 games, while the Gunners picked the ball out of their own net a joint-league-worst 66 times. 


But while Kahibah scored the fewest number of goals of the teams in the top five with 44, Southy piled on 60 goals in 24 games this season as they finished just three short of premiers Toronto Awaba. 


Kahibah’s coach Mat Moncrieff acknowledged the threat of the Gunners’ attack but predicted that his backline would rise to the occasion in Saturday’s knockout clash. 


“They proper smashed us last time. We didn’t play our best and they gave us a flogging,” Moncrieff said. 


“They’ve got speed in the wide areas and we didn’t keep them at bay that last game, and Tom Walker had a field day as well. We’ll be looking to shut him down and nullify their speed in the wide areas, and then we will play our football beyond that. 


“It’s no secret that they score goals for fun, but we’ve got the best defence in the comp too. I’ve got five good defenders to fit into three or four spots, and I think we’re the team that can stop their goals. It didn’t happen last time, but we’ll be a lot different to when we played them last, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.” 


Moncrieff said that his men could not wait to get back on the park on Saturday after they sat out with the bye in Round 27. The coach is set to have some selection headaches, with everyone except Brendon Robertson on deck in the first week of the finals. 


“We’re looking forward to it. Having last weekend off has been a bit of a drag,” Moncrieff said. 


“All through the year I haven’t really liked the byes, but it was probably good for us last week, to be honest. We had a few niggling injuries that boys had longer to get over, which was handy. 


“It’s exciting to have nearly every player on deck. I’ve got some tough decisions to make to decide what the starting eleven will be. We’re going to have one hell of a bench, which is good. It’s very handy in finals time when you need some impact off the bench.” 


Moncrieff declared that gun striker Riley Ferguson was the fittest he has been all season and said that fellow attacking weapon Tyson Masters was in good form too, so Kahibah are ready to fire at the right time of the year. 


For South Cardiff, the 2023 campaign sees their first grade side return to the finals series for the first time since 2019 with both senior teams qualifying for finals in the same year for the first time since 2011.  


The Gunners only won 10 games in three seasons from 2020 to 2022 but they are experiencing a return to form this year, inspired by their relentless attacking style. 


South Cardiff’s coach Perry Mellon is enjoying is first season at the helm and is already locked in for at least two more years, and he is excited for his first taste at finals football with the team. 


“I’m really proud of the club. No finals for the past four years has been pretty difficult and we didn’t win a whole heap of games the last few seasons either,” Mellon said. 


“We’ve bettered that this year and we’ve made the finals. It’s been a disrupted year with injuries, suspensions, unavailability and players leaving, so to get both grades in the finals has been a huge effort. 


“It’s a passionate community out here. A community full of people who love their football. We’ve had a lot of good support all year, especially at home, and we’ve had some good results at home on the back of that.” 


Mellon commended Kahibah and their playing group but said results across the 2023 season have proven that any of the five teams in the finals series can win on their day. 


“They’re a good team, an experienced group, and they have some of the better players in the competition on their team. Every team on their day is capable of beating anyone in this competition though,” Mellon said. 


“We’ve had three different teams the three times we’ve played Kahibah, which has been the story of our season. But they’ve all been pretty good and high-scoring games and it’s been pretty even between us. They beat us twice (4-2 and 2-0) and we beat them last time (3-0).” 


Mellon said that his side was basically at full strength for the first time in a long time. Goalkeeper Izaac Terry (injury) and gun goal-scorer Sam Modderno (suspension and holidays) are both available for the first time since Round 14 back in May and they are both expected to play a role in the must-win match. 


With the winner of Saturday’s game progressing to the minor semi-final and the loser’s season coming to an end, both sides know exactly what is on the line this weekend, and they are both ready to step up to the challenge.