HIT106.9 Northern League One Round Seven Preview: Westy prepare to take down the Stags, while BelSwans fight to stay on top

Match of the Round
West Wallsend SFC v Toronto Awaba FC 
Johnston Park, Thursday 8:15pm 

The defending champions will host the 2023 premiers when West Wallsend SFC take on Toronto Awaba under lights at Johnston Park.  

The Bluebells and the Stags were two of the big competitors last year and attracted most of the discussion regarding promotion going into the 2024 campaign.  

The two sides have each received an early reality check and are playing catch-up as Belmont Swansea United have established themselves as the early favourites after winning all six of their opening matches. 

Toronto Awaba is eight points behind BelSwans in third place following their 6-0 loss against the league leaders on home soil on Sunday night.  

West Wallsend are four points further back following two wins and three losses from their first five games. 

The Bluebells enter Thursday night’s clash coming off back-to-back losses last week after they went down 4-1 at home in round five on Wednesday night against Kahibah and then 4-2 away from home in round six on Saturday against South Cardiff.  

Westy went on just one three-game losing streak last season, coincidently in rounds four, six and seven and coach Bailey Cox said his men are determined to not let history repeat itself tonight in what he expects will be a tough game for the two teams. 

“We just need to start keeping our heads up when things don’t go our way,” Cox said.

“We need a big bounce back against one of the best teams in the comp. I watched Toronto play the other week and they’re pretty much the exact same as last year. It’s going to be a hard game. 

“We matched up pretty good against them the last couple of times we played them and I think they know that, so they’ll be thinking it’s going to be a hard game too. 

“We just need to start a lot better than we have been and we’ve got to start taking our chances or it could be a frustrating night.” 

Sam Marr limped off injured in West Wallsend’s loss against South Cardiff on Saturday and could miss tonight’s game, while Josh Carroll is still out injured.  

But Cox said that he was hopeful that Jake Millsteed would return to at least come off the bench and that the Bluebells will get Luke Willard back after he missed Saturday’s game due to work commitments. 

Toronto Awaba had a night to forget on Sunday when they were demolished in a top-of-the-table clash against BelSwans that saw them drop from second to third. 

The Stags have the chance to jump back into second on the table if they can secure three points, as the Redbacks have the round seven bye. 

Toronto was battered and bruised after Sunday, which was their second in five days, but they head into their next match feeling refreshed following a beneficial ice bath and mental health session with Talk2MeBro on Monday. 

The Stags will most likely still miss their leading goal-scorer Jarrod Purcell as he continues to battle an ankle injury and they will certainly be without midfielder Noah Fittler after he was sent off against BelSwans and is now suspended.  

Connor Fitzpatrick returns from suspension and is expected to slot straight into the hole in the midfield left by Fittler. 

The Stags will hope their target man Nick Roberts can rediscover his 2023 form and start banging in some goals as he has gone four games scoreless after opening his account in round one. 

Toronto Awaba’s coach Jarrad Hiles is aware that West Wallsend will be hungrier than ever to get their season back on track tonight and he is expecting a tough battle from the Bluebells.

“We need to dust ourselves off after the other night and we look forward to bouncing back,” Hiles said. 

“It’s always a hard game between us and Westy, especially over there at their ground at Johnson Park. It’s always a battle and they’ve got some great players there. 

“They are competitive all over the park and they don’t give you much time and space to play. We’ll have to match their enthusiasm and intensity and we’ll be looking to win the one-on-one battles and do the one per centers. 

“It sounds like Westy is creating a lot of chances but just lacking the finishing touch. I’m hoping it doesn’t come together for them against us. 

“We’ll go over there looking to make a game of it. Our boys will definitely be up for it.” 

Belmont Swansea United FC v Wallsend FC 
Blacksmiths Oval, Friday 2pm 

Competition heavyweights Belmont Swansea United will battle the struggling Wallsend Red Devils at Blacksmiths Oval on Good Friday.  

While BelSwans is determined to extend their dominant winning momentum to seven matches this weekend, Wallsend will hope to end their five-game losing streak. 

The Red Devils exploded out of the blocks with a phenomenal 4-0 victory away from home against South Cardiff in round one but have since been outscored 16 goals to four across five consecutive losses to slip to eighth on the table. 

Wallsend is level on three points with Kahibah above them and Cessnock below them and with the bye right around the corner in round eight, they are in danger of slipping to last quite quickly. 

The Red Devil’s coach Chris Gallagher is aware of the juggernaut they face this weekend and wants to see his men limit their mistakes against a side that will definitely punish them if they have the chance. 

“Mistakes have killed us, and that’s the story of our season so far,” Gallagher said. 

“We need to put in a shift against BelSwans. We need to put in a full 90 minutes and be mistake-free. 

“BelSwans are going to punish everybody this year. They’re definitely the team to beat, and from the teams we’ve played, I don’t really see many teams stopping them. We really do need to limit our mistakes against them.” 

Belmont Swansea are a club that has promotion firmly in its sights and Mick Stafford’s men are on the right track to deliver after six rounds.  

BelSwans has won all seven matches so far with a combined 33 goals to five to boast a for and against difference of 28.  

Shutting down Kane Woolston will be key for Wallsend to stop BelSwans. Woolston has led from the front during BelSwans’ dominant start to the campaign after returning to the club this year. He is the only player to have scored in every game so far this year and he leads the league with 10 goals with a phenomenal strike rate that sees him find the back of the net once every 43 minutes. 

Stafford said that his men would need to turn up full of focus tomorrow against the Red Devils as there is no easy game in this competition.  

Cessnock City Hornets FC v South Cardiff FC 
Turner Park, Saturday 4pm 

Cessnock City Hornets are back at home this weekend when they welcome South Cardiff FC to town on Saturday afternoon at Turner Park. 

It will be the Hornets’ first league game in two weeks following a bye in the round five mid-week fixtures and their round six match against Kahibah was rescheduled. That fixture will now be played on Wednesday, 10 April at Turner Park. 

Cessnock is quietly starting to find some form after a slow start to the season. They did not have a point after three rounds but did manage to win their first league match in their last start when they downed Wallsend 2-0 at Turner Park in round four. 

The Hornets sit at the bottom of the table but could find themselves just one point outside the top four if results go their way across the long weekend.  

But Cessnock will have the odds against them as captain Blake Roy and key players Josh Maguire and Tom Cunningham are all expected to miss the game through injury. 

Hornets coach Brad Miles said that they had taken confidence out of the recent league and cup victories. 

South Cardiff is also starting to find their groove. After they suffered two big losses in their first three games of the season, they produced an improved display in a narrow 1-0 loss against Toronto Awaba in round five before they turned things around and scored a 4-2 win against West Wallsend. 

The Gunners sit sixth on the table but could be in the top four by Saturday afternoon. 

Kahibah FC v Singleton Strikers FC 
Kahibah Oval, Monday 2:30pm 

Monday night football will make a highly-anticipated return when Kahibah hosts Singleton Strikers at Kahibah Oval to bring the round seven action and the Easter long weekend to a close. 

The two teams have not had an ideal start to the season and will want to turn things around to move up the table this weekend. 

Kahibah has won one of their four games and sits seventh on the table, while Singleton is fourth following two wins, a draw and two losses. 

Neither side has played a league game since last Wednesday in round five after the Strikers had the bye in round six and Kahibah’s match at Turner Park against Cessnock was postponed. That game will now be played at the same venue on Wednesday, 10 April. 

Kahibah will hope to mark their first league match at their home ground this season with a much-needed victory. 

Singleton will look to score their second consecutive win in the league and gain some confidence and momentum for the squad.  

Thornton Redbacks FC have the bye.