South Wallsend are poised to unleash high-profile signing Gema Simon against New Lambton on Sunday and the Jet’s inclusion could not have come at a better time with the Wolves eyeing the fourth finals spot in Herald Women’s Premier League.
The two sides do battle at Walker Fields with the fifth-placed hosts desperate for points after a 1-1 draw with fourth-placed Wallsend midweek.
The Wolves have seven points, one behind the Red Devils, with five rounds remaining until finals time.
Simon has not played since knee surgery at the end of the W-League season in February but South Wallsend coach Brad Parkes was “hopeful” the Matildas defender would be given the all clear to take the field against the high-flying Eagles, third with 21 points.
The match will be the second of four in the space of 12 days for South Wallsend, who play Adamstown Wednesday night then Merewether in round 18.
“It’s a big fortnight for us,” Parkes said. “I’m not sure if Gema is up for a full game yet but obviously having her will be a huge boost.”
The last time the two sides met, South Wallsend beat the Eagles 6-5.
“We have been working on tightening up our defence since we last played them, so hopefully we won’t be leaking five goals again,” Parkes said.
“Our attack speaks for itself – we’ve got a few options there, but we really want to tighten up against them because they obviously have some quality attacking players in their team.
“If we beat them before then my expectation is we can do it again.”
New Lambton are looking to bounce back after a 3-1 loss to competition pace-setters Warners Bay last weekend but Eagles coach Keelan Hamilton was expecting “a tough game”.
“We know they’ve got a lot of experienced players and a lot of quality in their squad and their position on the table doesn’t really reflect the strength of their roster,” Hamilton said.
“They’ve pushed Merewether, they’ve pushed Warners Bay and they’ve beaten us. You have to be effective and you have turn up with the right mentality to have success against a team like South Wallsend.”
Wallsend will still be without inspirational senior player and leading scorer Laura Hall through unavailability when they host big guns Merewether at The Gardens while United coach Cassie Koppen said the defending champions would be “in damage control” for the next month due to a mounting injury and unavailability toll.
Key defender and the side’s second-highest scorer Jamee Ellis is out for four to eight weeks after dislocating her knee last round.
W-League strike weapon Rhali Dobson remains in doubt with an eye injury, midfielder Leah Giuffre is overseas and defender Sarah Hartree is also headed abroad.
“That's two of our three starting backs out and four or five of my starting side. It's going to be an ugly month but we need to try to keep confident and still play good football,” Koppen said.
“This weekend, we know Wallsend are young and enthusiastic and gave us a lot of trouble last time and they'll be desperate.”
Red Devils coach Marc Hingston was hoping to see a more sustained performance after Wallsend forfeited a 1-0 lead to draw with the Wolves on Wednesday night.
“We’re so confident and in control at nil-all then we score and once we’re in front we panic a bit, so we’ve got to learn to relax a little bit and that comes with experience,” Hingston said.
Warners Bay play Adamstown at Adamstown Oval. All games kick off at 2.30pm Sunday.
Points: Warners Bay 29, Merewether 22, New Lambton 21, Wallsend 8, South Wallsend 7, Adamstown 5.
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