New Lambton may have been comfortable winners over South Wallsend when they last met, but Eagles coach Keelan Hamilton was not expecting an easy game this time around.
The two sides are set to battle in the Herald Women's Premier League semi-finals, which are played over two legs and begin on Sunday with the Wolves hosting the Eagles at Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility and Merewether at home to Warners Bay at Myamblah Oval.
The first two matches were nail-bitingly close. New Lambton came from 3-1 down in the 80th minute to win 4-3 in round one then the Wolves became the first team to take a point off the high-flying Eagles with a 1-1 draw in round two. But it was a 6-1 demoralisation two weeks ago.
South Wallsend's second half of the season has been disrupted by injury and unavailability but they welcomed the return of experienced defender Kalista Hunter and striker MJ Mason last round.
"They have pushed us a couple of times that we've played them and I'm sure that they will be well prepared," Hamilton said.
"There's been a bit of talk about them having lots of injuries but in my opinion they've probably got the strongest squad depth in the league and arguably the most current and former W-League players."
South Wallsend's Gema Simon, who missed the middle portion of the season while at the Women's World Cup with the Matildas, felt "hopefully the hardest part of the season is behind us".
"In terms of the results the past couple of weeks, I think they're kind of irrelevant," Simon said. "Finals football is very different and anyone can win on any given day, so I think the girls can go into the weekend confident."
Both clubs made WPL semi-finals for the first time last year and are chasing an historic grand final berth.
On the other hand, Warners Bay and Merewether are no strangers to finals football. United beat the Panthers 4-3 to claim the championship in the past two deciders and Warners Bay won in 2016 after beating Merewether in the semi-finals.
"They have always been high-scoring affairs and always close," United coach Cassandra Koppen said. "I think we've built up a fantastic rivalry and that it will be an exciting game to watch."
Warners Bay hold the advantage this season. They lost 4-3 in the first round but won 3-2 in the second and third rounds.
The Panthers will be boosted by the return of defensive midfielder Nadja Squires, who has been away for several weeks.
Both teams have plenty of firepower but have also leaked a lot of goals. Koppen and Warners Bay captain Cassidy Davis said keeping a clean sheet would be imperative.
The Merewether-Warners Bay match kicks off at 2pm and the South Wallsend-New Lambton at 6pm.
**Newcastle Jets player Emily van Egmond is reportedly returning to Australia to have ankle surgery and will miss the rest of Orlando Pride's National Women's Soccer League season.