Charlestown coach David Tanchevski lamented a tough draw away to Maitland in the FFA Cup on Monday as he braced for another testing period for his side.
The Blues last year made the round of 32 in the knockout for the first time after an epic penalty shoot-out win over Lambton Jaffas.
A few days later, Charlestown fell 5-1 to Maitland as their NPL season spiralled. They led after nine rounds but faded with injuries to miss the finals. They lost to Victorian giants Heidelberg in the next Cup round.
Tanchevski said while the Cup match away was a great experience, the extra burden "killed us" in the league and he was wary of a repeat.
"It's a tricky one because I think everyone wants to get through, but they are also cautious about the extra fatigue it puts on your squad," Tanchevski said. "If we get through, it's great, but our focus is on the league."
Hamilton and Edgeworth drew away to lower-league Warners Bay and New Lambton respectively. Kahibah and Cessnock, who upset NPL clubs Adamstown and Lake Macquarie respectively last week, drew each other, guaranteeing at least one second-tier side will make the final eight in NNSW. Jaffas host Broadmeadow and Weston welcome Valentine in all-NPL clashes.
The six southern pool winners, along with two qualifiers from the northern division, will play off for the two NNSW spots in the main cup draw.