With a full round of FFA Cup fixtures played midweek, PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s clubs face the daunting task of playing three games in a week.
Injuries and recovery will have an influence on results as Round 6 of the competition kicks off on Saturday. Match of the Round takes us to St George Stadium for the locals’ clash against high-flying Sydney FC, while the only Sunday fixture sees Mounties take on Central Coast Mariners at Valentine Sports Park.
St George v Sydney FC, Saturday 9 April, 7pm, St George Stadium, Kyeemagh
ST GEORGE HOST Sydney FC in the match of the round at St George Stadium on Saturday night, giving the Saints little respite after the 5-0 defeat at Western Sydney Wanderers last weekend.
“To play Wanderers and Sydney FC in the space of seven days with the injuries we have is really, really hard,” Saints’ co-coach Nass Martino told Football NSW. “We lost Sam Cornish to an MCL injury last week, while Alexander McCracken was hospitalized during the match against Marconi a fortnight ago, bringing our injury toll to eight. It has been a really tough period.”
Saints should be buoyed by parts of their performance against Western Sydney. They only trailed 1-0 at the break and 2-0 late in the game, before the young Wanderers capitalized on their superior fitness and skill to deliver the coup de grace and a flattering 5-0 scoreline.
But Sydney FC will be just as tough as their crosstown rivals and have the potential to be just as ruthless in front of goal.
“I expect Sydney FC to be more physical than Western Sydney,” Martino said. “They’ve got a really good coach in Robbie Stanton and they’ll be primed for it. Like the Wanderers, they’ll be a very tough test.”
The injury woes at Saints are well documented, but the midweek FFA Cup match against Roselands gave the club the opportunity to experiment with some of their Under 20 players and to give a run to those returning from injury. Saints scored a confidence-boosting 7-1 victory and while the opposition was modest, the outing would have put the players in a more positive frame of mind for Saturday’s game.
Meanwhile, Sydney FC will be aiming to continue the momentum gained after last Saturday’s impressive 1-0 defeat of league leaders Bankstown City. But coach Robbie Stanton said he was wary of St George despite their heavy loss at Western Sydney.
“I’ve heard that they were well in the contest for a good while, and being at their home ground it’ll be a bit of an advantage for them,” Stanton told Football NSW.
“I don’t think our players have had an easy game so far this season, we’ve had to work just as hard for a 1-0 win as a 5-0 win. I don’t expect anything less of St George, this week will be another tough game. I’m looking forward to the game, it’s an opportunity for us to keep some momentum going if we stay focused and do our jobs right.”
Macarthur Rams v Western Sydney Wanderers, Saturday 9 April, 7pm, Lynwood Park, St Helens
MACARTHUR HOST Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday night and Rams coach Lee Sterrey doesn’t have any illusions about the quality of the opposition.
“I expect a lot of the Wanderers and the other A-League teams because they’re well organised, very fit and very strong,” Sterrey told Football NSW. “Where they sit (on the table) at the moment doesn’t surprise me at all. They’re a good young side and I expect them to be tough to beat.”
Macarthur last week shared the spoils with Marconi in a controversial match that featured two red cards, four yellows, a saved penalty and a near brawl at the end. Sterrey is hoping to put that disappointment behind him with a solid performance on Saturday.
“Our pride was hurt a bit after that match but again I feel that we threw two points away,” Sterrey said. “We’ve had two draws where we should have had another four points.”
In a major upheaval during the off-season, Macarthur lost around 80 per cent of its squad, but Sterrey is pleased with his fledgling side’s progress. “We’re getting better and better and I’m very happy with where the squad is at the moment.”
Macarthur went down 2-1 to high-flying NPL 1 outfit Rockdale in the FFA Cup on Wednesday and came through injury free, leaving them primed and focused on the young Wanderers’ visit to St Helens Park.
Meanwhile, Wanderers coach Trevor Morgan said his side had pulled up well after Saturday’s crushing 5-0 defeat of St George and expects Macarthur to be very well organised. “I expect them to have a very strong game plan and the discipline to play that game plan,” Morgan told Football NSW. “I think Lee will have something up his sleeve to counter us or to create problems for us. I think he’ll have his team drilled and they’ll stick to that.”
So will the Wanderers be employing any particular game plan or tactics to counter the Rams?
“No, I think we have to play the style of football that is what the first team is looking to see, we won’t change our style or our way of playing. The aim is to play the way ‘Poppa’ (first team coach Tony Popovic) wants the first team to play, to try to copy that at our level, so that’s what we’ll do.”
Bankstown Berries v Marconi Stallions, Saturday 9 April, 7pm, The Crest Athletic Centre
BANKSTOWN BERRIES and Marconi clash at The Crest on Saturday night with
both sides looking to improve their mid-table standings on the ladder.
New Berries’ coach Rod Williams hopes his side will learn from last week’s loss to North Shore Mariners, a game the Berries dominated for over an hour.
“It was a disappointing loss after being up 2-0 for 60-odd minutes or so,” Williams told Football NSW. “But apart from an injury to young Joel Anscomb, we’ve pulled up well and come through the (Mariners) match pretty much unscathed.”
The Berries journeyed to the Central Coast midweek and scored a last-gasp 2-0 victory over Umina in a torrid FFA Cup tie. Marconi will provide much sterner opposition but Williams should be happy for the hitout.
“Marconi is a good side and they probably haven’t had the start they wanted, but they’ve made some very astute signings and it’s only a matter of time before a side of that calibre starts firing,” he said. “You look at the Marconi team and prepare accordingly and at the end of the day you hope that the squad you put out there does the job.”
Marconi coach Jeff Suzor said his team was disappointed in their campaign so far, one that has been plagued by errors, poor results, and indiscipline.
“We know we have the quality but the results aren’t coming our way, but not through a lack of effort,” Suzor told Football NSW. “In the last couple of games we haven’t finished with 11 men so that makes it tough when you’re playing with 10 and 9. But we’re still very positive and we know we’re capable of winning any game that we play in and we know things will turn if we just keep working hard.”
Marconi had their first competitive win of the season when they beat Prospect United 4-1 in the FFA Cup on Wednesday, coming back from a goal down and proving too strong for the western Sydney side.
Suzor made some changes for the clash, including the introduction of a number of youngsters from the club’s unbeaten Under-20s, while resting a couple of regular first team players for Saturday’s league game against the Berries.
“Our 20s are sitting on top of the table after five games so I rotated a couple of the younger blokes onto the bench and rested a couple of other players for the weekend game just to make sure we’re nice and fresh,” he said.
“But it poses another challenge having three games in six days. We’ve got a big squad, I signed a 22-man squad for this purpose so it opens up opportunities for other players which is always a good thing increasing competition within the squad.”
Suzor added that he expected a very tough game against the Berries. “They’ve got a new coach in charge and I hear they were pretty unlucky on the weekend (against North Shore Mariners). Players are always looking to impress when a new coach comes in. We’re wary that they’ve got quality players, Tai Smith from Northern Tigers last year, and Forbesy (Gavin Forbes) up front, so they’ve got experience and quality and it’ll be a tough game, especially at The Crest.”
Fraser Park v North Shore Mariners, Saturday 9 April, 7pm, Fraser Park, Marrickville
FRASER PARK BROKE through for their first win of the season when they beat Central Coast 3-1 last Saturday, but there’s still plenty of work ahead if they want to climb off the foot of the table.
Coach Branko Culina said that in the two and a bit weeks he has been in charge, he has squeezed a tremendous amount of work into six or seven training sessions. His side are obviously quick learners, bouncing back from four consecutive losses to spring an upset win over the high-flying Mariners.
“You’ve got to use every session valuably,” Culina told Football NSW. “But unfortunately, we have a few injuries and there will be a couple of players that won’t be quite right for Saturday. That’s the challenge you have when you have a small squad and not many players to choose from.”
Fraser Park hosted high-flying NPL 1 side Bonnyrigg White Eagles in a midweek FFA Cup tie, going down 1-0 in a respectable display, and will this Saturday face a fired-up North Shore Mariners at home. When Football NSW asked Culina what he was expecting of the opposition, the former A-League mentor said expectations of his own team were more important.
“At the moment I’m more interested in making sure we get to play the way we want to play rather than worry about the opposition,” Culina said. “I’ve always taken note of what the other side has done but there’s no point taking note of what others do when you yourself are unable to do certain things that you’re either wanting to do or capable of doing. We’re focusing very much on what we need to do ourselves before we start worrying about the opposition.”
Meanwhile, North Shore Mariners will also be on a high after a remarkable comeback victory over Bankstown Berries last weekend. Trailing 2-0 at the 60 minute mark, an injection of youth by coach Joe Haywood changed the complexion of the game, resulting in a 3-2 triumph.
Both sides will be hoping they can come through their midweek FFA Cup commitments relatively unscathed before taking facing off at Marrickville.
Northern Tigers v Mt Druitt Town Rangers, Saturday 9 April, 7pm, Valentine Sports Park No. 2, Glenwood
IN AN INTERESTING TWIST, Northern Tigers and Mt Druitt will face each other twice in a matter of days after being drawn to meet in the FFA Cup on Wednesday night and the league on Saturday.
Mt Druitt drew first blood, defeating the Tigers 3-1 in extra time in an exciting FFA Cup clash.
Tigers coach Steve Hurd said his side was struggling with injuries and it was debatable whether a full strength lineup would be available on Saturday.
“We’re struggling, we’ve got a few carrying knocks,” Hurd told Football NSW.” We’re doing it a bit tough on the injury front. I’m hoping there’ll be quite a few changes and we’ll get a few back for the weekend. It’s touch and go at the moment.”
Hurd expects a tough game despite Mt Druitt’s slow start to the season. “On paper we know they’re a very very strong side, with a lot of new signings and they’ve thrown their weight around in the transfer market a bit over the summer,” he said. “I would expect them to be one of the stronger sides in the division. I know they haven’t had the greatest of starts, they’ve had some real tough fixtures, but we know we’re in for a real tough game.”
Meanwhile, Mt Druitt coach Aidan Desmond said that his side had pulled up relatively well after Saturday’s 4-1 upset of Mounties, joking that “everyone seems to pull up better after a win than a loss”. But he did concede that there were a few injury concerns after the hard-fought FFA Cup battle.
“We’ll play a different format in the Cup game to what we do on the weekend. There’ll be some personnel that play both, some that only play on Wednesday, we’ll just rotate the squad and try and get the balance right so we’re good in both games.
“The Tigers just come off a loss themselves and that’s not something that they’re used to. They’ve been a successful team for a long time so we don’t expect anything easy from them at all. We think they’ll be a bit upset and ready to prove some points and set the record straight for themselves so it’s not a game that we can take lightly at all.”
Spirit FC v Bankstown City, Sunday 10 April, 3pm, Christie Park, Marsfield
BANKSTOWN CITY WAS devastated by their 1-0 loss to Sydney FC last weekend, but Leo Carle’s outfit used the midweek FFA Cup clash against Manly Vale to get their season back on track, returning home with a lopsided 4-0 victory.
“They say you’re only as good as your last game, and after our loss to Sydney FC, the boys used the Cup match to get back on track,” Carle told Football NSW.
“We switched off in some instances but we were always going to win the game. To Manly’s credit they battled well and fought hard but we did what we had to do to win the game.”
The Lions face Spirit FC at Christie Park on Saturday, and Carle expects a physical battle against a side that, after conceding 14 goals in three matches, has picked up four points in its last two outings.
“They’re a physical opponent, and their pitch is horrible, which will probably level things out, but we’re going to go and play our natural attacking game,” Carle said. “They’re reigning minor premiers and they’ve got something to prove, so they’ll be up for it. We expect a hard game.”
In a typically physical northern derby, Spirit held Northern Tigers to a 1-1 draw last weekend, snatching a late equaliser after the Tigers made the costly mistake of trying to defend their lead.
“It’s always a difficult place to play, Christie Park, the pitch isn’t the best and it was a typical local derby, very quick and very aggressive,” said Tigers coach Steve Hurd
Bankstown City are expecting this weekend’s visit to Marsfield to be no different.
Mounties Wanderers v Central Coast Mariners, Sunday 10 April, 3pm, Valentine Sports Park No. 2
MOUNTIES WANDERERS HOST Central Coast Mariners on Sunday afternoon and both teams will be keen to get their campaigns back on track after unexpected defeats last weekend.
High-flying Mounties suffered a shock 4-1 defeat at last-placed Mt Druitt, while the Mariners were humbled 3-1 by Fraser Park.
Mounties coach David Perkovic said he didn’t see the setback as too much of an issue and, starting with Wednesday’s FFA Cup match against Bankstown United, expected his side to refocus and concentrate on the job at hand.
Mounties prevailed 3-1 in the Cup tie, with Perkovic using the opportunity to experiment with some of the younger boys from the Under-20s.
“I’m doing a bit of a mix and match, resting some of the more senior players and wanting to see the capabilities of the under 20s because at some point in the season they’ll have to be used, so we might a well blood them in now,” Perkovic told Football NSW. “I just want to see how the young boys cope playing first grade football, especially Cup action, testing the kids out in a pressure environment.”
When asked what he expected of the Mariners, Perkovic praised them for being a good, well-coached side. “I’ve seen them play, they like to retain possession like the other A-League teams, and I know a little bit about their patterns. They’re going to be a strong team, a good footballing team and they’ve got a good coach so I’ll be expecting a really tough game.”
Meanwhile, Mariners coach Ben Cahn said that after the disappointment of last week’s shock loss to Fraser Park, he had a few tough words with his boys, accentuating their maturity and ability to manage a game against experienced opposition.
Other than a couple of recurring injury worries, Cahn added that his team was very positive and looking forward to facing the Mounties.
“I expect Mounties to be organised, physical,” Cahn told Football NSW. “I know (coach) David (Perkovic), he’s a smart guy and I think they’ll be quite an intelligent team as well. Obviously they’re coming off a bad defeat similar to us so it’ll be interesting to see who bounces back better.”
– By Derek Royal