The first week of the finals is here and our preview reveals what your club needs to do to take one giant step towards Championship glory in the Men’s State League competition.
Major Semi Final – Bankstown United FC (1st) vs Camden Tigers FC (2nd)
Previous Results: Bankstown United 4-1 Camden Tigers Round 5, Bankstown United 0-1 Camden Tigers Round 14.
Last 5 Games:
Camden: Won 3, Drawn 2, Lost 0
Bankstown: Won 3, Drawn 0, Lost 2
A place in the Grand Final goes on the line as the competition’s two best teams after 18 rounds go head to head.
Why Bankstown can win:
The competition table doesn’t lie. And after 18 gruelling rounds, Bankstown are top for a reason.
They have the best defence in the league, having conceded just 17 goals – at less than a goal a game. Claudio Canosa has his side well drilled, and their defence boasts an effective mix of experience and exuberance.
But Bankstown haven’t finished on top of the table because they’ve parked a green and gold Jose Mourinho style bus in front of their goals all season.
Their attacking potency has been highlighted by the stellar season of Tom Markovski. The powerful striker has notched 12 goals in the regular campaign and has shown his ability to score goals with either foot and with his head – making him a nightmare to mark for defenders. Sean Robertson has also been in hot goal-scoring form, scoring 2 in his last 2 games.
And the Bankstown attack will be encouraged by Camden’s defensive frailty. The 31 goals Camden have conceded is the worst of any team in the top four and will no doubt be an area Claudio Canosa will plan to exploit.
Finally, Bankstown can beat Camden in this Grand Final qualifier because they are one of only two teams to have beaten them this season. A thumping 4-1 victory in Round 5 will serve as a significant psychological boost to the Bankstown boys as they head into this crucial match on the weekend.
The competition leaders have proved they are the best team in the league after an arduous 18-round season. Will their defensive steel be enough to nullify the Camden attack and move Bankstown one step closer to claiming a premiership and championship double?
Why Camden can win:
The table doesn’t count for much once finals football begins, but one thing that transcends the regular season and filters through to the knockout stage is momentum. Camden come into this match off the back of an 8 match unbeaten run, the best form of any team in the league. Their confidence will be sky-high after collecting the Club Championship last week and Dean Bradley’s side seem to be riding a wave of momentum that could take them all the way through to the Grand Final.
A key reason for Camden’s unstoppable form in the second half of the season has been the glut of goals from the rampaging Jayden Russell. The Camden striker has scored more goals on his own than 30% of the teams in the competition and his 22 goals have come at a rate better than a goal a game.
But Camden’s attack is far from a one trick pony; the menacing Mugridge brothers have ably supported Russel, Dean Mugridge in particular has chipped in with 11 goals, and experienced striker Stephen Lloyd reminded us all just what he is capable of with a classy brace against Nepean in the final round of the season.
With the best attack in the league, combined with a run of 8 games unbeaten, Camden come into this Major Semi Final full of confidence and ready to book their place in this season’s Grand Final.
Minor Semi Final – Nepean FC (3rd) vs Hurstville FC (4th)
Last 5 Games:
Nepean FC: Won 3, Drawn, Lost 2
Hurstville FC: Won 5, Drawn 0, Lost 0
Previous Results: Nepean FC 2-2 Hurstville FC Round 5, Nepean FC 0-2 Hurstville FC Round 14
After 18 rounds, Hurstville and Nepean finished level on points and level on goal difference. But on Sunday afternoon, something will have to separate these two sides as they clash in the first knockout game of the season.
Neither of these sides has the luxury afforded to Bankstown and Camden in the Major Semi Final, with the winner of this match progressing through to the Preliminary Final and the loser packing their bags and preparing for next season.
Why Nepean can win:
The Bayubahe/Waoci double act have terrorised defences in recent weeks. Blessed with electric pace and a telepathic connection that connotes memories of Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole in their prime; if Nepean are going to challenge in this year’s finals series, Clement Waoci and Joely Bayubahe will have a lot to say about it.
One word: pace. Nepean is a side brimming with pace all across the field. From incisive wingers and lighting fast strikers, to marauding fullbacks that wouldn’t look out of place on the starting blocks of a 100m race, Magdy Andrawes’s team have bamboozled opposition defences with blistering speed all season.
With Semi Finals often being a tight and cagey affair, Nepean’s electric pace could be the key to unlocking an experienced Hurstville defence.
Why Hurstville FC can win:
Hurstville have been playing finals football for 5 weeks.
After their 3-1 defeat to Camden in Round 13, Hurstville were sitting, what seemed like an insurmountable 6 points outside the top 4.
Knowing they needed to win each of their remaining 5 games to qualify for the finals, Hurstville did just that – conceding just 1 goal in the process. It’s been a remarkable run of form for Hurstville FC and as a result they come into this do-or-die clash surging with confidence.
Arguably the biggest psychological advantage Hurstville bring into this match is the fact Nepean has not beaten Hurstville all season. A 2-2 draw in round 5 before Hurstville’s comprehensive 2-0 victory just 5 weeks ago means if Nepean are going to avoid crashing out of the finals series at the first hurdle, they will have to do something they haven’t been able to do all year – beat Hurstville FC.
What will happen when the unstoppable force of Nepean’s attack meets the immovable power of Hurstville FC’s recent form?
For one the march to glory continues.
For the other, the curtain draws its final and abrupt close for 2017.
– By Ryan Latty