As the temperatures continue to drop, the heat on the field keeps rising. A number of teams have a realistic shot at the Premiership, and the race for the finals is just as intense. Brace yourselves for all the action and unpredictability that has become a trademark of the National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s competition.
Match of the Round: Mounties Wanderers vs Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 7pm Saturday 15 June, Cook Park (Mt Pritchard)
Our featured match pits the attacking firepower of Mounties against Bonnyrigg’s defensive steel, and both teams are coming off huge victories over title contenders. Mounties launched a comeback to defeat North Shore Mariners 4-2 last weekend, while Bonnyrigg put in perhaps their best performance of the year to beat Hills United 3-0.
Mounties have now won four on the bounce. Only five points separate them from the top of the table, so Brian Brown’s men have the Premiership firmly in their sights. This run has coincided with the return to form of Sean Rooney, who has four goals in his last three games while former Western Sydney Wanderers legend Mark Bridge’s inclusion into the squad last week has only further strengthened the side.
Meanwhile, Bonnyrigg are ninth, but they have everything to play for as there’s one point between them and the top six. The White Eagles have the joint-best defence in the competition, and will lean on that once again to counter the weapons at Mounties’ disposal. In attack, the likes of Richard Darko and Asmir Kadric could fire Bonnyrigg to victory, and possibly into the finals places.
Blacktown Spartans vs Western Sydney Wanderers, 7pm Saturday 15 June, Blacktown Football Park No. 1
We’re set for an extremely local derby in Rooty Hill, as two clubs with headquarters on Eastern Road meet at Blacktown Football Park. The Wanderers are four places and eight points ahead of the Spartans, however form favours the team in orange after a comprehensive victory over Macarthur last Saturday. Conversely, the Wanderers have not won in four games.
For the Spartans, what can Lachlan Rose do this week? The flying winger put in a performance to match his flowing locks against the Rams, notching two goals and two assists. One of those assists was for Spartans leading scorer Connor Eldridge, helping him end his mini goal drought on the weekend.
Paul Hubbard’s side face a stern test in the Wanderers, who have the most prolific attack in NPL 2. The dynamic duo of Mohamed Adam and Marley Peterson (24 goals between them) combined for another goal in last week’s draw against Central Coast, and Arthur Diles’ young men will not be short of motivation as they look to keep pace with the top two.
Hills United vs Northern Tigers, 7pm Saturday 15 June, Lily Homes Stadium
Ten points separate these clubs going into the weekend, however don’t be fooled – there’s every chance of this being a close contest.
Defeat to Bonnyrigg could have cost Hills top spot, but results elsewhere meant they kept first place. Saturday’s performance was out-of-character for United: not only did it end a run of six games without defeat, it was also only the third time in 2019 that Patrick Zwaanswijk’s side has been kept scoreless. Hills speedster Daniel Fogarty will be keen to make amends for the shutout, and he should be supported well by Jordan Parfait and Nathan Rayner.
On the other hand, Northern Tigers managed to stretch their unbeaten run to eight matches courtesy of a last gasp victory over St George FC. The win showed there is plenty of hope after Joshua Swadling’s move to Hakoah, as Rory Spiers stepped up to nab a crucial late winner. Spiers’ goal was another example of Adam Hett’s team playing for the whole 90 minutes (and beyond) – it was the sixth goal they’ve scored in the 80th minute or later this season.
Canterbury Bankstown FC vs St George FC, 7pm Saturday 15 June, The Crest Athletic Centre
The two bottom sides meet at The Crest, desperate to turn things around and go on a good run as we head towards the end of the campaign.
Canterbury have plenty of new faces, but is there enough time for them to gel so they can catch up to the pack? There is undoubted talent with the likes of Zac Elrich and Aaron D’Mello. Perhaps home field advantage will help Branko Culina’s men, as this is the start of eight home fixtures in the next ten rounds.
St George FC must be sick of the sight of Northern Tigers. The Saints were building some momentum in recent weeks, before the Tigers scored late, just as in Round 2, to condemn them to defeat. However, there are positives at both ends of the field. The defending is much improved (only two goals conceded in the last four games), and Juan Carlos Romero looks to have settled in well on his return from Sutherland Sharks. St George FC made the FFA Cup Round of 32 for the first time last week, so spirits should be high.
Rydalmere Lions vs GHFA Spirit FC, 7pm Saturday 15 June, Valentine Sports Park No. 2
Two clubs with contrasting moods are set to meet at valentine Sports Park. Rydalmere have lost their last four matches, while Spirit FC will be looking to replicate the five star performance against Canterbury on Saturday.
The Lions must be bitterly disappointed after letting a 2-1 lead slip against St George City FA on the weekend. Rydalmere have recently bolstered the attacking stocks with the addition of Sam Perre (from Sydney United) and Garang Awac (from Blacktown Spartans), but 12 goals conceded in the last four games means the defence needs to step up and play its part.
In fourth place and only two points off the lead, Spirit FC are right in the title mix. Louis Bozanic was back amongst the goals against Canterbury, and his double took his tally to eight for the campaign, an impressive haul for a midfielder. More good performances by Bozanic and Travis Cooper (five goals) should help take the attacking pressure off Duncan Stewart.
Central Coast Mariners vs St George City FA, 3pm Sunday 16 June, Pluim Park No. 1
Two teams looking to make a late push for the finals meet at Pluim Park on Sunday, as eighth placed Central Coast Mariners face St George City FA, who currently lie in tenth.
The Mariners have spent the majority of the season either just inside or just outside the finals places, a lack of consistency costing them the chance to mix it with the title contenders. They are winless in three matches, but could have snatched all three points against the Wanderers on Saturday when Alec Vinci’s late header came back off the woodwork. Look to the likes of Dylan Ruiz-Diaz and Jordan Smylie to try and kick start things for Nick Montgomery’s young side.
Meanwhile, things are looking up for St George City FA, who have three wins in their last four matches. City showed great character on the weekend, coming from behind to defeat Rydalmere. That game saw Steve Kuzmanovski end a long scoreless run, and the versatile Matthew Mayora also got on the scoresheet.
North Shore Mariners vs Macarthur Rams, 3pm Sunday 16 June, Valentine Sports Park No. 2
It’s a home fixture (sort of) for North Shore Mariners on Sunday afternoon, as they “host” Macarthur Rams at Valentine Sports Park. On paper, this should be no contest. North Shore have almost double the points of the Rams, and defeated them convincingly back in Round 3. For Claudio Canosa’s team, it’s back to the drawing board after copping six against Blacktown Spartans.
As usual, the two Smiths (Mitchell and Marquin) are expected to lead the way for North Shore. Mitchell is having another excellent season at the head of the North Shore attack, his 12 goal tally bettered only by Western Sydney Wanderers forward Mohamed Adam. Marquin has also found his scoring boots recently, netting six goals in the last four rounds.
However, North Shore showed some defensive frailties on Sunday, conceding four goals in a game for the first time this year. A repeat performance could open things up for the Rams, with tricky winger Clement Ebahece Waoci and crafty midfielder Jamie Dib ready to take advantage.
By Eric Subijano
Twitter – @eric_subijano