Five rounds are left in the National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s competition, and it might be do-or-die for some clubs. The Saturday night fixtures could very well clarify the finals picture, and there are also three huge clashes on Sunday afternoon.
Match of the Round: St George City FA v St George FC, 3:00pm Sunday 28 July, Jubilee Oval
The St George Derby is our featured game, and the teams go into this one in contrasting form: City are winless in four weeks, but the Saints are coming off morale boosting victories over Macarthur Rams and Western Sydney Wanderers.
For City, this is the end of a run of five straight matches at Jubilee Oval. A Derby victory would be especially welcome considering they weren’t triumphant in any of their previous four home fixtures. Suspensions in defence and midfield mean skipper Bill Tsanidis and Hayden Morton will be even more important than usual, while classy midfielder Hiten Satoh and speedy forward Geoffry Lino should give their opponents plenty to think about.
St George FC could be forgiven for having one eye on the FFA Cup Round of 32 game against Sydney United on Wednesday. However, they’ve got a good thing going in the league, and their return to form has coincided with Juan Carlos Romero’s return to the scoresheet. Romero’s sensational strike against the Wanderers on Sunday night meant he has scored in each of the last two weeks, a feat matched by pacey winger Marcus Beattie.
Blacktown Spartans v Northern Tigers, 7:00pm Saturday 27 July, Blacktown Football Park No. 1
Blacktown Football Park is the venue for an intriguing clash between Blacktown Spartans and Northern Tigers.
Six victories in eight rounds have taken the Spartans into fifth place, the highest they’ve been all year. Another win would give Paul Hubbard’s side a gap to the teams just below the finals places, so they shouldn’t be lacking for motivation. When predicting who might be the match winner for the Spartans, it’s hard to go past Connor Eldridge, especially as eight of his ten goals for the campaign have come at Blacktown Football Park.
Meanwhile, the Tigers are close to must-win territory, as they are five points off a finals place with five weeks left. A victory would also go some way towards making amends for a heavy defeat to Bonnyrigg last time out. However, to achieve this, the likes of defender Nicholas Kalogerou and goalkeeper Tonu Liiband will be vital in a defence that has usually been solid in 2019. History does favour the Tigers, who have only lost once in five previous games against the Spartans.
GHFA Spirit FC v Western Sydney Wanderers, 7:00pm Saturday 27 July, Christie Park No. 1
Sixth plays seventh at Christie Park and there’s only four rounds to go after this weekend, so this clash is almost like a mini finals game. Both these teams suffered defeat at Lily Homes Stadium last time out, and they’ll be hoping for a change in form, as neither Spirit nor the Wanderers have tasted victory in over a month.
Spirit have been unusually frail at the back recently, conceding 11 goals in the last three weeks. The experience of Tomislav Romic and Pasqualino Cappuccio will be crucial as David Perkovic’s team look to stem the tide at the back. On the bright side, Duncan Stewart took his season tally to 14 goals when he found the net on Saturday night.
The Wanderers also have players that know how to find the back of the net, and Marley Peterson netted a hat trick when these two met in April. Elsewhere, Evan Tsakos has looked lively on the wing since his midseason move from Sydney FC, and Mohamed Al Taay will be needed to marshal a young backline. The Red & Black have a good record against Spirit, with four victories, two draws and just the single defeat in seven matches.
Mounties Wanderers v Rydalmere Lions, 7:00pm Saturday 27 July, Sydney United Sports Centre
Mounties will try to maintain their late surge up the ladder on Saturday night, and they face a Rydalmere Lions outfit in desperate need of a victory.
Brian Brown’s side were on fire against St George City FA, showing their full array of attacking talent and recording their third five goal performance of the season. He would be delighted that the triumvirate of Sean Rooney, Matthew West and Tai Smith all got on the scoresheet, and there was even impact off the bench in the form of a double for Noah Chianese.
Rydalmere might look to the last time they played Mounties at Sydney United Sports Centre for inspiration, a 5-4 triumph in May 2018. Saturday’s clean sheet against Blacktown Spartans was their first since Round 11, coincidentally also the last game they won. The leadership of Christopher Nunes will be crucial if the Lions are to repeat this kind of defensive performance, while up front Garang Awac is usually a handful, so can he trouble the Mounties backline?
Canterbury Bankstown FC v Macarthur Rams 7:00pm Saturday 27 July, The Crest Athletic Centre
Wins have been at a premium for these sides in 2019. Canterbury and Macarthur have combined for only seven victories so far, and both coaches know this might be their best opportunity to grab three points between now and the final round.
Canterbury were so close to an upset on last time out, before North Shore scored twice in the space of a minute late on to clinch victory. They can at least take heart from pushing the league leaders all the way on Saturday, and Canterbury have usually been competitive in their recent home games. If they are to win, Enol Ordonez Suarez will be key, and he has put in some impressive goalkeeping displays this year.
Things are looking a bit better for Macarthur after three draws in the last four weeks, and the Rams should be reasonably confident – they took the spoils when they met Canterbury in Round 9. Speedy attacker Sam Onana Awono is likely to be their main threat, and he combined well with Michael Stojanovski on the weekend. Besides those two, Rams coach Claudio Canosa also has the physical presence of Philip Hasiuk and the trickery of Yusuke Maruyama to call on.
Central Coast Mariners v Hills United, 3:00pm Sunday 28 July, Pluim Park No. 1
Hills United will aim to keep their Premiership hopes alive when they travel to Pluim Park on Sunday, can Central Coast get a result and do their cousins from the North Shore a favour?
Central Coast’s push for the finals probably ended after they were held to a draw by Macarthur on Saturday. However, there is always something to play for, and head coach Nick Montgomery knows a good run of form at the end of the season will put them in good stead for the upcoming National Youth League campaign. Michael Katsoulis and Joey Jevtic have the talent to give the Hills backline problems, while Alec Vinci has settled well following his switch to the backline.
Hills have the most prolific attack in the division (48 goals so far), and have netted 14 times in their last four games. With five goals in his last five appearances, lightning quick forward Daniel Fogarty is leading the charge for United in this respect. Fogarty does have plenty of support, particularly in wide areas, as Jordan Parfait and Alexander Vlismas have performed admirably in recent weeks.
North Shore Mariners v Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 3:30pm Sunday 28 July, Northbridge Oval
There’s a huge clash in Northbridge on Sunday afternoon as the league leaders host third placed Bonnyrigg.
Even if they have to leave it late sometimes, North Shore always seem to get the job done. The comeback against Canterbury on Saturday means Joe Haywood’s side have only lost once in four months. Predictably, Mitchell Smith grabbed the winner, taking his total to 17 for the year and ensuring that he puts some pressure on Mohamed Adam in the race for the Golden Boot.
The White Eagles are also in great form, with 19 points from a possible 21 in the last seven rounds. Bonnyrigg haven’t always been prolific in front of goal this year, so head coach Wayne O’Sullivan would have been glad to see it all come together against Northern Tigers. Asmir Kadric keeps banging the goals in, and the experienced midfield duo of Ray Miller and David Vrankovic will run the show on Sunday if North Shore let them.
By Eric Subijano
Twitter – @eric_subijano