Only two rounds left! The National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s Premiership could be settled this weekend, while slightly further down the ladder six clubs are fighting for the three remaining finals spots.
Match of the Round: GHFA Spirit FC v Mounties Wanderers, 7:00pm Saturday 17 August, Christie Park No. 1
The equation is simple for our featured game: win and you’re in. Both teams can secure postseason football with three points, however anything less and they might have to wait until the final weekend to seal a top six place.
Spirit finish the regular season against North Shore Mariners at Northbridge Oval, so they’ll be keen to book a finals spot on their home turf. The return of Louie Zacharopoulos at the back could be crucial for a side that hasn’t kept a clean sheet since June, while former Mounties coach David Perkovic will be seeking to rectify his team’s poor recent record against the south-west Sydney outfit – only one victory in their last seven meetings.
Mounties also have someone going against their former club in striker Matthew West. He is far from the only attacking threat at Brian Brown’s disposal though, and Sean Rooney scored from a free kick on Saturday, just one of the many ways in which he can hurt a defence. Tai Smith might be one to look out for – he scored a double when these two met in May.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Northern Tigers, 8:00pm Wednesday 14 August, Valentine Sports Park No. 2
This round kicks off with a Wednesday evening fixture, as Western Sydney Wanderers have rescheduled their game against Northern Tigers due to Young Socceroos call-ups.
The Wanderers haven’t beaten Northern Tigers since their inaugural match in March 2016 (three draws and three losses since then). It’s also been tough in recent times for the youngsters in Red & Black, but there are positives. Mark Natta and Rory Jordan did well as second half substitutes last week against Bonnyrigg, while Evan Tsakos scored his first Wanderers goal since joining from Sydney FC.
Northern Tigers have a chance to put some pressure on the sides above them – a win sees them move ahead of Blacktown Spartans into sixth place. They’re facing a team that has the third most prolific attack in the division, so big performances are needed from the likes of Jamie Lobb and Nicholas Kalogerou. Up front, former Wanderers Academy player Ollie Wiggin will want to show what he can do.
St George FC v Hills United, 7:00pm Saturday 17 August, Ilinden Sports Centre
Ilinden Sports Centre is the venue for a Saturday night clash which affects both ends of the table.
The Saints need Club Championship points in a hurry, so it might help that they have an excellent record against Hills – six victories and a draw in their last seven meetings. St George FC are also one of only three sides to keep Hills United scoreless in 2019, so the defensive pairing of Alexander Kyriacou and Musashi Kokubo will be aiming for a repeat. At the other end of the field, Marcus Beattie keeps scoring, and he linked well with Juan Carlos Romero on Sunday.
What a turnaround it’s been for Hills United! Patrick Zwaanswijk’s team were five points off the top only three weeks ago, but they head into this contest knowing that they can wrap up the Premiership if they win and North Shore Mariners lose to Rydalmere. It helps when you keep racking up the goals: Saturday’s 5-0 victory over Canterbury means they have now scored an incredible 28 goals in their last seven matches. Wade Giovenali starred on Saturday, and he’ll look to run the show in midfield once again.
St George City FA v Macarthur Rams, 7:00pm Saturday 17 August, Seymour Shaw
Two teams searching for some form meet at Seymour Shaw, as St George City FA host Macarthur Rams.
City have had a long time to think about their heavy defeat to Hills two weekends ago, but one positive was the return of Corey Gameiro to action. Along with the pacey Geoffry Lino, the former Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar forward is sure to test the Rams backline. However, Gameiro isn’t the only City player who has A-League experience, and Hayden Morton could be vital in holding the midfield together.
Macarthur need to turn things around in a couple of ways: the Rams haven’t scored in their last three games, and they’ve only collected six points away from home all season. Sam Onana Awono has usually been the one to spark things for his side, and Rams coach Claudio Canosa certainly needs his pace and energy on Saturday. Awono can’t do it alone though, so the skill of Yusuke Maruyama and physical presence of Anthony Haddad will also be required.
Canterbury Bankstown FC v Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 7:00pm Saturday 17 August, The Crest Athletic Centre
Bonnyrigg White Eagles will try to keep their winning run going when they travel to The Crest Athletic Centre to take on Canterbury Bankstown FC.
Canterbury are looking to take advantage of their final match at The Crest in 2019, and it’s a venue where they have earned 12 of their 14 points this campaign. They’ll need all the advantages that they can get – the fearsome Bonnyrigg attack provides a huge test for the likes of Mathew Clowes, Jackson McMenamie and Lachlan Mailey. In attack, statuesque striker Scott Tonkin will aim to lead the line.
The White Eagles have only dropped two points in ten rounds, and are clearly finding their best form as we head into the finals. Wayne O’Sullivan’s side had five different scorers against Macarthur on the weekend, including midseason signing Jack Fulton, however Bonnyrigg offer more than just attacking prowess. Their defence, led by skipper Sam Gallaway, has been outstanding, with four clean sheets in their last five games.
Central Coast Mariners v Blacktown Spartans, 3:00pm Sunday 18 August, Pluim Park No. 1
At Pluim Park, two clubs with postseason ambitions meet on Sunday afternoon.
The phrase “must win” is used a lot in football, but it applies in the literal sense for the Mariners: anything other than three points means they’ll miss out on a finals spot. Central Coast can take inspiration from their game against the Spartans earlier this year, a 5-1 victory in Round 12. Nick Montgomery’s team have scored seven goals in their last two matches at Pluim Park – Jordan Smylie and Joey Jevtic could be key in attack for them.
However, the Spartans have ambitions of their own, and three points here will be a huge step towards the finals. Paul Hubbard’s side need to overturn a poor record against Central Coast – they are winless in five previous attempts. Mason Ireland has chipped in with three goals in the last five weeks, providing much needed support for Spartans top scorer Connor Eldridge, who always causes problems for opposing backlines.
North Shore Mariners v Rydalmere Lions, 3:30pm Sunday 18 August, Northbridge Oval
The other Sunday fixture has a huge bearing on both the Premiership and relegation battles.
For North Shore, it’s now three games without victory, and their chances of finishing on top are slipping away. They’ll hope the familiar surroundings of Northbridge Oval can help them get back to winning ways this Sunday and on the final weekend. North Shore captain Ricky Woodward and Sean Eve are needed to hold things together in the centre of the park, Brian Jamba will do likewise at the back, and Marquin Smith should be confident – he scored a hat trick against the Lions back in May.
Christian Long’s late equaliser against St George FC last time out could make all the difference for Rydalmere at the end of the season. However, there’s only a nine point buffer in the Club Championship to the Saints, so this situation is far too precarious for the Lions to rest on their laurels. North Shore have the second stingiest defence in the division, presenting a challenge for Rydalmere’s forwards, but they also need Addison Sayan and Abuzar Awaz to gain enough control in midfield for their front three to fire.
By Eric Subijano
Twitter – @eric_subijano