Finals Series Round 2 Preview – Men’s State League


You just know September is around the corner when the State League Men’s roadshow takes us to Valentine Sports Park.

After getting a taste of finals football last week, the pressure valve continues to rise as four will become three this weekend and we get our first Grand Finalist.

Semi Final 1: Western Condors v South Coast Flame; Saturday 31st August, 6pm @ Valentine Sports Park 3

Add another five minutes to last week’s game against Fraser Park, and Western Condors could well be playing Central Coast United. That isn’t the case though and a couple of sloppy goals means they now find themselves playing for survival. An early goal to Gabriel Gomes set things on their way before they struggled to hold their grasp on the fixture and were duly punished. And despite a late flurry which included a goal from Gustavo Maya Valiente, they simply ran out of time.

That goal from Gustavo Maya Valiente continues his goalscoring run off the bench, with a goal in his past four appearances. However, you would almost suggest that their biggest threat comes from a good old fashioned where Gabriel Gomes has a free kick to strike fear into any opponent. If they are to come out victorious this weekend though, it’s crucial they tighten up their defense and limit the space in midfield before unleashing their bench to envy.

Western Condors coach Barry Zambrano looks forward to another entertaining clash. “We’ve always had good games with South Coast Flame, they’ve improved as the season has gone on, so we need to be ready with the right frame of mind, train well and hopefully earn another crack at Fraser Park or Central Coast United.”

Have I mentioned their win wasn’t pretty last weekend? South Coast Flame willed themselves to an elimination final victory over Hurstville FC last weekend. The Flame showed resilience beyond their years in a gritty performance at Ian Mclennan Park. Backs against the wall, it was Yuki Mandai who came off the bench (after missing his train stop on the way down) to score the games solidarity goal with a determined effort. The youthful squad has surprised us to get this far into the competition, so why not go one step further?

There was a downside in that victory though, with a few players taking knocks which put them in doubt for this weekends fixture. However, they will more than likely be boosted by the return of key forward Hiroaki Ushijima. Elsewhere, captain and goalkeeper Matthew White will once again be key to their hopes after one of the best goalkeeping performances I’ve seen at this level. Whilst elsewhere they will look to control the midfield through last week’s goal scorer Yuki Mandai.

South Coast Flame coach Neil Mineef is ready for another tough test. “We are under no illusion of the challenge ahead of us. Looking forward to challenging ourselves against another quality opposition.”

Previous meetings:

R1: South Coast Flame 0-7* Western Condors

FFA Cup: Western Condors 3-2 South Coast Flame

R12: Western Condors 2-2 South Coast Flame

Last words and prediction:

As the season has progressed, the games between these two sides have only for closer. The question is have the Flame tightened the gap to progress? Time will tell, but I fancy Condors may just be a little too strong.

Semi Final 2: Central Coast United v Fraser Park; Sunday 31st August, 6pm @ Valentine Sports Park 2

And so, we come to the final team to enter this finals series. Central Coast United have now achieved everything there is to achieve after claiming the premiership by three points. This caps off a memorable two seasons which has seen them win everything there is to win in the State League Men’s competition. However, a weird fixture anomaly potentially sees them come into this one as the underdogs. That fixture anomaly is they haven’t played a game in three weeks, well at least three weeks by kick off on Saturday evening. Motivation against this team shouldn’t be hard to come by though.

What else is there to say about this outfit? Central Coast United are simply a solid team across the park. From shot stopper Jack OMally at the back, all the way through to Adam Woodbine leading the line. The table doesn’t lie, and that table says they’re the best. However, their focal point, heartbeat if you like comes from captain and star man, Daniel Mcfarlane. The 2018 State League player of the year has continued his form, scoring another fourteen goals this campaign. If his on song this Saturday night, the Premiers will be hard to stop.

Central Coast United coach Stu Davis has no illusions as to what his team face this weekend. “Obviously we are highly motivated for this clash given our results during the regular season. We know it won’t be easy but at the same time are looking forward to the challenge.”

Back to normality for Fraser Park? Last weekend wasn’t an easy clash for Renato Jelen and his team. By their own admission, they were dragged right out of their comfort zone against the Western Condors. It did however show to the watching public, a side to this team we’ve rarely seen up until this point, fight. Yes, unlike a few times this season where they’ve folded against a team taking it to them. Fraser Park simply stood up and met the challenge head on, rewarded with goals to Cam Philpot as well as Dominic Siu. In saying this, clashes against this week’s opponents have been memorable for Fraser Park.

When you’re facing a frontline of Luiz Lobo, Matthew Nezval and Shu Torihara, it’s easy to relax when you do a good job of shutting them down. However Western Condors will attest it’s not a wise move and it simply allowed Cam Philpot to step up last weekend. The midfielder claimed a double, causing havoc to the Condors defense with his late well-timed runs into the box. In previous clashes against Central Coast United, it’s been the defense who have impressed, not conceding in their previous two fixtures. So, the likes of Ian Johnson, Rodrigo Cataldi, Talan Myers and Alexis Wenzel certainly deserve a mention for that.

Looking forward to this weekends clash, coach Renato Jelen says. “”Look, we need to respect them, they’re a great side who finished first. We know how to win against them having taken two wins during the regular season and we’ll look to capitalize with a fast start against a side who haven’t played in three weeks.”

Previous meetings:

R6: Fraser Park 1-0 Central Coast United

R17: Central Coast United 0-3 Fraser Park

Last words and prediction:

So, the best side in the league meet there achilles heel. Central Coast United will be determined to make it third time lucky and it’s hard to tip against the Premiers.

By Justin Smith (@smiththejustin)