Round 1 is in the books, now it’s time for the second episode of the league that always entertains.
This weekend, we have a newly-promoted side hoping to go on a winning run, defending Champions looking to prevent a losing streak, the potential for a family dispute in north west Sydney, and plenty more!
Match of the Round: Northern Tigers v Blacktown Spartans, 7:00pm Saturday 14 March, North Turramurra Recreation Area (TUNE IN ON THE NPL NSW FACEBOOK AND FOOTBALL NSW YOUTUBE PAGE TO VIEW THIS MATCH COMMENTATED BY PETER PRIOR)
We’re travelling to the leafy Northern Suburbs for this week’s featured match, as two teams with opening round wins face off. These two finished sixth and seventh last year, so it would be no surprise if this one went down to the wire.
The Tigers certainly know how to get the job done at the end of games. They scored 11 goals in the 80th minute or later last season, and continued this tendency for dramatic finishes with Lachlan Lloyd’s 95th minute winner on Saturday. All-star attacker Shervin Adeli is back for the Tigers after a stint in Italy, and if he plays it could be a great omen: he scored a … wait for it … late equaliser when the Spartans visited North Turramurra in 2019.
However, the Spartans got the better of Mounties last time out, so they have no reason to fear any side. Andre Carle is among the players at their disposal with the talent to help fix his team’s record of two goals in their last four games against the Tigers. At the other end, new shotstopper Mitchell Evans keeping a clean sheet on debut is a very positive sign for Brett Hewit’s side.
Hills United v St George City FA, 7:00pm Saturday 14 March, Lily Homes Stadium
They stumbled in the opening round, now Hills United are aiming to get off the mark for 2020. However, it won’t be easy against a St George City FA outfit that will be buzzing after Derby success last time out.
There were many positives for Hills despite that defeat to the Wanderers. Yusuke Maruyama showed some lovely touches in midfield, Eoin Montford was typically robust in the tackle and Harrick Sinpraseuth pulled off some acrobatic saves. United stalwarts Wade Giovenali and Glen Kelshaw both scored against City in 2019, both are more than capable of helping to kickstart the Hills title defence.
On the back of their first Derby win last Saturday, City will be looking for their first victory over Hills. However, they will have to fix a defensive record against the Champions that stands at nine goals conceded in two games – the likes of Tomi Romic and James Markovic are unlikely to let that continue. Three of their players scored their first goal for the club on Saturday, could Nathan Roberts follow them this weekend?
Mounties Wanderers v Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 7:00pm Saturday 14 March, Valentine Sports Park No. 2
Two sides looking to bounce back from first up defeats meet at Valentine Sports Park.
For this game, Mounties have a different kind of home (synthetic) turf than they’ve been used to in the past couple of seasons. Coach Brian Brown is still looking for a first win against the club he coached for many years but this time around he has former White Eagles Sam Gallaway and Amar Adilovic to help him. Their attack was frustrated by the Spartans on Saturday, but players like Michael Jeffrey and Jordan Parfait usually aren’t kept quiet for long.
Bonnyrigg were unlucky to lose on Saturday after creating a host of chances. There were plenty of positives – Jack Armson scored a well-taken goal last time out, just like his strike against Mounties in Round 3 of last season. Radovan Pavicevic, who definitely has the pedigree to make an impact in this league, also looked useful off the bench and could start this time around. Meanwhile, White Eagles fans can always look forward to Bradie Smith’s marauding runs down the right flank.
SD Raiders v St George FC, 7:00pm Saturday 14 March, Ernie Smith Reserve
Life in NPL 2 got off to the perfect start for the Raiders. They’ll be looking to home comforts again to assist their cause against St George FC.
As the Raiders look to bed themselves in, stability is required. This is where seasoned campaigners like Michael Rutherford and Dylan Stivala will come in handy. Obviously, you also need a bit of unpredictability to break down opposition defences, so a futsal star like Charles Abou Serhal might be the difference. Noah Chianese also made a great first impression at Ernie Smith Reserve, and he scored against the Saints in his last game against them, while in Mounties colours.
For St George FC, the only way is up after last weekend. A slow start cost them dearly, experienced defensive players like Musashi Kokubo and Ali Nasreddine will be keen to eliminate any chance of a repeat. They did improve in the second half of the Derby and were very close to scoring a couple of times. Mani Gonzalez has a great NPL 2 scoring record, and young playmaker Paolo Mitry has shown plenty of promise in his time with the first team.
Central Coast Mariners v Hakoah Sydney City East, 5:00pm Sunday 15 March, Pluim Park No. 1
The first of two Sunday games sees Hakoah travel up the coast to face Nick Montgomery’s young Mariners side.
Louis Khoury is the latest addition to Central Coast’s array of attacking firepower, and he certainly made an impact on the weekend, scoring two late goals to rescue a point. Add him to the likes of Jordan Smylie, Michael Katsoulis and Harry McCarthy – they certainly have enough to trouble their opponents. The Mariners may also look to Pluim Park goal specialist Matthew Hatch, who last year scored all five of his goals at the Lisarow venue.
It’s a rare experience (at least as far as this league is concerned) for Hakoah: their second consecutive game on a natural grass pitch. They could look to the last time they played at Pluim Park in a competitive match for inspiration, a 4-1 victory over Central Coast FC in 2015. Robbie Ezekiel and Giovanni Kachan will attempt to control the centre of the park for the Eastern Suburbs outfit as they look to register their first victory of the season.
NWS Spirit FC v Western Sydney Wanderers, 5:30pm Sunday 15 March, Christie Park No. 1
The round concludes at Christie Park, and this contest might have a bit of added spice with the presence of the Pelekanos brothers on opposing sides – Peter for Spirit and Dean for the Wanderers.
There was a lot of action in the dying minutes of Spirit’s last game, and we could well see something similar in this one, a fixture which has a history of late goals. Duncan Stewart grabbed an 85th minute winner for Spirit in 2019, Kosta Grozos did likewise in the 90th minute for the Wanderers the year before, while both Kyle Cimenti and Michael Streeter scored late goals the first time these two clubs met at Christie Park in 2016.
It’s hard not to be impressed by Michael Konestabo after he scored twice in his first game back from an ACL injury. He’ll have good memories of his last game against the Wanderers: he scored for Rydalmere as the Lions beat the Red & Black 4-2 in June 2018. Former Wanderers Academy goalkeeper Jack Greenwood also has a chance to show his old side what they’re missing.
The Wanderers have a record of win-loss-win-loss in their last four meetings with Spirit, so they’ll be hoping to maintain that pattern. Kosta Grozos was impressive last time out, and younger brother Peter will be keen to take any chance to follow in his footsteps with a good performance on Sunday. Young defender Mark Natta will also be key as the Red & Black look to break a streak of ten games without a clean sheet.
By Eric Subijano (@eric_subijano)