Now that you’ve all had the chance to dry out from a wet weekend, let’s take a look at the third instalment of this year’s National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s competition. There are three exciting games on Saturday night, while on Sunday we have a local Derby and two undefeated teams locking horns.
Blacktown Spartans v Newcastle Jets, 7:00pm Saturday 1 August, Blacktown Football Park
This game is definitely an interesting one to analyse. The Spartans are seeking to build on their excellent victory over a talented St George City FA side, while the Jets have had the bye week to reflect on a Round 1 loss to Northern Tigers.
Brett Hewit’s side are one of only three unbeaten teams remaining. That’s partly thanks to last week’s goalscorer Connor Eldridge, who has a good record in Rooty Hill: he scored 8 times in 12 Blacktown Football Park appearances in 2019. However, the Spartans are far from one-dimensional, with Andre Carle setting up a goal and Lewis Fraser scoring a worldie on Sunday.
Newcastle had a tough initiation to life as an NPL 2 Men’s team, but there were positives to take from the opening round. Adam Zervas was lively, and he is capable of punishing the Spartans if given the space. More room for Zervas could also mean chances fall the way of Sam Donnellan and Joshua Benson, who both had their moments against the Tigers.
Northern Tigers v Hills United, 7:00pm Saturday 1 August, North Turramurra Recreation Area
Last weekend, both of these teams experienced a let down after opening round success: Northern Tigers were defeated by Bonnyrigg, and Hills lost by the odd goal in seven against Central Coast.
For the hosts, the good news is that they don’t often get shutout at North Turramurra Recreation Area. Ally Brown’s cleverness in attacking areas will be key to ensuring that they get on the scoreboard (figuratively speaking) on Saturday. Former Hills United winger Nick Drummond could also be an attacking option for Tigers coach Adam Hett.
Speaking of attack, Hills certainly have a reputation for finding the net. Patrick Zwaanswijk’s side were last season’s top scorers, and they’ve continued in this vein with three goals in both of their first two matches. It helps that Daniel Fogarty is back – the speedy striker seems to have picked up where he left off last year, finishing clinically in the second half of their game against the Mariners.
SD Raiders v Hakoah Sydney City East, 7:00pm Saturday 1 August, Ernie Smith Reserve
SD Raiders will be aiming to repeat their March feat of victory over Hakoah, while the Eastern Suburbs side want to bounce back from Saturday’s defeat to Spirit FC.
Alvaro Malmierca is settling in well to life at the Raiders: the crafty midfielder set up two goals last weekend, adding to his long-range strike in Round 1. Malmierca is one of five different Raiders goalscorers in the opening two games, so Nick Carle appears to have a balanced attack at his disposal. However, Michael Rutherford’s red card means backup goalkeeper Joshua Glasson has some big gloves to fill.
For Hakoah, things might have been different against Spirit if that early Bruno Mendes chance hadn’t been tipped onto the post. Luka Hrzina will be looking to the fleet-footed striker to lead the line once again, and he’ll be supported well by the likes of Jordan Koton and Matthew Nezval. At the back, Niki Loe’s goalkeeping skills may well be needed against a strong Raiders frontline.
It’s been a difficult week for the club personally having lost one of their well loved former players in Deklan Gilmartin, may he rest in peace.
St George City FA v St George FC, 3:00pm Sunday 2 August, Arncliffe Park – Synthetic
Everyone loves a Derby! This one could be spicy as both teams are searching for their first win of the season.
City return to their new home after falling to the Spartans last time out. Jason Romero’s coolly taken penalty was their brightest moment of last weekend, and his goals will be vital if City are to challenge this year. The American forward has support in the form of tricky winger Nathan Roberts and Japanese midfield maestro Hiten Satoh, who are both capable of threatening any defence in this division.
St George FC have also had a challenging start to the season. One thing that can’t be doubted is Manny Gonzalez’s performances, as the 2018 NPL 2 Men’s Golden Boot has scored in each of the first two rounds. Saints skipper Hussein Akil will be aiming to win the midfield battle (always important in a Derby), while the return of Anthony Costa between the sticks adds experience.
Central Coast Mariners v NWS Spirit FC, 3:00pm Sunday 2 August, Pluim Park No. 1
Since the other Sunday fixture is a Derby, can we call this the Duncan Stewart Derby? Two sides that have benefitted massively in recent seasons from Stewart’s goalscoring meet in Lisarow, and they are both trying to build on impressive starts to the campaign.
On Saturday, the young Mariners displayed great character to win after being 2-0 down, away to the defending Champions no less. Four goals in a 35 minute spell show what Nick Montgomery’s side can do when firing on all cylinders. Aside from the attackers, Max Balard was pulling the strings in midfield – a repeat performance would help Central Coast’s quest to go top of the table.
Given the way I wrote this game’s intro, it’s fitting that Duncan Stewart scored last week. He isn’t the only Spirit player with experience on the Central Coast: former Coastie Louis Bozanic found the net eight times in 2019 for Spirit and nearly scored against Hakoah. David Perkovic’s side are the only team yet to concede this season, and he will be pleased by the performances from youngsters Jack Greenwood and Thomas McPherson.
Bye: Bonnyrigg White Eagles
By Eric Subijano (@eric_subijano)