A title chase with four teams? You love to see it.
The penultimate round is Central Coast’s turn to have the bye – Spirit FC, Northern Tigers and Bonnyrigg White Eagles all have a huge chance to stake their claim for the National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s Premiership.
SD Raiders v Newcastle Jets, 5:00pm Saturday 19 September, Ernie Smith Reserve
The round starts slightly earlier than normal, as two teams who were somewhat unlucky to lose on Sunday face off in Moorebank.
It’s the last game of the season for SD Raiders and it pits Nick Carle against his former club. Despite the defeat to St George City FA, he will have been pleased to see four different goalscorers on the weekend. Daniel Bittar dropped into the left back role and caught the eye with some dangerous attacking runs, while Declan Cotter has also impressed since being welcomed back into the 1st Grade lineup.
Newcastle have lost their last two games, but three away trips in eight days was always going to be difficult for them. They certainly weren’t disgraced on Sunday against Hakoah, taking the lead and only falling to defeat because of a goal in the final ten minutes. Look to the likes of Ryan Goodhew and Jack Simmons as the Jets try to win the midfield battle and play their football.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles v St George FC, 6:00pm Saturday 19 September, Bonnyrigg Sports Club
Bonnyrigg have almost guaranteed their top four spot. They’ll pursue the Premiership against a Saints side licking their wounds after Sunday’s heavy defeat to the Mariners.
The White Eagles are defying the old cliché of “2-0 is the most dangerous score line in football”. Four out of their eight games have been 2-0 victories, including their two most recent outings against Spartans and Hills. With the stingiest defence in the league, it’s easy to see why Bonnyrigg can hold on to winning positions, and they are blessed to have received quality goalkeeping performances from both James Chronopoulos and Stefan Giglio in 2020.
St George FC need to get that Pluim Park trip out of their heads. They did win their previous two away fixtures, so they’re not reliant on familiar surroundings to get results. One positive from Sunday is the return of Bradley Bartels, who gave the Saints some consolation with a well taken goal. The attacking pair of Mani Gonzalez and Paolo Mitry are also fully capable of giving Bonnyrigg defensive headaches.
NWS Spirit FC v Northern Tigers, 7:00pm Saturday 19 September, Christie Park No. 1
Remember when we had to select a Match of the Round? This would have been a great choice – second vs third in a northern suburbs derby.
If Spirit maintain their 100% home winning record, they’ll be in the box seats as far as this season’s Premiership drama is concerned. Last weekend, Kota Odakura recorded an assist and made a vital goal line clearance, showing his worth in both attacking and defensive situations. David Perkovic will be pleased that it’s not just the starters making telling contributions – Anthony Vastag made a late entrance and scored with his first touch against the Spartans.
The Tigers will be hoping the bye week hasn’t slowed down an attack that scored 14 goals in their last four games. Ollie Scott has exceeded all expectations: the youngster wasn’t even promoted to the 1st Grade side until Round 5, but he is now the team’s leading scorer after five goals in three games. At the back, the defensive duo of Elliot Carwardine and William Foristal are a big reason for Northern Tigers keeping three consecutive clean sheets.
Hills United v St George City FA, 7:00pm Saturday 19 September, Lily Homes Stadium
Hills are coming off a mixed week with a win and a defeat, while St George City FA might still be recovering from Sunday’s nine goal thriller.
The short history in this fixture favours Hills, who beat City 4-2 and 5-1 last season. Whether he plays on the wing or as an attacking midfielder, Stephan De Robillard has looked dangerous and the future looks bright for the former Wanderers Academy player. De Robillard isn’t the only Hills youngster getting noticed: Jacob Lattuga, Zachary Reardon and Darcy Ellem all made their 1st Grade debuts in last week’s game against Newcastle.
City were trailing 2-0 and 3-2 on the weekend, but maintained confidence in their gameplan and eventually grabbed all three points. Nathan Roberts was instrumental in the comeback, scoring one goal, creating another and generally causing havoc on the wing. The meeting between these two sides in March may be null and void, however City can still look to it for inspiration: Roberts got on the scoresheet, as did skipper Tarik Ercan.
Hakoah Sydney City East v Blacktown Spartans, 6:30pm Sunday 20 September, Hensley Athletic Field
On Sunday night, it’s East vs West, who will turn out to be the best?
Hakoah’s last two games have been 2-1 home victories. A repeat performance would take Hakoah closer to an upper mid-table finish, and that would be cause for satisfaction given their slow start. Matthew Nezval’s match winning double against Newcastle made it three goals in three appearances at Hensley Athletic Field, while at the other end of the field defensive performances have improved in recent weeks, so credit should go to the likes of Daniel Loe and Charlie Cox.
On Saturday, Nathan Separovic broke a Spartans goal drought of over 200 minutes, but it wasn’t enough to get them over the line against Spirit FC. Malcolm Ward was also good that night, coming on as an early substitute and providing his usual amount of energy on the flanks. Perhaps unusually given the distance between these two clubs, the Spartans have a number of former Hakoah players: Dau Akol, Connor Eldridge, Finley Hayhurst, Richard Blanco and Joshua Orchard have all spent time in the eastern suburbs.
Bye: Central Coast Mariners
By Eric Subijano (@eric_subijano)