Eight teams separated by two points; It can only be the League One Men’s competition!
Five rounds in, we were treated to a plethora of high-quality games in round five action.
In this week’s top of the table, Northern Tigers extended the gap between them and the chasing pack. While Mounties Wanderers, Central Coast Mariners and NWS Spirit secured vital victories in their campaign.
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (Malbasa 73‘) v Northern Tigers FC 2 (Brown 32‘, Scott 34‘)
It wasn’t easy, but Northern Tigers continued their near perfect start to the season with a victory over Western Sydney Wanderers, Sunday afternoon.
Two first half goals to Alexander Brown and Oliver Scott proved too much for the hosts to chase down despite scoring themselves through Jakov Malbasa.
The game started with a settling in period, both sides feeling each other out in the early stage with the ball spending a lot of time in the Western Sydney Wanderers attacking half without an end product.
There’s a lot to admire about this Northern Tigers side and one of their key attributes is their ability to hang in there and play themselves into fixture as they did in the opening half.
While Allesandro Lopane was looking the biggest threat for the hosts. Shooting over the bar on the quarter hour. That’s not to discount Alex Badolato through and his shot ten minutes later was deflected over the bar.
The ensuing corner forcing a save from Elliot Carwardine with a tremendous save off the line, acrobatically diving to his right.
Still, the Tigers were building, and they got their reward on thirty-two minutes. Another wonderful ball from Hiyori Kawaguchi catching the Wanderers keeper in two minds before Ally Brown arrived on the scene to finish to give the visitors the advantage.
One became two in quick succession, with a goal to take you speechless. A wonderfully flighted Lachlan Lloyd ball allowing Oliver Scott to control it in behind (what a first touch btw) and then equal that touch with a tremendous finish.
While Elliot Carwardine was alert to come off his line to deny George Antonis a shooting opportunity after Alex Badolato sprung a counterattack on forty minutes.
With a two-goal lead in hand at the break, the Tigers turned their attention to managing the game at resumption. While Wanderers opted to bring the likes Jesper Webber into the fray as they pushed to come back into the contest.
As such the Wanderers were made to wait for their opportunities, Aiden Mostofi nearly sparking one on the hour with a ball across goal. Yet once again, it was cleared away by a stubborn defense.
The pressure meter was being turned up though, and a shot soon followed, Stevan Stanic-Floody forcing a comfortable save from Carwardine.
However, their reward did come through Jakov Malbasa. The young attacker capitalizing on a rare, missed interception from Jamie Lobb in defense. Malbasa taking it around the keeper before slipping it home to reduce the deficit to one.
Northern Tigers on the other hand nearly got a decisive third goal past the 80th minute. Kawaguchi going close with a powerful effort from inside the area after Shervin Adeli sent a ball across. Which was followed by an Ollie Wiggin effort in the final minute of regulation time.
The Wanderers kept pressing but they couldn’t get past the Tigers defense.
Western Sydney Wanderers travel up the motorway to face Central Coast Mariners next Sunday, while Northern Tigers will be hoping for a Good Friday showing in their fixture against SD Raiders.
SD Raiders FC 1 (Cotter 89‘) v Mounties Wanderers FC 2 (Bartels 61‘, Perre 65‘)
Mounties Wanderers claimed local bragging rights with a one goal victory over SD Raiders, Saturday night.
After a tense opening half, goal a game Brad Bartels picked up the opener before Sam Perre picked up their second on his first start of the season. SD Raiders then pressed to bring the game back but pulled up short, Declan Cotter scoring their consolation goal.
Although the scoring wasn’t opened in the opening half, the two sides did exchange chances of their own. Mark Cindric was first to try with an audacious effort after seeing Daniel Sadaka off his line, Cindric’s effort going wide.
Before Carlo Imola went close with a header for the “visitors”, heading over the bar after Brad Bartels found him with his cross on five minutes.
Throughout the contest, the Mounties were relentless in their pressing game, creating several chances on the back of it. With Sam Perre and Matthew Khalil both having chances in the opening half hour.
While at the other end, Daniel Bittar and Milan Parenta were looking the Raiders biggest threat.
The best chance of the half was to fall the way of the visitors though. A Sam Perre free kick on the top of the half circle forcing Mario Aleksik into a good save to his right with Anthony Windsor not able to steer home the follow up.
It would only be a matter of time till Mounties Wanderers were rewarded for their efforts though, and it came through Brad Bartels on the hour mark. Bartels sticking out a leg to steer home a Sam Perre cross from the left hand side to give the visitors the advantage.
That one goal lead then became two less than five minutes later. Sam Perre scoring one of the easiest goals he’ll ever score, the high press forcing an error in the hosts backline. Perre on the spot to finish after receiving it inside the box. 2-0 Mounties.
In response to the deficit, the Raiders went searching for the goals they needed. Their goal coming in the last minute before injury time, Declan Cotter heading past the keeper kissing the left-hand facing post on its way in after Matthew Barkho played the ball into the area.
Mounties Wanderers host Hills United next weekend, while SD Raiders face a trick trip to North Turramurra, Friday night.
Hakoah FC 0 v Central Coast Mariners FC 2 (Bayliss 86‘ 90‘)
Lachlan Bayliss! That’s the intro… Central Coast Mariners picked up a hefty scalp striking twice late to sink Hakoah FC at Hensley Athletic.
It didn’t take long for the hosts to register their first shot of the match, Luiz Lobo trying his luck from outside the area which just went wide of the left post.
The Mariners welcomed back the likes of Bradley Tapp and Cameron Windust back into the squad and it showed on the scoreboard with the clean sheet. While Dor Jok also made his presence known up front.
However, it took a while for them to have a clear chance of their own, the first falling to Jok who didn’t have enough conviction on his header to challenge the Hakoah keeper.
Chances were at a premium before the half time whistle, Hakoah going close on thirty-six minutes with a ball across the face from Joseph Roddy causing the goalkeeper some issues. With Luiz Lobo following up with a direct free kick.
And the action continued from that free kick at the other end, Dor Jok once again proving a headache cutting in from the right before having to weave his way to a shot which couldn’t get past Nikolas Loe in goal.
After the break, it wasn’t too long before the action restarted, the Mariners receiving a freekick from just outside the area which Nikola Skataric skied over the bar.
Indeed, it was the visitors who controlled a lot of the early stages of the second half, with the hosts only occasionally endeavoring forward. That pattern continued as Cameron Windust headed over the bar on seventy-three minutes.
While Dominic Cox had an effort on seventy-five minutes after combining with the leagues most impressive mullet in Joseph Roddy. With a long throw causing a bit of chaos in the Mariners box soon after.
In an even contest, it was going to take something special to open the scores and it came through the aforementioned Bayliss. The first a spectacular effort from outside the area after a brisk counterattack found him free on the right. His left footed shot finding the top corner in wonderful fashion.
Which was followed by a further gut punch, Lachlan Bayliss opting for the ground route from inside the area. His shot finding the bottom left corner.
Hakoah FC host their second consecutive home game next weekend against NWS Spirit. While Central Coast Mariners return to Pluim for an Easter showdown with Western Sydney Wanderers.
St George FC 1 (Jones 66‘) v St George City 1 (OG 74‘)
Honours were shared at Ilinden Sports Centre as St George FC and St George City played out a score draw, Saturday night.
The hosts took the lead through Harry Jones before St George City hit back through an own goal a few minutes later.
The first chance of the game came two minutes in, and it went the way of the visitors. Mark Moric Entering the area from the left before firing across the face of goal.
The hosts best chance of the half fell to Brian Sutomo, a Cam Philpot cross finding Sutomo who flicked the ball goalward however it didn’t have enough power to get past Vasos Kartambis in the City net after Mackenzie Syron took a heavy knock earlier in the half.
Whereas City had multiple attacking third entries without really notching a chance of note.
St George City opened the second half in terms of chances once again. Paolo Mitry firing over the bar from just outside the area after Saracino teed him up.
At this point, it was City who were creating the chances with another falling shortly after. Saracino this time on the end of it after Damian German found him wide right. Saracino dribbling into the box before forcing the hosts keeper into a sharp save.
The hour mark brought a change in momentum with the hosts finding their feet. And they were rewarded with a goal two thirds in the match. Philpot once again involved breaking down the left, before playing it central where Harry Jones was on hand to curl a shot into the bottom right of the net.
City on the other hand were now looking a bit more like the side we saw in 2021 with Jay Jay Morfitis and Nathan Roberts appearances off the bench. But it was a newer face to the club to make a difference. Jakub Prajza intercepting in midfield before slipping in Joshua Keremelevski who sent a ball across the face which took an unfortunate deflection over the keeper for an own goal on 75 minutes. 1-1.
With the wind at their back, City continued to push getting the ball into dangerous areas while Troy Danaskos, Keremelevski, German and Roberts all having chances in the last ten minutes.
While Yu Hasegawa and Cam Philpot had chances at the other end both coming from inside the area.
Mark Milligan’s men travel to Sydney’s South-West to face Bonnyrigg White Eagles next weekend, while St George City welcome Blacktown Spartans to Penshurst Park.
NWS Spirit FC 3 (Lino 38’, Konestabo 45’ 48’) v Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC 1 (Pavicevic 65’)
NWS Spirit FC picked up a crucial victory overcoming Bonnyrigg White Eagles in entertaining fashion at the one and only Christie Park.
A Geoffrey Lino penalty opened the scores before Michael Konestabo picked up a brace. While Radovan Pavicevic picked up a consolation for the visitors.
The hosts started this one with a point to prove after a draw last weekend, creating a chance in the first few minutes of play. Geoffrey Lino hitting the crossbar from close range.
Bonnyrigg were to hit back with there own period of consolidated pressure. With Marie Gauthier sending a ball across the face before Sean Eve and Aaron Peterson both had a shot.
But despite this period of territorial dominance, NWS Spirit were having the better chances on goal. Another Geoffrey Lino shot cleared off the line after combining with Michael Konestabo. A combination you’re going to hear more of in this report.
The scoring was opened on thirty six minutes with Konestabo heavily involved, Bozanic releasing him inside the box on the left side. Konestabo brought down after cutting inside his man. Lino placing the penalty just inside the post bottom right.
Bonnyrigg so nearly hit back soon after, through the left boot of Aaron Peterson, who hit a shot sweetly from just outside the area that went wide left of the target.
Their task however was about to become a lot harder, Spirit doubling their lead on the half time whistle. Geoffrey Lino finding acres of space beyond the defense before squaring it to the feet of Konestabo who was never going to miss one on one with the keeper, finishing at his near post.
Three chances then became three goals in similar fashion to the goal before. Lino released down the right before cutting it to the penalty spot where Konestabo finished to secure his brace.
Needing the game to change. Bonnyrigg manager Abbas Saad turned to his bench and the gamble would pay off. Radovan Pavicevic opening the visitors tally showing desperation before hitting it across the face of goal into the net, Gauthier with the assist on the right. This after Jarred Wiley went close with an effort from a free kick as the visitors applied pressure.
While at the other end, Konestabo nearly completed his hat trick, beyond the defense one on one before James Chronopoulos showed a strong right hand to deny the hosts.
Bonnyrigg continued to apply pressure, but they came up short against a stubborn Spirit defense which composed itself again after their earlier hiccup.
NWS Spirit make the trip to Hensley Athletic next weekend, Hakoah the opposition. While Bonnyrigg return home to face St George FC.
Hills United FC 2 (Koudakpo 6’, Lattuga 86’) v Blacktown Spartans FC 2 (Manos 11’, Lamberton 29’)
Hills United denied Blacktown Spartans the three points with a late goal in a thrilling draw at Blacktown City Sports Centre.
We didn’t have to wait long for a goal in this one. Adolph Koudakpo opening the scoring for the hosts just after five minutes, found by Daine Merrin in central midfield after some lovely one touch passing.
This chance followed up two minutes later by a chance for Andre Takimi who hit the post with a right footed effort.
Like their hosts, it was also a case of one chance, one goal for the Spartans. Jack Hutchings combining with Suley Bangura before Emilio Manos pulled the trigger from outside the area. His right footed effort skimming across the turf before finding the bottom left corner.
Despite the equalizer, Hills United continued to hold the ascendency with the likes of Koudakpo and Takimi proving a headache to deal with for the visitors.
But Blacktown Spartans were proving to be a threat on the break, Hamish Lamberton heading just over the bar after a cross from the right, twenty seven minutes in.
That served as a warning shot as Lamberton found the net soon after, once again creating a chance down the right. Suley Bangura slid in Mason Ireland who hit the post with his right footed effort inside the area before the ball fell to Hamish Lamberton who finished from close range despite the efforts of Hills United keeper Shaun Catlin.
A lead which they took into the break in an even contest. After the break, the game seemed to open up a bit with Suley Bangura having a good chance in the opening minutes. His volley going narrowly wide of the left hand facing post.
While Koudakpo almost doubled his tally for the hosts after Darcy Ellem found him with a cross-field switch across the box. Shortly followed by a Duncan Stewart header which forced the keeper into a good save.
Spartans were happy to sit in their shape and hit on the counter. A gamble which nearly paid off on several occasions across the second half.
However, Hills United would get their equalizer in the dying stages of the fixture. Substitute Jacob Lattuga putting his name up in lights with a finish from just outside the box off balance. The ball sneaking home at the near post.
Hills United line up against Mounties Wanderers next weekend. While Blacktown Spartans travel to face St George City in their round six fixture.
By FNSW League One Men’s Reporter Justin Smith.