With a third of the League One Men’s season remaining, it’s go time for our teams as they chase both league and cup triumphs.
In round 15 of the competition, two clashes catch the eye immediately with St George FC hosting Northern Tigers and Central Coast Mariners hosting NWS Spirit.
That and much more in a competition which always has a surprise up its sleeve.
Our Pick: St George FC v Northern Tigers FC; Saturday 18 June, 7pm, Rockdale Ilinden Sports Centre
Don’t sleep on this clash! An in-form St George FC host Northern Tigers at Rockdale Ilinden Sports Centre in probably the pick of Saturday’s action.
More than a banana skin? Not many would’ve predicted St George FC to be the side to break the Blacktown Football Park streak for the Spartans. But here we are, and you could forgive them for possibly aiming a little higher heading into this one this weekend.
Yes, three straight wins has confidence ever growing among Saints followers as they go into this matchup Saturday night. Last weekend in that fixture, Anthony Morabito picked up his eighth and ninth goals of the season, while captain Cam Philpot scored what would prove to be the winner to cap off a good all-round performance.
If I haven’t talked you into it yet, go watch this Saints team when you can, young and free of expectation, they are delivering on the park.
As this previewer resists the urge to write a thesis on Ally Brown’s left foot, Northern Tigers will be hoping to carry their momentum from last week’s game and hopefully a cup win (touch wood) into this one.
And how important will those two goals deep into injury time prove to be in seven weeks? There’s just something about the Recreation Area, something we will miss if they do get promoted. Scoring twice during injury time through Oliver Scott and Ally Brown meant the Tigers pulled out a miracle win when it wasn’t looking likely for them.
We saw what the Tigers are capable of earlier in the season when it comes to stringing results together. Can they do it once again starting here?
Hakoah FC v St George City; Saturday 18 June, 7pm, Hensley Athletic Field
Two sides featuring in midweek cup fixtures face off as Hakoah FC host St George City at Hensley Athletic.
Two wins and two draws (penalty shootout loss) in their past four matches in all competitions, Hakoah FC come into their game with St George City in form. After a disappointing draw against Bonnyrigg in the league, they backed it up with a solid performance away from home in the cup.
However, if they do hold dreams of promotion, they must not lose this one as they sit six points outside the top five teams with seven games to go. They will be looking for Yianni Spyrakis and Nikolas Loe to lead their charge in this one as Lika Hrzina’s team in their third fixture this week.
It’s another big game for Hakoah FC who will want to take points off a top three side here.
So, breaking the fourth wall here, but I write these previews on a Tuesday so excuse me not mentioning the cup fixtures for City and others. Anyway, back to it.
Although their loss against Western Sydney Wanderers last weekend was disappointing, if you would have offered St George City four points from their three clashes with top four opposition, I suspect they would have taken it.
Now with those tricky fixtures out of the way, Mirko Jurilj’s side can focus on getting the points required for promotion in their remaining fixtures. As mentioned above, last weekend was tricky going for City who struggled to break their opponents high press before going down a goal.
Not many teams can do that though, and with a midweek cup fixture a good chance to “reset”, they’ll be ready for the challenge on the weekend.
Western Sydney Wanderers FC v Mounties Wanderers FC; Saturday 18 June, 7pm, Cook Park, Mt Pritchard
The Wanderers clash as Western Sydney Wanderers host Mounties Wanderers at Cook Park.
Just sneakily going about their business in claiming second spot on the table, Western Sydney Wanderers like their academy counterparts are in the midst of an unbeaten streak. Theirs going back eight games and as the weeks go on, it’s getting harder to see it stopping.
Crucial to their recent success is how they’ve seamlessly transitioned from coaches in the dugout with Jean-Paul de Marigny and Labinot Haliti replacing Tomi Vidovic. Last weekend beating St George City in one of their more dominant performances of the season courtesy of goals to Conor Rose and Jordan Swibel.
It’s hard to see this Wanderers side not picking the three points up here, particularly with home advantage.
They face a Mounties Wanderers side who hit their season bottom last weekend. Sure, form wasn’t great before last weekend, but they had a respectable defense sparing their blushes. That changed last weekend though as they conceded six against Central Coast Mariners.
So, if they were to get a result here, it could be the upset of the season in the Pelekanos derby. To do so however, they will need to find a route to goal, with Jerry Bilokapic’s side only scoring two goals in their past six fixtures. With a transfer window coming up, you would suggest where they will be looking to boost.
It’s a tough ask for Mounties this weekend who will be looking for an improved showing in round fifteen.
SD Raiders FC v Blacktown Spartans FC; Saturday 18 June, 7pm, Ernie Smith Reserve
Goran Ljuboja’s SD Raiders will be looking to break a scoring drought when they host Blacktown Spartans this weekend.
In an occurrence all too common for the Raiders, they were held scoreless for the fifth time in their past six games. In round fourteen action, it was the NWS Spirit who they fell victim to going down by a solitary first half goal.
However, there were positives in that effort as Ljuboja’s side tightened things up after conceding seven in their two games earlier in the week. While also showing just enough in attack to make sure the Spirit were worried with Sebastian Malfara and Riley Cox-Barlow in particular proving a threat, Cox-Barlow in his first appearance for the senior side. With a rotated cast impressing, it will be interesting to see how SD Raiders line up come Saturday night.
They meet an opposition who on form are due another win. In recent times, Andy Montgomery’s Blacktown Spartans side have won one, drawn the next and lost the one after in a run stretching back to round nine.
Last weekend however was a disappointing one as they lost their unbeaten home record in losing to St George FC. It was a game demonstrating how tight things are in the midfield pack are, with the Spartans perhaps unlucky to walk away emptyhanded after both Emmanuel Gonzalez and Suley Bangura scored from the spot.
The Spartans will be desperate to return to the winners list here with consistency the goal in the last third of the regular season. Last time these two sides met the teams shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw.
Hills United FC v Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC; Saturday 18 June, 7pm, Blacktown City Sports Centre
Hills United welcome Bonnyrigg White Eagles to Blacktown City Sports Centre after some encouraging performances in recent times.
You had to feel for Hills United last Saturday night. Bombers side were just minutes away from their first victory since round seven but fell victim to some late Northern Tigers heroics at North Turramurra.
Result aside though and it’s the latest in an encouraging few performances in recent weeks which will give them confidence going into this one. Cameron Philp put them ahead against the Tigers, another product of a quality youth set up in Sydney’s North-west. While Rainer Smahel returned to the starting line-up for the first time since R10 to add leadership at the back.
It only seems a matter of time till these improved performances get the reward they deserve, and Hills will be hoping the allusive second victory comes in this one.
Like their fellow midweek cup combatant, we’ve entered the mirky ground of almost must win territory for Bonnyrigg White Eagles if they hold promotion hopes with seven rounds remaining. Nine points behind the top five sides, Abbas Saad’s side would’ve circled this game down as winnable.
Backing up after a marathon Australia Cup game will be difficult for the Eagles who scored in injury time against Hakoah to take it that far before prevailing on penalties. This after a scoreless draw against the same opposition last weekend at Hensley Athletic.
The visitors will be hoping that their cup form will carry across to the league, will it? Tune in to find out Saturday night.
Central Coast Mariners FC v NWS Spirit FC; Sunday 19 June, 3pm, Pluim Park
Two top five sides meet as Central Coast Mariners host NWS Spirit to conclude our action with a Sunday treat.
Who would’ve thought an introduction line would be hard to right for a successful team? That’s definitely the case for Central Coast Mariners who are sitting pretty atop of the table with a third of the season remaining.
Seven games unbeaten, we have to go back to round seven for their last loss against Blacktown Spartans. Last weekend, they put in one of the more dominant performances we’ve seen from them as they scored six without reply against Mounties Wanderers. With Lachlan Bayliss firming his position atop of the goal standings while Dor Jok isn’t a bad guy to have hanging round as well as a goal threat.
They will go in favourites having beaten their opposition on the last couple of visits to Pluim Park.
The third game in a big week for NWS Spirit, they will put their seven-game league unbeaten streak on the line in this one. Ignoring the fact they play Thursday night cause deadlines… Spirit come into the game after a confidence boosting win against SD Raiders.
Drawing their previous two games against Western Sydney Wanderers and Blacktown Spartans, that victory meant they kept touch with Northern Tigers above them. Geoffry Lino opened the scoring, but it was the return of a couple of familiar faces which will encourage Spirit fans as Mitch Davidson and Jake Mamone both returned to the park.
Three games in a week is a definitely a challenge for the Spirit, but it’s a challenge they’re relishing in what could be an historic week for the club.
By League One Men’s writer Justin Smith