Don’t disrespect the quality of the Football NSW League One Men’s competition! After a week which saw two sides qualify for the national stage of the Australia Cup, round fifteen of the competition once again proved to be an absorbing set of fixtures.
First, we must start with congratulating Bonnyrigg White Eagles and NWS Spirit who qualified midweek after the competition saw five wins over NPL opposition in the preliminary rounds (while only losing one).
On the weekend however, the weekend was highlighted by Hills United’s second win of the season, St George City returning to the winner’s circle and NWS Spirit jumping into the top four beating Central Coast Mariners.
St George FC 1 (Philpot 90+3‘) v Northern Tigers FC 1 (Adeli 4‘)
A stoppage time Cam Philpot penalty denied Northern Tigers the three points in their clash with St George FC.
It was a game which had its moments in an otherwise tense contest at Rockdale Ilinden Sports Centre. The visitors would’ve thought they had done just enough to hold on to an advantage given to them through a Shervin Adeli goal early in the first half. But a moment to forget allowed the hosts to take a point from the fixture with Philpot stepping up.
The game started with good intent shown from both sides, Jay Mcgowan having the Saints first opportunity early after Philpot slipped him into his left from a three on two situation. Mcgowan’s shot forcing a low save from Tonu Liiband.
However if the hosts were looking to build on that, they were dealt a blow conceding just after the 180 second mark. Shervin Adeli pouncing on a header back to the keeper and converting from a one on one past Andrew Di Blasio.
Looking to respond, the hosts created their second opportunity four minutes later with a Cam Philpot shot fizzing over the bar.
After those early chances, the game then turned into a bit of a scrappy affair with neither side really troubling each other’s defenses for the next quarter hour or so.
The next chance of note falling the way of the Tigers around the half hour. A switch of play from Oliver Scott releasing Ollie Wiggin on the left who went around his marker before forcing a good save from Di Blasio with his outstretched foot.
Tigers were starting to gain the ascendency around this time with last week’s hero Alexander Brown firing over from close range from a Hiyori Kawaguchi corner but the score was to remain one-nil going into the break.
A break which changed the game with St George needing to secure the three points to stay in the finals hunt.
Cam Philpot and Conor Quilligan both going close in the opening ten minutes of the second half. While Shervin Adeli and Jack Fulton had a couple of opportunities at the other end.
Apart from the penalty, the best chance for the hosts came with twenty-five minutes to go. Philpot once again involved, only to be denied by a great stop from Liiband as it headed towards the bottom right facing corner, Morabito with the cross.
The Saints kept pushing with shots following to Yu Hasegawa and Quilligan before the decisive moment in the match well into stoppage time.
That moment coming from what seemed like a nothing ball from the right, the ball flicked on before a 50-50 challenge inside the area. Liiband just that split-second too late to the ball bringing Philpot down inside the area. Philpot stepping up to put it past the keeper to give them a point.
A point which doesn’t really suit either team in the complexion of the season as we have seven rounds left. St George FC have a local derby to look forward too next weekend. While Northern Tigers host Western Sydney Wanderers next weekend, hoping to avoid their late game wobbles.
Central Coast Mariners FC 0 v NWS Spirit FC 1 (Johns 24’)
Backs against the wall, NWS Spirit produced a heroic performance to knock off Central Coast Mariners just three days after overcoming Wollongong Wolves in the cup.
After enduring 120 minutes Thursday night, the Spirit were reduced to ten for the last quarter but held on to score their victory after Dominic Johns opened the scoring earlier. Now in a top four spot, they face Bonnyrigg White Eagles away from home next weekend.
For Mariners, the performance wasn’t quite there for the hosts against one of the leagues better defenses. They were denied from the spot in the first half, and they will be looking to bounce back next weekend against Hakoah FC.
With confidence sky high from their victory midweek, the Spirit started in positive fashion taking the game to their hosts. Their first chance of note falling just after the tenth minute, Lino sliding a ball through for Dominic Johns who got a save out of Lawrence Caruso.
While Mariners had their first shot on twenty-two minutes, Harry McCarthy forcing Christopher Marques into a save low to his left.
The Spirit eventually got the reward their start probably deserved at the other end soon after that. Dominic Johns scoring a beauty from outside the area after a corner was cleared. Bozanic having the first shot before Johns hit his effort sweetly past Caruso in goal.
That goal seemingly sprung the game to life as Mariners soon had a penalty at the other end, Brian Jamba bringing down McCarthy in the area. Bayliss stepping up to the spot, his shot denied by Marques with his second penalty save of the week.
After settling down for a bit, Bradley Tapp ended the half in terms of chances heading over the bar from the set piece. Tapp once again with an opportunity early in the second half, this time firing over the bar.
While Jok and McCarthy had two quickfire shots in quick succession ten minutes in. McCarthy with perhaps the better one with a goal at his mercy.
If that wasn’t enough pressure for the visitors, the pressure notch was turned up further when Louis Bozanic picked up a second yellow with twenty five minutes left.
From there, it seemed like wave after wave of Central Coast attack as they put pressure on the leagues second best defense.
The remaining chance of note coming from Joshua Hong with seven minutes left, forcing Marques into a good save. Central Coast Mariners host Hakoah FC next weekend, while Spirit take a trip in the other direction visiting Bonnyrigg.
Mounties Wanderers FC 0 v Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (Rose 45‘)
Western Sydney Wanderers survived a scare in edging past Mounties Wanderers at Cook Park Saturday night.
In one of their least convincing performances of the season, the young side relied on a Connor Rose header just before the break to clinch the victory.
However, in contrast to their opposition, this was one of the better showings from Jerry Bilokapic’s side in recent times as they took it too the side in top form.
In good form, Western Sydney Wanderers started the game as you would expect them too creating their first chance five minutes in which saw Aiden Mostofi head over the bar after a cross from the left.
The visitors continued to search for their opening goal but were having trouble breaking down their opposition in difficult conditions.
Jordan Swibel next to have a chance for the visitors, not getting enough contact on another cross from the left to steer it towards goal.
While Sam Perre had the hosts/visitors first chance of note on twenty minutes. With a toe poke effort forcing a good save from Jack Gibson in net. With a follow up from Matthew Khalil blocked soon after before it could cause trouble.
However the majority of the goalmouth action was still occurring at the other end with Swibel in particular looking a threat.
It felt like a goal was coming for the A-league academy side and that proved to be the case into injury time. A Daniel Wilmering cross from deep on the left finding Connor Rose at the back post who did well to steer it on target. His header finding the top corner of the net beyond the reach of Daniel Sadaka.
After the resumption, it was Mounties turn to hit back and come full time they were perhaps unlucky not to walk away with a point. Although they had to survive a few Wanderers attacks first with Alex Badolato opening their second half shot account ten minutes in. Followed by chances to Swibel and Connor Rose in quick succession.
The last half hour though was about survival for Western Sydney as Mounties threw everything at them. Brad Bartels and Matthew Khali trying their luck before Anthony Windsor went the closest with ten minutes left, Gibson denying him with a diving stop around the post.
Mounties Wanderers host SD Raiders next weekend, while Western Sydney Wanderers head to North Turramurra for a clash with Northern Tigers.
Hakoah FC 1 (Demetriou 89‘) v St George City 2 (Ercan 53‘, Roberts 61‘)
St George City bounced back from a couple of defeats seeing off the challenge of Hakoah FC at Hensley Athletic.
After going down to both Western Sydney Wanderers and Wollongong United, City scored twice in the third quarter of the match through Tarik Ercan and Nathan Roberts before being made to sweat late on.
For Hakoah FC, it’s a loss they really couldn’t afford with the top five now two wins away from them on the table, James Demetriou scored late to make things interesting, but they ultimately couldn’t find a second.
As is normally the case for games at Hensley, the game took a little while to warm up as both sides sized each other up.
The first chance of note for the visitors coming through Alex Malfara after an extended period of pressure from the visitors. While Connor Early tried his luck from distance twenty-four minutes in, his shot dribbling wide right.
However, the best chance of the opening half hour fell to Reuben Awaritefe who pounced on a loose park from the hosts before taking a touch and hitting a low shot which was saved by Nikolas Loe.
If there was one thing the game needed, it was a goal as things kicked off in the second. And it came eight minutes into the half from a set piece. Nathan Roberts delivering a corner into the area which wasn’t dealt with before Tarik Ercan put it into the net.
City were feeling it and the chances were coming think and fast at this point. And sure enough the advantage was doubled and in some style. Nathan Roberts receiving the ball twenty-five yards out before unleashing with his right boot, the ball clipping the underside of the crossbar before bouncing in.
Hakoah though looked to hit back soon after with Jordan Koton interchanging passes with Dominic Cox before his shot was deflected into the side netting before sixty-five minutes.
Followed up ten minutes later by Luiz Lobo hitting the crossbar direct from a corner kick on the left.
They were to find a goal though with a minute left, James Demetriou scoring direct as he whipped in a cross from the left, the keeper unsighted and able to react in time. It proved to only be a consolation though as City held on for the win.
City host a St George derby next weekend, while Hakoah head up the coast to face the Mariners.
Hills United FC 2 (Parfait 45‘ 70‘) v Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC 1 (Karantz 87’)
Hills United secured a well deserved second win of the season defeating Bonnyrigg White Eagles at Blacktown City Sports Centre.
Coming in having not won since round seven, Jordan Parfait scored twice to ensure their victory after an encouraging few performances.
Cup hangover? It’s a disappointing result for Bonnyrigg White Eagles who would’ve been looking to continue some momentum after their cup victory during the week, Joshua Karantz picked up the consolation goal for them.
Coming in off a marathon effort midweek which saw an astounding 28 penalties in a shootout. Bonnyrigg kicked off the game in terms of chances with a Marie Gauthier header five minutes in which was saved comfortably.
While Wade Giovenali played through Jordan Parfait at the other end, Parfait just mistiming his run beyond the defense attracting the offside flag.
Despite the game’s openness, there wasn’t much to speak of chance wise as both defenses were doing their jobs well. With the only chances across the next period of play falling to Gauthier with a weak shot and Aaron Peterson with a header.
But the goal or big break was to fall at the other end after a good period for the host with Matias Toro Suazo showing a tremendous first touch to take him beyond his defender before being pulled back. Jordan Parfait stepping up to convert after his shot was initially saved by Michael Figueira to give them the advantage going into half time.
Coming out from the break, the hosts continued where they left off in the first, pressuring the visiting defense. However, the visitors responded and looked to get an equalizing goal of their own after a attacking substitution at half time.
Gauthier adding another shot on target on the hour mark, this time having his shot smothered by Riccardo Rizzo in the Hills goal. While Peterson headed wide across goal soon after that after a ball in from the right.
But the goal was to come at the other end for the hosts to double their advantage. A killer cross from Glen Kelshaw finding Jordan Parfait in the middle to finish from close range with the visiting defense all at sea.
At the other end, Bonnyrigg continued to pressure their hosts and were able to pick up a consolation through Joshua Karantz. They face NWS Spirit at home next weekend while Hills make the short trip to face Blacktown Spartans away.
SD Raiders FC 0 v Blacktown Spartans FC 0
Blacktown Spartans were left frustrated as they played out a scoreless draw with SD Raiders at Ernie Smith Reserve.
In terms of chances it was the hosts who kicked off the game with Noah Chianese heading wide after Daniel Bittar found him with a cross from the right inside eight minutes.
While Emmanuel Gonzalez had the first chance at the other end five minutes later. His shot not causing Mario Aleksik too many worries. Followed not long after by Hamish Lamberton’s first effort of the match, Lamberton hooking his shot just wide of the left post.
At this point of the match, it was the visitors who were controlling the game in terms of field position as they looked to stamp their authority on the match.
Though it wouldn’t be wise to count the Raiders out as they created the next notable chance of the game. Daniel Bittar drawing a tidy stop from Hugh Brown in the Spartans goal after Riley Cox-Barlow played him in with a cross field ball.
Spartans once again responding with a good chance of their own as Suley Bangura snuck around his marker to nearly finish from close range denied by a quality Aleksik save, Mason Ireland with the ball in. The two combining again soon after, with a Bangura ball in finding an unsighted Ireland at the back post who couldn’t steer his header home.
Coming out of the break, it was the hosts who started the better of the two sides going close twice in the opening ten minutes.
Firstly via the unconventional route of a near own goal when an Alex Gollan header went wrong from a Daniel Bittar set-piece taking a touch off the bar on its way out
Before Riley Cox-Barlow went just inches away soon after, hitting the post with a shot along the surface after Noah Chianese tee’d him up.
Once again the game shifted though as we went past the twenty five minute mark of the half with Spartans having a few half chances around then.
Just as the game looked like it was going to fizzle out, Spartans had one last chance. Bangura tenaciously winning a ball up field before sending Manni Gonzalez through who was denied by another quality Aleksik save into injury time.
SD Raiders face local rivals Mounties Wanderers next while Blacktown Spartans return home welcoming Hills United to Blacktown Football Park.
By FNSW League One Men’s writer Justin Smith