With the heavy rain hopefully behind us, it’s time to look forward to Round 18 of the League One Men’s competition.
And what a weekend it is with probably the match of the season to take place at North Turramurra, Saturday night.
Our Pick: Northern Tigers FC v NWS Spirit FC; Saturday 9 July, 7pm, North Turramurra Recreation Area
If you watch one game this season, it has to be this one! Yes, the stakes have never been higher as Northern Tigers host NWS Spirit FC in a clash which could well decide who is playing NPL football next season.
With a game in hand on their opponents, Northern Tigers sit five points behind their near neighbors leading into this one. However unlike the Spirit who come into this on an unbeaten run, the Tigers have struggled to recapture the form which we saw them show earlier in the season.
Last time we caught the Tigers, they were left frustrated after oh so nearly breaking the Western Sydney Wanderers streak, with two clear opportunities late on. A game where they introduced Travis Oughtred to the starting team who has come across from Mt Druitt Town Rangers (hey, every Manly player eventually turns up at the Tigers right?) and keen eyed viewers would have seen Elliot Carwardine on the bench so could he make an appearance here?
The last time these two sides met, the tigers scraped home 3-2 at Christie Park.
In the middle of a hectic schedule, David Perkovic and his NWS Spirit side will not face a bigger game than this before the end of the season. Sitting above their local rivals, a win would put them in good shape going into the last four rounds. But a loss would ramp up the tension within the camp.
In their midweek fixture against Hakoah FC, they were inches away from coming into this one with some breathing room, a late penalty hitting the inside of the post before bouncing out. But instead, they had to settle for a draw with Grant Cornwell scoring the equalizer in the first half. How will they respond Saturday night?
Put simply, there won’t be a match with higher stakes this season. Clear your Saturday night and join Alex Molchanoff for the call, it should be a belter.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC v Western Sydney Wanderers FC; Saturday 9 July, 7pm, Bonnyrigg Sports Club
Bonnyrigg White Eagles and Western Sydney Wanderers square off at Bonnyrigg Sports Club in round 18 action.
The hosts back up on the short turnaround after playing Sydney United in the cup midweek. At the time of writing, they have not played yet so excuse the lack of mention of the result here. In the league however, they are desperate for some inspiration after scoring one goal in their last four fixtures.
Last time we saw them, it was a performance of character against NWS Spirit on home turf before conceding a heartbreaking equalizer deep into injury time. This game and next weeks derby with SD Raiders will be good preparation for a cup tie with Oakleigh Cannons in a couple of Thursday’s time.
Clear of fixtures against the top five sides until finals time, Western Sydney Wanderers will be looking for a bounce back victory in this one. Last week they suffered their first loss since round six, coincidentally the last game they played Central Coast Mariners.
More notably however was the fact they were kept scoreless, a streak which went back to May last season, so you can be sure their attack will be ready to pounce in this one. In terms of players to watch this week? Aidan Simmons has stood out in the past couple of weeks as he looks to establish a place in the A-league squad.
With a clear path to the finals ahead of them, the Wanderers will be looking to better a 2-2 draw in their previous meeting this season.
SD Raiders FC v St George City; Saturday 9 July, 7pm, Penshurst Park
Two weeks after securing their fifth win of the season, SD Raiders face an inform St George City at Penshurst Park.
I think it’s a pretty safe assumption to make that SD Raiders will be itching to return the field after a fortnight on the sidelines. In what was their first victory since round 12 against Hills United, Goran Ljuboja’s side triumphed in style against Mounties Wanderers in round sixteen.
With five different goal scorers as well, they did it in style returning the favour after conceding five against Hakoah a week and a half before. Like I wrote in the preview last weekend, they also have the chance of causing a stir in the top five race as well. Last time out against this opposition, they fell to a narrow victory back in April.
Sitting just one point behind the league leaders Central Coast Mariners with a game in hand, St George City could be primed to take first spot in upcoming weeks. And after a week off to recharge and just one fixture against top five opposition remaining, you can excuse them for being confident.
Last time we saw them on the field, they put in a season best performance against St George FC at the same venue as this one with crucial performances from Nathan Roberts and Alex Malfara catching the eye. It’s looking good for Mirko Jurilj’s side, and they will be looking to pile on the pressure on the Mariners who play the next day.
Last time they met, City prevailed thanks to goals Damian German and Christopher Arditti back on Anzac Day.
Mounties Wanderers FC v St George FC; Saturday 9 July, 7pm, Cook Park (Mt Pritchard)
Mounties Wanderers will be looking for back-to-back wins when they face St George FC in the Bartels-Pivato derby this weekend.
After a long period between drinks, Mounties secured their sixth victory of the season against Hills United last weekend against Hills United. It broke an eight-game losing streak stretching back to round nine of the competition.
And in a positive sign for Jerry Bilokapic’s side, they probably looked the most dangerous they have done in recent memory. Antonio Farkas picked up his second of the season from a Bruno Pivato corner, a goal which is bound to give them confidence in the final stages of the season.
St George FC on the other hand were another side whose game fell victim to the weather in round seventeen. Last time we saw them, they were unfortunate to be on the wrong end of a rampant performance from their local rivals.
However, the big talking point when it comes to the club is the change in coach. Leaving is Mark Milligan who goes on to take up the Adelaide United assistant coach role, replaced by Nefta Gonzalez who will be in charge for the remainder of the season and beyond. Gonzalez coming in with a raft of experience at Mounties Wanderers, Sutherland Sharks and Sydney Olympic. As well as some youth coaching experience at FC Barcelona (never heard of them).
In the previous meeting between these two, Mounties prevailed by a goal in round seven.
Hakoah FC v Hills United FC; Saturday 9 July, 7pm, Hensley Athletic Field
After three draws in their last four, Hakoah FC for their sixth win of the season when they host Hills United, Saturday night.
It’s been a rocky period for Hakoah who have been in games in recent times but have struggled to strike the killer blow. Last time out against NWS Spirit, they once again showed how difficult they are to play, frustrating their hosts at the Arctic Circle.
In that game, three youth players made an appearance from their 20’s side in Eric Ziu, Angel Barreto and Tom Alston. Alston putting in a solid performance in goal for the visitors. While Daniel Alessi found the net for his second goal of the season. They will be without Ryan Blumberg who saw a second yellow midweek.
They will be looking to avenge a round seven defeat to Hills United in round seven.
Another weekend and unfortunately another loss for Hills United who tasted defeat for the fourteenth time this season against Mounties Wanderers last weekend. In one of two games in which the teams braved the conditions, they came out second best against their opposition.
Now looking ahead to this weekend, they will take confidence from the result the first time round and with Wade Giovenali in particular hitting the form we know he is capable of, they are in with a chance come Saturday night. Also look out for some new faces in the first team set up who made an appearance last weekend.
Central Coast Mariners FC v Blacktown Spartans FC; Sunday 10 July, 3pm, Pluim Park
Central Coast Mariners return home back on top of the table to take on Blacktown Spartans this weekend.
In a weird twist, here I am talking about a Central Coast Mariners side who seem to be better on the road than at home. The Mariners sit on top of the standings both overall and away from home but sit third when it comes to the home table after seventeen rounds.
Confidence will be high coming into this one though after knocking off their fellow A-league academy on the road, something that hasn’t happened all too often in recent times. In an all-round impressive performance, Joshua Hong got a goal his recent performances have deserved. While Harry McCarthyyy topped it off with a goal of the season contender.
If remaining top isn’t motivation enough, they’ll also be looking to return the favour after Spartans beat them the first-time round.
Speaking of the Spartans, you will be surprised to know that they too didn’t play their fixture last weekend due to the weather. Last time they did take the field however, it was a good victory for Andy Montgomery’s side, one which was needed after some inconsistent form leading in.
The talking point from their recent performances has definitely been the goalscoring form of Emmanuel Gonzalez who is now their top scorer with ten goals this season (one behind Lachlan Bayliss in the golden boot race). Elsewhere, Joel Beattie has emerged as a good option for Montgomery winning starts in his past two games.
R17 Match Reviews
NWS Spirit FC 1 (Cornwell 41‘) v Hakoah FC 1 (Alessi 39’)
NWS Spirit were left frustrated by a stoic Hakoah FC side at Christie Park, Tuesday night.
The visitors gave themselves a surprise lead in the first half through a Daniel Alessi goal before the hosts responded swiftly with a Grant Cornwell equalizer.
After an early game of chess between the two sides, Hakoah took the lead from a corner with five minutes left in the first half. Daniel Alessi heading home at the far post from a Luiz Lobo corner on the left hand side.
The lead didn’t last long though with Grant Cornwell popping up for a captain’s goal inside three minutes from when they conceded, obliging with a Kota Odakura set piece delivery in applying a headed finish from close range.
The games pattern was established with Spirit holding the majority of the possession and Hakoah being patient in defense.
Still the visitors were good enough to hit their hosts on the counter, Jacob Esposito sending a dangerous ball across the face halfway through the half which Anthony Costa couldn’t steer home.
At the other end, a Kota Odakura shot which bounced right where the keeper doesn’t want too in front of him forced Tom Alston into a reactionary save onto the cross bar before saving a Louis Bozanic follow up.
However the moment of the match came in the dying stages, Spirit awarded a penalty just inside regulation. Geoffry Lino stepping up to the spot hitting the inside of the right post and bouncing out. A big moment as the game finished level, just how big remains to be seen.
By FNSW League One Men’s writer Justin Smith