Headlined by possibly the most important game of the season, there was plenty to sink your teeth into in the League One Men’s competition in round 18 action.
NWS Spirit extended their unbeaten streak to sixteen, Western Sydney Wanderers returned to winning ways while Hakoah FC kept their slim finals hopes alive. That and more in this week’s review.
Northern Tigers FC 0 v NWS Spirit FC 2 (Davidson 23‘, Konestabo 70‘)
NWS Spirit triumphed in their local derby with Northern Tigers, Saturday evening.
It was a crucial three points for NWS Spirit who left the door ajar for their opponent’s midweek in the top four race. They soaked up some early pressure before a Mitch Davidson goal settled them down with Michael Konestabo doubling the advantage in the second half.
The top four now seems a tough ask for Northern Tigers, they now sit eight points behind their visitors with four rounds and a catchup fixture left to play.
As expected, both teams were up for this one early, Northern Tigers in particular looking to start with intensity putting pressure on their visitors.
But the Tigers were showing vulnerability at the back early on, an early turnover allowing Spirit to get forward. An endeavor which nearly resulted in a goal with a Michael Konestabo shot rattling the crossbar from range before ten minutes.
It was the hosts who were having the better of the opening quarter hour and they were nearly rewarded for it on fifteen minutes. Oliver Scott just not getting enough contact to steer a Bailey Rule cross from the right home.
Slowly, the visitors were growing into the fixture, and they were rewarded twenty-two minutes in. A free-kick from deep into the back post finding the head of captain Grant Cornwell who headed across the face for Mitch Davidson to finish from close range. The early advantage going to the visitors.
The game continued to simmer on at a high tempo with both sides showing desperation with the stakes high. Konestabo proving to be the main threat going forward for the visitors, while Alexander Brown, Shervin Adeli and Bailey Rule were proving to be the hosts main outlets. Adeli going the closest for the hosts after the goal by sending a freekick on goal at a rapid pace for it to be deflected wide.
However, as they do when they take the lead this season, NWS Spirit appeared a more composed side coming out of the break. And they nearly doubled their advantage once again from a set piece ten minutes into the half. Grant Cornwell heading onto the crossbar from a corner on the left side.
With the time ticking past the halfway point of the second half, the game was being played on the visitors’ terms with the Spirit now controlling the fixture after weathering the Tigers period of control in the opening half hour.
Spirit getting the reward with twenty minutes left. A swift counterattack seeing Richie Darko releasing Michael Konestabo in behind the defense. Konestabo showing composure in finishing past Carwardine in the Tigers net.
Two goals down, the Tigers threw caution to the wind and had two of their best opportunities of the match late on. The first through Ollie Scott who drew a superb save from Christopher Marques in the Spirit net after Brown found him with a through ball. Before Hiyori Kawaguchi sent a powerful effort across the face of goal soon after.
Ultimately though, it was NWS Spirit who came out on top after a professional away performance which stretched their undefeated streak to sixteen games. They face St George City next weekend, while Central Coast Mariners await Northern Tigers at North Turramurra in round nineteen action.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC 0 v Western Sydney Wanderers FC 4 (Sapsford 14‘ 16‘ 74‘, Pelekanos 89‘)
Western Sydney Wanderers returned to winning ways with an impressive victory over Bonnyrigg White Eagles.
After losing to Central Coast Mariners last weekend, the Wanderers bounced back in the best way possible with Zac Sapsford claiming a hat-trick and Dean Pelekanos rounding the victory out.
Signs were there early that the “visitors” and particularly Sapsford were on with Daniel Wilmering picking him out early with a cross from the left, a Sam Gallaway intervention denying the striker.
Coming in from a cup tie midweek, Bonnyrigg soon responded with a chance of their own, Joshua Karantz forcing a diving save from Wanderers keeper Jack Gibson.
While Jarrod Carluccio had a chance at the other end that fizzed wide after the ball found it’s way across field through Sapsford. All these chances coming within the first ten minutes of the fixture.
The Wanderers were in the ascendency though and their first came inside the quarter hour. A wanderful slick passing move unlocking the Bonnyrigg defense with Alex Badolato playing a ball through to Sapsford. Who duly obliged with an outside of the boot curling finish inside the area which snuck inside the left post.
A lead which was doubled two minutes later, Sapsford doubling his tally with an easier finish this time after Aidan Simmons got to the byline and sent the ball across the face forcing Michael Figueira to palm it into Sapsford path.
At the other end, Bonnyrigg were creating the odd chance with Radovan Pavicevic and Sam Gallaway notching up efforts on goal.
While Figueira was saving the Eagles blushes further, denying both Connor Rose and Sapsford just after the half hour.
The second half continued on a similar trajectory with Sapsford nearly returning the favour for Simmons five minutes in, Simmons just unable to get enough contact from close range. While Kadric nearly snuck in with a goal to bring them back into it, but his effort was wayward.
This was probably Bonnyrigg’s best period of the game as they came close on several occasions.
Further goals were to come at the other end though to complete the Wanderers performance. Sapsford sealing his hat-trick with another tremendous finish inside the area, George Antonis with the assist. Before Dean Pelekanos adding an exclamation mark with a superb goal of his own after showing some quick feet to take him beyond the Bonnyrigg defense.
Western Sydney Wanderers are at home next weekend as they welcome Hakoah, while Bonnyrigg have a date with SD Raiders at Ernie Smith.
SD Raiders FC 1 (Maya 79’) v St George City 2 (Roberts 25‘, Arditti 89‘)
They always seem to find a way don’t they? St George City struck late to overcome SD Raiders at Penshurst Park, Saturday evening.
Down to ten men, Christopher Arditti snuck in at the back post to give them the victory after Nathan Roberts struck earlier.
Early on, City tried to establish authority on the contest having an early penalty shout waved away before notching up several touches in the Raiders penalty area.
That nearly changing twenty-three minutes in when Troy Danaskos released Jordan Morfitis beyond the defense, Morfitis then rounding the keeper before Daniel Marjanovic intercepted the ball on its way for goal.
A reprieve which only lasted another minute though, Nathan Roberts timing his run to perfection to convert from close range after Jordan Morfitis played a ball across the face.
While at the other end, Franco Maya made sure Mackenzie Syron was alert in the 35th minute with his free-kick taking a deflection before being saved by Syron at the near post.
City though had another chance to double their lead before the break, springing a counter which led to Damian German hitting the outside of the right post with his one-on-one effort.
Mirko Jurilj’s side continued to pressure the Raiders who were just clinging on, with Roberts denied early in the second half with Raider’s keeper Joshua Glasson just getting a foot to it. Before Morfitis drew another save shortly after with a toe-poke effort.
However, the Raiders responded and went close to an equalizer ten minutes in. A Franco Maya free kick headed goalward by Stevan Stanic-Floody, coming within inches of the net hitting the bar. Before Cooper Hanagan followed up, Hannagan denied Nicholas Kalogerou on the line.
Rewarded for their efforts shortly after, but was it on purpose? Franco Maya beating his man on the left giving him in crossing position, his effort sailing over Syron’s head enroute to the goal to bring them level with twenty five minutes to go.
German nearly responding with another go ahead goal for City before being denied by Glasson with a quarter of the fixture to go.
With every point important at this time of the season, City continued to ramp up the pressure on the visitors while the visitors looked dangerous on the counter.
The eventual winner coming after they were reduced to ten, Christopher Arditti sneaking in at the back post to head home with a minute left giving them a crucial three points heading into next weekend.
St George City face a big game next weekend against NWS Spirit whereas SD Raiders hosts a local derby against Bonnyrigg.
Hakoah FC 2 (Costa 34‘, Alessi 67‘) v Hills United FC 1 (Kelshaw 41‘)
Hakoah FC kept their finals hopes alive with a victory over Hills United at Hensley Athletic to round out our round 18 action.
After an encouraging result away against NWS Spirit during the week, the hosts secured their sixth win of the season courtesy of goals to Anthony Costa and Daniel Alessi either side of the break. With Glen Kelshaw getting an equalizer before the half time break for the visitors.
The hosts were the side to start the fixture positively getting into the final third on multiple occasions in the early stages. However, the first shot came the way of Hills United through Glen Kelshaw who volleyed an effort over the bar after Adrian Neoklis found him with a ball in.
Luiz Lobo quickly following that with a moment of inspiration at the other end, working his way goalward from the right, before his shot/cross was blocked on its way towards goal.
But it was Hills looking the more threatening at this point with Cameron Philp running onto a Rainer Smahel long ball, his shot denied by Nikolas Loe in the Hakoah net.
While at the other end, Hakoah’s best chances of the opening twenty five minutes came in quick succession to Anthony Costa at the other end. First a backheel which couldn’t make its way through a sea of legs. Before he headed over shortly after from a resulting set piece.
Those chances signaled the start of a good period for the hosts who opened the scoring in the 34th minute from a set-piece. George Tuson-Firth whipping in a ball which found the head of Anthony Costa in the middle who found the net with a diving header.
A lead which was short lived with Hills winning a spot kick five minutes later. Glen Kelshaw stepping up and showing killer instinct from the spot to bring things back level.
Like the first half, Hills were first to create a chance after the break with Philp firing over with his right foot, after Byron Ginn cut it back to him from the right.
But once again it was the hosts who next troubled the scoresheet once again from a set-piece. George Tuson-Firth whipping in a corner to the back post which was headed in by Daniel Alessi into the far side netting.
Hills looked to respond with Jacob Basden having a shot on target with fifteen minutes left. But Hakoah saw the game out well for the most part, giving them their sixth victory of the season.
Hakoah FC will meet a familiar face next week when they take on Western Sydney Wanderers. While Hills United return home as they welcome St George FC.
Central Coast Mariners FC v Blacktown Spartans FC postponed to 2nd August; Mounties Wanderers FC v St George FC washed out.
By FNSW League One Men’s writer Justin Smith