Ready for a taste of the finals in the run home for the Premiership and promotion?
Well, the League One Men’s competition has you covered with a sensational super Saturday of action in Round 19 of the competition.
It was tough to pick our choice of the action with the top six teams facing each other. NWS Spirit host St George City in a clash with premiership permutations, Northern Tigers surely need a win to keep their promotion hopes alive while Western Sydney Wanderers take on Hakoah to round out a trio of big games.
And there’s also a derby elsewhere if that wasn’t enough for you!
Our Pick: NWS Spirit FC v St George City; Saturday 16 July, 7:30pm, Christie Park
St George City travel up to the Arctic Circle in the hopes of ending NWS Spirit’s unbeaten streak in our pick of the round 19 action.
Unbeaten in their last sixteen fixtures, NWS Spirit are on a streak that even the Undertaker would be proud of and they’re oh so close to claiming the coveted reward of promotion with four games and a cup final left in the regular season.
And arguably none of the fifteen prior games were as impressive as last weekends derby victory over Northern Tigers at North Turramurra. Against a side who desperately needed a win, they showed why they’re one of the best defensive sides in the league withstanding early pressure before scoring and taking control of the fixture. Mitch Davidson and Michael Konestabo with the goals though captain Grant Cornwell deserves a mention with the first perhaps stolen from him on the line.
If any side is going to end such a streak however, it would have to be St George City. A side who love playing spoiler to any party, Mirko Jurilj’s side will be eyeing silverware sitting equal on points with Western Sydney atop of the standings with a game in hand.
City had to dig deep in their round 18 outing to overcome the SD Raiders with Christopher Arditti rising as high as a Mercedes F1 car at the end of a long straight to give them victory after Nathan Roberts scored earlier (Credit goes to Eric Subijano for that analogy). In squad news, they will be without Tarik Ercan who picked up a second yellow before the Arditti goal last weekend.
City will have to turn around their result the first time around which saw Spirit triumph by a 3-1 margin.
Northern Tigers FC v Central Coast Mariners FC; Saturday 16 July, 7pm, North Turramurra Recreation Area
It’s another important game for Northern Tigers who welcome Central Coast Mariners to North Turramurra.
Cast your mind back to the lead up to this fixture in the first round, you would recall that the Northern Tigers went in to their trip to Pluim undefeated. Since then though, they have won just two of their next ten fixtures which sees them looking up at their opponents this time round.
Yes, while last week’s game against NWS Spirit was important, this one essentially becomes must-win with three rounds and a catch-up fixture remaining. Still, there were signs of quality last weekend in their loss with the Tigers nearly putting themselves ahead in the opening half hour yet once the momentum turned, it was hard to get it back.
It won’t be an easy task though as they face a similar challenge this weekend in Central Coast Mariners. Similar in the fact that like the Spirit, Andrew Christiansen’s side is more than competent defensively leading the league along with Spirit in fewest goals conceded.
With last weekend’s fixture against Blacktown Spartans washed out, the last time we saw them on the park was against Western Sydney Wanderers in round 17. In that one, Joshua Hong became the 15th different scorer his side this season, while Harry McCarthyyy scored a contender for goal of the season. And it’s hard not to mention Sasha Kuzevski and Lachlan Bayliss who continue to contribute on a consistent basis.
Looking back, this game was a game which changed the course of the season back in round 8, what will happen this time?
Western Sydney Wanderers FC v Hakoah FC; Saturday 16 July, 7pm, Wanderers Football Park
After both sides returned to winning ways last weekend, Western Sydney Wanderers welcome Hakoah to Wanderers Football Park for their round nineteen clash.
The hosts Western Sydney Wanderers made an emphatic statement last weekend bouncing back after just their fourth league defeat the week prior. You wouldn’t have known that based on their performance against Bonnyrigg though as they swept them aside comfortably.
And quite fittingly given who they face this week, it was Zac Sapsford who stole the show last Saturday, the striker claiming a hat trick with two quality goals included. But his just one dimension of this impressive Wanderers side who look set to claim a long-awaited promotion under the guidance of captain Dean Pelekanos.
Hakoah like their opposition, also returned to winning ways last weekend with their first win in five matches over Hills United. And with Northern Tigers sitting just three points above them in the standings, they will be hoping to avoid defeat to set up next weekends clash perfectly.
But let’s return to last weekend for a second, a match which crucially saw the return of Yianni Spyrakis to the starting team. And it showed on the park, Spyrakis playing an influential role while Anthony Costa and Daniel Alessi scored the goals. It’s a matchup in which they haven’t tasted victory before, third time lucky this weekend?
SD Raiders FC v Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC; Saturday 16 July, 7pm, Ernie Smith Reserve
It’s derby time once again in Sydney’s south-west as Bonnyrigg White Eagles eye revenge against SD Raiders.
Not an easy task though as SD Raiders have seemingly picked up some steam in recent weeks. Yes, last week was a defeat but they made it by no means easy for premiership contenders St George City in a tight tussle at Penshurst Park.
In that one, Franco Maya scored his fifth goal of the season to level things in the second half before they were denied a go-ahead goal with ten minutes left by the offside flag. In squad news, Stevan Stanic-Floody made his debut for the club, the full-back making the switch from Western Sydney Wanderers academy side.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles on the other hand come in to this one having lost their past three in all competitions. Backing up after a game midweek, their season reached a new low going down to Western Sydney Wanderers by four goals last weekend.
It came after giving NPL side and local rivals Sydney United a scare in the Waratah Cup semi-final week. Let’s focus on that one for the sake of my sanity, Aaron Peterson scored a goal worthy of the occasion before Marie Gauthier doubled their advantage. However, they couldn’t hold on against the NPL side. It’s a quality we know they have; they just haven’t been able to do it consistently this season.
They will be looking to avoid two losses to the Raiders for the first time in this fixture’s short history.
Blacktown Spartans FC v Mounties Wanderers FC; Saturday 16 July, 5pm, Blacktown Football Park
Fancy a double header at the Rooty Hill football complex? We have you covered starting with Blacktown Spartans hosting Mounties Wanderers in an early Saturday evening kick off.
One of two sides who haven’t played in three weeks by the time this one kicks off, safe to say that Blacktown Spartans will be keen to take the pitch once again this Saturday. If you are like me however, you’ll probably need a little refresh where this Spartans side currently are.
In a bit of a statistical oddity, Andy Montgomery’s have remarkably only had five goal scorers in sixteen fixtures in 2022. With Emmanuel Gonzalez and Hamish Lamberton combining for an astonishing seventeen goals between them. Not out of the finals race by any sense, three points could bring them to within four points of Northern Tigers
Mounties Wanderers on the other hand will come into this one on the back of a win for the first time in a while. In the last fixture which took place in round seventeen, they broke a losing streak which stretched back to the last time these sides met.
There’s a bit of a new feel to Jerry Bilokapic’s side as the rebuild continues, with the likes of Anthony Proia, former Spartan Paul Apostolopoulos and Michael Martinovic coming into the side in their last two games. After the win that they oh so needed, Mounties will want to continue their momentum going in this one.
Hills United FC v St George FC; Saturday 16 July, 7pm, Blacktown City Sports Centre
Hills United return home to face St George FC at Blacktown City Sports Centre in round 19 action.
The only team mathematically out of the final’s equation so far, Hills United will be playing for pride and to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon from here on out. To do so, they will need to at least three victories in their final four games so even that’s looking a tough ask.
Last weekend, they fell to a narrow defeat against Hakoah in Sydney’s East. Glen Kelshaw scored from the spot to level things in the latter stages of the first half but they ultimately fell short against an experienced outfit. With a tough final three fixtures awaiting them, they’ll want to pick up a victory leading in.
Never been in the situation, but I think it’s a pretty safe assumption to make that the last thing you want after a losing a derby is two washed out games. But that’s exactly where St George FC find themselves coming into this fixture.
Yet, you can be sure that this young side will put that behind them when they take the pitch Saturday night. This will be the first game under the stewardship of Nefta Gonzalez who took over from Mark Milligan earlier this month. While look out for captain Cam Philpot who has scored in their last five fixtures stretching back to round twelve.
By FNSW League One writer Justin Smith