Last week saw more twists and turns than ever this season as the battle for promotion heats up; Round Twenty-Four of the Football New South Wales League Two Men’s season promises to deliver just as much with team’s seasons on the tipping point.
The Match of the Round this week sees Gladesville Ryde Magic try to keep up with the top three as they host a Hurstville FC side looking to stay in touch with the top half of the ladder.
Earlier, Nepean FC host Western Sydney neighbours Camden Tigers FC as they continue their push for the title, before Sydney University SFC host Fraser Park FC in a critical clash across the ladder, which is followed by a crucial battle near the bottom as a battle of the birds sees Inner West Hawks FC host Parramatta FC.
Meanwhile, the Newcastle Jets will travel the distance as they make their way south to face South Coast Flame FC, bottom hosts first as the Western Rage look to upset league-leaders UNSW FC, before Prospect United SC look to wrestle momentum back against the high-flying Hawkesbury City FC.
5th-placed Bankstown United FC have a bye this round.
Saturday, 15th July 2023
Match of the Round: Gladesville Ryde Magic vs Hurstville FC, 7pm @ Christie Park
Previous Meeting: Hurstville FC 2-0 Gladesville Ryde Magic
Gladesville Ryde Magic’s push for the top three took another hit last week after their 2-0 away loss to Bankstown United FC, while Hurstville FC return from the bye having lost back-to-back matches for only the second time this season.
Hurstville defended well to hold out the Magic in their Round Nine clash and will hope to return to the top half of the table with a victory this week, while the Magic will need to take note of Hurstville’s danger in attack.
4th-placed Gladesville Ryde Magic will look to respond quickly from their defeat last week with only seven rounds left in the season; they are five points behind the 3rd-placed Newcastle Jets, who have a match in hand.
The Magic attacked down the right mainly with David Ustimenko in attack last week, while in their Round Nine clash against Hurstville it was their left edge which threatened; they will hope to cause problems across the pitch with their width and utilise long balls forward for success getting in behind the visitors.
With no wins from their last three matches, their top-two push is on the edge and will hope for nothing less than victory this weekend; look for their defensive pairing of Sergio Tarazona and Benjamin Ansah to play a crucial role at the back and for Ustimenko and the likes to fire in attack.
10th-placed Hurstville FC return from the bye down one spot after Camden Tigers FC overtook them on the ladder and will hope to respond to back-to-back defeats with a refreshed squad.
With three defenders out and a makeshift back four in their last match, it was in attack where they would have expected more as they missed multiple chances throughout the match.
As for a game plan, Hurstville can look to their victory over the Magic earlier this season for success, either from a tactical standpoint or from a motivational point of view.
Every match becomes critical for the Magic heading into the final part of the season, while for Hurstville they will look for improvement every week; expect the Magic to conjure up a spell for success and for Hurstville to be a formiddable opponent as they chase the league double.
Friday, 14th July 2023
Nepean FC vs Camden Tigers FC, 8pm @ Wanderers Football Park
Previous Meeting: Camden Tigers FC 1-0 Nepean FC
Nepean FC moved within three points of ladder-leaders UNSW FC after their 2-0 home win over Inner West Hawks FC last week’s Match of the Round, while Camden Tigers FC won a third match from five after they took down South Coast Flame FC last week at home.
The Tigers overcame Nepean at home in Round Nine thanks to a stoppage time winner from David Scott; the Tigers have a habit of getting results late and will hope to pick up the three points this week, while Nepean will know all about their threat and will hope to continue their good run.
2nd-placed Nepean FC leapfrogged the Newcastle Jets after their win in last week’s Match of the Round and will hope to be switched on against an attacking Tigers side this week; however, Nepean boast the best defence in the competition with only 21 goals conceded, with the next best at 25 goals by UNSW FC.
Kye Soares was a pressing machine for Nepean last week, while Nepean overloaded the Hawks and utilised clever passing throughout the night; at home again, expect them to be just as strong in those areas as they hope to go eight matches unbeaten.
With a solid defence and midfielders who are willing to press and close half-spaces throughout the match, expect Nepean to put together a smart gameplan using players with plenty of legs, despite the injuries in their squad, to work towards another hard-fought victory this weekend which could move them to the top of the ladder.
9th-placed Camden Tigers FC have more than shown their capabilities after a determined win over the Flame last week and have beaten not only Nepean this season but also the Newcastle Jets, showing their ability to rise to the big occasions.
The Tigers are resurgent and are now one of three teams on 27 points heading into this round, where they will hope to continue building their positive play in search of a top-half finish; they are only two points behind 7th-placed Fraser Park FC.
They will hope to build on their second clean sheet of the season and in a sign of what they can do, will hope for a second clean sheet of the season against Nepean as they chase a win to help themselves rise and shake up the promotion battle and potentially move themselves into 7th.
Nepean are charging towards top spot and the ever-dangerous Tigers are hoping to do the league double over their neighbour; expect there to be plenty of threat at both ends as the two teams chase success.
Saturday, 15th July 2023
Sydney University SFC vs Fraser Park FC, 5pm @ Sydney University Football Ground
Previous Meeting: Fraser Park FC 1-0 Sydney University SFC
Sydney University fell in a tough 1-0 away loss to Parramatta FC last week, while Fraser Park FC lost to the in-form Hawkesbury City FC.
A lone goal from Samuel Shepherd separated the two teams in Round Nine’s Match of the Round and he could play a big part in turning around Fraser Park’s recent form, while Uni will do well to stop him.
7th-placed Fraser Park FC are in a precarious position; win their matches in hand and they are right in the mix with the top six with six rounds to go after this week’s action.
They have found difficulties in scoring lately; they have failed to score in three of their past four matches, despite the power of Shu Torihara and Shepherd in attack.
A loss could drop them as low as 10th, while a win would close the gap to Prospect United SC to two points, who they play in a catch-up match on Tuesday, July 18th at William Lawson Park at 8pm; a win this week is crucial for their season.
11th-placed Sydney University SFC had found some form lately following their transfer activities, which has given them some much-needed fresh legs in the squad.
Captain Daniel Barrett will return from suspension this week and play his 100th first-grade match for the club, where he will hope to lead his troops to a big victory.
A win could close the gap to the top 10 to just one point, while it could move them eight points clear of last place; pride will be on full display for University this week as they look to hurt Fraser Park’s season.
With both teams looking to get back into winning ways, this scrap near the middle of the table with provide plenty of firepower from both squads as they hunt victory.
Inner West Hawks FC vs Parramatta FC, 7pm @ Arlington Oval
Previous Meeting: Parramatta FC 2-1 Inner West Hawks FC
The battle of the birds sees Inner West Hawks FC, who were gallant in their 2-0 loss to Nepean FC last week, face Parramatta FC who ended their six-match losing streak with a vital 1-0 home win over Sydney University SFC.
The Eagles overcame the Hawks 2-1 in their Round Nine clash thanks to a double from the since-departed Marco Sama; expect this match to be just as tight as both sides look to work away from the bottom of the ladder.
14th-placed Inner West Hawks FC lacked their firepower in attack in their 2-0 loss to Nepean FC in last week’s Match of the Round, which ended their six-match unbeaten streak, and will hope to bounce back quickly this week, despite missing players.
The Hawks will look to their young players to provide a spark given the missing experience in their squad and hope to provide a more positive outlet when attacking this week.
With three clean sheets from their past six matches, expect that to be the starting point as they look to launch with intent on the counter, which they will hope will lead to more positive chances this week at home where a win could move them into 12th.
13th-placed Parramatta FC came away with victory last week but know they have plenty more to offer in attack after they missed many chances last week.
They will hope to keep improving across the pitch and take pride in not only where, but how they finish the season heading into the final seven match weeks, with Youssef Badr as their main focal point in attack.
With a first clean sheet in seven matches under their belt, expect the Eagles to maximise their efforts in defence and hope the training on their finishing during the week pays dividends this week, where a win could take them to 11th.
Neither team will want to finish the season in last place and a victory for either side here will help determine which side has the momentum as the season reaches a pivotal point; which side will fly high in this encounter?
South Coast Flame FC vs Newcastle Jets, 7pm @ Sir Ian McLennan Oval
Previous Meeting: Newcastle Jets 0-1 South Coast Flame FC
South Coast Flame FC fell to an eleventh match without a win after their 1-0 away loss to Camden Tigers FC last week, while the Newcastle Jets dropped out of 2nd place for the first time since Round Fifteen after they drew 0-0 with the Western Rage.
The Flame came away from Newcastle with a 1-0 win over the Jets in Round Nine thanks to an Alexander Alston goal and if there was ever any match to fire up again, it would be this week against the Jets.
8th-placed South Coast Flame FC have not won a match since their 2-0 Round Eleven away win over Hurstville FC, nor have they kept a clean sheet since, but the chances have been coming lately for the side.
A big occasion such as a match against the Jets could be just the Flame need to reignite their season, where a first league double over them not just for themselves but for any side in the league this season beckons.
The players will be refreshed and eager to go and with new goalkeeper Ruon Nakamura in between the sticks will be hopeful of building from the back as they look to lock down the exciting players from the Jets.
The 3rd-placed Newcastle Jets will hope to keep their promotion push on track after they failed to score past the Western Rage last week.
They have only won one of their past five matches and will need to recapture their form if they are to overtake Nepean and hold off the sides below them.
With plenty of exciting players in their squad, expect a strong response from the Jets as they look to avoid their first-ever league double defeat in the league.
A long away trip beckons for the Jets, who will hope to rekindle their form against a Flame side hoping to claim their biggest scalp of the season to reignite theirs; expect sparks to fly in a match where the outcome could determine the final standings tremendously.
Western Rage vs UNSW FC, 7pm @ Rydalmere Park
Previous Meeting: UNSW FC 2-0 Western Rage
The Western Rage battled in a physical 0-0 draw away to the Newcastle Jets last week, while UNSW FC fell to Prospect United SC at home following a lapse in concentration.
The students got the better of the Rage in their Round Nine matchup, where a goal each from Kevin Lopes and Dylan Walz saw off a 10-man Rage outfit at The Village Green; expect this match to provide plenty of chances, too.
The bottom-placed Western Rage shook up the title battle after their away draw to the Newcastle Jets last week and will hope to put in another strong defensive performance against the league leaders this week.
With a settled defence featuring Christian Brigo, who played his first 90 minutes of the season last week, as well as a strong goalkeeping performance last week from Samuel Bortolazzo, the Rage will hope to use that as a basis for success with the likes of Timothy Borg-Williams firing in attack.
Following a tough defensive match last week, the Rage will be eager to attack at home; expect them to put up another fight as they look to make another mark on the title battle, while a win could move them off the bottom of the ladder.
League-leaders UNSW FC had their lead at the top cut to three points after their loss to Prospect last week and will hope to maintain concentration for the full 90 minutes this week as they look to maintain top spot, which they have held since Round Eight.
They will hope to take their chances this week after they failed to capitalise on their numerous opportunities last week, where Kevin Lopes fell behind Bankstown United FC’s Mitchell Cross in the race for the league’s top goal scorer mantle.
With one win from their past five matches, expect UNSW’s form to turn around sooner rather than later as they look to hold off those behind them in the battle for the title.
The league has been at its unpredictable best lately and with first versus last, nothing is guaranteed as both sides look to chase their own pride and glory this week.
Sunday, 16th July 2023
Prospect United SC vs Hawkesbury City FC, 7:30pm @ William Lawson Park
Previous Meeting: Hawkesbury City FC 0-1 Prospect United SC
Prospect United SC ended a three-match winless streak and picked up an important 2-1 win away over league-leaders UNSW FC last week, while Hawkesbury City FC continued their best run of the season with a 1-0 home win over Fraser Park FC.
Prospect picked up all three points in the Round Nine clash between these two sides, where a lone Housam Sayour goal helped them to a 1-0 victory; with plenty of changes in these two squads over the transfer window, expect an exciting encounter.
6th-placed Prospect United SC won their first match in four weeks after their triumph over UNSW FC and will hope to build momentum towards the latter stage of the season with new players settled into their squad.
Among those new players includes former Hawkesbury City players, Predrag Bojic, and Marco Turpeinen, who was top scorer for the Hawks before he left; both players could come back to haunt their old sides this week.
They are an unpredictable side and with more firepower, as well as more emphasis on attack since the window, expect them to come out firing from the first minute at home this week as they chase a league double over the Hawks, which could move them into 4th before they play a catch-up match at home to Fraser Park FC on Tuesday, July 18 at home at 8pm.
12th-placed Hawkesbury City FC, meanwhile, are one of the in-form teams of the competition currently following three-straight wins and are looking dangerous as they look to make a late push up the ladder to improve their final standings.
They will look to pinch the ball with their press up front and hit quickly moving forward, while they will be well prepared to face some of their former teammates given the chemistry they built this season prior to the transfer window.
Away from home, they may struggle more to maintain possession, which could work into their favour if they look to press high up the pitch; expect the Hawks to give their all as they chase a fourth-straight win and potentially move into 11th place.
With plenty happening between the two sides off the pitch this season, this matchup promises to be an exciting encounter on it as the two teams chase their own successes this season; expect there to be fireworks.
By Football New South Wales League Two Men’s Writer, Dylan Costa @_dylancosta