Round 26 Preview – League Two Men’s


Five rounds to go and the title race continues in Round 26 of the 2023 Football New South Wales League Two Men’s season as the top three look to hold their nerve, where one slip-up could prove costly at this end of the season.

Friday, 28th July 2023

Match of the Round: Nepean FC vs Parramatta FC, 8pm @ Wanderers Football Park

Previous Meeting: Parramatta FC 1-3 Nepean FC

This week’s Match of the Round will see a western Sydney derby between two sides who have had contrasting seasons, but there will still be plenty of fire between them.

Nepean FC surrendered a lead as they drew 1-1 away to the Newcastle Jets last week in their pursuit of the title, while Parramatta FC run of back-to-back victories was halted 3-1 away at the hands of the high-flying Bankstown United FC last week.

Earlier this season, Nepean were victors 3-1 thanks to goals from Luka Zepina, Matthew Crossley, and Andre Cavallaro; expect their stars, old and new, to make an impact, while Parramatta look to fire up in this derby encounter.

2nd-placed Nepean FC had their chances to secure all three points away to the Jets last week and will hope their new maestro Lachlan Sepping will help guide them to victory over a rival this week.

It was not the ideal result last week, but it was one that will keep the pressure on UNSW FC at the top, while they hope to stave off the pressure from the Jets below them.

If they can fire again up front and through their midfield general in Sepping, then the best defensive side in the league, with seven clean sheets from their past nine matches, will be confident of preparing well for a positive result this week to keep the pressure on at the top.

13th-placed Parramatta FC fell to a strong Bankstown outfit in defeat last week and will hope to be more clinical in front of goal if they want a result this week.

They will be full of running and will hope to press high with energy as they look to win the ball high up the field and hit on the counter.

They may struggle to get a hold of the match in midfield, which could force them to play the long ball on the counter; expect Parramatta to utilise the strengths in their squad as they look to shake up the league away from home.

With Nepean FC five points off 1st place and Parramatta FC four points off last place, expect both sides to come out firing early, where Nepean will hope to win the midfield battle, while an adaptable gameplan to break down the tight Nepean defence will be needed for Parramatta.


Saturday, 29th July 2023

South Coast Flame FC vs Hurstville FC, 3:30pm @ Sir Ian McLennan Oval

Previous Meeting: Hurstville FC 0-2 South Coast Flame FC

Both South Coast Flame FC and Hurstville FC are out of form, but a matchup like this against each other could be the catalyst one side could need to pick up an important victory.

South Coast Flame FC lost their 5th match in a row and moved to thirteen matches without a win after their 2-1 loss away to Hawkesbury City FC last week, while Hurstville FC lost their fourth match in a row as a late comeback fell short in a 3-2 home loss to the Western Rage.

The Flame’s last win this season came in the reverse fixture as a goal each from the Alstons, Samuel and Alexander, helped them to a 2-0 win; they will hope memories of that match can help them more than ever to a first league win since that Round Eleven clash.

9th-placed South Coast Flame FC were valiant but fell short of a comeback in their loss to Hawkesbury last week and will hope memories of their last win from this season can help them overcome their extremely tough run.

The Flame were in 2nd place when the sides last met earlier this season, where victory took them level on points with league-leaders UNSW FC with 23; since, they have only managed to pick up four points and have slid down the ladder to 9th, where they hope the slide will end.

If nothing else, playing the opponent they last had success against this season should fire up the Flame as they search for a win which would just about keep them in touch with the top half of the ladder; expect the Flame to take more confidence into this match than any other from the recent past as they look to end their winless streak.

10th-placed Hurstville FC were punished for their mistakes and failed to fire enough in front of goal in their 3-2 home loss to the Western Rage last week and will hope to turn their fortunes around following their worst losing run of the season.

With a makeshift back four and players playing out of position, the squad has found it hard to gel throughout and that has shown in their goals conceded; fourteen in their past four matches for a side which has earned nine clean sheets this season.

For Hurstville, they will hope to inspire some confidence through a solid performance on the field; if they can minimise the severity of errors and find a clinical edge in front of goal, they could return to the winner’s circle this week, where they could move past the Flame and Hawkesbury City FC into 8th place.

This is the perfect match for both sides to find a bit of form and, more importantly, find the three points; expect both sides to give their all as they look to learn from their mistakes and claim a victory to rescue both of their seasons.


Inner West Hawks FC vs Newcastle Jets, 7pm @ Arlington Oval

Previous Meeting: Newcastle Jets 5-0 Inner West Hawks FC

Inner West Hawks FC have all the odds stacked against them and will be out to cause a huge upset as they host the title-chasing Newcastle Jets.

The Hawks succumbed to a third-straight loss and moved to seven matches without a win following their 1-0 away loss to Fraser Park FC last week, while the Newcastle Jets came from behind to grab a 1-1 draw at home to Nepean FC.

The Jets put on a five-star performance when these sides clashed in Round Eleven and will be hopeful, as well as confident, of repeating the dose as they look to put more pressure on league-leaders UNSW FC, while the Hawks will hope to fire up against the Jets to move off the bottom of the ladder.

Last-placed Inner West Hawks FC are at the bottom of the league for the first time this season and will hope for a strong response against a formidable Jets side to cause not only an upset but shape the end of the season.

They will hope to be defensively sound from the start, led by their experienced defender, Christopher Phillips, who will hope to be a rock at the back for the hosts.

If their attack can get more involved in the final third, the likes of Tony Lo and captain Florim Binakaj could set them up for success in the midfield, although they will be without Hesan Soufi in attack after his red card last week; expect the Hawks to fire up regardless as they chase their own pride.

The 3rd-placed Newcastle Jets will hope to be more ruthless after their draw last week and with a match in hand, will hope to close the gap to three points on the league leaders, UNSW FC.

They will know where they sit among the top two before their match as Nepean FC play the day before them and will hope to use whatever the result is from that match to further fuel them.

The young side is fit and firing on all cylinders, but will hope their habit of drawing lately, with three draws from their past five matches after only two draws in their eighteen matches prior, will end as they chase all three points at Arlington.

Chasing a way away from last, the Hawks will hope to fire up while chasing first place, the Jets will hope to launch; expect plenty of chances for the Jets, while the Hawks will hope to set up for success on the counter.


Gladesville Ryde Magic vs UNSW FC, 7pm @ Christie Park

Previous Meeting: UNSW FC 0-1 Gladesville Ryde Magic

There could not be a more important match for these two sides than against each other this week; 4th vs 1st could have big ramifications for the rest of the season.

Gladesville Ryde Magic backed up their win against Hurstville FC with a 3-2 away win over a fast-finishing Camden Tigers FC last week, while UNSW FC ensured all three points in stoppage time in their 2-0 Kennard Cup success over Sydney University SFC.

The Magic conjured up a win over the also-then-league-leading UNSW away in Round Eleven and will hope for a win to both disrupt UNSW’s charge towards the title and boost their own chances of a top-two finish.

4th-placed Gladesville Ryde Magic have found a resurgence following three matches without a win and will hope to provide plenty of energy across the pitch as they look to close the gap to those above.

It would be a welcome league double for the hosts, one which they will be hopeful of taking at a frosty Christie Park given the form of some of their players, particularly in attack, where they have scored seven goals from their past two matches, coming five different players.

Expect the likes of Kohki Hiyaoka, David Ustimenko and young Christopher Guyot to continue to fire in attack and midfield, who will look to provide spark in their attack the whole night from the first whistle.

League-leaders UNSW FC held their nerve in the derby against Sydney University SFC last weekend and will hope to capitalise further on the dropped points from teams below them as they chase the league title.

Despite a five-point gap at the top, the race is far from over and the UNSW players and coaches will know as much; they will hope to hold their nerve heading into the business end of the season.

Away at the Magic, this will prove to a real test of whether they can be first past the post come the end of the season; expect Kevin Lopes to be involved in one way or another in attack as Gabe Knowles’ side chases a potential eight-point lead at the top of the ladder come the end of the weekend with four matches to play.

A massive clash with huge ramifications for both sides is in store; expect the Magic to conjure up something as they look to keep their top-two hopes alive and for UNSW to protect their lead at the top of the table in a match which should not disappoint.


Bankstown United FC vs Prospect United SC, 7pm @ Padstow Park

Previous Meeting: Prospect United SC 1-0 Bankstown United FC

Bankstown United FC are flying, while Prospect United SC have found many difficulties lately; the two teams meet in a match which could separate them for good on the ladder this season.

Bankstown won a fourth match in a row with a strong 3-1 away win over Parramatta FC last week, while Prospect had the bye following their mid-week catch up match and will hope to be refreshed to tackle the end of the season.

Prospect got the better of Bankstown in Round Eleven’s Match of the Round, where a lone goal from Rhys Osmond proved the difference; expect a similarly tight affair as Prospect look to stop their decline and Bankstown look to push towards the top four.

5th-placed Bankstown United FC are one of the form teams of the competition, which was further proved in their win last week over Parramatta and they will be hopeful of closing the gap to the top four to potentially one point following this week’s action.

Mitchell Cross continued to fire as the league’s outright top scorer and will hope to further his lead at the top to help his side to victory once again.

Bankstown know how hard of a side Prospect are to beat and will focus on their own play to do what they do best in the hopes of a fifth-straight win.

7th-placed Prospect United SC had the bye last week and will hope to find a bit more spark in the final third, given they failed to score last time out following a quick turnaround.

Following this week, Prospect will play three of their final four matches at home, where they will be more confident of gaining results; therefore, an away win over Bankstown this weekend would do them a lot of good heading into those matches.

A win would move them level on points with Bankstown and potentially move them up into 6th place; expect a much more energised Prospect to return following eleven days off as they chase a victory to stop their slide.

This match promises to bring some heat with two sides in contrasting form; expect there to be plenty of chances at both ends as form meets freshness.


Camden Tigers FC vs Fraser Park FC, 7pm @ Ron Dine Memorial Reserve – Carbiz Stadium

Previous Meeting: Fraser Park FC 3-1 Camden Tigers FC

With a logjam across the ladder, Camden Tigers FC and Fraser Park FC meet in a clash which could go a long way to determining their final league positions.

Camden Tigers FC lost a second-consecutive match last week, 3-2 at home to Gladesville Ryde Magic, while Fraser Park FC continued their resurgence with a 1-0 home win over Inner West Hawks FC.

Fraser Park picked up the three points in their Round Eleven encounter and will be hopeful of repeating the dose as they look to stay in touch with the top four, while the Tigers could finish the weekend in any of six different positions.

11th-placed Camden Tigers FC have had a rough few weeks against formidable opponents following a run of good results and will be hopeful of turning their form around at home this weekend.

This is one of three final home matches for the Tigers in their final four games and they will be hopeful of ending the season on a high with so many home matches; look for them to press high with energy at home with a lot of courage in the squad.

If they can hold their nerve and limit mistakes in defence, the Tigers could make their mark in the top half of the table; this clash is crucial for them for if they win, they could end the weekend in 8th place but if they lose, they could drop to as low as 13th.

6th-placed Fraser Park FC were shot-happy despite only scoring one goal last week but have found positive results in their past three matches, which they will hope will continue as they chase down the top four.

They have found good solidity at the back with three consecutive clean sheets and will use their defence as a base for victory again this week, albeit away from home at a tough stadium to play at.

A win could move them into 5th place and potentially just two points behind 4th-placed Gladesville Ryde Magic; against an attacking Tigers side to cause many problems for the solid Fraser Park defence, who will hope to catch the Tigers out.

A battle of attack vs defence could provide an interesting dynamic, where a win for both sides will have a large say in where they end the season; expect there to be no shortage of action as the two sides chase success.

By Football New South Wales League Two Men’s Writer, Dylan Costa @_dylancosta