Round 28 Review – League Two Men’s
The title race took yet another twist following Round Twenty-Eight of the Football NSW League Two Men’s season; it could all be wrapped up next week.
League-leaders UNSW FC had the bye this week.
Friday, 11th August 2023
Match of the Round: Nepean FC 1-0 South Coast Flame FC
Nepean FC kept their slim hopes of winning the league alive and boosted their chances of a second-placed finish after they overcame a resilient South Coast Flame FC 1-0 at Wanderers Football Park, despite late drama.
The Flame started with real intent and intensity in their body language and vocalness early as they looked to have their say on the title race.
Nepean goalkeeper Justin Biega was tested early when the Flame’s Chang Gyun Yoo took a shot on from 25 yards, which forced a top save at full stretch by Biega to his left, onto the post and crossbar junction and behind for a corner.
The hosts threatened early from corners and on a counter, which were both snuffed out, while the Flame tried an ambitious effort from halfway which was comfortably caught by Biega.
In the 16th minute, the Flame’s Adam Voloder drove into the Nepean box following a one-two pass and shot towards Biega’s near post, but the keeper dived well to his right to send the ball behind for a corner.
The Flame were the more threatening of the two sides chance-wise early, while Nepean pressed well high up the field and won the ball.
The Flame continued to threaten from set pieces, while in the 21st minute Nepean’s Matthew Crossley intercepted a Flame pass out from the back and passed the ball to Luka Zepina, who shot at Flame goalkeeper Ruon Nakamura’s near post, but he saved well down low to his right.
Zepina had Nepean’s next strike five minutes later which sailed harmlessly over the Flame goal, while Jacob Poscoliero was big for the Flame in defence as he slid in to stop multiple Nepean attempted balls or forays down the field.
Nepean defended well against the Flame counter, too; a second ball had flown over the tall fence as they made sure to clear their lines well.
Nepean’s right full-back, Richard Stewart, was heavily involved in Nepean’s attacks in the first half as he bombed up and down the field.
Three minutes before half-time, the Flames Jacob Smileski had a 25-yard effort caught by Biega, while at the other end there was an almost-own-goal from the Flame’s Dean Pender after he diverted a Nepean ball into the box, over the crossbar.
In the first minute of stoppage-time, the final chance of the half fell to Nepean, who had the ball in the back of the net through Leonard Abdo, but he was offside in the build-up.
Despite chances for both sides, neither were able to find that clinical moment as they entered the sheds level at half-time, 0-0; the Flame would have been happy with the chances they created, while Nepean would have been pleased with their press.
The Flame’s Samuel Alston was dangerous down the right flank to start the second half, as the Flame looked to counter, while Nepean were unable to get the ball into the Flame box.
The visitors threatened from a header from Alexander Alston in the 56th minute, while a minute later a crucial block by Nepean’s Mitchell King prevented a shot from ten yards from the Flame; his block sent the ball swirling over the goal for a corner.
Then, the breakthrough in the match arrived just after the hour mark.
The Flame dawdled on the ball near their own penalty box and were pressured by Crossley; that pressure led to a miss-hit pass out from defence by the Flame, which was intercepted by Zepina.
He steadied himself and took a few steps in behind the Flame defence before he fired a shot quickly against a readjusting Nakamura, who was unable to move centrally quick enough as Zepina slotted the ball calmly into the back of the net at the near, left post.
The players all ran towards the corner flag as they took an all-important 1-0 lead.
Nepean had gained confidence, which led to them holding the ball well and in the 67th minute, a shot on target was blocked off the line by a Flame defender as Nepean searched for a second goal.
Nepean held strong as their defence slid in well to break up Flame counterattacks, while the Flame looked to threaten from set pieces without a result.
Paolo Laxamana was a menace for Nepean the whole night as his close ball control and dribbling helped him glide past Flame players.
In the 70th minute, a dangerous Nepean corner was headed wide of the right-hand Flame post with power.
Two minutes later, Mason Ingram stopped a potentially fatal Flame counterattack after a dangerous run with the ball in behind from the Flame.
Nepean had another shot from inside the Flame box which went over the goal, while the Flame’s Voloder almost got onto the end of a dangerous cross at the other end.
In the 77th minute, the Flame’s Matthew Mazevski received the ball in space in attack and took a shot on from 25 yards which went over the Nepean goal as the hosts searched for a late equaliser.
Two minutes later, the Flame broke the Nepean press and countered through Voloder; he shot directly at Biega, who saved well and then dived on the loose ball.
Raajdeep Singh impressed with energy off the bench with his press in the attacking third as Nepean looked to hold on late.
In the 85th minute, a strong tackle from Laxamana stopped a fluid Flame counter on their right; the match headed into stoppage-time with Nepean ahead.
A deflected Flame shot went out for a corner in the first minute of stoppage-time, but there was late drama yet to come.
In the fourth minute of stoppage-time, Nepean substitute Harrison Fox was given a second yellow card for dissent, just twelve minutes after he came onto the field as Nepean were reduced to ten men.
However, that was not the last of the red cards shown as in the seventh minute of stoppage-time, Singh was also given a second yellow card for time-wasting after he kicked the ball away.
However, those red cards did not matter as after seven minutes of stoppage time, the referee blew the whistle to signal full-time; Nepean had pressed and pushed their way to an important victory which kept their slim hopes of the title alive, as well as their strong hopes of a top-two finish.
The win moved Nepean back into 2nd-place in their fight for the all-important playoff position, one point ahead of the Newcastle Jets, and kept their slim hopes of winning the league alive; they moved to 51 points, five points behind league-leaders UNSW FC with two matches to play.
The loss for the Flame moved them down from 10th into 11th on 30 points, but they will be hopeful of turning their positive play into points to end the season in the coming two weeks.
Speaking post-match, Nepean FC Head Coach, Stephen Appleby, said it was a crucial win in their battle for second-placed but was not pleased with the performance.
“Too many players were below par and then a little bit of ill-discipline with the two boys picking up second yellows for something they should not have done, so that is a little bit frustrating there and closing the game out with nine men; it was not a good day in the office performance-wise, but three points is three points.”
Appleby said his side’s focus is ensuring they earn that second-place finish in the league and his side are not worried about what happens above them.
“I think [first place] is done and dusted to be fair… [focus on] just keep winning and hopefully someone slips up and we jag it.”
Looking ahead to next week, Appleby hopes his side can keep their momentum going.
“We are in a good space, and it helps having one of the best goalkeeper’s knocking around in Justin [Biega]… He is a very good goalkeeper.”
South Coast Flame FC Manager, Adrian Alston, was proud of his team’s performance despite not being able to find the back of the net.
“It is a good sign because we are controlling the game for longer periods of time… But obviously we would like to create clear-cut chances more often and then finish them.”
Alston had praise for the opposition for the match and for the season.
“On the whole, then as a team, great stuff from them so I have got to say congratulations to them.”
Looking to the positives for next season, Alston said there are plenty to take.
“There is a good core group of players in there, some young players… So that boxes well for the future, doesn’t it?”
Nepean FC will hope to put the pressure on UNSW FC at the top and hold off the Newcastle Jets below them as they travel to face 7th-placed Bankstown United FC next week.
South Coast Flame FC, meanwhile, will hope to bounce back in their final home match of the season against 4th-placed Gladesville Ryde Magic.
Wednesday, 9th August 2023
Sydney University SFC 1-1 Western Rage
The Round Twenty-Six catch-up match between Sydney University SFC and the Western Rage ended all square at 1-1 at the University Ground; both sides took a valuable point to ease their concerns of finishing last.
The Rage came out firing early in the contest and took the lead in the 2nd minute through Jacob Carluccio.
From there, Uni slowly worked their way into the match and found the leveller in the 37th minute when Caelan Hinckson headed the ball home from a set piece.
In the second half, both sides had their chances while Uni controlled a lot of possession.
However, in the end, neither side were able to fashion a real chance for all three points; both had fielded heavily rotated lineups given they both were playing three matches in a week.
The result moved both teams onto 25 points ahead of their matches in Round Twenty-Eight.
Friday, 11th August 2023
Camden Tigers FC 1-0 Parramatta FC
Camden Tigers FC continued their strong end to the season with a third-straight win after their 1-0 victory at home over Parramatta FC.
With Parramatta’s side depleted due to injuries, they created three clear chances when they played the ball over the top of the Tigers defence.
One of those was pulled back for an offside, which the Parramatta players and coach disagreed with as they looked to hurt Camden on the break.
The Tigers, meanwhile, hit the post and he crossbar in the first half as they had four clear chances of their own.
They also had two chances inside the six-yard-box which were either saved or kicked away.
In the second half, the Tigers had a big chance to score but were denied by a top save from Parramatta goalkeeper, Jameson Hinwood.
The decisive moment in the match came in the 61st minute when Parramatta defended Zachary Newham gave the ball away inside the Parramatta 18-yard-box.
Camden attacked down their right flank and a cross was put into the middle.
Bailey Simpson was on hand as he took his chance quickly; he side-footed the ball into the back of the net to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
They could have had more if not for Hinwood and some missed opportunities from their players.
Parramatta hit the post and had their chances against an aggressive Tigers side but could not match the battle of attrition and lacked the quality needed as the match finished 1-0 to the Tigers.
The win for the Tigers kept Camden in 8th on 36 points but moved them to within a point of the top half of the ladder, while the loss for Parramatta dropped them from 13th to 14th with 24 points, just one point ahead of last-placed Inner West Hawks FC.
Camden Tigers FC will enjoy the week off with the bye next week and will hope to end the season on a high in Round Thirty, while Parramatta FC will hope to avoid dropping to last-place in a physical battle against 10th-placed Hurstville FC next week.
Sydney University SFC 1-2 Hurstville FC
Sydney University SFC’s winless run extended to six matches as Hurstville FC ended their own six-match winless run with a 2-1 away win at the University Ground.
Hurstville started the match with a high tempo which Uni found difficult to deal with, especially given it was Uni’s third match in a week.
Uni tried to hold the ball, but Hurstville won it back and looked to hurt the hosts in transition.
Hurstville captain Paul Gagro and Mouhamed Hamdache put in crosses early, while Jesse Gagro and Alberto Gitierrez Gallardo looked dangerous through the middle.
Pedro Almeida and Daniel Kochina controlled the match well for Hurstville as they hunted a goal.
Gallardo missed two one-on-ones and had a chance cleared off the line and eventually found his goal in the 38th minute after he struck the ball sweetly on the half-volley from outside the box into the back of the net.
Uni found the equaliser right before half-time when a Yanni Plataniotis free kick found Jay Hirschowitz following a scramble in the box; he slotted home to restore parity heading into half-time.
Hurstville were determined and started the second half strong as they created chances.
They were rewarded for their efforts in the 51st minute when a cross from Jacob Botic found Jesse Gagro, who headed the ball into the back of the net to restore Hurstville’s lead, 2-1.
Uni threw everything they had at Hurstville late despite this being their third game in a week and launched long balls over the top and had some dangerous scrambles in the Hurstville box.
They hit the crossbar in stoppage-time and had another chance which went just wide but were unable to find the equaliser.
Hurstville picked up the three points for their powerful performance despite eight players missing through injury and did the league double over Uni.
The win moved Hurstville up one spot into 10th place on 31 points, while the loss for Uni kept them on 25 points in 12th-place.
Sydney University SFC will hope to end the season on a bright note starting with a clash away to 9th-placed Hawkesbury City FC next week, while Hurstville FC will hope to build on this victory as they travel to face 14th-placed Parramatta FC.
Fraser Park FC 1-0 Bankstown United FC
Fraser Park FC picked up a big win in their battle for a top-half finish against fellow top-half chasing Bankstown United FC, 1-0 at home.
Bankstown started strong with a few shots from distance but from there, Fraser Park pinned Bankstown in the middle third without creating chances.
Bankstown started to dominate field position towards the middle of the half but there were few chances, especially because they were missing nine players due to injury and no fresh substitutes available.
Both sides had errors in them and gave the pass away when they were pressed in an intense match where neither goalkeeper had to make many saves.
In the second half, gaps started to appear for both sides as Fraser Park’s Shu Torihara had a chance to score but opted to play a teammate in behind instead; Bankstown intercepted the ball from that attack and almost scored down the other end.
A few minutes later, Bankstown had their best chance from a corner but with numerous bodies on the goal-line, Bankstown sent the shot over the crossbar.
Bankstown had another chance when Tyron Geany cut in on the right into the 18-yard-box, but his shot clipped the crossbar and went over.
It was a stop-start match where lots of fouls were given, which made it difficult for either side to get into the match.
The decisive moment in the match came in the 86th minute when Fraser Park’s Samuel Shepherd got in behind down the left.
He cut back onto his right foot and crossed the ball into the Bankstown box; it deflected off a defender which took the pace off the ball and fell straight to Hayato Sadamori, who scored with a first-time shot at the back post to score the winner, despite Bankstown goalkeeper Mitchell Evans getting a hand to it.
Shepherd had the final chance of the match late as he got in behind, but he could not find the final pass as the match finish 1-0 to Fraser Park.
The win was Fraser Park’s first in three matches and moved them ahead of Bankstown into 6th on 40 points, while the loss was Bankstown’s third in a row and dropped them into 7th on 37 points.
Fraser Park FC will hope to move up into 4th pace and end the Newcastle Jets’ chance at the league title if it is not decided by then as they travel to face them next week, while Bankstown United FC will hope to have their say on the promotion race in their last home match of the season as they host 2nd-placed Nepean FC.
Saturday, 12th August 2023
Inner West Hawks FC 5-0 Western Rage
Inner West Hawks FC completed the league double in a five-star performance over the Western Rage with a 5-0 win at Arlington Oval, with a hat-trick hero to thank.
The Rage had the better of the opening 30 minutes of the match despite a third match in a week, with lots of corners and set pieces, while the Hawks tried to counter but were unable to cause the Rage any problems.
The Hawks got back into the match with a few half-chances and Peter Phillips had a point-blank effort cleared off the goal-line after he had gotten past Rage goalkeeper, Samuel Bortolazzo.
A few minutes later, though, the biggest turning point in the match occurred.
Hesan Soufi played a ball in behind for Phillips; he got clear but then Bortolazzo collected him outside the box and was shown a straight red card.
Soufi scored directly off the free kick, which hit the crossbar and deflected off substitute Rage goalkeeper Branko Vidakovic’s head into the back of the net to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead at half-time.
In the second half, the Hawks looked dangerous on the counter while both sides had goals disallowed.
Florim Binakaj came into the match in the second half for the Hawks and helped them control the match.
The Hawks had their second goal in the 71st minute when Keysar Ahmed Abdi capitalised on a mistake from Vidakovic; Phillips ensured the ball hit the back of the net to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead.
The Hawks exploited the wide areas well and had their third five minutes later as Soufi intercepted a free kick from the Rage goalkeeper to a Rage defender and scored for his second of the night.
Soufi had his hat-trick in the second minute of stoppage-time when Marcus Apostolakis played the ball across goal to Soufi, who tucked the ball into the back of the net with the outside of his foot.
Keysar Ahmed Abdi rounded off the performance with a goal after Lawrence Claxton cross the ball into the Rage box from the right, which deflected off a defender straight to Abdi, who scored to round off the 5-0 victory.
The win kept the Hawks in last-place but moved them to within a point of 14th-placed Parramatta FC, while the loss saw the Rage stay in 13th following their draw in their catch-up match.
Inner West Hawks FC will hope to have their say on the title race as they host league-leaders UNSW FC next week in their final home match, while the Western Rage will hope to end the season strongly and avoid last-place as they host 5th-placed Prospect United SC in their final home match.
Sunday, 13th August 2023
Gladesville Ryde Magic 2-2 Hawkesbury City FC
A cracking second half between Gladesville Ryde Magic and Hawkesbury City FC saw the two sides earn a 2-2 draw at Christie Park.
The Magic’s Chris Gaitatzis had a chance early but missed the target, while Hawkesbury hit the crossbar in the first half.
A low strike by the Magic’s Adrian Johnnathan was saved by Hawkesbury goalkeeper, Daniel Schwarzer, and the rebound was shot wide by Gaitatzis.
Ustimenko had swapped sides from the left wing to the right and delivered a ball in for Gaitatzis, who shot the ball straight at Schwarzer.
The Hawks’ Vincent D’ermilio made a run down the right and passed to Harry Drew, who shot wide.
Drew shot from 20 yards towards the left of the goal; his effort was saved by Magic goalkeeper, Joshua Sarina, as the match was scoreless at half-time.
In the 48th minute, the breakthrough arrived when Hawkesbury’s Daniel Morsillo was found unmarked in the Magic box at the back post following a cross from the right; he headed home to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
A powerful strike from Gregory Kondek from close range off a corner gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead in the 62bd minute.
However, just two minutes later, a Hawkesbury turnover in midfield saw the Magic attack through Kohki Hiyaoka; he took a shot on from outside the box, which took a big deflection off the foot of Otis Adlington into the back of his own net; the deficit was one goal for the Magic.
From there, Gladesville lifted and found the equaliser in the 77th minute through substitute, Majid Eslami, who headed the ball home from a cross to level the match at 2-2.
Morsillo had a chance to give Hawkesbury the lead back late, but his one-on-one effort was saved, while at the other end a left-footed strike from a Magic player hit the top of the crossbar and went over.
Neither side were able to find the winning goal late as the match ended even, 2-2.
The draw kept the Magic in 4th place, just two points ahead of 5th-placed Fraser Park FC and 6th-placed Prospect United SC, while the draw for Hawkesbury kept them in 9th place but moved them four points behind 8th-placed Camden Tigers FC and put them only one point ahead of 10th-placed Hurstville FC.
The Magic will hope to fire up as they chase a 4th-placed finish and will hope to overcome 11th-placed South Coast Flame FC away next week, while Hawkesbury City FC will hope to finish the season strongly, starting with a home clash against 12th-placed Sydney University SFC.
Prospect United SC 2-0 Newcastle Jets
Prospect United SC completed the most important league double of the season as they shook up the title race with a 2-0 home win over the Newcastle Jets at William Lawson Park, who lost the must-win match.
Prospect started the match focused and were up for the challenge of taking on the team who was 2nd heading into the weekend and chasing promotion in the Jets.
The hosts looked good in the first half, but the teams entered the sheds level at the break, scoreless.
Prospect scored their first goal in the 55th minute when James Pelletier cut back onto his right foot just inside the Jets’ box and blasted the ball into the bottom corner to give Prospect an important 1-0 lead.
From there, the Jets started to get into the match, but were left frustrated when they could not find a goal of their own.
A second goal was needed from Prospect to seal the match and it arrived in the 85th minute.
Cristian Gerardo Leiva struck the ball on the half-volley from outside the box and found the bottom corner to give Prospect a 2-0 lead late in the contest.
Prospect looked okay from that point and saw out the important victory, which shakes up the title race.
The win moved Prospect from 6th into 5th on 40 points as they look to end the season strongly, while the loss dropped the Newcastle Jets from 2nd to 3rd on 50 points.
The Jets dropped one point behind Nepean FC in the race for the promotion play-off position of 2nd, while their title hopes are all-but-over given they are six points behind league-leaders UNSW FC with two matches to play; they would need UNSW FC to lose both of their remaining matches and the Jets would need to win both of theirs.
Prospect United SC will hope to chase a top-four spot and have their say on the other end of the ladder, too, as they host the 13th-placed Western Rage, while the Newcastle Jets will know if the title is beyond their reach and will hope to regain 2nd-place at home to 6th-placed Fraser Park FC next week.
By Football New South Wales League Two Men’s Reporter, Dylan Costa @_dylancosta