All to play for as St George FC and Mt Druitt settle for draw


St George FC and Mt Druitt Town Rangers have drawn level in the first leg of the NPL NSW Men’s/League 1 Men’s promotion/relegation playoff, in what was a tantalisingly tense encounter at the Ilinden Sports Centre on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

The match opened in a cagey fashion, with both sides feeling each other out in a tense encounter.

It was Mt Druitt who looked more dangerous on transitions as they looked to capitalise on any St George mistakes in build-up.

Meanwhile, the home side were able to find players in threatening space in between the lines, but couldn’t convert good passing football into any chance creating positions.

After 15 minutes, Mt Druitt began to control more possession, and showed their quality in moving the ball forwards, with Kotaro Katsuta particularly impressive in dropping off the forward line to link and progress play.

In the 23rd minute, Katsuta latched onto a loose ball and drove into the box, but his cutback was read by the defence.

However, a minute later it was the current League One Men’s side that opened the scoring, with St George stunningly leaping into the lead.

Directly off the failed Mt Druitt attack, the home side kept possession before releasing Jesse Spang in behind.

Inspirational club captain Troy Danaskos was found with a layoff, before playing a menacing ball into the box to Anthony Morabito; the winger saw a goalbound shot in a one on one blocked exceptionally by Nikola Djordjevic.

However, Danaskos received the ball off the rebound and played a pass back to Harry Jones, who stunningly found the back of the net with a screaming strike.

St George continued their momentum that came to life with the first goal, and threatened multiple times off corners.

They had a significant chance in the 28th minute; a clever one two between Nicholas Kalogerou and Conor Quilliganx saw the former in behind and in a one on one, but Djordjevic recovered quickly from being drawn out by the exchange and got across to make a crucial block.

Six minutes later, Djordjevic was even more influential in the other eighteen yard box.

Mt Druitt received a set piece on the right flank, and a delightful, inviting cross in from the left-foot of Jackson Bandiera was met by the central defender, and he found the back of the net with a powerful header to crucially level the scores at Rockdale Illinden Sports Centre.

In the 39th minute, St George looked to find the lead for the second time in the match; a clever cross found Quilliganx free at the back post, but Mt Druitt’s defence was able to get across quickly to block the shot.

The match was opening up, as Katsuta found himself with a free header inside the box three minutes later, but couldn’t gain meaningful contact on the ball.

After an even start once more to the second half, Mt Druitt were presented with a golden chance to go in front in the 56th minute.

An inswinging, curling corner from Katsuta looped over goalkeeper Daniel Axford and moved goal bound, but Quiliganx was at the back post to save his side.

Off the follow up, Solomon Vaiika received the ball and snapped a shot from a few metres outside the six-yard box, but the ball launched over the goal and St George escaped a precarious period of play.

For St George, the marauding Troy Danaskos had multiple inviting crosses from the left flank, but runners in the middle couldn’t connect with his dangerous deliveries.

In the 67th minute, a mistake from goalkeeper Dylan Niski, who had ventured out of his area to sweep clear a threatening long ball in behind, left St George with a tremendous chance to take the lead.

After a scramble, the ball ended at the feet of Mohamed Ahmed from range, with the goal gaping.

A first touch strike from the forward flew tantalisingly to goal, and looked destined for the back of the net with the crowd willing the ball in, but somehow the shot bounced just wide for the post and out for a goalkick.

It was St George who looked to threaten in the latter stages of the match, but they lacked the quality on a final pass to create an opportunity to take the lead and net decisively heading into the second leg.

St George coach Jane Talcevski was happy with his side’s performance, but lamented the lack of quality on the final pass as the decisive factor in the game.

“I think we started the game off well – we found the spaces in which we needed to operate to find our rhythm,” he said.

“But unfortunately, it was just the final pass, it was often missed.

“Whether it’s a result of the occasion or a result of playing a 3pm, which is something we haven’t done all year, so I think if we can secure those types of passes and play through the lines quickly we will have more success.”

Meanwhile, Mt Druitt Town Rangers coach Stewart Montgomery was looking forward to the second leg at their home ground.

“It was typical of a game where the sides don’t really know each other, we don’t really understand what they’re all about,” he said.

“The first leg is really a good chance to have a look at each other and put ourselves in a position to go to Popondetta Park, our home ground, and get a strong performance and win the game.”

Match Stats

St George FC 1 (Jones 23’)

Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC 1 (Djordjevic 34’)

Sunday 15 July, 2023

Rockdale Ilinden Sports Centre

St George FC: 3. Troy Danaskos (C), 5. Nicholas Kalogerou, 6. Patrick O’Shea, 7. Jesse Spang (30. Justin Poon 69’), 8. Conor Quiliganx (32. Aedan O’Shea 80’), 10. Harry Jones (13. Mohamed Ahmed 45’), 11. Anthony Morabito, 15. Mitchell Heapy (14. Richard Blanco 80’), 20. Daniel Axford, 24. Evangelo Souris, 27. Jayden Seeto

Substitutes Not Used: 1. Andrew Di Blasio, 34. Sebastian Cerecedo

Yellow Cards: Souris 71’

Red Cards:

Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC: 1. Dylan Niski, 2. Solomon-Johnn Monahan-Vaiika (15. Anthony Gallo 70’), 3. Nikola Djordjevic, 5. Jacob Esposito, 8. Henry Davies, 10. Kotaro Katsuta (12. Will Harvey 83’), 11. Jackson Bandiera, 17. Cooper Coskerie (7. Nikola Skataric 70’), 21. Tarek Elrich (C), 22. Rhett Desilva (27. Olayinka Sunmola 62’), 23. Daniel Dias

Substitutes Not Used: 16. Bailey Jacobs, 20. Omid Ramezani

Yellow Cards: Bandiera 76’

Red Cards:

By Jack George (@JackGeorge0004)