Round 17 Preview – State League Women’s

Round 17 Women’s State League games kick-off 3pm on Sunday when University of NSW face SD Raiders at David Phillips Complex, Mount Druitt Town Rangers host leaders APIA Leichhardt Tigers at Popondetta Park, St George welcome Parramatta FC to St George Stadium; Western NSW Mariners have the bye.

University of NSW vs SD Raiders, Sunday 30 July 3pm, David Phillips Complex

University of NSW tackle SD Raiders in a top-three tussle at David Phillips Complex – the winner set for second place heading into the last month of matches.

Uni suffered a comprehensive 5-0 loss to leaders APIA on the weekend to end a 10-match unbeaten run (seven wins, three draws).

The ‘Students’ still boast the competition’s third-lowest defensive concession (28 goals) but have leaked eight in their last two outings, and three of their last four home games have ended in draws to cast a shadow on their form.

On the flipside, Southern Districts have won three of their last four (after pushing the top-two sides in two tight losses) and claim an even better defensive output conceding 20 goals in total (a quarter of them in one match against APIA) and only two in their last four matches.

But Raiders also have the second-lowest goal-return (34 – a third of them coming in a 12-0 win over Parramatta) and are commonly embroiled in dramatic scorelines with half their 14 matches ending in one-goal differences (for four wins and three losses).

Following Districts’ 3-1 round-three win at David Phillips Complex, Uni returned serve with a 2-1 win at Ernie Smith Reserve to set-up an enticing challenge this weekend.

Mount Druitt Town Rangers vs APIA Leichhardt Tigers, Sunday 30 July 3pm, Popondetta Park

Mount Druitt Town Rangers face an uphill battle when they host leaders APIA Leichhardt Tigers at Popondetta Park.

Second-from-bottom Mount Druitt know how to score with a 53-goal output only surpassed by opponents APIA (63), but it’s 48 goals leaked that’ll most concern Rangers who’ll need to plug the gaps against a rampant Tigers.

APIA are eight points clear at the top, boast the league’s best offence (63 goals), best defence (11 goals conceded), and have been toppled just once all season (St George three weeks ago) – they’ll definitely be favourites having accounted for Mount Druitt 7-1 at Popondetta Park and 6-1 Lambert Park in their previous meetings.

St George vs Parramatta FC, Sunday 30 July 3pm, St George Stadium

St George FC welcome lowly Parramatta FC to St George Stadium with the opportunity to open up a six-point gap over top-four chaser Western NSW Mariners.

St George are certainly on a roll having won six of their last seven matches, including a 2-1 stunner against leaders APIA, to sit three points off second despite playing one less match than the teams above them.

Parramatta will have to produce something special to trouble the Saints after conceding a mammoth 131 goals this winter and conjuring three goals in return (two of them in the opening round).

St George were comfortable in beating Parramatta 9-0 at St George Stadium and 8-0 at Melita Stadium earlier in the season.

Next week’s games

Women’s State League round-18 games kick-off 3pm on Sunday: SD Raiders host APIA Leichhardt Tigers at Ernie Smith Reserve, Western NSW Mariners play Parramatta FC at Proctor Park, St George FC face Mount Druitt Town Rangers, and University of NSW have the bye.

-By Dan De Nardi

Round 21 Review – PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men’s

Round 21 of the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues' 2 NSW Men's competition proved to be yet another interesting one, with teams continuing to jostle hard for places in the semi-finals.

Marconi Stallions continued on their winning way with a 4-1 victory over Spirit FC on Sunday, and with second-placed St George suffering a last-gasp 2-1 defeat at Western Sydney Wanderers the night before, the Stallions increased their lead at the top of the table to 12 points. 

With five rounds of the regular season remaining, semi-finals places in the competition remain open, with every team except bottom-placed Bankstown City in the running for a place in the top six.

To illustrate how tight the competition is, just 15 points separate second-placed St George from 13th-placed Macarthur Rams, so anything is possible in the next five weeks. One or two wins or a couple of losses can change the fortunes of any club in one fell swoop, especially those vying for the last three or four places in the semis.

The Football NSW cameras captured Western Sydney's late 2-1 win over St George on Saturday night, an entertaining Match of the Round clash that looked like heading for a draw until the young Wanderers stole the spoils in the third minute of injury time. Pandemonium for the Red and Black, heartbreak for St George.

In other matches, Mt Druitt Town Rangers thumped Hills United 4-1; Bankstown Berries upset Central Coast Mariners 2-0; Blacktown Spartans slaughtered Bankstown City 6-0; Northern Tigers and North Shore Mariners shared the spoils one-all; while Macarthur Rams upset Mounties Wanderers 2-1.

Match of the Round

Western Sydney Wanderers 2 St George 1, Sydney United Sports Centre

Western Sydney Wanderers escaped with a last-gasp 2-1 victory over an unlucky St George in the PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men's Match of the Round at Edensor Park on Saturday night.

St George defender Ali Nasreddine deflected the ball into his own net to give the Wanderers a 1-0 lead after 30 minutes; before Daniel Mitwali equalised midway through the second half. Western Sydney's Lachlan Campbell snatched the winner three minutes into stoppage time, giving the Wanderers something to cheer about after what has been a difficult past two months.

In a free-flowing match played in great spirit, both teams turned on the style as they pursued their own individual brand of attacking football.

Wanderers striker Kyle Cimenti had the opening chance of the match inside the first minute, but finished up second best in a one-on-one with Saints goalkeeper Andrew Depta. Cimenti had another opportunity in the eighth minute after a nice pass from Matthew Lecce, but Depta again foiled the young Number 9.

The Wanderers played some wonderful football in the first half, passing wth pinpoint accuracy, moving swiftly in transition and creating several opportunities, with Cimenti, Lecce, Tariq Maia and Mathieu Cordier keeping Saints on the back foot.

But while the Wanderers were more precise, Saints had their own opportunities, and like the home side, couldn't convert. Jacob Sullivan in particular caused problems down the left flank. The winger's pace, balance and ability to beat a man causing alarm bells to ring in the Wanderers' defence whenever he touched the ball. Indeed, it was St George who first put the ball into the back of the net after 17 minutes, only to see referee Kurt Ams disallow the goal.

That call seemed to lift the Wanderers, who took the game by the scruff of the neck and launched a relentless barrage of attacks. They were finally rewarded after half an hour when a wicked cross from Emmanuel Gonzalez was deflected into the net by Saints' defender Ali Nasreddine. Unfortunate yes, but probably unavoidable given the velocity at which the ball was travelling when it connected with the hapless defender.

The Wanderers faithful celebrated their good fortune but Saints refused to give up and in the 35th minute Nico Paras showed great touch and a turn before blasting a shot goalwards, only to see Wanderers keeper Mackenzie Syron pull off a brilliant reflex save.

It would be the first of many fine saves by the young Wanderers gloveman.

A minute after Paras went close, Wanderers' left back Mathieu Cordier had a crack of his own but his effort was easily contained by the impressive Depta.

The Wanderers attacked wherever they saw the openings: out wide, through the middle and over the top, they kept coming like bees to a honey pot.

Just four minutes out from halftime Maia struck a free kick from on the fringes of the box, but Depta saved his shot comfortably, before St George's Tarik Ercan in the 45th minute skied a golden opportunity to equalise over the bar.

The two sides went to the break with Western Sydney leading 1-0 , a just reward for their dominance of the opening 45 minutes of play.

St George came out firing in the second half and five minutes after the restart Sullivan continued to taunt the Wanderers' defence with his pace and nifty footwork before passing to Bruno Pivato, who blasted his shot over the bar.

Saints put together some skilful passages of play and in the 57th minute Paras inexplicably missed a golden opportunity to equalise from point blank range. That miss led to a swift counter-attack by the Wanderers, who swept upfield for Cimenti to fire in a dangerous low cross that Depta intercepted brilliantly. Had the Saints keeper not snuffed out the cross, his side could easily have been 2-0 in arrears.

Two minutes later Saints cleared off their line and in the 66th minute a Jordan Crighton volley was saved well by Syron. The game had opened up and both sides were throwing caution to the wind and playing some mercurial football.

St George caused plenty of grief in the Wanderers' defence but just could't find the back of the net

After some good leadup work by Nasreddine, Pivato had an opportunity to equalise, but the curly-haired maestro blasted his shot from inside the box straight at Syron.

Two minutes later Pivato tried to bend the ball into the back of the net from just outside the box but Syron again saved comfortably. Pivato again had a chance, only to see his effort brilliantly denied by the Wanderers gloveman.

Just when Saints were beginning to wonder what they had to do to beat Syron, it finally happened in bizarre fashion in the 73rd minute.

The young Wanderers keeper came under a barrage of Saints' attacks and in a matter of seconds was forced into three miraculous saves from point blank range before Mitwali fired home the equaliser amongst a melee of players. The finish may have been ugly but it was enough to level the scores.

The Wanderers went seeking an equaliser and in the 79th minute Depta snuffed out a Wanderers cross from the left; before Lecce shot over the bar in the 82nd after some great interplay by the red and black.

Syron was again brought into the action and again saved the day, with Pivato unable to poke home the rebound.

Just a minute shy of fulltime, Nasreddine worked his way into the box seeking some sort of redemption for conceding the own goal that gave Wanderers their lead, but much to his disappointment, his shot from close range sailed over the bar.

As the saying goes, "It's not over until the fat lady sings" and whether that thought played on either side when the Wanderers received a long range free kick three minutes into injury time is debatable. Regardless, Emmanuel Gonzalez floated the ball into the box and incredibly Lachlan Campbell found himself unmarked and from close range rose high above the Saints defence to head home the winner.

Pandemonium broke out amongst the Wanderers players and their faithful band of supporters; while Saints could only look on in stunned disbelief. Joy for the Red and Black; despair for St George.

Not surprisingly, Wanderers assistant coach Arthur Diles was pleased with his side's performance.

"It was a very difficult game, an extremely difficult game," Diles told Football NSW. "They're a very good side, they're not second (on the table) by fluke. It was a game that we had to be ready for. Physically we had to be ready because they're a team that likes to get forward quickly and play quite direct so it was always going to be a difficult game physically. I think our boys were excellent tonight in dealing with that."

When asked what impressed him the most about his team's performance, Diles replied: "The energy and the performance they put in physically. Some of them have been maybe lacking a little bit in tough encounters but I think tonight they really fought hard; they didn't stop. They made it difficult for St George and they dealt with the pressure quite well.  

Meanwhile, Saints coach Terry Palapanis was disappointed to have the game wrenched away from his side so late in the game.

"Disappointing yeah, copping a goal from a set piece in the 93rd minute," Palapanis told Football NSW. "We weren't on our game but we did have some chances. The stats said we had some 20 odd shots at goal and they had about 12 or 13, but yeah, diappointing. They're a good side, they've got some good players and their transition's dynamic. We needed to be on our game and we weren't. We cop it."

When asked what the difference was between the two sides, Palapanis replied: "They put their chances away. We never. In the first half we were slow and it took us a while to adjust to their play. They're quite mobile. But just before we copped that goal we should have scored one or two at least. Our finishing was poor and obviously we missed our striker (Juan Carlos Romero), who's out for the year. We'll do a debrief with the coaches, look at the video and go from there."    

Western Sydney Wanderers 2 (Lachlan Campbell 90+3) St George 1 (Ali Nasreddine O.G. 30', Daniel Mitwali 73')

Sydney United Sports Centre

Saturday 22 July 2017

Referee: Kurt Ams

Assistant Referees: Avrol Beecham, Matt Howarth

Western Sydney Wanderers: 16. Joshua Bartolotto, 2. Lachlan Campbell, 9. Kyle Cimenti, 5. Mathieu Cordier, 10. Emmanuel Gonzalez, 25. Jordan Hall, 22. Matthew Lecce, 50. Tariq Maia, 18. Oliver Puflett (7. Brandon Stojcevski), 24. Tate Russell, 40. Mackenzie Syron (G)

Unused Subs: 20. Daniel Axford, 3. Abdel Kuku, 6. Brandon Robertson, 19. Malcolm Ward

St George: 1. Andrew Depta (GK), 14. Jacob Bandur, 12. Jordan Crighton, 7. Robbie Deasy, 8. Tarik Ercan, 16. Daniel Loe, 34. Daniel Mitwali, 3. Ali Nasreddine, 10. Nico Paras, 6. Bruno Pivato,  15. Jacob Sullivan (48. Alfred Hess)

Unused Subs: 4. Jonathan Kontalis, 21. Matthew Williamson, 5. Jayden McLeod, 2. Thomas Menton

Yellow Cards: 14. Jacob Bandur

Coach: Terry Palapanis

Mt Druitt Town Rangers 4 Hills United 1, Popondetta Park

Mt Druitt Town Rangers thumped a hapless Hills United 4-1 at Popondetta Park on Saturday afternoon to maintain their position in the top six on the competition table.

Luke Grima, Alex Vlismas, Daniel Rezo and Jamie Dib scored for Rangers, while Basden pulled back a consolation goal for United.

In a match of critical importance to both sides, Rangers' Grima missed a penalty in the 20th minute but made amends when he opened the scoring just shy of halftime. Rangers caught Hills out on the counter-attack and got in behind the defence for Grima to slot home.

Hills then went walkabout and completely lost focus after conceding the first goal and allowed Mt Druitt in for their second just two minutes later, when Alex Vlismas volleyed home to give his side a 2-0 lead at the break.

Rangers continued to dominate Hills and their third goal came from a corner, with Rezo slotting home just on the hour for a 3-0 lead before Basden grabbed a consolation goal for Hills in the 73rd. Substitute Jamie Dib sealed the win for Mt Druitt when he lobbed the keeper for a fine finish two minutes later.

As expected, Mt Druitt coach Aidan Desmond was delighted with his side's performance.

"We were quite good across the park and we maintained good quality possession," Desmond told Football NSW. "We managed to keep the ball pretty well and created chances and put four of them away."

Desmond added that while there weren't any standouts in what was essentially a good team performance, the win was a very pleasing one, with youngster Trent Sierra making his first grade debut.

"Trent Sierra made his first grade debut for us and he had a really solid game," Desmond said. "He's still eligible for Under 20s and he came in and did well at left back. Lord Darkoh was suspended and Trent fitted in very well."

With ace striker Kuag Reec out for the rest of the season with an MCL injury; and Daniel McCann absent for the Hills game, Desmond was pleased that his side rolled up the sleeves and got the job done without any fuss.

"We're low on numbers but that's the way it is this time of the year," Desmond said. "We'll just keep going the way we're going and see what happens."

Hills meanwhile are currently going through a bit of a slump and were hoping to reignite their season at Popondetta. But it wasn't to be.

With just one win from their last six matches, Dan Sheppard's outfit seems to have lost their way.

But the club has enough quality and experience in its ranks to stem the tide. With time ticking away and the regular season just five weeks shy of its conclusion, Hills sit in ninth equal place on the ladder. But despite being in the lower half of the table and with so many teams in contention for the playoffs, they still have plenty to play for. A place in the top six certainly isn't beyond them.

Bankstown Berries 2 Central Coast Mariners 0, The Crest Athletic Centre

Bankstown Berries caused a major upset when they beat Central Coast Mariners 2-0 at The Crest on Saturday night. The two-goal victory was epecially significant as it was the first time this season that the high-flying Mariners have been held goalless.

While the defence played their hearts out, Tomohiro and Forbes scored the decisive goals in what could be a major turning point in the Berries' season. 

The Berries sit in sixth equal on the league table alongside Mt Druitt Town Rangers but with five rounds remaining of the regular season, player coach Perry Moustakas isn't taking anything for granted.

"I've been talking about inconsistency for a long time now and after the loss to Blacktown Spartans (in Round 17) the team sat down and had a bit of a chat between ourselves and set some targets," Moustakas told Football NSW.

"Since then the boys have been superb. Central Coast are a possession-based team and they had their fair share of the ball last night but we definitely made it hard for them to create opportunities and I feel like we fully deserved the three points." 

When asked what impressed him the most about his side's performance, Moustakas replied: "The maturity of the boys towards the back-end of the season has been impressive. We played St George last week and played with 10-men for 45 minutes and still held on for a draw. The boys were gutted by the result and that showed a lot about their attitude and the standard that they've set for themselves and the team.

"But we need to finish the season strongly and we don't want this to be a little patch. We want to continue our good form all the way through (to the semis)."

The Crest is considered by many to be something of a graveyard for visiting teams. The wide open spaces and lack of atmosphere, not to mention a spirited Berries outfit that scraps for every inch on the field, have claimed their fair share of victims over the years. Central Coast is just the latest outfit to return home with their tails between their legs.

But the young Mariners will bounce back quickly. Coach Ben Cahn will have his young charges back to their best - even with the distraction of players coming and going between the NPL 2 setup and first grade - and by next week they'll be raring to go again and to press their claims for a place in the finals.

Bankstown City 0 Blacktown Spartans 6, Jensen Park

Blacktown Spartans demolished Bankstown City Lions 6-0 at Jensen Park on Sunday, heaping more misery on a side that is staring at the prospect of relegation to NPL 3 at the end of the season.

Michael Konestabo scored four goals, while Koji Hori and Alessandro Pecora grabbed one each.

In a shocking incident, Spartans' striker Garang Awac was rushed to hospital after suffering a broken leg following an horrendous challenge four minutes into first half stoppage time, an incident that saw the Lions' reduced to 10 men. With the Spartans leading 1-0, through Michael Konestabo the match was stopped for around 40 minutes as an ambulance was called to transport the young striker to hospital.

Spartans coach Luis Contigiani spoke to his boys during the interlude and reinforced the need to focus and not be distracted by their teammate's injury.

"The boys had been playing brilliant football by that stage and I didn't want them to drop their heads when Garang was taken to hospital," Contigiani told Football NSW. "I reinforced the need to focus and to concentrate and to play to their potential. To show some maturity and to come of age as men."

The players did just that with Koji Hori scoring their second goal to lead 2-0 at halftime.

Despite being two goals down, Bankstown received a penalty just five minutes after the restart. Unfortunately for the struggling Lions, they were unable to convert from the spot and two minutes later Konestabo struck home his second goal to give the Spartans a 3-0 lead.  

The visitor's then went on a rampage and scored again in the 74th, 82nd and 85th minutes, romping to their biggest win of the season.

"The boys were unbelievable," Contigiani said. "The combinations and some of the goals we scored, the way we moved the ball with speed, was unbelievable.

"We're starting to believe in ourselves again. Yesterday striker Alex Boyadijan was out injured, Tiano Pecora was suspended, Mitchell was out with a knee injury and now Garang's out for the rest of the season; but what I'm seeing is, even with a skeleton side, the boys are believing.

"At the end of the day, the way we did things: the discipline, the belief amongst the boys gave me a lot of joy and eased the pain from what happened to Garang. If we didn't cop that six point suspension earlier in the season we could be in the top four, but that's life and we'll just keep on taking things one week at a time. We might even scrape into the semi-finals."     

The Spartans have only lost one of their last six matches and have found a rich vein of form that has them on track for an unlikely appearance in the semis. Yet their season has been a challenging one. Injuries, suspensions, a small squad and a six point deduction midseason have all conspired to make Contigiani's job that little bit harder. But one thing about the affable mentor is that he's an optimist. And he lives by the belief that where there's life, there's hope. That mantra has been working wonders in recent weeks; the Spartans will be hoping it continues for the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, Bankstown didn't seem to learn anything from last week's 5-0 defeat to league leader's Marconi, a performance that disappointed their small band of fans, their coach and probably most of all, themselves. They lacked fire and they lacked determination. They almost seemed resigned to their fate.

Unfortunately, with just five rounds remaining of the regular season, the once mighty Lions look certain to be playing third tier football next season.

Marconi Stallions 4 Spirit FC 1, Marconi Stadium

League leaders Marconi Stallions continued on their merry way with a 4-1 victory over Spirit FC atMarconi Stadium on Sunday.

The Stallions led 4-0 through doubles to Mirjan Pavlovic and Marko Jesic before Spirit's Jake Harris struck home a consolation goal from the penalty spot in the 68th minute.

Spirit coach David Perkovic was disappointed with the result but conceded that the Stallions were simply too good on the day.

"Marconi obviously have a lot of quality in their team and credit to (Stallions coach) Peter Tsekenis, who has got them playing in a structured way that doesn't allow the opposition to get into the game," Perkovic told Football NSW.

"The two goals we conceded in the first half were from mistakes. They've got the quality to pounce on mistakes and to hurt you. The second goal we gave away cheap possession on the halfway line and through quick transition they put the ball over the top and scored."

Perkovic added that his side tried to lift their performance in the second half but Marconi simply went up a gear and scored two more before Harris grabbed a consolation goal from the spot to give the scoreline some respectability.

"In the second half we competed well and definitely played to the final whistle," Perkovic said. "In terms of the football, the second half was a little more balanced and whether that was because they just took the foot off the pedal or we lifted a little bit, I'm not sure. We competed but they had the quality to capitalise on their opportunities. Credit to Marconi, they were far too good for us today."

Spirit lie in 12th position on the league table but still have an opportunity to make the six if they can string together some wins in the final five rounds of the regular season. Marconi meanwhile, have opened up their lead at the top of the table to 12 points and seem certain to win the premiership in a canter. 

North Shore Mariners 1 Northern Tigers 1, Northbridge Oval

In the battle of Sydney's Northside, North Shore Mariners and Northern Tigers shared the spoils one-all at Northbridge Oval on Sunday.

Mariners took the lead in the 86th minute only to concede the equaliser three minutes later, a lapse in concentration that would have disappointed coach Joe Haywood.

The Mariners entered the game fresh from a 2-1 win at Hills United, while the Tigers had defeated Western Sydney Wanderers by the same scoreline.

North Shore have been going through something of a form slump of late, so coach Haywood should be delighted with his side's unbeaten recordin their lasttwo games.

"We've had a bit of a midseason slump," Haywood told Football NSW. "We've been unfortunate in games where we should've scored goals but we haven't and been punished.

"We haven't panicked in the past few weeks, it's just been one of those things that sometimes happens in sports. If you don't take your chances you get punished. But the boys know they're better than than what their results are showing."

When asked what he expected of the Tigers, Haywood replied: "I'm expecting a team that's going to be full of confidence. They've been doing very well this season with some good results. But they've also had some shaky results as well so they are beatable."

Northern Tigers meanwhile, had also been struggling for form, but still managed to remain in third place on the table. Coach Mark McCormick was pleased that his side's fortunes had taken a change for the better after the Round 20 win over Western Sydney.

"The win over Western Sydney was good for our guys because over the last few weeks the luck hadn't been going our way," McCormick told Football NSW. "I think we deserved the win and getting a tight 2-1 result is good for the guys' confidence."

In a clash between contrasting styles and two sides that sit in outright third (Tigers) and eighth (Mariners) on the league table respectively, this match was always going to go down to the wire. It's no surprise at all that the spoils were shared.

Mounties Wanderers 1 Macarthur Rams 2, Valentine Sports Park

Argentinian import Marcelo Turdera scored the winner as Macarthur Rams earned a fighting 2-1 victory over Mounties Wanderers at Valentine Sports Park on Sunday.

Turdera's 90th minute winner was his sixth goal from as many games, proving that his acquisition has been a shrewd one for the struggling Rams.

Macarthur opened the scoring through Damion Travis in the 68th minute, but Mounties equalised in the 86th before Turdera struck home the winner right on the stroke of fulltime.

Rams' coach Eddie Briscoe was delighted with the win and while Turdera was the match-winner, the Englishman refused to single out anyone for special praise.

"To be fair, Mounties controlled the game and they had a lot of chances," Briscoe told Football NSW. "But the difference was, we took ours and they didn't. It was a huge team effort and everyone from goalkeeper Nikodin Matic to our defenders and midfielders and strikers, all made a huge contribution. We have a small squad of players and we struggle for depth, but when we fight for each other like we did today, we can do some damage."

Despite the victory, Macarthur remain in 13th place on the ladder, while Mounties drop from fourth equal to outright seventh, a disappointing state of affairs for Lee Sterrey's talented side but definitely one that can be rectified with five rounds remaining of the regular season.

Going into the match, Mounties had found some decent form - winning three-on-the-trot - and the clash against Macarthur offered them a golden opportunity to continue on their winning way.

But it wasn't to be as the Rams fought for their lives and somehow conjured an unlikely victory.

"We've got to fight our way to stay in this league," Briscoe said. "That's our priority. We've got to keep fighting away and we need to find a couple more wins somewhere. We need to try and keep the squad together and keep them focused. You can see their heads go down when things aren't going well but we're just going to keep fighting away. That's all we can do."

-By Derek Royal, Football NSW Reporter

Round 16 Review – State League Women’s

Women’s State League round 16 saw APIA Leichhardt Tigers beat University of NSW 5-0 in the top-of-the-table clash, SD Raiders edge Western NSW Mariners 1-0 and Mount Druitt Town Rangers beat Parramatta FC 10-0.

It’s now peak hour on the points table as APIA (33) revved out in front to lead a bumper-to-bumper UNSW (25), Raiders (23), St George (22) and Mariners (19) – and five rounds remain to the finals.

APIA Leichhardt Tigers 5 (Rebecca Watts 2', Christy Ferreyra 34', Sarah Urquhart 38', Lucy Gilfedder 48' 68') University of NSW 0, Sunday 23rd July 7pm, Lambert Park

Defending premiers APIA Leichhardt Tigers dominated top-two rivals University of NSW 5-0 at Lambert Park to place a stranglehold on top spot, now eight points clear with five weekends to go.

Methodical goals made it 3-0 at halftime before a second-half Lucy Gilfedder double made it a cool 5-0 scoreline – Uni’s first loss since round three.

Tigers didn’t muck around and led in just the second minute through Rebecca Watts, Christy Ferreyra added the second on the half-hour (her 16th of winter to close to within three of Uni’s Yadira Rengifo on top of the scorer’s chart), and Sarah Urquhart slotted the third minutes later.

The home side maintained the second-half rage when Gilfedder bagged one moments after the restart and grabbed another (her 11th of the season) to make it 5-0 20 minutes from the end.

APIA coach Matteo Maiorana was thrilled, not just for the clinical first grade performance that strengthened their competition lead, but also for bolstering their club championship advantage.

"It was a brilliant performance, our best of the season!” he said. “The girls knew how important today was for the club and for our team and we responded.”

“UNSW are a very good side and they have a great coach but today we were at the top of our game and put on a great performance – seven club championship points was the most important aspect of the day.”

SD Raiders FC 1 (Dominique Caridad 75’) Western NSW Mariners FC 0, Sunday 23rd July 3pm, Ernie Smith Reserve

A late Dominique Caridad header stole a dramatic 1-0 victory for SD Raiders in a cracking match against Western NSW Mariners at Ernie Smith Reserve.

A balmy day greeted two sides embroiled in a top-four dogfight (with St George who had the bye) and the visitors showed great intent early to more than match their higher-ranked opponents and keep Southern Districts contained for lengthy periods in a scoreless first half.

It was a different story in the second as SD found their groove and strung together some good attacking moves without being able to land the killer blow, but just as the game seemed destined for a draw a Raiders corner saw an open Caridad head home a close-range winner (her 12th of a stellar season) inside the final quarter-hour.

The result shoots Districts into third spot (two points behind UNSW) with a third-straight Western NSW loss leaving them three points behind fourth-placed St George having played one more match than the Sydneysiders in what will be an enthralling sprint to the finish.

Mariners coach Jason Payne applauded his team’s first-half tenacity against Raiders and knows a playoff position is an arduous journey from here, but he still has strong belief in a developing side.

“It really was a game of two halves where we had the upper hand and had them pinned a fair chunk of the game; they were able to get out and create opportunities but I think we edged it in possession,” he said. “I made a few changes in the second half and we fell off the pace a bit at the back end, and they scored from an open header in the box.”

“We just need to pick up points and keep the pressure on the teams above us. It’s not an easy run home but we’ve had good results against a couple of the teams we’ll play.”

Payne refused to get ahead of himself but he does like what he sees ahead for his team. “From last year I had four returning first graders, so I had to pretty much rebuild the side,” he said.

“I picked up some players, one who’s played for Newcastle Jets before and one from Sydney Uni, the rest of the squad are 15-16 year olds and one 14 year old, so it’s a young side with six experienced heads, and it’s great experience for some of these young girls who are playing in a senior grade for the first time.”

Mount Druitt Town Rangers 10 () Parramatta FC 0, Sunday 23rd July 3pm, Popondetta Park

Mount Druitt Town Rangers thumped Parramatta FC 10-0 at Popondetta Park to keep their loose top-four chances alive.

It was a third straight double-figure scoreline for Mount Druitt against the cellar-dwellers following 11-2 and 11-0 wins earlier in the season, and Rangers have claimed almost a quarter of their total points from the last two weekends.

But top-four dreams remain distant – with five rounds to go Mount Druitt trail fourth-placed St George by eight points and face leaders APIA this Sunday.

Next week’s games

All round 17 Women’s State League games are 3pm on Sunday: University of NSW tackle SD Raiders in a top-three tussle at David Phillips Complex on Sunday (3pm kickoff), Mount Druitt Town Rangers host leaders APIA Leichhardt Tigers at Popondetta Park, St George welcome Parramatta FC to St George Stadium, while Western NSW Mariners have the bye. 

-By Dan De Nardi

Round 16 Preview – State League Women’s - St George FC have a Bye

Round 16 of the Women’s State League is headlined by the top of the table clash between APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC and UNSW while Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC host bottom placed Parramatta FC and Western NSW Mariners FC travel to face SD Raiders FC.

SD Raiders FC vs Western NSW Mariners FC, Sunday 23rd July 3pm, Ernie Smith Reserve

In what shapes up as a crucial clash for both teams, Western NSW Mariners FC make the journey out to face SD Raiders FC.

The Raiders in fourth sit just one point ahead of the Mariners in fifth with both teams coming off 1-0 losses in the previous round.

This game represents a chance for the Mariners to enter the four while the Raiders will see this as an opportunity to given themselves some breathing room between them and the Mariners.

The game promises to be an exciting and open contest with both teams showing they are keen to push forward and create chances throughout the year.

Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC vs Parramatta FC, Sunday 23rd July 3pm, Popondetta Park

Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC host Parramatta FC in a game which Mt Druitt will see as crucial for them and their top four chances.

Mt Druitt will take much needed confidence from their last performance as they staged a remarkable comeback too snatch a point from their clash against UNSW and will be looking to continue this momentum against a Parramatta team which is still searching for its first win of the year. 

This game again presents an opportunity for Parramatta to record its first win but they will again find it tough against a Mt Druitt team which certainly have everything to play for. Mt Druitt will see this game as one in which they need to take three points and anything less may extinguish any top four opportunities for them.

APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC vs UNSW, Sunday 23rd July 7pm, Lambert Park

In what is arguably the match of the round APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC welcome UNSW to Lambert Park with UNSW looking to close the five point gap between them and APIA.

UNSW are coming off a disappointing result where they threw away a 3-0 lead away against Mt Druitt to only take a point while APIA recorded a tough and gritty 1-0 away win against the Mariners to return to the winners circle after suffering its first loss of the year against St George.

The previous clash between these two teams ended in a 1-1 draw with this clash promising to be another tight clash where again there will not be much between either of these sides.

This game should provide plenty of attractive football as both teams like to control possession and could be an early preview for this season’s Grand Final.

-By Sebastian Kalos

Round 21 Preview – PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men’s

With just six rounds of the regular season remaining, semi-finals places in the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues' 2 NSW Men's competition remain open, with almost every team fighting for a place in the top six.

The Football NSW cameras will be at Sydney United Sports Centre for the mouth-watering matchup between Western Sydney Wanderers and St George, teams that currently lie in fifth and second place respectively.

In other matches, Mt Druitt Town Rangers host Hills United; Central Coast travel to Bankstown Berries,; Bankstown City entertain Blacktown Spartans; Marconi host Spirit FC; Northern Tigers visit North Shore Mariners and Mounties Wanderers host Macarthur Rams.

Match of the Round

Western Sydney Wanderers vs St George, 7pm, Saturday 22 July, Sydney United Sports Centre

Western Sydney Wanderers host St George in Saturday's PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men's Match of the Round at Edensor Park, a clash that is of critical importance to the home side.

The young Wanderers sit in fifth place on the league table but with only two wins from their last 11 matches, will need to be at their very best against a white-hot Saints outfit that has stamped its claim as a serious contender for premiership honours.

Western Sydney last week lost 2-1 to third-placed Northern Tigers and while four of their senior players were out after being selected in the first team squad that faced English Premier League giants Arsenal on Saturday night, their absence provided an opportunity for coach Trevor Morgan to blood even more new players.

Morgan has this season blooded several newcomers as young as 15 and 16, and the experience of playing against more senior and experienced players in the second tier state competition has been an invaluable part of their footballing education.

"A few boys got their first runs for us," Morgan told Football NSW. "And they should take some confidence out of the Tigers game. In the end it was a 2-1 game and that means they made something out of it. Two nil to the Tigers in the first half, one nil to us in the second half, they're the positives.

"But I think the Tigers' experience was what made the difference. They've got more senior boys, they've got more games under their belts than my boys."

With just six matches remaining of the regular season, Western Sydney need to start winning. Their charter may be to develop young players for the future but competing in the semi-finals is a minimum expectation for a professional club boasting such vast resources and talent. Challenging the likes of Marconi, St George and Northern Tigers for premiership honours is a tough assignment but not an impossible one and when the young Wanderers fire on all cylinders, they're capable of creating magic. 

Meanwhile, Terry Palapanis' St George side continues to hum a cheery tune as the big games loom large on the horizon. Boasting just one loss in their last 10 matches, Saints have showed they're the real deal. They're well-coached. They're talented and in the likes of Juan Carlos Romero and Bruno Pivato they have match-winners who can turn a game with a piece of brilliance. Then also have a steely edge and a spirit that permeates the entire team, a team that will fight for one another for the full 90 minutes.

"We've showed good character and quality, especially when we've had so many players out through injury and suspension," Palapanis told Football NSW. "But the squad is even, it doesn't matter who plays, who doesn't play and who comes in. All the players, including those who start on the bench, are very good."

While always reluctant to single out anyone for special praise, Palapanis can't help but mention Pivato and Romero, whose performances this season have been sublime.

"Bruno's quality," Palapanis said of the curly headed maestro. "What a player, he's fantastic on the park and in the changing room. I was ecstatic when he came back to St George (from Bankstown City).

"And JC (Romero) is just on another level. He's a very good player."

St George's ascendancy up the ladder has been remarkable and one that not many outside the club predicted, but Palapanis said he was always confident his side had the talent to do something special.

"I truly believe that this team believes they can actually win every game. I can see it in the changing room and I can see it at training. You sense things. You walk into the changing room before the game and there's a buzz about the place. The changing room is fantastic and as a coach, you walk in and go 'mate, we aren't losing today'. That self belief is a combination of their ability and their character."  

Mt Druitt Town Rangers vs Hills United, 3pm, Saturday 22 July, Popondetta Park

Mt Druitt Town Rangers host Hills United at Popondetta Park in a clash that is of vital importance to both sides. Rangers last week came back from two goals down to draw at Blacktown Spartans, while Hills suffered a 2-1 loss to North Shore Mariners.

With only a point separating the two sides on the table (Rangers are in sixth equal and Hills seventh), this should be a clash of epic proportions.

Mt Druitt coach Aidan Desmond recently said that a successful season for his side would be to play finals football. But the affable Rangers mentor knows he'll need to address a run of inconsistency if they're to achieve that aim.

"At a minimum, to play finals football would be considered successful but we would love to win the competition," Desmond told Football NSW. "Every team has to go out there with the ambition to win the competition. If we set ourselves the absolute minimum of reaching the finals, a place in the top three would be fantastic."

Mt Druitt will go into the Hills match looking to their senior players for guidance, players Desmond considers to be his side's backbone.

"The backbone of the team is very much around the leaders and by leaders it's not people that scream and yell and do that sort of thing," Desmond said. "People like Daniel McCann, who leads by his work ethic and professionalism; Carlos (Saliadarre) has brought so much to the team it cannot be underestimated. Other senior players like Matthew Clowes is a very good talker. They're the senior players - in Carlos's case not by age but by experience - they add a lot to the place and then the others look up to them and the likes of striker Kuag Reec, they get a lot of confidence when he's around the place too."

Hills meanwhile are currently going through a bit of a slump and will be hoping to reignite their season at Popondetta. With just one win from their last six matches - an impressive 4-1 defeat of Western Sydney Wanderers - Dan Sheppard's outfit seems to have lost their way since brilliant goalscorer Peter Cejka transferred to NPL 1 outfit Blacktown City some time ago.

But the club has enough quality and experience in its ranks to stem the tide. With time ticking away and the regular season just six weeks shy of its conclusion, Hills need to roll the sleeves up and make things happen when they take the field this weekend. Nothing short of a blue chip performance will be enough to win the spoils against a Mt Druitt side that is always tough to beat at home.

Bankstown Berries vs Central Coast Mariners, 7pm, Saturday 22 July, The Crest Athletic Centre

Central Coast Mariners face the long journey to The Crest Athletic Centre to tackle Bankstown Berries on Saturday night and both teams will be hoping to continue their good form.

Central Coast last week came from 2-1 down to thump Macarthur 5-2, while the Berries held high-fliers St George to a one-all draw.

The Crest is considered by many to be something of a graveyard for visiting teams. The wide open spaces and lack of atmosphere, not to mention a spirited Berries outfit that scraps for every inch on the field, have claimed their fair share of victims over the years, a fact of which Mariners coach Ben Cahn is well aware.

"We've got Bankstown Berries away," Cahn said last week. "Long drive, late kickoff; it's a tough place to go."

Despite his words of caution, Cahn's young Mariners will throw caution to the wind and seek to outplay their opponents with their very own brand of swashbuckling football. At their irresistible best there isn't a more brilliant football side in the competition than the Mariners. They play with such youthful zest and joie de vivre that teams can be blown off the park within minutes.

Cahn's side has been creating plenty of gioal-scoring opportunities for front men Duncan Stewart and Brenton Fox, who between them have scored 28 of the side's astounding tally of 57 goals, the highest in the league. But it's not just the forwards who are performing with disctinction, the entire team, from goalkeeper Adam Pearce forward, have done their bit as well.

The Mariners' second half performance against Macarthur delighted Cahn, who said that several of his players had turned out for the first team against the Olyroos just 24 hours beforehand.

"It was a really professional performance in a difficult week," Cahn told Football NSW. "We'd not had the squad together given a lot of them had been on the first team schedule so it was really nice to come together and perform like that. Hopefully we can develop the consistency we had a few weeks back going into the tail-end of the season." 

The Berries meanwhile, had a man sent off in last week's one-all draw with St George but somehow managed to take the lead through a Daniel Fornito penalty. Saints struck back but the Berries again showed their tenacity and scrapped for every ball, especially after being reduced to 10 men.

Despite being limited by a small squad of players and a heavy workload, player coach Perry Moustakas has cultivated a tremendous team spirit at the Berries since the first round kicked off way back in March. The team's current standing of sixth equal on the ladder is just reward for their consistency, persistence and refusal to back down.

Will the Berries' street fighting instincts be enough to subdue the silky technicians from Gosford? We'll know the answer to that question late on Saturday night.

Bankstown City vs Blacktown Spartans, 3pm, Sunday 23 July, Jensen Park

Bankstown City host Blacktown Spartans at Jensen Park on Sunday and the home side will need to improve dramatically on last week's 5-0 whipping at the hands of Marconi if they're to have any hope of avoiding relegation.

Bankstown's performance against the Stallions was disappointing. They lacked fire and they lacked determination. They almost seemed resigned to their fate against a side that has been premiership favourites since the competition kicked off four months ago.

With just six rounds remaining of the competition, Bankstown needs to grab those last six weeks by the scruff of the neck and go out with all guns blazing, starting with their clash against Blacktown Spartans this weekend.

The likes of schemer Michael Cimino, and the experienced Huseyin Jasli, Hussein Akil and Aaron D'Mello need to lead by example. They need to somehow instill some fire into the belly of their teammates and play with a courage and tenacity that was lacking last weekend. They've got it in them, they've showed it before. And they've always been a team that the opposition has treated with the utmost respect. It's time for the Lions to respect themselves and to fight for their lives.

The Spartans won't be easy. In fact, they've only lost one of their last five matches and seem to have found a rich vein of form that has them on track for an unlikely appearance in the semis. This scenario is just one that will make them a dangerous side. Not only that but coach Luis Contigiani's band of young men has rediscovered the desire to play for one another and to make the most of whatever opportunities may come their way.

Emmanuel Elali has been solid at the back, leading by example; while striker Alex Boyadijan is a danger both with the ball and without.

The Spartans' season has been a challenging one. Injuries, suspensions, a small squad and a six-point deduction midseason have all conspired to make Contigiani's job that little bit harder. But one thing about the affable mentor is that he's an optimist. And he lives by the belief that where there's life, there's hope. That mantra has been working wonders in recent weeks; the Spartans will be hoping it continues against a desperate Bankstown this weekend.

Marconi Stallions vs Spirit FC, 3pm, Sunday 23 July, Marconi Stadium

League leaders Marconi Stallions face a Spirit FC side desperate to make amends for last week's late 1-0 defeat to Mounties Wanderers, a setback that could prove costly with finals places on the line.

As expected, Spirit coach David Perkovic was disappointed with the Mounties result - especially conceding in the 84th minute - and he hopes his boys can rise to the occasion against a Stallions outfit that not only keeps on winning but has kept four clean sheets in a row.

"We had two really good chances to go in front in the first 20 minutes," Perkovic said of the Mounties game. "We missed a tap-in with the ball coming across the face of goal and missed a golden opportunity to go in front. From there Mounties asserted themselves more and as the game wore on they became more and more direct in their approach, bypassing their midfield which became very effective for them.

"The game was decided from a set piece. They put a free kick into the box, we didn't deal with it and there was a bit of a scramble and the ball ended up in the back of the net. That was the difference between the two sides in the end. I think if we could've taken one of our earlier chances it could have been a much different game."

Spirit had the misfortune to lose the in-form Dylan Whitlock on the morning of the game through illness; while defensive midfielder Zoran Kolundzic left the field early in the second half after suffering an injury, blows that Perkovic said had a real impact on the game.

"But credit to Mounties for getting the result. They dominated possession and put a lot of hopeful ball forward which we dealt with on every occasion except one. And that's all they needed to win."

Spirit lie in equal seventh position on the table alongside Hills United and with time ticking on the season, they'll need to bring their A-game to Marconi if they hope to get at least a share of the spoils.  

Meanwhile, competition favourites Marconi just keep winning. Stallions coach Peter Tsekenis has done a fantastic job since taking the reins at Bossley Park and his side look focused and determined, an ominous sign for their rivals as the competition winds down to its conclusion.

As expected, the Stallions mentor was pleased with his side's 5-0 victory at Bankstown City.

"Five nil result, another clean sheet, we'll take it any day of the week," Tsekenis told Football NSW. "We were expecting probably a little bit more resistance from them with club championships on the line, but we played our game with high intensity, we forced it and we came away with a very good result."

When asked what impressed him the most about his side's performance, Tsekenis replied: "Our intensity to start the game and get a couple of goals early. We really forced it upon them and were good enough to put them away.

"Having the clean sheet is very important to us; it's something that we pride ourselves in, making sure that we're not conceding many and scoring goals. Tonight we probably could have scored maybe a few more if we were a bit more composed in front of goal."

With the likes of Sean Rooney, Mirjan Pavlovic and Marko Jesic hitting their stride, Marconi possess the most lethal strike force in the competition and when they click they're virtually unstoppable.   

North Shore Mariners vs Northern Tigers, 3pm, Sunday 23 July, Northbridge Oval

In the battle of Sydney's Northside, North Shore Mariners and Northern Tigers clash at Northbridge Oval on Sunday.

The Mariners last week beat Hills United 2-1, while the Tigers defeated Western Sydney Wanderers by the same scoreline.

North Shore had been going through something of a form slump so coach Joe Haywood was delighted, if not a mite relieved, to see his side reignite their campaign with a victory last week.

"We've had a bit of a midseason slump," Haywood told Football NSW. "We've been unfortunate in games where we should've scored goals but we haven't and been punished.

"We haven't panicked in the past few weeks, it's just been one of those things that sometimes happens in sports. If you don't take your chances you get punished.

"But they know they're better than what their results are showing and they were just glad to get two goals up (against Hills); two good goals."

When asked what he expected of the Tigers, Haywood replied: "I'm expecting a team that's going to be full of confidence. They've been doing very well this season with some good results. But they've also had some shaky results as well so they are beatable.

"We actually went one-nil up against them at their place then conceded a sloppy goal. Let's just see how the game goes. They do play a shape that's quite awkward to defend against. We'll set ourselves up and make a plan and see how we go."

Northern Tigers meanwhile, had also been struggling for form, but still managed to remain in third place on the table. Coach Mark McCormick was pleased that his side's fortunes had taken a change for the better after the win over Western Sydney.

"The win over Western Sydney was good for our guys because over the last few weeks the luck hadn't been going our way," McCormick told Football NSW. "I think we deserved the win and getting a tight 2-1 result is good for the guys' confidence."

In a clash between contrasting styles, this match will be a close one and is sure to go down to the wire.          

Mounties Wanderers vs Macarthur Rams, 3pm, Sunday 23 July, Valentine Sports Park

Mounties Wanderers and Macarthur Rams clash at Valentine Sports Park on Sunday with the home side keen to extend their unbeaten run to four matches.

Mounties lie in fourth-equal place on the table alongside Western Sydney Wanderers and their last-gasp win over Spirit last week has given them confidence of ending the season on a high.

With just six rounds remaining, Lee Sterrey's team has found some form and the clash against the struggling Macarthur offers a golden opportunity to continue on their winning way.

"I'm really happy with the outcome," Sterrey said of last week's win over Spirit. "It wasn't one of our better games this year and to be honest we probably can't play much worse. It was a character win, put it that way. Again it's testament to what's in the room. The boys have been up all season and the character's been first class. Yes, some results haven't gone our way earlier this season but I've always had belief that something will turn for the team sooner or later. Now we've had three wins on the trot there's a lot of confdence in the room.

"The strength of the team was there yesterday, we worked awfully hard and we didn't want to give an inch. I'm just happy to get the three points in the bag and move on to Macarthur next week."

Meanwhile, despite racing to a 2-1 lead, Macarthur last week suffered a 5-2 thumping at the hands of Central Coast Mariners, a result that Rams' coach Eddie Briscoe conceded was a fair one.

"We went down 1-0 but then we came back," Briscoe told Football NSW. "Our first goal was fantastic, an eight-or-nine pass move, Marcelo finished it off really well. Then we got them over the top and made it 2-1 when Marcelo ran around the keeper and scored.

"But even at that stage the Mariners were still creating and we didn't do too much after that. We were dead in the legs and as you know, the Mariners are a fantastic team. We needed to battle, and keep chasing and fighting and maintaining our shape. But we just didn't do that and once they got their third goal we fell apart."

"Central Coast are a fantastic football team and not only that they play a high-tempo, high pressure game for 90 minutes plus. They don't stop, they're relentless and they're just hard to contain. They create and they build pressure. They got the result and they deserved it."

When asked what the positives were to come out of the game, Briscoe replied: "We actually played some decent football in the first 45 minutes. And to hold them at two goals wasn't too bad. For 60 minutes we were quite decent and then after that we fell apart. We've got to find a way to play for 90 minutes. 

"We've got Mounties on Sunday and we are where we are (on the league table) and we've got a small squad. We've got to fight our way to stay in this league. That's our priority over the last six rounds.

"We've got to keep fighting away and we need to find a couple of wins somewhere. We need to try and keep the squad together and keep them focused. You can see their heads go down when things aren't going well but we're just going to keep fighting away. That's all we can do."

-By Derek Royal, Football NSW Reporter

 

Blast From The Past

This week we look at the Australian World Cup squad from the 1990 qualifiers for Italia 90 and the final match in the Oceania group in April 1989. This was the final series of WC qualifiers which saw St George players involved, the club of course returning to State League prior to USA 94.

 Three Saints players were picked for the squad v Israel…keeper Mike Gibson (father of Brad Gibson, who played for the Saints in our 2010 Grand Final, and now with Spirit FC), Andrew Koczka and Scott Ollerenshaw.

 This match was also one of the first games held at the newly-built Sydney Football Stadium and a crowd of 40,320 attended. Unfortunately, with Australia needing a win to qualify for the playoff against Colombia, a 1-1 draw saw Israel go through.

Round 15 Review – State League Women’s

Round 15 of the Women’s State League again featured a host of important fixtures as UNSW hosted Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC while Western NSW Mariners FC welcomed top of the table APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC and SD Raiders FC travelled out to St George stadium to face St George FC.

Match of the Round

UNSW vs Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC

In what was a highly entertaining game Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC staged a remarkable second half comeback to draw 3-3 with UNSW as they fought back from 3-0 down.

UNSW entered the game knowing a win would keep the pressure on top of that table APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC while Mt Druitt needed all three points to keep their slim top four hopes alive.

UNSW started the better of the two teams as they looked to assert their dominance over Mt Druitt.

UNSW’s first chance fell to Yadira Rengifo but she hit her shot straight at Mt Druitt goalkeeper Toni-Rae Talbot, before UNSW Japanese midfielder An Nagayoshi tested Talbot again with a shot from distance which Talbot did wellto parry away.

Mt Druitt’s first shot on target came 13 minutes in as Stefanie Trovato saw her fierce drive test the hands of UNSW goalkeeper Tiana Milisavljevic.

Mt Druitt began to play their way back into the contest after soaking up the early pressure applied by UNSW as Trovato began to cause the UNSW backline some headaches with her movement and strength.

Trovato forced a tidy save from UNSW keeper Milisavljevic in the 22nd minute after she toe poked a shot from a tight angle before she blazed over a few minutes later after being slid through.

The game was now back and forth as the dangerous Rengifo for UNSW was put through after 31 minutes but lobbed her shot over the crossbar.

The breakthrough did though eventually come as Rengifo put UNSW 1-0 up after 34 minutes by volleying home from inside the box after the Mt Druitt defence failed to clear the ball.

This goal came against the run of play as Mt Druitt were experiencing their best patch of the contest, and it got worse for Mt Druitt just before half-time as UNSW went 2-0 up.

A defence splitting pass put the pacey Christine Lucantonio away as her speed took her away from the Mt Druitt defence before she clinical slotted the ball into the far corner.

Mt Druitt faced an uphill battle to get themselves back into the contest as the second half commenced and after 48 minutes this only got tougher as they went 3-0 down to UNSW after Rengifo grabbed her second of the contest as she outmuscled the Mt Druitt defenders off the ball and calmly placed her shot into the corner.

UNSW went searching for a fourth as they kept pressing forward in numbers, Mt Druitt though did snatch a goal back in the 64th minute as Jessica Thorley tucked home what seemed a consolation goal from a corner. This goal did though give Mt Druitt some much needed confidence as they attempted to push and harass UNSW in possession and hit them on the counter.

The game then took another twist as Mt Druitt scored a second after 74 minutes as Trovato tucked home a rebound to finally get her name on the scoresheet and put Mt Druitt well and truly back into the game.

The game was now stretched as UNSW continued to push for more goals while Mt Druitt now buoyed by two goals went in search for an unlikely equaliser.

This equaliser duly arrived for Mt Druitt as in the 82nd minute Trovato converted her second goal of the match after getting in front of her defender and sliding it home.

UNSW and Mt Druitt both pressed for a late winner as Mt Druitt ended the contest with ten as Trovato received her second yellow after catching UNSW goalkeeper Milisavljevic late but in the end both teams could not be separated as UNSW saw a crucial three points snatched away late from them by a determined and resilient Mt Druitt team.

UNSW coach Renato Jelen conceded his team should have tightened up in the second half and that the dropping of three points may come back to hurt them in their pursuit of top spot and APIA.

Mt Druitt on the other hand will take much confidence from their fightback and display over the 90 minutes as they created plenty of chances and showed a real fighting spirit to come back from 3-0 down.

Match Stats

UNSW 3 (Yadira Rengifo 34’,48’, Christine Lucantonio 41’)

Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC 3 (Jessica Thorley 64’, Stephanie Trovato 74’,82’)

Sunday July 16th 3pm, David Phillips Complex

UNSW: 3.Charlotte Bridson, 4.Tara Casserly, 22.Heidi Cummings, 5.Donna Helm, 23.Alice Kriesler, 10.Christine Lucantonio, 20.Emma Mccarthy, 1.Tiana Milisavljevic, 33.An Nagayoshi, 34.Yadira Rengifo, 36.Miranda Summersby-Mitchell

Unused Substitutes: 13.Madeleine Karavotas, 17.Andrea Olrich, 25.Ramona Spicer, 7.Ashlee Sutherland

Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC: 4.Katherine Bacha, 16.Alexandria Colosimo, 6.Brooke Conroy, 5.Olivia Fraser, 23.Lisa Fressard(3.Brittany Duggan 72’) 12. Stephanie Trovato, 13.Ashley Rea, 15. Semira Tanea(14.Jessica Thorley 55’), 9.Diana Lombardo, 1.Toni-Rae Talbot, 31.Brianna Trigg(29.Monique Donovan 60’)

Unused Substitutes: 27.Stephanie Lagudi, 19.Isabella Lamalfa

Yellow Cards: 6.Brooke Conroy 90’, 12.Stehanie Trovato 21’

Red Cards: 12.Stephanie Trovato 90’

Western NSW Mariners FC 0 vs APIA Leichhardt Tigers 1 (Lucy Gilfedder 10’),Sunday 16th July 3pm, Proctor Park

In a tight contest only one goal separated the Western NSW Mariners FC and APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC as a 10th minute strike by Lucy Gilfedder was all that separated both teams.

In a hard-fought game both teams had its fair share of chances with the Mariners unable to convert while APIA recorded a crucial three points after the disappointment of their loss against St George FC in their last outing.

APIA, with the victory, kept a five point buffer between them and second placed UNSW while the Mariners now sit fifth a point outside the top four with SD Raiders FC and St George FC sitting just above them.

St George FC 1 (Lauren Gardner 74’) vs SD Raiders FC 0, Sunday 16th July 3pm, St George Stadium

St George FC recorded another crucial win as they won a tight encounter against a spirited SD Raiders FC outfit 1-0 as a second half penalty converted by Lauren Gardner proved to be the difference.

In a game where chances were at a premium both teams controlled moments of a contest which was quite even throughout.

SD Raiders will see this as a lost opportunity to cement themselves in the top four as they were unable to finish off the chances that presented themselves.

St George with the three points have now jumped into third and have well and truly put themselves in the mix for a top four birth.

-By Sebastian Kalos 

Round 20 Review – PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men’s

Round 20 of the PlayStation4 National Premier Leagues' 2 NSW Men's competition kicked off on Friday night when the Marconi Stallions outclassed Bankstown City Lions 5-0 at Jensen Park.

The scoreline actually flattered a poor Bankstown side as Marconi could so easily have scored at least another three.

In other games Northern Tigers beat Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1; Central Coast Mariners defeated Macarthur Rams 5-2; Spirit FC lost to Mounties Wanderers 1-0; and North Shore Mariners beat Hills United 2-1.

Meanwhile, in Sunday games Blacktown Spartans and Mt Druitt Town Rangers shared the spoils 2-all, while St George and Bankstown Berries score one goal each in a stalemate at Fraser Park.

For the first time in weeks, there were no upsets but the competition remains incredibly even, especially from third place down. With six rounds remaining of the regular season, Marconi and St George have settled into a steady rhythm, while Bankstown City will find it very difficult to escape relegation.

The rest of the clubs meanwhile, have their respective destinies in their own hands. The next six weeks will be played on a knife's edge with every club fighting desperately for a place in the semi-finals.

Bankstown City 0 Marconi Stallions 5, Jensen Park

Marconi Stallions outclassed Bankstown City 5-0 in a one-sided PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men's Match of the Round at Jensen Park on Friday night.

The Stallions could so easily have won by more but a combination of missed opportunities, a terribly bumpy pitch and pure bad luck prevented the home side from being humiliated in what was a limp performance from a team desperate to avoid relegation at the end of the season.

Funnily enough Bankstown had the better of the opening 10 minutes with former Stallion Michael Cimino showing some nice touches in the centre of the park. In the fifth minute Cimino threaded a good pass to Kody Maude whose shot was well saved by Marconi goalkeeper Nenad Vekic.

Unfortunately that was to be the Lions' only decent shot until the tail end of the match. 

From that point on Marconi played with a zest and vigor that Bankstown found difficult to contain and it came as no surprise when Peter Pelekanos opened the scoring in the 11th minute. Pelekanos almost grabbed another two minutes later, only to see his header crash against the bar.

The league's leading scorer Sean Rooney then got in on the act and fired a free kick just wide before Marko Jesic tucked home his side's second after receiving a neat pass from Mirjan Pavlovic in the 26th minute.

Rooney then unleashed a long-range effort that Lions' keeper Dion Shaw saved comfortably, before having another crack that sailed wide of the target. At this stage of the game Rooney was causing mayhem everywhere but on the scoreboard.

Jesic then repaid Pavlovic for creating his goal earlier in the game when he hit a low cross for the Stallions' number seven to tap home from close range, the ball trickling past Shaw and over the line, barely touching the back of the net. 

At 3-0, referee Adrian Arndt blew the whistle for halftime, the gulf in class between the two sides enormous. Indeed, the Lions were probably relieved to take a breather and to regather their wits, such was the dominance of the visitors.

The second half proved to be just as one-sided as the first, and again Rooney showed his intent just after the restart when he blasted a rocket against the crossbar. But after a series of near misses, the number 8's perseverance finally paid off in the 48th minute when he headed home a perfect cross for a 4-0 lead.

Marconi were cruising, with the combination between Rooney and Pavlovic causing plenty of grief in the Lions' defence; but midway through the second half Bankstown finally offered some resistance. Jeffrey Issa and Spiros Agathos put together a nice piece of interplay and Cimino continued to be a presence with the simplicity of his passing and ability on the ball. Far too often his teammates tried the big play or the impossible pass instead of just keeping things short and simple. And time upon time, poor option-taking, a stray bounce or a poor touch conspired to deny the Lions from gaining any momentum. 

Marconi received a penalty on the hour, only to see dreadlocked skipper Christopher Nunes blast his spot kick over the bar. This was the right back's only blemish in an outstanding performance. His pace, defensive ability and knack for intercepting Bankstown's attacking raids down his side of the pitch, were composed and impressive.

In the 80th minute the Lions created their best passage of play, but winger Huseyin Jasli was unable to keep his finish below the bar. Coach Mile Todoroski could only stand by and shake his head in disappointment.

Seven minutes later Pavlovic showed how it was done, slotting home a penalty to hammer the final nail into the Lions' coffin for a comprehensive 5-0 victory.

Marconi thoroughly deserved their win and as one wag in the crowd said: "Bankstown were lucky to score nil!", with the scoreline actually flattering the Lions, who were probably lucky not to concede at least another three goals.

Stallions coach Peter Tsekenis has done a fantastic job since taking the reins at Marconi Stadium and his side look focused and determined, an ominous sign for their rivals as the competition winds down to its conclusion.

As expected, the Stallions mentor was pleased with the performance.

"Five nil result, another clean sheet, we'll take it any day of the week," Tsekenis told Football NSW.

"We were expecting probably a little bit more resistance from them with club championships on the line, but we played our game with high intensity, we forced it and we came away with a very good result."

When asked what impressed him the most about his side's performance, Tsekenis replied: "Our intensity to start the game and get a couple of goals early. We really forced it upon them and were good enough to put them away. Having the clean sheet is very important to us; I think it's four in a row now. It's something that we pride ourselves in, making sure that we're not conceding many and scoring goals. Tonight we probably could have scored maybe a few more if we were a bit more composed in front of goal."

Tsekenis added that since taking over as coach, he has been impressed with the team's improvement.

"The improvement of every individual player in every role (has been impressive). Everyone's putting the effort in in every position and that's very pleasing for me."

Unfortunately the positives were few and far between for a poor Bankstown side that struggled to compete when they should have been fighting tooth and nail for survival. With only six games remaining of the regular season, Bankstown City are in a parlous state with relegation to the third tier staring them fairly and squarely in the face.

Bankstown City's assistant coach Jason Naidovski said that while he was disappointed with his side's performance, competing against a Marconi side blessed with the likes of Rooney, Jesic and Pavlovic was a tough assignment.

"Our backs were up against the wall from the start of the game," Naidovski told Football NSW.

"We're in a position as a club that we don't want to be in but it's something that we're in at the moment and we've just got to do what we've got to do to try to get out of it."

When asked what positives his side would take from the game, Naidovski replied: "There wasn't many, I'll be honest with you. But like I said we're in a position now where we've got our backs against the wall and we've got to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and go again."

Match Stats

Bankstown City 0

Marconi Stallions 5 (Peter Pelekanos, Marko Jesic, Mirjan Pavlovic 2, Sean Rooney)

Jensen Park

Friday 14 July 2017

Referee: Adrian Arndt

Assistant Referees: Danny Horstead, John Park

Bankstown City: 1. Dion Shaw (GK), 15. Spiros Agathos, 10. Hussein Akil, 41. Michael Cimino, 5. Jeffrey Issa, 11. Huseyin Jasli, 35. Mohamed Kardoli, 37. Kyohei Kimura, 14. Mato Lucic, 7. Kody Maude, 12. Steven Veleski

Subs: 36. Marko Filipovic, 8. David McMurray, 21. Harry Timms, 9. Nikola Todoroski, 29. Jamieson Mobios

Yellow Cards: 15. Spiros Agathos

Coach: Mile Todoroski

Marconi Stallions: 1. Nenad Vekic (GK), 4. Troy Danaskos, 2. Stefan Dubocanin, 10. Marko Jesic, 23. Chritopher Nunes, 7. Mirjan Pavlovic, 14. Peter Plekanos, 8. Sean Rooney, 18. Peter Triantis, 22. Brandon Vella, 9. Shane Webb

Subs: 19. Eros Bergamin, 25. Sam Burfoot, 6. Raimond Coletta, 21. Kristian Sekutkoski, 3. Brett Studman

Coach: Peter Tsekenis

Northern Tigers 2 Western Sydney Wanderers 1, North Turramurra

Northern Tigers beat Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1 at North Turramurra on Saturday to consolidate third position on the league table.

Teenager Jordan Smylie and veteran Jamie Craig scored for the Tigers, while Hall grabbed a consolation goal for Western Sydney.

"I thought we deserved to win, I thought we were the better team," said Tigers' coach Mark McCormick.

"In the first half at times we played quite well and then the second half it became very scrappy from both teams. When they scored in the last 20 minutes I was a bit nervous. They were desperate to get an equaliser and we were desperate to hang on."

McCormick said beating the Wanderers was a good effort, especially because luck had seemingly deserted his side in recent weeks.

"It was a good win for our guys because over the last few weeks the luck hadn't been going our way and I think we deserved to win and getting a tight 2-1 result is good for the guys' confidence."

When asked what impressed him the most about his side's performance, McCormick replied: "Scoring two goals, I think we hit the post and the bar and we had two cleared off the line, so we were creating chances. In terms of style and aesthetic beauty we were better against Bankstown Berries last week and it was a nil-nil game. I think we've played much better this season but yesterday it was important to get a result."

McCormick also praised Josh Ward for his performance.

"Josh Ward has just come back from injury and he was really good yesterday," the Scotsman said. "I thought he was the standout performer."

Meanwhile, despite the defeat, Western Sydney only drop one place to fifth on the ladder, a positive that coach Trevor Morgan will grab with both hands.

Missing a few regulars in Kyle Cimenti, Tariq Maia, Tate Russell and Matthew Lecce, who were required for first team duty against English Premier League giants Arsenal, Morgan was able to blood a few youngsters against the Tigers and he came away impressed by their efforts.

"A few boys got their first runs for us," Morgan told Football NSW.

"And the step from 20s to first grade is a big step. It's like going from a state league player to a fulltime player. Stepping up was a good experience for some of the boys."

When asked what positives came out of the game, Morgan replied.

"Obviously the boys getting experience was a big positive. The boys who got the chance of sitting on the bench for the Arsenal match was part of why kids come to a club like Western Sydney, they're dreaming to make the top team.

"The boys should take some confidence out of the Tigers game. They didn't win, they started poorly and were under pressure early on but in the end it was a 2-1 game and that means they made something out of it. Two-nil to the Tigers in the first half, one-nil to us second half, they're the positives.

"In the end 2-1 was probably a fair result. It was 50-50 possession. They came at us strong at the start, we made a couple of mistakes and had to work our way back into the game. We put out a chance to equalise and they had a couple of chances to take it to 3-1 so we have to live with that.

"I think the Tigers' experience was what made the difference. They've got more senior boys, they've got more games under their belts than my boys.

"Also, the Tigers are one of the best organised state league clubs in the NPL. They have a plan and purpose to everything they do, they're always very, very competitive and they know how they're going to try to win the game. They're strong in their commitment to that so you know you're going to get a tough day in all grades from them and we got that. It was really a good day for us.

"Everyone wants to win the competition they play in and between now and the end of the season we'll try to win every game we can. We'll aim to be as competitive as possible for the remainder of the season and if we get a little bit of momentum going then I'll back the boys to improve and to rise to the occasion." 

Indeed, with just six weeks remaining before the end of the regular season, Western Sydney has a golden opportunity to put some form on the board and to gain some momentum in the leadup to the finals series.

Central Coast Mariners 5 Macarthur Rams 2, Pluim Park

Central Coast Mariners sent Macarthur Rams packing with a 5-2 victory at Pluim Park on Saturday.

For the Mariners, Duncan Stewart and Peter Kekeris scored two goals each, while right back Shelford Dais grabbed one; and for the Rams, Argentinian import Marcelo Turdera scored twice, bringing his tally to five from as many games.

Mariners coach Ben Cahn was delighted with the win for a number of reasons.

"It was particularly pleasing given that we'd had five boys play (for the first team) less than 24 hours beforehand against the Olyroos, so it was a very impressive effort from them to look after their recovery in such a way that they were able to back up and give us everything against Macarthur."

Cahn said his side started really well, with sharpshooter Duncan Stewart opening the scoring in the 15th minute.

"We started the game really well. A good ball from James Enticknap and great first touch by Duncan Stewart to go around the keeper and then slide it into the back of the net gave us the lead after just 15 minutes.

"But we had two real lapses on defence that allowed them to score two goals. It was disappointing and almost unthinkable that we were 2-1 down having been so dominant.

"I was similar to the first time we played them actually. Our games against them have probably been our two most dominant performances of the season, but they've always caused us problems and always been competitive against us despite not really being in the game."

Cahn said his side missed several chances in front of goal but he remained confident they would keep on believing in themselves and eventually score, which is exactly what happened.

"Peter Kekeris scored a really good goal just before halftime, cut in from the right-hand side and buried it in the near corner," Cahn said.

"And then halftime was just a case of making sure the players were aware of the mistakes we'd made and how they'd allowed Macarthur to still be in the game."

Cahn said the second half was outstanding, with his side dominant and in complete control, both with and without the ball.

"We set up really well and scored three good goals in the second half. Pete Kekeris again cut in from the right and put one into the top corner, a great finish. Duncan Stewart got the fourth which killed the game for us; and Shelford Dais scored to put the result beyond any doubt and gave us the chance to bring some of the players off who'd played the day before.

"It was a really professional performance in a difficult week. We'd not had the full squad together given lot of them had been on the first team schedule so it was really nice to come together and perform like that. Hopefully we can develop the consistency we had a few weeks back going into the tail-end of the season. It was a good week overall."

Meanwhile, Macarthur coach Eddie Briscoe conceded that the better side won on the night.

"We went down 1-0 but then we came back," Briscoe told Football NSW.

"Our first goal was fantastic, an eight-or-nine pass move, Marcelo finished it off really well. Then we got them over the top and made it 2-1 when Marcelo ran around the keeper and scored.

"But even at that stage the Mariners were still creating and we didn't do too much after that. We were dead in the legs and as you know, the Mariners are a fantastic team. We needed to battle, and keep chasing and fighting and maintaining our shape. But we just didn't do that and once they got their third goal we fell apart."

"Central Coast are a fantastic football team and not only that they play a high-tempo, high pressure game for 90 minutes plus. They don't stop, they're relentless and they're just hard to contain. They create and they build pressure. They got the result and they deserved it."

When asked what the positives were to come out of the game, Briscoe replied: "We actually played some decent football in the first 45 minutes. And to hold them at two goals wasn't too bad. For 60 minutes we were quite decent and then after that we fell apart. We've got to find a way to play for 90 minutes." 

Spirit FC 0 Mounties Wanderers 1, Valentine Sports Park

Mounties Wanderers extended their winning streak to three matches with a late 1-0 victory over Spirit FC at Valentine Sports Park on Saturday night.

Mitchell Davidson struck home the winner in the 84th minute and Mounties now sit in equal fifth on the ladder with Western Sydney Wanderers. Spirit FC meanwhile, lie two places behind in equal seventh.

"Early on it was a bit of an arm wrestle but in saying that I'm really happy with the outcome," Mounties coach Lee Sterrey told Football NSW.

"It wasn't one of our better games this year and to be honest we probably can't play much worse. But in saying that, Spirit didn't test us more than three times in the whole 90 minutes so I was happy with that and we got a clean sheet as well, which we haven't had for a while."

Sterrey added that his side showed tremendous character to get the spoils.

"It was a character win, put it that way. Again it's testament to what's in the room. The boys have been up all season and the character's been first class. Yes, some results haven't gone our way earlier this season but I've always had belief that something will turn for the team sooner or later. Now we've had three wins on the trot there's a lot of confidence in the room.

"The strength of the team was there yesterday, we worked awfully hard and we didn't want to give an inch. All the basic ethics of football - the work rate and all that was there. It was just a matter of taking a chance. Reed Taylor had the best chance of the match by far after about 25 (minutes) - a whole empty goal at his mercy and all he had to do was run in and tap it in the net - but they cleared.

"Spirit did not throw a lot at us and we weren't under any pressure at the back. They probably had three chances in the whole game. We had a couple of headers, and a few things across the face of goal that we could've done better with; a couple set pieces we should've got on the end of, but I'm just happy to get the three points in the bag and move on to Macarthur next week."

When asked to name his standouts, Sterrey replied: "I thought Anthony Smith was really good at right fullback. He got high and attacked them well down the right-hand side.

"It was a game of our unsung heroes, blokes who get through a lot of work. Our Japanese boy Hiro (Tokuichi) was very strong in central midfield again; our centre backs were really good. Tommy Mijic is doing a real good job for us. Really strong player at the back, good under pressure, good on the ball. Todd Halloran did a good job at the back as well and those two are striking up a good combination.

"Nathan Sampson also had a good game at number six. I put him on Spirit's Andre Schroeder and Schroeder didn't get a kick. I knew he was their most dangerous weapon and I thought Nathan nullified him throughout the whole game."      

Meanwhile, Spirit coach David Perkovic was disappointed with the result.

"It was an interesting opening period where I felt we had two really good chances to go in front in the first 20 minutes," Perkovic told Football NSW.

"But we didn't take those chances. We missed a tap-in with the ball coming across the face of goal and missed a golden opportunity to go in front. From there Mounties asserted themselves more and as the game wore on they became more and more direct in their approach, bypassing their midfield which became very effective for them.

"The game was decided from a set piece. They put a free kick into the box, we didn't deal with it and there was a bit of a scramble and the ball ended up in the back of the net. That was the difference between the two sides in the end. The first half was pretty even and they had a fair share of the second half but they didn't really create too many goal-scoring opportunities. However they were probably more in control of the match in the second half. I think if we could've taken one of our earlier chances it could have been a much different game.

"Louis Bozanic put the ball across the face of goal and all Andre Carle had to do was tap the ball into the net. But the ball got caught between his feet and that was definitely the best chance of the game. Mounties didn't have a better chance than that. We were three metres out from the goal.

"Mounties dominated possession in the second half but they didn't create a lot of goalscoring opportunities."

Perkovic added that losing defensive midfielder Zoran Kolundzic to injury five minutes into the second half was a huge blow for his side.

"Zoran's loss had a major impact on the game because he's good at aerial battles and intercepts a lot of ball. We actually lost him for most of the first half too which is when he suffered the injury and they took advantage of that.

"Also, on Saturday morning Dylan Whitlock pulled out through illness and he has been in such good form lately that we really missed him on the day as well.

"But credit to Mounties for getting the result. They dominated possession but really didn't do much with it. They put a lot of hopeful ball forward which we dealt with on every occasion except one. And that's all they needed to win."   

Hills United 1 North Shore Mariners 2, Lilys Football Centre

North Shore Mariners got their season back on track with a 2-1 victory over Hills United at Lilys Football Centre on Saturday night.

Marquin Smith and Braden Cheng scored the Mariners' goals, while Nathan Rayner pulled one back for Hills.

"We've had a bit of a midseason slump," Mariners coach Joe Haywood told Football NSW. "We've just been unfortunate in games where we should've scored goals but we haven't and been punished. Even against Marconi I thought we played okay but we lost 2-0.

"We haven't panicked in the past few weeks, it's just been one of those things that sometimes happens in sports. If you don't take your chances you get punished. Like last week against the Spartans, we were comfortable and dominated large portions of the game. Then they had a man sent off and somehow scored in the 75th minute from the only chance they had in the whole game.

"This week we had a chat and asked the boys to take a look at themselves and take responsibility because we hadn't been doing that in previous weeks. Take responsibility in front of goals. Take responsibility defending set pieces. All over the park, work as a team more than what we have been doing. We achieved that against Hills."

When asked what impressed him about his side's performance against Hills, Haywood replied: "Just the determination of the group. The heads aren't down, the spirit's been good, we've been working hard at training. They know they're better than what their results are showing and they were just glad to get two goals up (against Hills); two good goals. It was the same in 18s and 20s, all our teams were a lot better than what they have been.

"I think Hills tried to play a shape which in my opinion didn't suit what they're about. We looked at that shape during the week and set ourselves up to play against it and did some research into their team like we do every week. We had a shape that worked and we did really well. All the planning worked out very well.

When asked who stood out for his side against Hills, Haywood replied: "It was a collective effort but Braden Cheng has been outstanding this week. At training, driving the group forward and then in the actual game he did really well. He kept the boys focused on the game. And we got the result that we deserved."

Blacktown Spartans 2 Mt Druitt Town Rangers 2, Blacktown Football Park

Blacktown Spartans and Mt Druitt Town Rangers played an exciting 2-all draw at Blacktown Football Park on Sunday.

Spartans led 2-0 through goals to Alex Boyadijan and Tiano Boutoubia, but Daniel Rezo and Alex Vlismas struck back for Rangers to share the spoils.

While Blacktown sit in third-last on the table, they're only two points behind Rangers, who share sixth equal with North Shore Mariners and Bankstown Berries, so both sides have opportunities to prosper as the end of the regular season beckons on the horizon.

After last week's 1-0 win over North Shore, Spartans coach Luis Contigiani told Football NSW that despite the positives to emerge from the win, he'd be struggling for numbers for the local derby against Mt Druitt.

"I am so thin for numbers that I don't know what I'm going to do," Contigiani said. "I don't have eleven to start with. I'm going to have to bring up players from the 20s to actually start and sit on the bench. We're going to be really stretched for numbers."

Mt Druitt meanwhile, were hoping to recover from last week's 3-0 defeat to Marconi, a scoreline that coach Aidan Desmond said flattered the winners.

Rangers have struggled for form in recent weeks so a draw at least gives them a tiny bit of respite after suffering three consecutive losses leading into the clash at Spartans. But with just six rounds to go before the end of the regular season, Desmond's talented side will need to take their campaign by the scruff of the neck and play to their full potential. 

The Spartans will need to do the same and with the closeness of the competition, anything's possible and there's no reason why Luis Contigiani's fledgling side cannot entertain thoughts of playing finals football. Provided they take each game as it comes and not look too far ahead, they're as good a chance as anyone to make the cut.

St George 1 Bankstown Berries 1, Fraser Park

St George and Bankstown Berries drew one-all in a nail-biter at Fraser Park on Sunday.

The result leaves Saints in second place on the ladder, eight points astray of top placed Marconi; while the Berries lie in sixth equal alongside North Shore Mariners.

The two sides went to the break level at nil-all, with Berries' Farmer receiving a red card in the 46th minute for a foul on Saints' striker Juan Carlos Romero.

Despite playing a man short, the Berries took the lead in the 55th minute through Daniel Fornito who slotted home from the penalty spot.

But true to form, that man Romero headed the equaliser from a Crighton cross in the 80th minute, the Spanish sharpshooter's 18th goal of the season.

As the top two sides in the competition, St George and Marconi have been the form sides in recent weeks, and while Saints' performance against the tenacious Berries was far from their best, a share of the spoils extended their unbeaten streak to seven matches.

As expected, Bankstown Berries scrapped for every ball, even when they were reduced to 10 men. At sixth equal on the table, the Berries' lofty position hasn't come by good fortune. It has been achieved by hard work, grit, determination and spirit, key ingredients that played a huge part in the stalemate at Fraser Park.

-By Derek Royal, Football NSW Reporter

Round 20 Preview – PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men’s

Round 20 of the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues' 2 NSW Men's competition kicks off this Friday night when Bankstown City host Marconi at Jensen Park in a clash that pits the top dog's against the cellar-dwellers.

But despite the gulf between the two clubs, the Lions are expected to fight to the death as their place in the second tier hangs by a thread.

In other games Northern Tigers host Western Sydney Wanderers; Central Coast Mariners entertain Macarthur Rams; Spirit FC face Mounties Wanderers; North Shore Mariners journey to Hills United; Blacktown Spartans take on Mt Druitt Town Rangers and St George host Bankstown Berries.

As always, expect the unexpected.

Bankstown City vs Marconi Stallions, 7.30pm, Friday 14 July, Jensen Park

The Football NSW cameras will be at Jensen Park on Friday night for the Match of the Round between Bankstown City Lions and Marconi Stallions.

Marconi are such overwhelming favourites to win this clash for several reasons. One, they lead the league by a healthy seven-point margin and sit an astonishing 28 points clear of bottom-placed Bankstown.

Two, they're currently playing with such clinical precision that it doesn't seem to matter whether on the day they're good, bad or ugly, they just have a knack for stealing the spoils.

Three, there isn't a more talented team in the league, with former Socceroo Michael Beauchamp leading the likes of Golden Boot favourite Sean Rooney, the robust Mirjan Pavlovic and silky Marko Jesic, experienced players who have played at Australia's highest level.

Finally, there's coach and former Olyroo Peter Tsekenis, who has commanded respect from his side since the day he walked into Marconi Stadium and started implementing his style and expectations on a group that hadn't always been singing from the same hymn sheet. 

"I've had a lot of success and there's a formula that I believe in and it seems to work," Tsekenis told Football NSW. "It's about culture, it's about belief, it's about frame of mind and the people around you. We know what it looks like, we put it together and we're confident it works. Slowly we're improving. We're still not where we want to be but you can see the improvement week-in, week-out and people are buying into it. Not just players, but staff and board members, everyone involved at the club."

Bankstown meanwhile, are in dire straits. With just seven rounds to go, Mile Todoroski's side need to win as many games as possible if they're to avoid the drop into the third tier.

2017 has been one of the worst seasons in the club's storied history.

The storm was brewing in the offseason following the departure of all but two of last year's first grade squad, with Huseyin Jasli and Adem Kir staying loyal to a club that has in recent years been one of the league's most dominant forces. But losing the likes of former Socceroo Michael Beauchamp, the experienced Grant Lynch and sharpshooter Christopher Gomez ripped the heart and soul out of the club, making life very difficult for first-year coach John Caruana. 

Caruana parted ways with the club on the eve of the round 3 clash with North Shore Mariners, a match the Lions ultimately lost 4-1. Bankstown moved fast to appoint former Lion Todoroski as Caruana's replacement, a change that gave the club hope and resurrected the players' desire.

"Mile (Todoroski) brings experience to the club. He has the older head and he's definitely got the respect of the players," vice-captain Jasli told Football NSW earlier this season.

Despite the dramas at Jensen Park, Bankstown actually recruited well in the offseason, with the likes of Fraser Park's Davide Talone, Bruno Pivato from St George (who has since returned to his former club), and Hakoah Sydney City East duo Hussein Akil and Aaron D'Mello forming the nucleus of a number of quality signings. But with so many newcomers, developing combinations was slow, while injuries also played their part in the club's disappointing start to the season, with key players dropping like flies and disrupting the team's ability to gel into a cohesive unit.

Admittedly, it's not easy having 15 or 16 new players and a new coach. Throw in injuries and some poor results and life becomes desperate, especially with a small squad. But that was then and this is now.

Former Marconi player Michael Cimino faces his old club for the first time this season and the 22-year-old will be keen to put in a good shift; while the likes of Jasli, Akil and D'Mello will need to be at their very best if their side is to keep pace with a Stallions outfit that gets stronger by the week and just keeps on winning. 

Northern Tigers vs Western Sydney Wanderers, 2pm, Saturday 15 July, North Turramurra

Northern Tigers host Western Sydney Wanderers in what is sure to be an intriguing battle between two of the league's footballing "stylists" at North Turramurra on Saturday.

The Tigers have been meandering along in recent weeks while Western Sydney will be desperate to exorcise the demons of last week's shock 4-1 defeat to Hills United.

Tigers coach Mark McCormick was delighted with his side's nil-all draw against Bankstown Berries last weekend, and suggested that given the number of opportunities created, his side could easily have scored four or five goals. 

"We worked fantastic last night, we played really, really well," McCormick told Football NSW. "We created loads of chances but just couldn't score. The players were fantastic. Their workrate and ball retention, their creaitivity and the fact we played the way we wanted to play was excellent. We probably deserved to win, we just couldn't convert our opportunities."

McCormick started three teenagers and one 20-year-old against the Berries, improving his squad's depth and potential for the future.

"It's great for the young guys," McCormick said. "I'm delighted with how we played and on another night we could've won that game four or five nil."

The Scotsman added that he thought the league was interesting due to the fact that every team has the potential to win, "but we've got a lot of hard work ahead of us if we're to make the playoffs".

Meanwhile, Western Sydney's form this season has been unpredictable. Boasting some of the most precocious young talent in the country, the Red and Black have had their moments and played some scintillating football. Football that has been good enough to see them sitting pretty in fourth place on the table.

But for a side with such pedigree they've also struggled for consistency, which is to be expected of a team comprised of teenagers.

Last week the Wanderers suffered a 4-1 loss to Hills, an exasperating setback after beating Blacktown Spartans the previous week. 

Wanderers' coach Trevor Morgan's brief is to develop players for the future; players capable of stepping into Tony Popovic's first team when the call arrives. Morgan has succeeded in doing that in the past two seasons, nurturing the likes of first team regulars Jonathan Aspropotamitis and Lachlan Scott; and newly-signed Keanu Baccus and Abraham Majok, players with serious aspirations of playing the game at the highest level.

With just seven weeks remaining before the end of the regular season, Western Sydney has a golden opportunity to put some form on the board and to gain some momentum in the leadup to the finals series. A win over the Tigers would be a timely boost for Morgan's young charges but they'll have to be on top of their game to get over a side that thrives on work ethic and style. 

Central Coast Mariners vs Macarthur Rams, 5pm, Saturday 15 July, Pluim Park

Central Coast Mariners host Macarthur Rams at Pluim Park this Saturday and both sides will be looking to bounce back from respective losses last weekend.

After leading 2-0 at the break, the Mariners last Saturday faltered in the second half to allow Mounties Wanderers to come back from the dead and steal a 3-2 victory

While Mariners coach Ben Cahn was delighted with his side's first half performance, he was far from impressed with the second half.

"It was a tale of two halves," Cahn told Football NSW. "We were outstanding in the first half. We had about 90 per cent of the ball, scored two goals, created a few more chances and never came under any threat (from Mounties). We were completely dominant and in control."

But despite sitting in the box seat at halftime, Mounties clawed their way back into the contest to steal the spoils.

"Mounties just went completely direct against us in the second half," Cahn said. "They put four up front and at every opportunity just played long balls which was effective for them with their big Number 9. We struggled to deal with it and didn't get enough pressure on the first ball. We weren't equipped to deal with it and made mistakes at the back which led to one of their goals.

"It was a really disappointing second half, we didn't manage the game at all. We didn't adjust to the change in tempo and the change in style from them. Despite that we still had a couple of really good one-on-ones in the second half and had a penalty turned down.

"Then we had an unfortunate red card to Michael Glassock for a ball that hit his shoulder. A couple of things went against us but we've really only got ourselves to blame. It was a tough second half and disappointing to be falling back into those habits.

Cahn added that with the return of the club's A-League team to preseason training, his side is likely to struggle for consistency for the rest of the season.

"We had players involved midweek with a preseason game for the first team, we've had players in and out for first team training, and we'll have players involved this coming week with first team duties," Cahn said. "We'll have to refocus our attention on the individual development of the players and there'll be times when we field inexperienced teams that haven't trained together. But that's the nature of the role that our team plays in the club and it's disappointing that it might affect results; but that's the way it is."    

Meanwhile, Macarthur had the misfortune to last week strike a brilliant St George outfit that completely outplayed them in a 4-0 rout at Lynwood Park.

Rams coach Eddie Briscoe conceded that Saints were too good on the night and was disappointed to have a player sent from the field.

"Getting through the game with no injuries is always a good thing for us because we are a small squad," Briscoe told Football NSW. "But having Danny (Lazarevski) sent off is not ideal because obviously we've got to change the system again at the back and they've been doing really well (lately).

"I think we really switched off again tonight, I think we went back to the old days a little bit and thought we were better than what we were. Obviously (we were) coming off two great wins (over Northern Tigers and Hills Brumbies) and that's what we've got to focus on again is where we got those wins and how we performed and get back to that standard. I think they're the positives we've got to look for going for the rest of the season."

Central Coast may be the favourites for this one but the Rams should be treated with respect, just ask Northern Tigers and Hills United.       

Spirit FCvs Mounties Wanderers, 7pm, Saturday 15 July, Valentine Sports Park

Spirit FC and Mounties Wanderers will clash in what is certain to be a fiesty battle between two sides that in recent weeks have found some excellent form.

Spirit FC came back from a goal down and escaped with a last-gasp 3-2 victory over Bankstown City at Jensen Park on Sunday, a win that saw them jump from second last on the table into a log-jam of five clubs in equal sixth; while Mounties stole the spoils from Central Coast Mariners after trailing 2-0 at halfime.

Spirit coach David Perkovic was pleased with his side's result but not so happy with the performance.

"I'm happy with the result but the performance wasn't great," Perkovic told Football NSW. "Jensen Park is a difficult place to play and we made too many errors and didn't play a lot of smart football. But at the end of the day we went there to get three points and we did that. It keeps our season alive so I'm satisfied. It was good to score three goals but disappointing to concede two."

Perkovic added that after playing three games in eight days his side was feeling a little bit fatigued.

"We just ground it out and it's always nice to score goals. Its been a tough week having three games in eight days so that probably played a part in our performance in terms of mental and physical fatigue. But having said that it'll be nice to return to a regular training week and work on some things and get ready for next week.

"Our midweek game against the Berries was very difficult and the boys were content with letting that be an isolated game and just move forward from this point on. That 2-0 loss against the Berries has been our only glitch in the second round so hopefully we can keep getting those wins. Hopefully we'll have a few positive training sessions this week and recover in time for our next game against Mounties next Saturday night."  

Spirit's form since the second round kicked off six weeks ago has been exceptional, with the Berries' loss their only setback in five games. Momentum at this stage of the season is critical and Perkovic's side could just prove to be a dark horse as the season winds down to its conclusion.

Meanwhile, Mounties Wanderers showed tremendous courage and character to come back from the dead to upset Central Coast Mariners 3-2 at Pluim Park on Saturday, a win that delighted coach Lee Sterrey.

"I'm very proud of the boys, they showed a lot of character to come back from 2-0 down and it's the first time we've gone back-to-back all year," Sterrey told Football NSW. "So I'm really happy."

When asked who stood out for his side, Sterrey replied: "The second half performance from the whole unit was tremendous. Simon Yaeger pulled off two brilliant one-on-one saves at 2-1 down that kept us in the match. Nefta Gonzalez has only been back two weeks and he played the full 90 minutes last night. When we went to a 4-2-4 he was enormous in midfield with our Japanese boy Hiro (Tokuichi). I mean a two-man midfield against a structured 4-3-3 is tough going but they ran their socks off. 

"Tai Smith has been enormous for us up front; while young Michael Cklamovski played well after coming on for Reed Taylor who tore a hamstring about 25 minutes into the first half. Young Macca did a huge job, missed a penalty but then scored the winner. Right across the field we had good players. At the back new signing Tommy Mijic is combining well with Todd Halloran. These wins will pick the boys up ten-fold. I'm very happy."

Mounties have been something of a sleeping giant this season and with some excellent form on the board, they have a golden opportunity to press their premiership aspirations even further this weekend. 

Hills United vs North Shore Mariners, 7.30pm, Saturday 15 July, Lilys Football Centre

Hills United host North Shore Mariners at Seven Hills on Saturday night and with just seven rounds remaining of the regular season, both sides will be desperate to win.

Hills smashed Western Sydney Wanderers 4-1 in a well-planned tactical victory at Sydney United Sports Centre on Saturday night.

Smarting from a 3-2 loss to Bankstown Berries last week, Hills were looking for something different to upset a Wanderers side that had the previous week regained its mojo with a win over Blacktown Spartans.

Brumbies coach Dan Sheppard said his side executed their game plan perfectly.

"We executed our game plan really well, capitalised on a few moments and got the result that we wanted," Sheppard told Football NSW. "Everyone had a really top performance and everyone did everything that was asked of them and they mostly completed it in the full 90 minutes.

"That win would be right up there as one of our best games of the season. Wanderers' goal came from a mistake that they capitalised on and we didn't really give them too much of a sniff. We did a couple of different tactical things but we hadn't done in the past."   

The past month hasn't been an easy one for Hills, with injuries, suspensions and the departure of key players making the second round of the competition a major challenge.

But Sheppard's team has continued to create opportunities and it was only a matter of time before those chances were converted into goals. They'll be hoping to create and convert just as many when they face the Mariners this weekend.

Blacktown Spartans vs Mt Druitt Town Rangers, 5pm, Sunday 16 July, Blacktown Football Park

Blacktown Spartans host Mt Druitt Town Rangers in a match that is of vital importance to both sides.

While Blacktown sit in second-last on the table, they're only two points behind Rangers, who are among five teams clinging to equal sixth, so Luis Contigiani's side has an opportunity to close the gap as the end of the regular season beckons on the horizon.

Spartans beat North Shore Mariners 1-0 at Blacktown Football Park last Saturday to earn their third win in four matches, a performance that pleased Contigiani after his side was forced to play with 10 players for most of the second half.

"After Richard Blanco was sent off we played with 10 men for most of the second half, so it was a great effort," Contigiani told Football NSW.

"North Shore play direct football, they try to get goals through aerial scrambles and direct balls into the box. That's how they try to unsettle you."

When asked what impressed him the most about his side's performance, Contigiani replied: "To be down to 10 men at nil-all and to be able to take the lead and then hold onto that lead made me really happy. I was very impressed with centre backs Emmanuel Elali and Ben Ansah. Ben has changed us. When we brought Ben over he was playing 20s for Mounties but I saw potential in him and he has changed things for us at the back. We're now a lot more secure, more disciplined. There's better communication. He had a tremendous game. Striker Alex Boyadijan was a workhorse. Although he didn't score a goal, his work off the ball was unbelievable. I'm very proud of those boys."   

However, Contigiani told Football NSW that despite the positives to emerge from the win, he'll be struggling for numbers for this weekend's clash against Mt Druitt.

"Brendon Bezzina had to come off early in the first half (against North Shore) after rolling his ankle and this week I am so thin for numbers that I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't have eleven to start with. I'm going to have to bring up players from the 20s to actually start and sit on the bench. We're going to be really stretched for numbers."

Mt Druitt meanwhile, will be hoping to recover from a 3-0 defeat to Marconi, a scoreline that coach Aidan Desmond said flattered the winners.

"We were right in the game," Desmond told Football NSW. "It was a fairly even game until they scored (their first goal). We then turned possession over in the box and suddenly it was 2-0. That was pretty much it. At 1-0 we felt like we were right in the game but to concede another one within a minute kind of broke us a little bit. Then they got the third. They were goals from our errors rather than being broken down, which was disappointing."

"We went out there with a plan and we stuck to the plan. I can't fault the effort, the effort was fantastic. I was super proud about the effort our guys put in.

"It was a flattering scoreline, it certainly wasn't a 3-0 game. They're a class above but we matched them for 70 odd minutes. The scoreline definitely flattered them."

St George vs Bankstown Berries, 5pm, Sunday 16 July, Fraser Park

St George host Bankstown Berries at Fraser Park on Sunday in what could be a tricky clash for Terry Palapanis's high-flying side.

A Bruno Pivato hat-trick led Saints to a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Macarthur Rams last Saturday, reinforcing beyond any reasonable doubt that they're a serious premiership threat in 2017. But the Berries, who last week held Northern Tigers to a scoreless draw and remain unbeaten in their last three matches, will be a worthy opponent and won't go down without a fight.

Saints' 4-0 scoreline over the hapless Rams might have been impressive but it could so easily have been even more; with the visitor's turning on an exhibition late in the second half, and carving the Rams up at will, only to miss a multitude of chances in front of goal.

Indeed, such was Saints' dominance in the final 15 minutes that they created enough opportunities to score ten goals. But it wasn't to be.

As expected, Saints coach Terry Palapanis was delighted with the result.

"All in all it was a great performance, the boys are buzzing," Palapanis told Football NSW. "Again we were very good, we were clinical except for in the last 15-20 minutes when we missed quite a few chances. We're just on the right path, everything's working out for us." 

Palapanis added that despite the bucket load of goals, the highlight of the match for him was achieving the first clean sheet of the season. "The highlight (for me) is clean sheet, it's the first one of the season. The main focus (in the game) was (getting) the clean sheet. We know we can score goals so that's definitely the highlight of the night for me."

Meanwhile, Bankstown Berries will scrap for every ball and they'll get in the face of a St George side whose recent form has been irresistible. The Berries have climbed to sixth equal on the table and their standing hasn't come by good fortune. It has been achieved by hard work, grit, determination and spirit, key ingredients that will play a huge part in the outcome of this Sunday's game.

Berries' player coach Perry Moustakas should be pleased with his side's efforts in recent weeks and he'll be priming his boys to dig deep for yet another major challenge. 

-By Derek Royal, Football NSW Reporter 

Round 19 Review – PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men’s

As always the latest round of the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues NSW 2 Men's competition threw up some interesting results, with Hills Brumbies' 4-1 thumping of Western Sydney Wanderers the eye-catcher; and Mounties' come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Central Coast Mariners a close second.

Marconi Stallions continued their march towards premiership honours with a 3-0 win at Mt Druitt, while second-placed St George not only showed their quality but they also proved yet again that they'll give the Stallions a serious run for their money following a comprehensive 4-0 victory at Macarthur Rams.

In other games, Northern Tigers and Bankstown Berries drew nil-all; Blacktown Spartans beat North Shore Mariners 1-0 and Spirit FC stole the spoils 3-2 at Bankstown City. 

Match of the Round

Macarthur Rams 0 St George 4, Lynwood Park

A Bruno Pivato hat-trick led St George to a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Macarthur Rams in Saturday night's PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men's Match of the Round at Lynwood Park, reinforcing beyond any reasonable doubt that Saints are a serious premiership threat in 2017.

The curly haired maestro showed his class yet again, tormenting the Rams' defence with his skill and instinct to be in the right place at the right time.

Ever since returning from Bankstown City five weeks ago, the diminutive Pivato has scored seven goals, making his acquisition an invaluable one as the team from Sydney's south continues to hum a winning tune.

St George remain in second position on the premiership table, seven points ahead of third-placed Northern Tigers, their fighting spirit, confidence and ability to create opportunities and score goals issuing a clear warning to favourites Marconi that they'll be hard to stop when push comes to shove.

The 4-0 scoreline over the hapless Rams might have been impressive but it could so easily have been even more; with Saints turning on an exhibition late in the second half, and carving the Rams up at will, only to miss a multitude of chances in front of goal.

Indeed, such was Saints' dominance in the final 15 minutes that they created enough opportunities to score ten goals. But it wasn't to be.

Saints dominated from the start. Right winger Jordan Crighton showed his pace and ability to cross with accuracy when in the first six minutes of the game he created chances for Pivato and Juan Carlos Romero, but to no avail.

The visitors didn't have to wait long to open the scoring, when in the 14th minute Romero flicked on a free kick from the left and Pivato drove home a volley from inside the box to give St George a 1-0 lead.

In the 23rd minute Romero attempted a shot from long range, his effort forcing goalkeeper Nikodin Matic to scramble a save.

A few minutes later Rams' Argentinian import Marcelo Turdera had a golden opportunity to equalise but his attempted lob over Saints goalkeeper Andrew Depta floated harmlessly wide, letting Saints of the hook and squandering one of the rare opportunities Macarthur would have during the entire game.

Ten minutes later Pivato threaded a perfect pass to Crighton but Matic was up to the task and pulled off a fine save.

The two teams went to the sheds with St George holding a deserved 1-0 lead. 

Saints coach Terry Palapanis told his players to forget the score before they returned for the second half and six minutes after the restart Pivato struck home his second goal from a seemingly impossible angle.

Was it a cross or was it a piece of Messi-esque skill that enabled Pivato to bend the ball with into the back of the net virtually from the goalline? Given his form in recent weeks, and his uncanny ability to score, Pivato would no doubt claim the audacity of his strike was genuine. That'd be his story and who are we to question it? Regardless, St George led 2-0 and things started to look gloomy for the home side as Saints slipped into overdrive.

Pivato and Romero combined beautifully, their creativity and understanding remarkable given they've only been teammates for a little over a month.

Romero hit the crossbar and just shy of the hour mark referee Roberto Mattei awarded the visitors a penalty, red carding Rams' Danny Lazarevski after receiving his second yellow card.

The send-off was the last thing the Rams needed and Romero stepped up and slotted home the spot kick to give his side a 3-0 lead.

Two minutes later Pivato started a move in midfield and made a run into the box, receiving a superb cross from Crighton, but his header cleared the bar. Great skill by both players and great football.

In the 74th minute Pivato made amends, showing sublime touch inside the box to score his hat-trick and to extend Saints' lead to 4-0.

The rest of the second half belonged to St George, who turned on an exhibition, playing some brilliant football and carving up Macarthur at will. Such was Saints' dominance, the final score could easily have been 10-0, they were that good. Only poor finishing cost them but in the end Terry Palapanis's team showed more than enough to suggest that it'll take something special to stop their momentum as the season winds down to its conclusion.

As expected, Palapanis was delighted with the result.

"All in all it was a great performance, the boys are buzzing," Palapanis told Football NSW. "Again we were very good, we were clinical except for in the last 15-20 minutes when we missed quite a few chances. We're just on the right path, everything's working out for us."

When asked about Pivato's performance, Palapanis replied: "He's quality, he scored a hat-trick today; probably could've had four or five. A lot of team's signed players and we signed quality instead of quantity and Bruno is definitely quality. He's a very, very good player and he's just got that X-factor, he's got everything."

Palapanis added that despite the bucketload of goals, the highlight of the match for him was achieving the first clean sheet of the season. "The highlight (for me) is clean sheet, it's the first one of the season. You effin beauty. The main focus was (getting) the clean sheet. We know we can score goals so that's definitely the highlight of the night for me."

Meanwhile, Macarthur coach Eddie Briscoe was disappointed with the result and the performance of his team.

"First of all I think goals change games and to concede the two goals that we did was really disappointing because we've really been quite solid at the back (in recent weeks)," Briscoe told Football NSW. "At 1-0 we had a chance to make it one-all and we didn't take that chance and then obviously going 2-0 down we could've got back in it at 2-1 but we didn't. And then having a man sent off sort of set us back and then they just ran all over us at the end of the day. It was basically goals change games and it did tonight.

"They've improved a lot and Terry has recrutied well and all over the pitch their individual ability has really grown and as a team they were solid. They're a good unit and we expected that. They're not in the top two for no reason and they proved it tonight."

When asked what the positives were for his side after such a heavy defeat, the affable Englishman replied: "Getting through the game with no injuries is always a good thing for us because we are a small squad. Having Danny (Lazarevski) sent off is not ideal because obviously we've got to change the system again at the back and they've been doing really well (lately).

"But look, I think we really switched off again tonight, I think we went back to the old days a little bit and thought we were better than what we were. Obviously (we were) coming off two great wins (over Northern Tigers and Hills Brumbies) and that's what we've got to focus on again is where we got those wins and how we performed and get back to that standard. I think they're the positives we've got to look for going for the rest of the season."    

Macarthur Rams 0 St George 4 (Bruno Pivato 3, Juan Carlos Romero pen)

Lynwood Park

Saturday 8 July 2017

Referee: Roberto Mattei

Assistant Referees: Samuel Quinn, Vishaal Prasad

Macarthur Rams: 1. Nikodin Matic (GK), 2. Craig Cooley, 10. Ben Cornish, 19. Scott Goodwin, 3. Danny Lazarevski, 14. Blake McGinn, 6. James Ralston, 12. Lochlan Reus, 8. Matthew Trotter, 9. Marcelo Turdera, 15. Mason Versi

Subs: 40. Nikola Bratic, 16. Mitchell Di Pietro, 17. Rhys Lloyd, 4. Benne Owusu, 7. Nathan Paull

Yellow Cards: 3. Danny Lazarevski, 14. Blake McGinn

Red Cards: 3. Danny Lazarevski

Coach: Eddie Briscoe

St George: 1. Andrew Depta (GK), 14. Jacob Bandur, 12. Jordan Crighton, 7. Robbie Deasy, 20. Juan Carlos Romero, 48. Alfred Hess, 16. Daniel Loe, 34. Daniel Mitwali, 3. Ali Nasreddine, 6. Bruno Pivato, 15. Jacob Sullivan

Subs: 49. Anthony Morabito, 10. Nico Paras, 21. Matthew Williamson, 55. Liam Thomas, 45. Jason Oh

Yellow Cards: 7. Robbie Deasy, 20. Juan Carlos Romero, 34. Daniel Mitwali

Coach: Terry Palapanis

Mt Druitt Town Rangers 0 Marconi Stallions 3 Popondetta Park

Marconi Stallions extended their unbeaten streak to five matches with a 3-0 victory over Mt Druitt Town Rangers at Popondetta Park on Saturday afternoon.

Rangers battled hard with the premiership favourites only to concede after 77 minutes. Marconi struck again a minute later when a Mirjan Pavlovic shot took a deflection; before Jesic twisted the knife when he scored his second 10 minutes from time.

Mt Druitt coach Aidan Desmond was pleased with his side's efforts but disappointed to concede three goals in rapid succession.

"We were right in the game," Desmond told Football NSW. "It was a fairly even game until we let them get a ball to the back post that we didn't read very well and they scored. We then turned possession over in the box and suddenly it was 2-0. That was pretty much it. At 1-0 we felt like we were right in the game but to concede another one within a minute kind of broke us a little bit. Then they got the third. They were goals from our errors rather than being broken down, which was disappointing."

When asked what impressed him the most about his side's performance, Desmond replied: "We spoke before the game about the fact that we could walk out there today and make a lot of excuses because we're really low on numbers and there were a lot of younger players playing. But we went out there with a plan and we stuck to the plan. I can't fault the effort, the effort was fantastic. But some little errors hurt and when you consider the differences in budget I was super proud about the effort our guys put in.

"It was a flattering scoreline, it certainly wasn't a 3-0 game. They're a class above but we matched them for 70 odd minutes. The scoreline definitely flattered them."

When asked who stood out for his side, Desmnd replied: "Our Japanese boy Hito Satoh put in a good shift but unfortunately he scored an own goal. But apart from that he was good for us. Lachie Roberts played right fullback for the first time all year and did a good job on Pavlovic. I also thought young Lleyton Hinton did well for us. He came off the bench and played his first competition game in first grade and he did really well."         

Meanwhile, Marconi coach Peter Tsekenis was happy with the result if not the performance.

"We eventually got there," Tsekenis told Football NSW. "We were a little bit flat in the first half and we really didn't get to the level I expect and demand of the boys. I don't think we were troubled too much other than us making a few errors in the wrong areas. In the second half we ramped it up a bit and really took it home. Their goalkeeper was probably their best player and made some really good saves. We scored three goals so I wouldn't call the win lucky and we probably could've scored some more. It wasn't a polished performance and at this stage of the year it's all about getting the points. Mt Druitt were sitting pretty high on the table for a reason and we really took it home and got the points we needed."

Central Coast Mariners 2 Mounties Wanderers 3, Pluim Park

Mounties Wanderers came back from the dead to upset Central Coast Mariners 3-2 at Pluim Park on Saturday, a win that leaves Lee Sterrey's side in equal sixth on the table, their highest position on the ladder so far this season.

Central Coast led 2-0 at the break after Lachlan Wales and Peter Kekeris fired home in the 38th and 40th minutes respectively, but Mounties struck back 10 minutes after the restart through sharpshooter Tai Smith.

Smith then equalised in the 74th minute before Mariners' Michael Glassock was dismissed six minutes later for handling the ball on the goalline and conceding a penalty. Michael Cklamovski stepped up and missed his spot kick but made amends when nine minutes later he scored the winner in an unlikely but deserved victory.

While Mariners coach Ben Cahn was delighted with his side's first half performance, he was far from impressed with the second half.

"It was a tale of two halves," Cahn told Football NSW. "We were outstanding in the first half. We had about 90 per cent of the ball, scored two goals, created a few more chances and never came under any threat (from Mounties). We were completely dominant and in control."

But despite sitting in the boxseat at halftime, Cahn was fearful of a reaction from Mounties and how his young side would cope. His fears were spot on.

"Mounties just went completely direct against us in the second half," Cahn said. "They put four up front and at every opportunity just played long balls which was effective for them with their big Number 9. We struggled to deal with it and didn't get enough pressure on the first ball. We weren't equipped to deal with it and made mistakes at the back which led to one of their goals.

"It was a really disappointing second half, we didn't manage the game at all. We didn't adjust to the change in tempo and the change in style from them. Despite that we still had a couple of really good one-on-ones in the second half and had a penalty turned down.

"Then we had an unfortunate red card to Michael Glassock for a ball that hit his shoulder. A couple of things went against us but we've really only got ourselves to blame. It was a tough second half and disappointing to be falling back into those habits.

"Mounties defend very deep, they're very compact and quite difficult to break down. But we still had enough chances to put the game to bed. Credit to them. They completey changed their aggression, their tempo, their playing style in the second half and we didn't deal with that very well."

Meanwhile, Mounties coach Lee Sterrey was pleased with his side's victory and achieving back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

"I'm very proud of the boys, they showed a lot of character to come back from 2-0 down and it's the first time we've gone back-to-back all year," Sterrey told Football NSW. "So I'm really happy."

Sterrey added that while the Mariners shaded Mounties in territory and possession in the first 35 minutes, they didn't have one shot on goal, whereas his side broke away and managed three.

"They dominated territory and possession but it's what you do with that territory and possesion that counts. We gave away a poor penalty and while they led 1-0 they hadn't done a lot at that stage. Within a minute we let them in again and we went into the sheds 2-0 down."

Sterrey didn't believe his side deserved to be down 2-0 so he changed his side's system and structure and chased the game hard.

"I went to a 4-2-4 and went with Noah Chianese next to Tai Smith in the middle and we just decided to chase the game and put pressure on them."  

Mounties pulled one back through Smith but at 2-1 Central Coast broke two or three times and could have extended their lead to 3-1. That didn't happen.

"We got back to 2-2 and we got a penalty and they went down to 10 men for deliberate handball. We were 2-2 against 10 men. Michael Cklamovski missed the penalty but he scored the winner with about seven or eight minutes to go. We've had some hiccups this season but the way we've come up with two wins in the past two weeks is testament to the players' character and the spirit we've got in the room. Let's hope we can take some confidence from the past two weeks and keep this going on a roll."

When asked who stood out for his side, Sterrey replied: "The second half performance from the whole unit was tremendous. Simon Yaeger pulled off two brilliant one-on-one saves at 2-1 down that kept us in the match. Nefta Gonzalez has only been back two weeks and he played the full 90 minutes last night. When we went to a 4-2-4 he was enormous in midfield with our Japanese boy Hiro (Tokuichi). I mean a two-man midfield against a structured 4-3-3 is tough going but they ran their socks off.

"Tai Smith has been enormous for us up front; while young Michael Cklamovski played well after coming on for Reed Taylor who tore a hamstring about 25 minutes into the first half. Young Macca did a huge job, missed a penalty but then scored the winner. Right across the field we had good players. At the back new signing Tommy Mijic is combining well with Todd Halloran. These wins will pick the boys up ten-fold. I'm very happy."  

Northern Tigers 0 Bankstown Berries 0, North Turramurra Recreation Area

Northern Tigers and Bankstown Berries shared the spoils in a nil-all stalemate at North Turramurra on Saturday. 

The Tigers had a golden opportunity to get their season back on track after last week's shock loss to Macarthur Rams but were unable to subdue a tenacious Berries side fresh from consecutive wins over Hills Brumbies and Spirit FC respectively. But despite the draw, Tigers' coach Mark McCormick was delighted with his side's performance.

"We worked fantastic last night, we played really, really well," McCormick told Football NSW. "We created loads of chances but just couldn't score. The players were fantastic. Their workrate and ball retention, their creaitivity and the fact we played the way we wanted to play was excellent.

"Berries are tough to break down and they're disciplined. But we probably deserved to win, we just couldn't convert our opportunities."

The recent departure of star striker Ryan Peterson and goalkeeper Harrison Devenish-Meares to college soccer in the U.S.A. has made life more challenging for the Tigers, especially in the outfield, but McCormick has thrived on creating depth in his squad by promoting new and young talent.

"We had three teenagers and a 20-year-old start for us last night so it's great for the young guys," McCormick said. "I'm delighted with how we played and on another night we could've won that game four or five nil.

"The league is really interesting because everyone has the potential to beat everyone else. We're lucky enough to have had some good results earlier in the season that have allowed us to be high up the table (in third place). But we've got a lot of hard work ahead of us if we're to make the playoffs." 

Meanwhile, the Berries backed up from Wednesday night's 2-0 win over Spirit in a positive and lively manner and while they were unable to score a goal, they left the Tigers' den with an away point for their efforts.

All season Berries player coach Perry Moustakas has praised his young side for their fighting qualities and spirit and again they proved just how tough they can be against one of the premier side's in the competition.

The Berries have now gone unbeaten in three outings, proving that through hard work and fighting spirit, anything is attainable.    

Blacktown Spartans 1 North Shore Mariners 0, Blacktown Football Park

Blacktown Spartans beat North Shore Mariners 1-0 at Blacktown Football Park to earn their third win in four matches.

Michael Konestabo outjumped the Mariners' defence in the 75th minute to score the only goal of the game.

Spartans coach Luis Contigiani was happy to get the spoils against a tough opponent, especially after having Richard Blanco sent off on the hour.

"I think we played with 10 men for most of the second half, so it was a great effort," Contigiani told Football NSW.

"North Shore play direct football, every throw-in in our defensive third was like a corner. They send the tall timber forward and they throw it in and they look for a scramble in the box and hope to capitalise.

"They try to get goals through aerial scrambles and direct balls into the box. That's how they try to unsettle you."

Contigiani added that when his side lost Blanco he knew North Shore would try to recirculate the ball and play with width. He also knew that they'd return to being direct whenever possible.

"When we went down to 10 men we knew that as long as we kept a central block we'd be fine," Contigiani said. "So we sat centrally, we let them come at us; we made it a very big point to try to stop the crosses. If we let them cross, they could get a cheap goal on us. But because we stopped a lot of those aerial balls we made life a lot easier for ourselves. North Shore were desperate to equalise and we had some counter attacks and could've easily scored a couple more."

When asked what impressed him the most about his side's performance, Contigiani replied: "To be down to 10 men at nil-all and to be able to take the lead and then hold onto that lead made me really happy. I was very impressed with centre backs Emmanuel Elali and Ben Ansah. Ben has changed us. When we brought Ben over he was playing 20s for Mounties but I saw potential in him and he has changed things for us at the back. We're now a lot more secure, more disciplined. There's better communication. He had a tremendous game. Striker Alex Boyadijan was a workhorse. Although he didn't score a goal, his work off the ball was unbelievable. I'm very proud of those boys."    

Western Sydney Wanderers 1 Hills Brumbies 4, Sydney United Sports Centre

Hills Brumbies smashed Western Sydney Wanderers 4-1 in a well-planned tactical victory at Sydney United Sports Centre on Saturday night.

Smarting from a 3-2 loss to Bankstown Berries last week, Hills were looking for something different to upset a Wanderers side fresh from a 3-2 win over Blacktown Spartans, their first win in eight matches.

Brumbies coach Dan Sheppard said his side executed their game plan perfectly.

"We executed our game plan really well, capitalised on a few moments and got the result that we wanted," Sheppard told Football NSW.

"Everyone had a really top performance and everyone did everything that was asked of them and they mostly completed it in the full 90 minutes.

"Against a team like Wanderers you need to be excellent all over the field because they have so many players who can change a game.

"That win would be right up there as one of our best games of the season. Wanderers' goal came from a mistake that they capitalised on and we didn't really give them too much of a sniff. We did a couple of different tactical things but we hadn't done in the past."   

The past month hasn't been an easy one for the Brumbies, who hadn't won since they beat Mounties Wanderers in Round 13.

But Sheppard's team has continued to create opportunities and it was only a matter of time before those chances were converted into goals. Unfortunately for Western Sydney, the Brumbies rediscovered the art of scoring at Edensor Park on Saturday night.

The Brumbies' win has them placed in sixth equal on the ladder, alongside Mounties, Mt Druitt and Bankstown Berries.

Meanwhile, Western Sydney again slumped to defeat, but despite their woes, they remain in fourth place on the table, courtesy of their good form earlier in the season.

Bankstown City 2 Spirit FC 3, Jensen Park

Spirit FC escaped with a last-gasp 3-2 victory over Bankstown City at Jensen Park on Sunday, a win that sees them jump from second-last to equal sixth on the league table.

Bankstown opened the scoring in the 23rd minute before Michael Streeter equalised for Spirit 10 minutes later. Streeter grabbed another goal in the 37th and the visitors went to the sheds with a 2-1 lead.

Bankstown equalised with a penalty on the hour before Spirit's Zoran Kolundzic scored the winner one minute into stoppage time to steal the spoils.

Spirit coach David Perkovic was pleased with the result but not so happy with the performance.

"I'm happy with the result but the performance wasn't great," Perkovic told Football NSW. "Jensen Park is a difficult place to play and we made too many errors and didn't play a lot of smart football. But at the end of the day we went there to get three points and we did that. It keeps our season alive so I'm satisfied. It was good to score three goals but disappointing to concede two."

Perkovic added that after playing three games in eight days his side was feeling a little bit fatigued.

"We just ground it out and it's always nice to score goals. Its been a tough week having three games in eight days so that probably played a part in our performance in terms of mental and physical fatigue. But having said that it'll be nice to return to a regular training week and work on some things and get ready for next week.

"Our midweek game against the Berries was very difficult and the boys were content with letting that be an isolated game and just move forward from this point on. That 2-0 loss against the Berries has been our only glitch in the second round so hopefully we can keep getting those wins. Hopefully we'll have a few positive training sessions this week and recover in time for our next game against Mounties next Saturday night."  

Spirit's form since the second round kicked off six weeks ago has been exceptional, with the Berries' loss their only setback in five games. Momentum at this stage of the season is critical and Perkovic's side could just prove to be a dark horse as the season winds down to its conclusion.

Meanwhile, Bankstown City's season doesn't get any easier with Mile Todoroski's side still firmly entrenched on the bottom of the league table, seven points behind Blacktown Spartans.

Despite their position on the table, the Lions have enough quality to trouble any team in the compeition. But for whatever reason they haven't been able to climb away from the lower depths of the league and find themselves in a race against the clock with just seven rounds remaining.

Hopefully the coming weeks will provide some respite for Todoroski and his team of battlers. Only time will tell.

By Derek Royal, Football NSW Reporter