The Easter round of fixtures in the Play Station 4 National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s sees one Good Friday and six Saturday matches, but there is no guessing which match most eyes will be on come the weekend. Step forward Jensen Park.
Bankstown City v Western Sydney Wanderers Saturday 7pm Jensen Park, Sefton
The Match of the Round picks itself this week when the Lions and Wanderers face off at Jensen Park in what should be a blockbuster. Both clubs have made a perfect start and the only certainty about this game is that that won’t be the case after the match.
Bankstown City were on fire against Marconi for the first hour of last week’s game, going 4-0 up in a canter and hardly putting a foot wrong. It could even a been a couple more too and but for a late Marconi resurgence, the end result could have been embarrassing. The Lions did totter a little though when Marconi made that comeback, something that no doubt will be discussed on the training paddock this week.
Western Sydney Wanderers lead the table on goal difference, from the Lions and Mounties, scoring a hefty thirteen in three games, the top scorers so far. With only two against, they also have the best defence and after overcoming Northern Tigers last weekend and getting through that unscathed, a further win here will set them up for nothing less than a brilliant opening month. But nothing is assured and the Lions confidence will be sky high.
Central Coast Mariners v Bankstown Berries Friday 5pm Valentine Sports Park, Glenwood
An early start to the weekend sees this match switched from Pluim Park, undergoing repairs, to FNSW headquarters and a change from Saturday to Friday. A chance for many to take in some action then, with all the other fixtures kicking off simultaneously. The Mariners will seek their third consecutive win, which would take them to equal top on points, at least for twenty four hours.
Bankstown Berries snuck in against Fraser Park last round with a single goal victory. It was enough to settle some early season nerves and the win may just be what was needed. A confidence booster at the very least.
St George v Marconi Saturday 7pm St George Stadium, Kyeemagh
In a former life, a meeting between these two clubs would have gained national attention but we are living in much changed times and both the Saints and Marconi are competing on a vastly different level now to times past.
Not since November 1990 has Marconi visited St George Stadium and older fans of the game would remember the many famous names from the lineups that day. For posterity, it is worth recalling a few of the players that took part way back when. For the Saints, players such as John Filan, Matthew Bingley, Andy Harper, Mike O’Shea and Zoran Ilic, whose son Stevan will take the field this weekend, while Marconi featured Bob Catlin, Paul Okon, Jean-Paul de Marigny, the late Ian Gray and Tommy McCulloch to name just a few.
Twenty six years is a long time in anyone’s language and while the history is important to remember, the focus this weekend for both clubs will be on the here and now, and the quest for three points.
The start to the season has been relatively quiet for both clubs, with each having one win apiece. The Saints shade their visitors by virtue of a draw last weekend, but there appears little between the two sides, a tight result likely.
Macarthur Rams v North Shore Mariners Saturday 7pm Lynwood Park, St Helens Park
There were mixed fortunes last week with Macarthur enduring their first defeat while North Shore Mariners would have been pleased with their first point. It didn’t look that way for a while as St George piled on the pressure late, hitting the woodwork twice but North Shore held on, and almost took all three points right at the end. One point though has got them off the mark and they will see that as a stepping stone.
The Rams came away from Pluim Park empty handed and so will relish their third home game of the season. They have a good record at Lynwood Park generally, and Lee Sterrey has already built them into a tough side to beat. They will do well to keep a close watch on Marquin Smith, a scorer of nine goals in State League 1 last season, and a handful for St George last Sunday.
Northern Tigers v Sydney FC Saturday 7pm Valentine Sports Park, Glenwood
Another tight tussle may be expected at Valentine Sport Park on Saturday. Both the Tigers and Sky Blues have won two from three and currently sit fifth and fourth respectively heading into this game. Northern Tigers suffered their first loss last weekend since round 18 last year, plus finals, and the experience would have been unusual to say the least. It would be a rarity indeed for them to lose two on the trot, but that will be Sydney FC’s aim this weekend.
Sydney FC know where the goal is, scoring eleven in their past two games. The Tigers will need to keep a sharp eye on Charles Lokolingoy and Bai Antoniou, who scored four between them last week and could have had a couple more. They have scored eight of Sydney FC’s total so far, so the Tigers defence will have their work cut out.
Mounties Wanderers v Fraser Park Saturday 7pm Cook Park, Mt Pritchard
Mounties revert to Cook Park for this weekend, after moving their match from Easter Sunday. Three wins from three has been an excellent start and there appears no reason why that sequence can’t continue this weekend. They have put together a quality side and while their winner last weekend was very late indeed, it is an indication of Mounties’ drive for points.
Branko Culina had little time to prepare for his first game last week, a matter of 48 hours or so. We can expect Fraser Park to travel to Mt Pritchard with a better understanding of Culina’s approach, and a stronger performance is likely. With just a single goal scored in three games, getting on the scoresheet might be where the focus will start.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers v Spirit FC Saturday 7pm Popondetta Park, Emerton
Very much a battle of the cellar dwellers, it is still too early to judge the relative merits of both clubs yet. Spirit and Mount Druitt Town have been the unfortunate clubs to have played both Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC so far, suffering defeats across the board, but early indications are that they won’t be the last clubs to suffer that fate. A fairer view of how their season may fare is still some distance away but needless to say, a win this weekend will greatly assist in their respective hopes.
Source FNSW - by Peter Rowney, PS4 National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men's Reporter