It’s Round 8 in NPL 2 and while Macarthur Rams and Spirit FC will clash in the match of the round, early favourites Sydney FC, Bankstown City and Western Sydney Wanderers are expected to hold onto their respective positions at the top of the table.
But perhaps most interesting of all will be Marconi’s visit to the Central Coast, where the Stallions will be hoping to again show that after a slow start to the season, they deserve to be taken seriously in the race for the championship.
Central Coast Mariners vs Marconi Stallions, Saturday 23 April, 6.30pm, Pluim Park No. 1, Lisarow
CENTRAL COAST MARINERS host Marconi on Saturday night in a match that will pit the energy and exuberance of youth against the virtues of cold, hard experience.
The young Mariners sit three points ahead of Marconi in fifth place on the table, but with the Stallions shoring up their defence and former A-League stars Marko Jesic, Sean Rooney and Mirjan Pavlovic hitting a rich vein of form, the former NSL giants seem to have rediscovered the mojo they were missing earlier in the season.
Marconi, who lost Michael Cimino for the season after the youngster fractured his tibia in a training accident last week, are taking the match very seriously and will arrive on the Central Coast a day early.
“I’m from the Ken Schembri school of football,” Marconi coach Jeff Suzor said of the Mariners’ renowned academy head, Ken Schembri. “He’s a mentor of mine so any club where Ken’s involved, I expect them to be very well organised, well coached, and disciplined. All the important things he instilled at Blacktown, he’ll instill up there on the Central Coast.”
Suzor is also familiar with some of the Mariners, especially Ryan Peterson, who left Marconi last season. “They’ll be very good, I’m expecting a very tough game,” Suzor said. “We’re not taking them lightly, we’re going up a day early to prepare, so we’re taking them very seriously.”
After conceding an early goal, Marconi last week beat Fraser Park 4-1, and despite doubles by Jesic and Rooney, it was his side’s defence that impressed Suzor the most. “We were a lot better in defence last week, we’re getting better in that area. We’ve never had problems scoring goals, it has been our defence that has let us down in the past.”
Meanwhile, in a professional midweek performance, the Stallions comfortably beat Dulwich Hill 5-0 in an FFA Cup tie on Wednesay night. Pavlovic impressed while youngsters Ante Markovic, Sam Perre and Yasser Altala received a mention from coach Suzor, who also added that “Jesic scored the goal of the game from a world class free kick”.
When asked if the FFA Cup match would have an impact on preparations for the weekend, Suzor replied, “It has an impact because we’re semi-professional footballers playing three games in six days while our main rivals Central Coast, Western Sydney and Sydney FC don’t have to play those games. So the rest of the league’s at a disadvantage.
“But we’re okay because we’ve signed a big squad for this very purpose. We’ve refreshed the squad by giving other players opportunities that they normally wouldn’t get, and hopefully we can pick up another win.”
Central Coast meanwhile, played a one-all draw with North Shore Mariners at Northbridge Oval last weekend, with coach Ben Cahn saying how proud he was of his team of youngsters.
“Our first grade side is made up completely of under-20 players but we also used three or four others from our actual under-20s that managed to survive a pretty physical enounter against an experienced team full of players with much more experience than ours,” Cahn said.
“I have had massive doubts whether our team could cope with experienced physical sides but today we showed that we can still grind out chances in games like that and we can still be resilient defensively.” Marconi’s experienced side, especially with its former A-Leaguers starting to hit their stride, will certainly provide even more of a test for the young Mariners.
Macarthur Rams vs Spirit FC, Saturday 23 April, 7pm, Lynwood Park, St Helens Park
MACARTHUR WILL BE hoping to exorcise the demons of last weekend’s 7-0 defeat to Sydney FC, when they take on struggling Spirit FC at Lynwood Park on Saturday night.
The Rams played well in the first half hour against Sydney and were unlucky to concede two goals before the break. Trailing 2-0 at halftime, coach Lee Sterrey was confident his side was still in the game, but that confidence was shattered within a period of seven minutes as FC slammed home three goals to lead 5-0 after a meagre 52 minutes.
The capitulation shocked Sterrey but before training on Tuesday, the former NSL mentor said it was now up to the players to prove that the performance was simply out of character and a one-off.
“We’ll go through a few things at training, and then we’ll put a few things in place and start working on what we’ve got to do to play Spirit on Saturday,” Sterrey told Football NSW. “We’ve got to deal with a few things I don’t want to deal with tonight but that’s part and parcel of the job. What happened against Sydney FC from halftime on is certainly out of character but I want to give the players the benefit of the doubt. There could be a reaction in some selections for this Saturday, could be a few changes, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
When asked what he expected of Spirit, Sterrey replied: “They’re very experienced and physically strong, while we’re a younger sort of a side, our average age is about 21 or 22. They’re certainly a good side and we have to be at our best. We haven’t been beaten at home this season and we need to bounce back (from the loss to Sydney), show some character and show that the second half last week was completely out of character. Only the players can do that. I can’t do it, I can talk about it but it’s up to them to roll their sleeves up and show that it was totally out of character. We lack a lot of experience but we make up for it in enthusiasm.”
Fraser Park vs Western Sydney Wanderers, Saturday 23 April, 7pm, Fraser Park, Marrickville
STRUGGLING FRASER PARK host Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday night in a match the young Wanderers are expected to win comfortably.
Fraser Park’s stocks have been dwindling in recent weeks, with the talented Kevin Oliveira out for the rest of the season due to an ACL injury; while David Talone and Jeffrey Issa are still recovering from hamstring injuries that are expected to keep them sidelined for at least another week.
“The injury to Oliveira is very unfortunate because he’s a player who could have made a difference for us,” Fraser Park coach Branko Culina told Football NSW. “Issa and Talone need at least another week because they haven’t trained for a couple of weeks. I’m not a big fan of playing players who aren’t 100 per cent, bringing them back prematurely could be dangerous.”
Meanwhile, Wanderers coach Trevor Morgan said that his side had been given Monday and Tuesday off training after playing on Sunday and having a heavy workload last week. “Because we played on Sunday (against Bankstown Berries) it was a shorter turnaround so we thought we’d give them two days off in a row and then we’ll work three in a row,” Morgan told Football NSW.
“I expect Fraser Park to be very well organised and they’ll know their roles and their structure. Branko’s a very very experienced coach and he’ll have them prepared tactically, I expect with a lot of detail. When I watched them play Marconi last week they seemed to know their roles, but I think certain individuals at Marconi made the difference. Still, I expect them to be very well organised, a bit like I expected Macarthur to be under Lee Sterrey. Coaches that have done 10 to 20 years of coaching at a higher level are always well organised. It should be a good game.”
Culina meanwhile, is a big admirer of the A-League youth teams that have taken the competition by storm but in his opinion, they have a few advantages over the traditional grass roots clubs.
“There’s no doubt that Wanderers and Sydney FC have stamped their authority on the competition,” Culina said. “But they came fresh from playing in the national youth league so they were super fit. They’ve been together for a long time and they were well prepared. And they’ve certainly got some quality players because lets face it, all the best players want to play in the A-League. All their players can play and they’re well coached as well. They train four days a week sometimes even more, when most of the NPL teams, including NPL 1, only train two or three days a week.
“The Wanderers at the start of the season demolished Marconi in a friendly game 8-0,” Culina continued. “A Marconi team that are meant to be one of the leading contenders for the title. It just goes to show you that there’s a lot of quality in these young sides and they play with no fear. They play without the fear of having to win, whereas for the other teams there’s pressure. Clubs like mine and a few others have pressure to stay in the competition, while clubs like Bankstown and Marconi are under pressure to win promotion to NPL 1. The A-League youth sides don’t have that same pressure to succeed.”
The next fortnight will be very challenging for Fraser Park, who face the Wanderers and then Sydney FC on consecutive weekends. “I expect a tough game against the Wanderers, in fact the next two weeks will be a great lesson for my club,” Culina said. “Both Western Sydney and Sydney FC are a benchmark and in the next fortnight we’ll see how far we have to go to get to that level.”
St George vs Mt Druitt Town Rangers, Saturday 23 April, 7pm, St George Stadium, Kyeemagh
ST GEORGE HOST Mt Druitt Town Rangers at St George Stadium on Saturday night and despite the western Sydney side’s position at the bottom of the table, the Saints will be wary of Aidan Desmond’s plucky side.
Mt Druitt last week lost to at home to league leaders Bankstown City 2-1 but were unlucky after Abraham Majok was sent off after receiving a second yellow card in the 64th minute. Coach Aidan Desmond and his players were also upset with the referee’s decision to award the winning goal after claiming that a blatant foul had been committed in the leadup.
“We trained last night and they pulled up okay physically,” Desmond told Football NSW on Tuesday. “But mentally they feel a little aggrieved because a couple of decisions (against Bankstown City) didn’t go our way. But as I said, they pulled up okay and they’re prepared to get out there and battle and have a go this weekend.”
Desmond expects St George to be well-organised, a trait he believes is consistent to teams prepared by Saints co-coaches Nass Martino and Ivo De Jesus.
“Nass and Ivo’s teams in the past have always been well organised,” Desmond said. “They’re a reasonably young team from what I’ve seen. They’ve got some injuries but the young boys they’ve brought in are no slouches. They’ve got some quality kids who are up to it so we expect it be a very tough game.”
Meanwhile, St George last Saturday travelled to Marsfield and after a physical battle, shared the spoils in a scoreless draw with Spirit FC. Martino was pleased with his side’s effort.
“Everybody put in an effort,” he said. “Both teams battled, there was no rest. As expected, they (Spirit) were strong and physical. Christie Park is never an easy place to visit.”
Martino said his side could have won but didn’t take thir chances, hitting the post twice and having one goal disallowed for offside near the end. “Clean sheet, don’t concede, don’t lose, that’s important,” he said. “That’s part of getting back on the horse.”
In FFA Cup action on Wednesday night, Saints scored a comfortable 4-0 victory over Waverley Old Boys, while Mt Druitt suffered a setback in a scrappy match against Killarney, losing 4-2 in extra time.
Bankstown Berries vs Sydney FC, Saturday 23 April, 7pm, The Crest Athletic Centre, Georges Hall
BANKSTOWN BERRIES TAKE on white-hot Sydney FC on Saturday night and despite their overwhelming underdog status, coach Rod Williams hopes his side can produce some footballing magic.
The Berries lost to Western Sydney 3-0 last weekend but only trailed 1-0 at halftime. After conceding goals due to what Williams described as “schoolboy errors”, the Berries settled down and in the final 25 minutes played some good football.
“If we can put together a good strong 90 minutes I think we can do something against Sydney FC,” Williams told Football NSW. “I’m under no illusions this is a tough game, but I’ll be trying a few things out and just seeing if we can maybe find that magic formula. We have a lot of players who can play in different positions and it’s just a balance of trying to find that piece of the jigsaw that fits.”
In midweek FFA Cup action, the Berries beat Barden Ridgebacks 6-3, starting with a full strength lineup and making three changes at 5-0. Williams said his side had “copious opportuntiies to score”, but was happy to put away six, giving the side an ideal preparation for Saturday’s clash against Sydney FC.
Meanwhile, Sydney FC coach Robbie Stanton on Tuesday said his side had done a couple of training sessions and had pulled up well after taking apart Macarthur Rams 7-0 last Saturday.
“The boys are good,” Stanton told Football NSW. “We’ve reassessed the workload and they’re feeling quite fresh considering the work they’ve had to do and I’m pretty happy with them.”
When asked if his side would be complacent against the struggling Berries, Stanton replied, “If you don’t turn up in any of these matches and you’re slightly off and don’t do your job well, then you can get into trouble.”
He added that he was an interested spectator at the Berries-Wanderers match and noted that while the underdogs did a couple of things quite well, had they done them even better they may not have come away empty handed.
“Even though the Wanderers were physically fitter and technically better than the Berries, there were a few things that I saw that suggests that if they get those things right when we play them, they could cause some problems.”
Bankstown City vs Northern Tigers, Sunday 24 April, 3pm, Jensen Park, Regents Park
JENSEN PARK WILL play host to the Battle of the Big Cats, when the Lions and Tigers cross paths on Sunday afternoon.
Leo Carle’s Bankstown City Lions last week scraped through 2-1 against a brave Mt Druitt Town Rangers and he’s looking forward to returning to Jensen and taking advantage of the vast open spaces provided by the club’s home ground.
“We’re back at home so it’ll suit us because it’s a bigger field and it’ll give us the chance to wear them down,” Carle told Football NSW. “We want to have more of the ball, and to be the team that instigates and looks to attack. If we can do that and our execution’s a little bit more clinical than it was last week, we’ll do well. I know we’ll create the chances and I’m confident we can beat them, but we’ve also got to be wary at the other end too because they’ve got some fast players who’ll be dangerous on the counter. So we have to keep an eye on that to make sure we’re organised defensively as well.”
Grand Final winners last year, Carle expects the Tigers to be a tough and physical opponent. “I know they’ve lost some players from last year but they’re always a tough, physical opponent,” he said. “So we expect it to be a very tough game this weekend.”
Meanwhile, Tigers coach Steve Hurd is under no illusions of the task facing his side on Sunday. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Bankstown and Leo and the work he’s doing there,” Hurd told Football NSW. “They’re top of the league and apart from the A-League clubs they would be my tip to take out the comp, so we’re under no illusions of the task ahead of us. We had three real tough, tight games against them last season, a win, loss and draw, all of which could have gone either way. We know they’re a good side, I know quite a lot about them, Leo’s managed to keep most of the side together and it’s no surprise to us that they’re on top of the league.”
The Tigers last weekend lost to Mounties Wanderers 3-2, a result that didn’t impress coach Hurd. “The reason we lost the game on the weekend is because we made some silly errors,” he said. “We were the masters of our own downfall. We can’t afford to make any mistakes against Bankstown or we’ll get punished. And we know that even if we play to the best of our ability, there’s no guarantee we’ll win this week. So, no silly mistakes and we’ll see what happens.”
In FFA Cup action on Wednesday night, NPL 1 hotshots Sydney United 58 gave Bankstown City a footballing lesson in a comprehensive 6-0 victory, a result that Carle will hope to reinforce his side’s determination to regroup and maintain their lead at the top of the NPL 2 table.
North Shore Mariners vs Mounties Wanderers, Sunday 24 April, 3pm, Northbridge Oval, Northbridge
MOUNTIES WILL GO into their game at North Shore Mariners full of confidence after upsetting NPL 1 hot-shots Rockdale City Suns 2-1 in FFA Cup action on Wednesday night.
Matthew West grabbed both goals in a game that coach David Perkovic used to provide opportunities for players on the fringes of first grade selection.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s visit to Northbridge Oval, Perkovic said he was expecting a difficult game, especially on what he expects to be a smallish pitch.
“The Mariners’ form is good, they’ve won two and drawn one of their last three games so they’ve got a bit of momentum going now after a bit of a difficult start,” Perkovic told Football NSW. “I’m expecting a tough challenge for us, we’ve just bounced back from two losses. It’ll be a good opportunity for us to consolidate on that win to back it up with another performance away from home.”
Perkovic has never been to Northbridge Oval before, but from what he has heard, the pitch is a small one.
“I’ve heard it’s a smallish pitch, which will make the football a little bit different to what we’re used to,” he said. “It’s likely to be a little bit more physical and it will be a game where whoever makes the least amount of mistakes will probably win. Usually with small pitches it’s about eliminating mistakes and being solid defensively because it’s really hard to open up a team on a small ground. So if we can limit our mistakes and be disciplined – we’ve got about 16 goals this season so we’re used to hitting the back of the net – and if we can continue doing that this weekend it’ll be enough to get the points.”
Meanwhile, Mariners coach Joe Haywood expects Mounties to be well-organised and quick on the counter attack. “I know they’re going to be very competitive,” Haywood told Football NSW. “They know how to win a game, they know how to get a result, and they’ve the quality players in the team to enable them to do that. It’s going to be a tough game, it’s at our home pitch so we’re going to make sure it’s as difficult as possible for them to play against us at our pitch. We’re going to try to play to the best of our ability as well so it should be a good entertaining game of football.”
After making a few changes to their lineup, the Mariners on Wednesday night lost 3-0 to NPL 1 side Sydney Olympic in an FFA Cup tie at Belmore. “We made a few changes for tonight’s game just to give people opportunities but also to rest a few people in the squad,” Haywood said. “It doesn’t strengthen or weaken us, it’s more a case of rotating to make sure we’re all getting our fitness levels up.”
Source FNSW- By Derek Royal