An early start to round nine kicks off on Saturday afternoon when Western Sydney Wanderers meet Central Coast Mariners in the first of three games at Valentine Sport Park this weekend, but our Match of the Round will focus on the evening fixture at the same venue, when Northern Tigers tackle St George.
Northern Tigers v St George Saturday 7pm Valentine Sports Park No 2, Glenwood
It has been a poor month for St George as they head to Valentine Park for this week’s Match of the Round. Just one point from twelve and not a goal scored suggests that they will find the going tough against the Tigers. A reasonable start to the season has come undone during April and the Saints will want to pick up points relatively quickly if they are to avoid another season like the last.
Northern Tigers have lost just one of their past four but two draws have kept the champions in the bottom of the table, a position not normally associated with the Tigers. A good point at Jensen last weekend would have been welcomed and three points against an understrength St George will be expected by the home side.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Central Coast Mariners Saturday 1pm Valentine Sports Park No 2, Glenwood
The busy weekend at Valentine kicks off on early Saturday afternoon as the Western Sydney Wanderers, sensibly avoiding a clash with the A-League Grand Final, moved this fixture from the original Sunday date. They will hope to get the weekend off to a great start for the club as a whole, and three points against Central Coast Mariners would help them keep the pressure on Sydney FC at the top. Currently second, ahead of Bankstown City on goal difference, a victory is needed to make sure the Sky Blues don’t skip away to too great a lead.
The Mariners have been somewhat inconsistent recently and they won’t have been impressed with scoring four goals last weekend and still finishing with a loss. Eleven goals against in the past month shows that a tightening up of the backline will need to be given some priority.
Spirit FC v Bankstown Berries Saturday 7pm Christie Park, Marsfield
Neither Spirit FC or the Berries would be happy with how their respective seasons have gone to date. Spirit, after dominating the league last year, have struggled in this, collecting just the one win so far while Bankstown Berries, already onto their second coach, have also collected just the one victory but have suffered five losses on the trot, conceding twenty one goals in the process. Last week’s seven against Sydney FC would have caused some soul searching and with the Berries just one point from bottom placed Fraser Park, a turnaround in their fortunes is needed urgently.
This looks a hard one to call but Spirit’s better defence, and slightly better form, may give them the opportunity to gain that second victory at last.
The Berries should enjoy a switch in focus when they meet St George FA in the Westfield FFA Cup next Tuesday, a fixture though which has the potential for an upset.
Mount Druitt Town Rangers v Macarthur Rams Saturday 7pm Popondetta Park, Emerton
After a horrendous result against Sydney FC two weeks ago, Macarthur quickly got back to winning ways, coming away with a win against Spirit FC seven days later. It would definitely have been the club’s intention to put that other result out of their mind as soon as possible, and to their credit, the Rams also kept a clean sheet in the process. That 0-7 loss was certainly a blip formwise, the Rams having already drawn with the other big guns in WSW and Marconi.
They will be seeking another win at Popondetta, where three points would really put Macarthur in the mix with the top echelon.
Mount Druitt Town Rangers gained a good result last weekend, claiming a win at St George. Two wins and six losses though would be considered an underachievement, after a strong year last year and good off-season recruitment. They won’t want to give the Rams an inch on Saturday, as they seek to claim two wins on the bounce.
Sydney FC v Fraser Park Saturday 7:45pm Lambert Park, Leichhardt
If any match this weekend looks like a mismatch, it is this one. Sydney FC, sitting atop the league after seven straight wins, and with eighteen goals in the past three games, meet bottom placed Fraser Park, with just one win but seven losses to their name this season.
A guaranteed three points would not seem more likely but if there is one coach who would love to upset the applecart this weekend, it would be Branko Culina. A former coach of Sydney FC in the A-League, a win, or even a point, would no doubt bring great satisfaction. But that personal satisfaction aside, the greater task is to bring Fraser Park off the bottom of the ladder, to start collecting points being the ultimate objective. And where better to start?
Marconi v North Shore Mariners Sunday 3pm Marconi Stadium, Bossley Park
After a dismal start to the season Marconi are at last starting to find their legs in Playstation 4 National Premier Leagues 2, with three successive victories going some way to easing the pain of the opening month. While they had no trouble finding the back of the net, they also leaked goals, but thankfully for the Stallions, while they haven’t yet stopped the large number of goals against, only the bottom two clubs having conceded more, they are at least scoring more at the other end. The three recent wins has seen the former NSL giants move into fifth on the ladder, albeit eight points off top. It will be a big month for Marconi, who will face St George in the FFA Cup next Wednesday, whereby a win would move them to within a match of the final 32, before meeting Mounties Wanderers, Western Sydney Wanderers and then Sydney FC in the league. With those three all currently above the Stallions on the table, a successful month would see a rapid rise up the ladder, and a reduction in that margin.
North Shore Mariners should be content with their first foray in this league. Some respectable results sees them midtable or so, a position they should be happy with, a third of the way through the season. While unbeaten in their past four, they will face a tough test here.
Mounties Wanderers v Bankstown City Sunday 3pm Valentine Sports Park No 2, Glenwood
Fourth versus third meet in the final Valentine fixture this weekend, as Mounties and Bankstown City go head to head. Both clubs have had excellent starts to the season, Mounties being the only team to have taken points off Sydney FC, and that a win, while the Lions are the only club to have defeated Western Sydney Wanderers. Those results alone should give rise to the confidence that both can beat anyone on their day.
How they go against each other will therefore be an interesting facet to this game. In David Perkovic and Leo Carle, both Mounties and Lions have young coaches keen to learn, and a win for either on Sunday will be a great boost to their respective club’s position.
Along with Marconi, St George and Bankstown Berries, Mounties remain of the Playstation 4 National Premier League 2 clubs still left in the FFA Cup, and face Mosman FC next midweek, clear favourites to progress.
Source FNSW -by Peter Rowney, PS4 National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men's Reporter