With the transfer window having opened on Monday, we should expect a raft of new signings across the league, and most urgently, at clubs in the lower part of the ladder.
That might mean that the formbook is thrown out the window as we look at this week’s fixtures, with our cameras heading to North Shore Mariners for the first time since round one, for their clash with Spirit FC.
North Shore Mariners v Spirit FC Sunday 3pm Valentine Sports Park, Glenwood
The only game on Sunday sees North Shore Mariners take on Spirit at Valentine Park. Both clubs need points, and preferably a win. While North Shore have been doggedly picking up draws, they haven’t won since round six while Spirit have shown some mixed form, having won against Fraser Park two weeks ago, but then succumbing too early against Central Coast last Saturday. With two wins apiece, a draw is not really going to suit either club, so while it may be a match between two teams in the bottom four, we should expect an open game with a victory in mind.
Central Coast Mariners v Mount Druitt Town Rangers Saturday 6:30pm Pluim Park, Lisarow
Eighth play ninth at Pluim Park after both Central Coast and Mount Druitt Town tasted success last weekend. The Mariners were looking dominant against Spirit FC before a late rally left it closer than it might have been while Rangers also only won by a single goal margin. Trent Buhagiar was forever dangerous for Central Coast, someone Rangers will need to keep a close watch on.
Abraham Majok and Kuag Reec are starting to find their scoring boots at Mount Druitt Town now and have notched half of the Rangers goals so far. Reec got the winner against Fraser, his second in as many weeks and Rangers are unbeaten in four now, with three wins and a draw. Their form is starting to reflect pre-season expectations.
Marconi v Sydney FC Saturday 7pm Marconi Stadium, Bossley Park
It will be a big few weeks for Sydney FC starting this Saturday against the Stallions. The Sky Blues face their three closest rivals in the Club Championship over the next three rounds with Western Sydney Wanderers and Mounties next cabs off the rank. Positive results for the club across the grades over these matches could all but end the challenge for promotion for a few clubs holding residual hope that it is not yet a lost cause, even at this stage of the season.
The Stallions are one who will rise to the challenge. They don’t want to spend any more time in the second tier than they have to and positive results on Saturday will certainly help their cause. A worthy point against the Wanderers was earned last Sunday and perhaps they could have taken more. With Marconi also through to the final 32 of the Westfield FFA Cup after defeating Bankstown Berries on Wednesday, a return to the national scene will be most welcomed by the club. This could be Sydney FC’s toughest game for some time.
Bankstown Berries v Bankstown City Saturday 7pm The Crest, Bass Hill
There will be a lot to prove out Bankstown way on Saturday. Local rivalries aside, the Lions’ pride has been severely wounded this past fortnight and there can be nothing more certain that they will be out to make amends. Still third despite two consecutive defeats, they have come back to the pack a little and there is more than one club ready to take advantage of any further slips. The Lions did score three goals against the Rams it must be said, getting that defence back to how they were not that long ago will be the priority.
The Berries will be disappointed about Wednesday’s loss to Marconi in the Cup but while elimination will hurt, the focus on league points will now become the task. And with five home games out of the next six fixtures, that opportunity is there. While they may not have won at The Crest this season, their home record in the past has been a strong one and with the majority of their second round fixtures in Bass Hill, a climb up the ladder looks strong in prospect.
Fraser Park v Northern Tigers Saturday 7pm Fraser Park, Sydenham
With Fraser Park languishing at the bottom of the ladder, and Northern Tigers visiting, another tough match looks in store. But with the opening of the transfer window this week, it is likely that Fraser Park will have been busy in the market, boosting their squad as we head towards the second half of the season. Who may start the match on Saturday is open to question but expect a new name or two.
The Tigers will be trying to build on last week’s victory. They sit just in the top half but in a tightly packed ladder and have the potential to rise quite rapidly if results, not just their own, go their way. Even though Fraser may be bottom, the Tigers will do well to remain wary but their record at Fraser is a good one.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Mounties Wanderers Saturday 7pm Blacktown Football Park
Western Sydney Wanderers return to Blacktown Football Park for the visit of Mounties. A couple of dropped points against Marconi has seen them drop four points off the pace now but with a visit to Sydney FC pending next Saturday, a win here will be imperative to ensure that they still remain within reach come that fixture. Mario Shabow and Lachlan Scott, with five and twelve goals respectively, are the most likely to do damage to Mounties, and with good reason. It is no wonder that both recently signed A-League contracts.
Mounties were eliminated from the Westfield FFA Cup on Wednesday, only going down by the closest of margins to Manly but they have the opportunity to get over that disappointment quickly when they head to Doonside. An ultimately hard fought win last week was their first victory in a month which would have settled any shaky nerves. A tough couple of weeks are ahead for Mounties but if they continue to show the determination they have had on display recently, further wins won’t be far away.
Macarthur Rams v St George Saturday 7pm Lynwood Park, St Helens Park
There is no question which team provided the shock result last weekend. Not so much that the Rams won against Bankstown City, which was always a possibility, but the fact that they knocked in six in a forty five minute spell. It was the first time this season that Macarthur have won two in a row and their first win away from Lynwood Park all year. Prior to the match, only once had they scored twice in a game when away and even then they took nothing from the result. A phenomenal score no matter which way you look at it. Building on that result will now be the aim when St George visit, and with four wins and two draws so far at home, plus the confidence gained against the Lions will keep the Rams well primed.
But they won’t want to take St George lightly. Results may not be going their way at the moment, but their performances hold plenty of hope for the future. Last week’s second half particularly caused plenty of concern to Mounties and a draw would not have been without merit. Defender Billy Darwich will return from suspension.
Source FNSW -by PeterRowney, PS4 National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men's Reporter