The second half of the season kicks in this weekend in the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues NSW 2 competition with St George v Fraser Park this week’s Match of the Round.
St George v Fraser Park Sunday 5pm St George Stadium, Kyeemagh
This week’s feature is the final game of the round, kicking off at 5pm Sunday, when St George meet near neighbours Fraser Park. St George are almost the epitome of inconsistency at the moment, a LWLWL record over the past five weeks providing much frustration. Recent recruits including Yuta Konagaya and Dimitri Zakilas will add firepower to the squad though, indeed both scored on their respective debuts in the past fortnight, so a stronger second half of the season can be expected. Peter Vassilis returns from suspension after missing the loss to the Berries.
Fraser Park just haven’t been able to get that win they are desperately striving for. Up until last weekend, they hadn’t been far away but the 0-4 loss at Bankstown City would likely have caused a few jolts. They will need to bring something back from St George before the gap at the bottom becomes too insurmountable.
Spirit FC v Western Sydney Wanderers Saturday 7pm Christie Park, Marsfield
A win came Spirit’s way last weekend after a couple of close calls and to do so against Marconi was extra worthy. And to score four even more so. After only hitting three goals in their opening nine fixtures, Spirit have scored nine in their past four and will take on Western Sydney Wanderers with renewed confidence. Surprisingly, last week’s win was their first of the season at Christie Park, historically a notorious venue for visiting teams, but with that drought now broken expect Spirit to put up a strong showing against the Wanderers, especially as they seek to avenge the opening round’s 0-6 defeat.
The Wanderers having made it to the top of the table, aren’t likely to give up that position lightly. They put in a strong performance against Sydney FC to get there and have still only lost once all season, and that was ten games ago. There will be a few changes to their lineup though following the departure of Alusine Fofanah, Shayne D’Cunha and Daniel Alessi during the week after the completion of their contracts. And with Lachlan Scott and Mario Shabow having recently earned A-League gigs at the Wanderers, it could be a vastly different starting XI on Saturday.
Bankstown City v Central Coast Mariners Saturday 7pm Jensen Park, Sefton
Bankstown City, in third, have now opened up a five point gap ahead of Marconi in fourth and reduced the gap from the top to six points after a comprehensive win over Fraser Park. It was a good return to form after a couple of shaky results earlier in the month and the clean sheet, the first in five, will have put that confidence back in the side. A win will be necessary to keep tabs on the top two.
The Mariners recovered from their home loss against Mount Druitt Town Rangers to defeat Northern Tigers. It was a crucial victory which keeps the Central Coast outfit in touch with the top six and away from a clutch of clubs slowly climbing up the ladder. Their form remains patchy though, not having had consecutive wins since March. They will need to overturn a 3-0 loss to the Lions from the opening round for that record to change this weekend.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers v Marconi Saturday 7pm Popondetta Park, Emerton
Both Rangers and Marconi conceded goals late last weekend to drop likely points, and in Marconi’s case, they returned home empty handed. It was a crucial loss for the Stallions who could have gained ground on Sydney FC with a victory so they will be even more determined this week when they visit Popondetta Park. They have dropped five points behind Bankstown City too now, in third, so they can ill afford another result like last Saturday’s.
Despite conceding a very, very late equaliser last week, Rangers’ current form is still some of the best in the competition. Unbeaten in their past six games, they will be tested over the next few weeks with the two A-League club’s youth teams to follow. While not prolific scorers, they have still found the net in the past seven matches, and so they will fancy their chances to score once more. Whether they can keep the Rooney, Jesic and Pavlovic trio quiet will go a long way to determining this result.
Bankstown Berries v Macarthur Rams Saturday 7pm The Crest, Bass Hill
Bankstown Berries commence a run of four home games in a row which in seasons gone by would have been somewhat of an advantage but amazingly, this year, the Berries have gained only one point at The Crest in five games. Turning around that form will be one aim when they meet Macarthur Rams this weekend. The Berries had a two goal lead against the Lions two weeks ago before conceding three, but made amends last Saturday against St George, with a strong away win. After the Rams, none of the Berries’ next three opponents currently feature in the top six, so a return to home form can see some rapid movement up the table.
Macarthur have worked their way to their highest league position this year with three wins from their past four. A valuable win at Mounties last Sunday earned merit and they will be looking to build on that victory at the Berries. While their results have been up and down, they have shown they can mix it with the best, only that consistency is missing.
Northern Tigers v North Shore Mariners Saturday 7pm Valentine Park, Glenwood
The Tigers came away empty handed from the Coast last weekend, not helped by the sending off of Braden Cheng. Just 1-0 down at the time, the dismissal was costly and the Tigers now find themselves amidst a group of five teams all separated by just two points. A win against North Shore Mariners will be crucial to maintain their position and to keep the leaders within some reach. The Tigers will be missing Paul Davies who collected his fifth yellow last Sunday.
North Shore’s equaliser at Mount Druitt Town saved them a point and they continue to prove difficult to beat. They went down to the Tigers in the opening fixture, by 2-0, but apart from subsequent matches against Bankstown City and Sydney FC, two of the leading trio, they have not conceded a two goal margin otherwise. North Shore give plenty, as Northern Tigers will be well aware.
Mounties Wanderers v Sydney FC Sunday 3pm Valentine Park, Glenwood
After two straight defeats, Sydney FC will have the chance to right some wrongs when they visit Mounties on Sunday. It was Mounties of course who defeated the Sky Blues back in round one, handing out a shock result from the get go. It was just a blip as it happened, Sydney FC going on to win their next ten before their recent stumbles. Having now lost the competition lead, Sydney FC will want to revert to form as they attempt to regain top spot.
Mounties haven’t fared as well after a bright opening start. They have won just twice in their past nine and are now seventh. They have lost their past two matches, and unfortunately for Mounties, it doesn’t get much tougher than this week’s opponents. But with Sydney FC having stumbled, Mounties can hope that the slump in the visitor’s results can extend to three weeks, at least.
Source FNSW -by Peter Rowney, PS4 National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men's Reporter