The Football NSW cameras will be heading to Seymour Shaw Park on Saturday night for the PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s match of the round between St George and Northern Tigers.
Both sides will be looking to build on first-up wins last weekend, where Saints upset highly fancied Hills Brumbies, and Northern Tigers battled to a 2-1 victory over Mounties Wanderers. In other matches, Western Sydney Wanderers host Spirit FC; Bankstown City visit North Shore Mariners; Mounties Wanderers journey to Mt Druitt Town Rangers; Macarthur Rams host Blacktown Spartans; Bankstown Berries visit Marconi; and on Sunday, Hills Brumbies and Central Coast battle it out at Lilys Football Centre.
Match of the Round
St George v Northern Tigers, Seymour Shaw, Saturday 18 March, 7pm
St George and Northern Tigers meet in the match of the round at Seymour Shaw Park on Saturday night. In a clash that pits the seventh and eighth placed teams against one another, both sides will be looking to build on first-up wins last weekend, where Saints upset newly-promoted Hills Brumbies 2-1, and Northern Tigers battled to a 2-1 victory over Mounties Wanderers.
While Saints coach Terry Palapanis was happy to see his side bounce back from a 5-3 defeat in Round 1 to beat the Brumbies, he stressed that his side needs to improve.
“We were decent against Hills and showed good character to get a result,” Palapanis told Football NSW. “But we need to show improvement in our movement of the ball and our ability to get the ball into advanced areas.”
When asked what he thought of the Northern Tigers, Palapanis said he had tremendous respect for a team that is “well coached, mobile and very good on the counter”.
“Northern Tigers are a good side who had a good result on the weekend (2-1 win against Mounties) and I think it’ll be a really tough contest,” Palapanis said. “They’ll be a good challenge. But we’ll be right, we’ll change a few things up.”
Unfortunately for Saints, captain Tariq Ercan, Jacob Sullivan, and Rino Zenari are among a host of players unavailable due to injury however the suspended Zac Ribeiro returns to the fold after sitting out a one-match suspension.
Meanwhile, Tigers’ coach Mark McCormick told Football NSW he was expecting St George to be well organised and brimming with confidence after last week’s victory over the Brumbies.
“St George is always well-organised. They have a good coach and they had a very good result last week against a good Brumbies side,” he said.
On the injury front, Tigers’ Ally Brown and Ollie Stickland are still recovering from long-term injuries, while Max Glanville is recovering from heat stroke.
A number of Tigers players are also suffering from the flu, forcing McCormick to delay naming his match day squad as late as possible.
North Shore Mariners vs Bankstown City, Blacktown Football Park, Saturday 18 March, 7pm
North Shore Mariners host Bankstown City Lions at Blacktown Football Park this Saturday and both sides will be hoping to win their first match of the season. The Mariners last weekend drew one-all with Mt Druitt Town Rangers at Popondetta Park, while Bankstown suffered a 5-1 defeat to Western Sydney Wanderers after holding them to a 1-0 lead at halftime.
Mariners coach Joe Haywood was happy with his side’s performance against Mt Druitt but conceded that there’s plenty of improvement in what is essentially a brand-new team.
“It was a decent result and a step in the right direction,” Haywood told Football NSW. “It was a good defensive display and we were good on the counter attack. We created some opportunities and scored a good goal. But we were inconsistent and need to fix that.”
Despite facing a side that conceded five goals to the Wanderers, Haywood is wary of Bankstown, a team he believes is a “good outfit”.
“Obviously they haven’t had the best of starts so far, but neither have we so I’m expecting a good, competitive game. We’ve had a loss and a draw and hopefully we can get a win this weekend.”
The Mariners have lost Michael Stojanovski to suspension after receiving a red card last week, but the blow of his absence will be softened by the return to action of captain and midfielder Ricky Woodward, defender James Scott and striker Mitch Arcosa, who played 20s last week.
Meanwhile, Bankstown City Lions coach John Caruana said that despite his side’s 5-1 defeat to the young Wanderers last weekend, they played well in the first half, only to change tactics and lose structure in the second, which proved to be costly.
“We created chances through set plays and caught them out a few times,” Caruana said of his side’s first half performance. “And they only led 1-0 at the break. But we lost our shape and direction in the second half and lacked conviction. And when we pushed forward to get back in the game, we got punished. But I think that if we’d scored a goal in the first half, it would’ve been a different game.”
Caruana remains confident his side can challenge for a place in the semi-finals, but rues the fact that, due to three washouts – one friendly, and the season opener against Bankstown Berries “twice”, they’ve only played one game in a number of weeks.
When asked what he expected of the Mariners, Caruana said: “They’re very organised, they’ve got some quality players and a lot of speed up front. And they play quite direct. Last week’s loss to Western Sydney was very disappointing but I know, and the players know, that we’re better than that. It’s a long season and we’re hoping to get a result this Saturday.”
Key players Davide Talone (fractured ankle) and Hussein Akil (hamstring) remain on the sidelines, but with 25 matches still to go, and combinations yet to be established, Caruana is confident things will eventually turn for the better.
Macarthur Rams v Blacktown Spartans, Lynwood Park, Saturday 18 March, 7pm
Blacktown Spartans travel to Lynwood Park on Saturday night and despite their unbeaten streak after two rounds, coach Luis Costigiani has warned his young charges to be wary of the opposition.
“Macarthur are fighters and they’re not going to be easy,” he told Football NSW. “They’ll use their aerial strength from set pieces and every challenge will be a contest. I’m expecting a very tough game.”
Decimated by the mass off season exodus of last year’s NPL 1 squad, Spartans have relied on a group of rookies whose average age is just 20. And funnily enough, they’ve enjoyed an unlikely run of two wins from as many games.
“When you win it inspires confidence,” Costigiani said. “The boys are feeling good. I’m confident we’ll win again but as I said, it won’t be easy.”
“Costigiani added that to won the spoils, his side would need to defend a lot of aerial balls and stop the Rams from crossing from wide areas “because they’re dangerous when they do that”.
“But most importantly we’re focusing on the way “we” play and if we stick to what we know best, that’s how we’ll hurt them.”
Apart from the unavailability of Richard Blanco, the Spartans have no injury concerns and have a full squad to choose from.
Meanwhile, Macarthur suffered the misfortune of conceding an own goal and having a man sent off in their 1-0 defeat at Marconi last weekend. Simon Valastro put the ball into his own net early in the first half while Danny Lazarevski was given his marching orders after a reckless tackle on the Stallions’ Sam Burfoot. The loss followed the side’s one-all draw with Spirit FC in Round 1.
Marconi Stallions v Bankstown Berries, Valentine Sports Park, Saturday 18 March, 7.30pm
Marconi will be hoping to show some improvement after a narrow 1-0 victory over Macarthur Rams last weekend. Despite creating several goal-scoring chances, the Stallions had to rely on an own goal by Macarthur’s Simon Valastro to win the spoils. Add to that the fact that the Rams were a man short after Danny Lazarevski was sent off for a reckless challenge, and Marconi can consider themselves fortunate to have escaped with three points.
Stallions’ coach Tony Candy lamented that facing a team that is one man down is always a tough proposition and suggested that complacency played a big part in his side’s lukewarm performance.
“It’s always difficult playing against 10 men and I think we switched off and became complacent,” Candy told Football NSW. “We want to make sure that this weekend we get our attitude right and play the way we want to play.”
When asked what he expected of the Berries, Candy said, “I have no idea about them. They have a new team, a new coach I believe. But I assume they’ll be well organised. Other than that, I have no idea.”
Apart from Sam Burfoot, the Stallions are injury free and have a full squad to select from this Saturday.
Meanwhile, Bankstown Berries’ player coach Perry Moustakas came away from last Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Spirit FC happy with the fighting qualities of his team. “It wasn’t a great day at the office but even though we lost our way a bit, the fighting spirit was there, which I think is the most important thing,” Moustakas said. “There were a lot of disappointed players in the dressing room, which is good.”
The Berries boast a good mix of youth and experience, one Moustakas has selected for its hunger to succeed. But whether that’s enough to combat a Marconi outfit that has the most star-studded team in the competition, is another matter.
Unfortunately for the Berries, their catch-up fixture against rivals Bankstown City Lions on Wednesday night was washed out for the second time, the clash again ruined by Sydney’s inclement weather.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers v Mounties Wanderers, Popondetta Park, Saturday 18 March, 7pm
Mounties Wanderers travel to Popondetta Park to face Mt Druitt Town Rangers this Saturday, hoping to make amends for last week’s defeat to Northern Tigers that had coach Lee Sterrey frustrated by their inability to convert opportunities into goals.
Sterrey slammed his side for missing “seven or eight one-on-one’s” especially his front three, who he said, “needed to take responsibility”.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” Sterrey told Football NSW, “we actually threw away three points. Having said that, I’ve come away with a 2-1 loss but feeling comfortable with the football we played. We deserved a hell of a lot more than zero points out of the game.”
When asked what he expected of Mt Druitt, Sterrey replied: “They’ll be tough opponents, they’ve always been one of the better sides in NPL 2. Certainly they’ve got a good, balanced squad and their recruitment this year has been good. It’s going to be a very tough game for us.”
Sterrey conceded that while his side had no injury concerns, “only our hearts hurt after not taking our chances last week”, he hoped they’d continue playing a good brand of football and to develop combinations after several personnel changes in the offseason.
“If we continue to play the same brand of open football and create the same amount of chances as we did last week, we’ll get more joy than sadness and I’d like to think we’ll be coming off on the right side of the ledger.”
Meanwhile, Mt Druitt coach Aidan Desmond also lamented his side’s inability to score goals after last week being held to a 1-1 draw at home to North Shore Mariners.
“We need to be more clinical in the front third,” Desmond told Football NSW. “That’s what we’ll be working on this week.”
Desmond added that he thought Mounties would be “hurting” after last’s week’s loss, a setback that he said was surprising. “I was surprised they lost, but Lee Sterrey will have them well prepared physically and mentally to make sure they’re back on track. Lee’s teams don’t normally lose two-in-a-row.”
Western Sydney Wanderers v Spirit FC, Sydney United Sports Centre, Saturday 18 March, 7pm
Western Sydney Wanderers host Spirit FC at Sydney United Sports Centre on Saturday night and after their resounding 5-1 victory over Bankstown City last weekend, the young guns from Sydney’s west will be brimming with confidence.
But that youthful exuberance is sure to be kept in check by coach Trevor Morgan, who will be looking for discipline and improvement from his charges.
It goes without saying that the Wanderers’ NPL 2 objectives are completely different to their non A-League counterparts. It’s not about a first grade team where they’re just trying to perform each week. It’s about monitoring the loads placed on their players, especially those who are training with the first team.
“If we didn’t have a first team above us I’d be focusing purely on my boys in a different way, a bit more like every other club does,” Wanderers coach Trevor Morgan said.
“But we take into consideration our objective which is to give our boys a pathway out of our side and into the first team, and also that we accept that when the players have a heavy load with the first team, they’re not going to play as much for us.”
Despite the club’s charter, the Wanderers’ NPL 2 side will be gunning for Spirit FC and with their team of teenage young guns, will be hopeful of reinforcing their position as one of the competition’s heavyweights.
Meanwhile, Spirit FC coach David Perkovic believes a specific game plan and his side’s ability to execute that game plan will be crucial if Spirit is to be competitive against the Wanderers.
“It’s all about the finer details because teams like the Wanderers will punish you for minute mistakes,” Perkovic said. “We’ll have to be close to perfect in our execution of our game plan to get something out of the match, but the boys are capable and looking forward to it. These are the kind of games you don’t have to motivate your players for.”
So what is Perkovic expecting of the Wanderers?
“I’m expecting them to play exactly like their A-League team,” he replied. “Trevor (Morgan) is a very good coach and he’ll have them working to (Wanderers A-League coach Tony Popovic) Poppa’s tactics. In that sense, how they play is not going to be a surprise so we can plan for it. But it’s going to come down to the execution of our game plan that will be the contributing factor to how competitive we are.”
Apart from a dislocated ankle suffered by Emmanuel Gomez in last week’s win over Bankstown Berries; and a hamstring strain to Tim Porter, Perkovic has the luxury of a fully fit squad available for selection. Gomez is likely to be sidelined for at least six weeks, while Porter is a 50-50 proposition for this weekend’s game against Western Sydney.
Hills Brumbies v Central Coast Mariners, Lilys Football Centre, Sunday 19 March, 5pm
Hills Brumbies play host to Central Coast Mariners on Sunday afternoon in a clash that both teams will be desperate to win after suffering upset defeats last weekend. Hills were rocked by an unlikely 2-1 defeat to St George, while the young Mariners fell victim to a passionate Blacktown Spartans 3-2.
“We didn’t play very well against St George and we were off our game,” Brumbies coach Dan Sheppard told Football NSW. “If we’d played anywhere near our potential, it wouldn’t have been a competition. This week we need to play to the level we expect of ourselves. We need to play to a lot better quality and we need to apply ourselves in the right manner.”
Sheppard expects the Mariners to be a quality side, one that is far better than their results suggest. “They’re full of young, quality footballers keen on taking the next step on their footballing journey,” he said. “I’ve actually coached a few of them in the past and I know for a fact that they are all quality footballers. We expect them to be a pretty good team; their recent results don’t reflect how good they actually are.”
Unfortunately for the Brumbies, injuries have hit them hard. Wade Giovenali suffered a torn upper leg muscle and will be out for a few weeks; Marcus Zantonello has a long-term injury; while Eoin Montford injured his ankle at training and will be out for a month or so.
“Within a week we’ve gone from having one serious injury to having a number of injuries,” Sheppard said. “Our squad’s depleted and we’ll be trying to combat with the bare bones this week, which is surprising considering how healthy we were last week. But that’s part of the game.
“So, we’ve got six players who are 50-50 and four or five who are definitely unavailable. We don’t know what team we’ll select on the weekend because we don’t know who will be fit enough for selection.”
Meanwhile, Mariners coach Ben Cahn said that while his young team was distraught by their loss to the Spartans on Saturday night, there were several positives to draw on. “It was a good performance and the three goals we conceded were freakish. On another day we would’ve won that game so hopefully we take the positive lessons into the game against Hills.
“We don’t know too much about the Brumbies but they were good enough to win their division last season, so we know they’ll be a decent side. But this early on it’s quite unpredictable so we’ll just concentrate on ourselves and focus on our own improvements.”
One area Cahn says his side needs to improve on is their defence against setpieces.
“We conceded three goals from three setpieces against Blacktown and that’s obviously cause for concern for us. Ironically, defensively we were actually good in open play but we were naïve in giving away the penalty. We need to be a bit more mature and a bit more aggressive in the way we defend setpieces.”
Apart from an injury to Reece Papas, Central Coast has a full squad available for selection.
Source FNSW Website -By Derek Royal, Football NSW