Things are heating up in the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues' 2 NSW competition with some eye-catching matches coming up in Round 6 this weekend.
In Sunday's match of the round, newly-promoted Hills Brumbies host Western Sydney Wanderers; Marconi will be looking to bounce back from their shocking 4-0 thumping against North Shore Mariners when they host Mt Druitt Town Rangers; Bankstown Berries will be looking to extend their winning run to three games when they face a strong Northern Tigers at home; Spirit FC face struggling Bankstown City Lions; Mounties entertain the underperforming Central Coast Mariners, North Shore Mariners take on league leaders Blacktown Spartans in their first home game at Northbridge Oval; while St George host Macarthur Rams at Seymour Shaw.
Match of the Round
Hills Brumbies v Western Sydney Wanderers, Lilys Football Centre, 7.30pm, Sunday 9 April
Hills Brumbies face their biggest test of the season when they host Western Sydney Wanderers in the PS4 NPL 2 NSW match of the round at Lilys Football Centre on Sunday night.
The Brumbies are coming off a disappointing defeat to Bankstown Berries and while the newly-promoted outfit had to field a depleted side due to serious injuries and player unavailability, coach Dan Sheppard had mixed feelings about the performance.
"I thought we were the better team in the first half but we seemed to drop off in the second half," Sheppard told Football NSW.
"But overall we were relatively good and it's not often that a team that has three shots on target wins 2-1."
Sheppard added that while his side missed the players who were unavailable for the Berries clash, the Brumbies hadn't been able to field the same starting eleven for two consecutive games, making life "very difficult".
So what does Sheppard expect of Western Sydney Wanderers?
"I'm expecting them to be pretty good to be honest. I expect them to be in the top two; they were there last year and they should be even better this year. This game is interesting and an exciting occasion and it's one of the reasons why I want to be in this division, to play against these sides. The Wanderers are favourites in most games they play, so they'll be a big challenge for us."
On the injury front, Sheppard said that two of the boys who were unavailable last week will be playing this weekend, but the majority are out injured and will spend another few weeks on the sidelines.
Meanwhile, Wanderers coach Trevor Morgan said that while he didn't know too much about the Brumbies, he was expecting a tough game.
"They've obviously done very well, there's only a two-point difference between us and them," Morgan told Football NSW.
"But to be fair, I don't expect easy games any week. Everybody in this league are trying to do their very best. We present a different opponent to what they get mostly because the kids are a bit younger and they train in a fulltime environment. So I think every team aims to beat us and they try to come up with a game plan to do it. I expect nothing less from the Brumbies. I expect them to try and highlight their strengths and try and hurt us."
When discussing the Spartans game, Morgan said that while the Wanderers dominated the game and had the statistics to prove it, he still wanted his players to challenge themselves game-by-game and to keep improving.
"I'd still like us to keep improving in small areas of our game," he said.
"Some of those are team related things and some of those are individuals getting better. Collectively and individually I'd like improvement."
On the injury front, the Wanderers have a full squad to choose from, including Liam Youlley and Tariq Maia, who both missed selection last week due to illness and fatigue respectively.
Marconi Stallions v Mt Druitt Town Rangers, Marconi Stadium, 7pm, Saturday 8 April
Marconi will be looking to bounce back with a bang when they face Mt Druitt Town Rangers after suffering an embarrassing 4-0 defeat to North Shore Mariners last Saturday.
Coach Tony Candy was very disappointed with his players' attitude in the shock loss.
"They didn't turn up on the day and they didn't compete. Simple as that. What can I say? It was just one of those days. The Mariners were a very robust side, very direct and they were very good at it and we didn't deal with it at all. We just didn't turn up and didn't compete."
Candy said that for the Mariners clash his side was missing four key players - Sean Rooney, Peter Triantis, Chris Nunes and Theo Kofinas - and struggled for depth to fill the void.
"We were a little bit skinny and some of the players who started like Sam Burfoot and Eros (Bergamin) haven't played for a while. Sam Perre hasn't played for a few games and they were a little bit short of game time. We can look for excuses but we need to regroup against a tough opponent in Mt Druitt. I'm very confident we'll turn things around on the weekend, that's for sure."
Meanwhile, Mt Druitt’s Aidan Desmond was disappointed with his side's 1-0 loss to Spirit FC in last Saturday's match of the round but he was ready to give the competition favourites a run for their money.
"Marconi will want to get back on track very, very quickly," Desmond told Football NSW.
"The expectation at that club is to win (games) and to win promotion and we expect to play a team that's up to that. They're the favourites to win the competition, but we'll go out there with an expectation to try and get something out of the game."
On the injury front, Desmond said that while there were a few niggles, and a number of his boys were battered and bruised after some heavy clashes against Spirit, he expected to have a full squad to select from.
Bankstown Berries v Northern Tigers, The Crest Athletic Centre, 7pm, Saturday 8 April
Bankstown Berries will hope to extend their unbeaten run to three matches when they host Northern Tigers at The Crest Athletic Centre on Saturday night.
In a game of two halves, player coach Perry Moustakas scored twice to lead the Berries to a 2-1 win over Hills Brumbies last weekend.
"In the first half Hills Brumbies were much better than us," Moustakas told Football NSW.
"We weren't really in the game but then the character of my boys came out in the second half and I'm proud of their efforts.
"Everyone really put in, including the subs. It's a lesson for us and showed what character is all about. It wasn't there in the first half but in the second half everyone put in an effort and that was the difference between the two sides."
When asked what he expected of Northern Tigers, Moustakas replied.
"I'm expecting another tough game. I've said this since the season started, it doesn't seem like we can find an easy game. Tigers have done well, they've got nine points. We've gone two-from-two now and if we get the next win then we're up there with the rest of the bunch and that's something we're going to be focusing on."
Moustakas stressed that his side will continue taking things "game-by-game" and not look beyond the next fixture.
"We're a new squad - there's about 13 new players - and we want to get better in each game. We just want to play better than our last game. That's our focus."
On the injury front, the Berries are looking good and depending on the outcome of their midweek Westfield FFA Cup game, should have a full complement of players to select from on the weekend.
Meanwhile, Northern Tigers last week travelled to Sydney's deep southwest and came away with a 3-0 victory over the struggling Macarthur Rams.
Tigers coach Mark McCormick was delighted with the win and praised his young team's determination.
"We showed a lot of grit," McCormick told Football NSW.
"Macarthur's never an easy place to visit. We are a young side and we knew that we had to go up there and match them in intensity and physicality as well as quality on the ball. We done that."
The Tigers will need to be just as gritty and just as committed when they face the Berries, who will also bring their own form of physicality and robustness to the table.
McCormick was impressed with the Berries' win over "a good Hills side".
"They're very strong from set pieces and The Crest isn't an easy place to go and get a result. I'm expecting a tough match.
"We just need to continue doing what we've been doing. We're a young side and we've had 16 and 17-year-olds come in and we need to make sure we're doing the basics well."
The Tigers coach added that apart from Josh Ward, who would be sidelined for the club's midweek FFA Cup match, his side was injury free going into the Berries game.
Spirit FC v Bankstown City Lions, Valentine Sports Park, 7pm, Saturday 8 April
Spirit FC will go into their clash with Bankstown City Lions confident of doing the damage after ending Mt Druitt's unbeaten start to the season with a 1-0 victory at Popondetta Park last Saturday night.
Spirit coach David Perkovic was happy with his side's performance and praised their efforts in the final third.
"We definitely dominated early proceedings and were rewarded by a very nice goal to Chris Godoy," Perkovic told Football NSW.
"We definitely created more goalscoring opportunities than them. So I think our final third was probably a little more evident and that's probably what the difference was between the two teams. I think we deserved to win the game in the end."
When asked what he expected of Bankstown City Lions, Perkovic replied.
"I think it's going to be a danger game. Obviously they haven't had a good start but having said that, Mt Druitt last year lost their first four games of the season and still made the semis.
"We have to be very wary. I'll be making sure my players don't take Bankstown lightly. All teams win games at some point so we've got to make sure that we're geared up for what I believe will be a very competitive match."
Perkovic added he'd like his final third to convert more opportunities after creating plenty but not finishing.
"We created a lot of opportunities against Mt Druitt but it would've been nice to get more goals to reflect the chances that we created. I think we could've kept the ball a little better. There's a lot of room for improvement in that area."
Due to Westfield FFA Cup commitments on Wednesday night, Perkovic said his side had a light recovery session on Monday as part of their preparation and he expected that whoever he chose in the starting eleven would put on a decent performance.
"There's a squad there for a reason," Perkovic said.
"And the starting eleven are there for a reason, they're there to do a job and I still expect a good performance."
Meanwhile, Bankstown City Lions will be fighting an uphill battle with a small 15-man squad facing back-to-back matches over a three-day period.
Despite their off-field dramas and a new coach who has been in the hot-seat for little more than a fortnight, Bankstown City claimed their first point of the season with a gutsy one-all draw with Mounties Wanderers at Jensen Park on Saturday night.
The Lions suffered a 4-0 touch-up against Bankstown Berries just three days before facing Mounties and showed tremendous courage to rebound from that loss to snatch a point from a well-coached Mounties side with high expectations.
When asked what he expected of Spirit FC, Lions coach Mile Todoroski replied with a question of his own.
"When you are last what can you expect? You have to perform very well every single game to try to avoid the last position if you can. It's not easy to be last."
Bankstown City was due to play an Westfield FFA Cup match on Wednesday night and Todoroski wasn't happy about the timing.
"FFA Cup is good, (it's) good to build this competition," the Lions mentor told Football NSW. "But in the circumstances for us it is no good because I've only got a small squad of 15 players to choose from. But we've got no choice and we have to play."
Mounties Wanderers v Central Coast Mariners, Valentine Sports Park, 1pm, Sunday 9 April
Mounties will host Central Coast Mariners on Sunday afternoon and coach Lee Sterrey is hoping his side can start scoring goals.
"Our front third are just killing us," Sterrey said after Mounties were last week held to a one-all draw with bottom-placed Bankstown City Lions.
"There's a lot of good football content leading up to the front third but we just aren't finishing and we've got to take responsibility for that. It's disappointing."
Sterrey said his team would work on things in the front third this week but stressed that "we've been there enough times in recent weeks to nearly be undefeated thus far this season. We've played well enough not to have lost yet but we've got some strong teams coming up and we need to start finding the back of the net."
When asked what he expected of the Mariners, Sterrey replied.
"They're very dangerous. I think all the Hyundai A-League type sides should be in the top couple and I saw them as one of the better football sides last year. I know they've got plenty of talent and from what I've read, I think they've played well but like us, not finished teams off either. They've leaked a few goals and hopefully they can leak a couple this week. They're a side I would consider as a top four side because of their strength of stability and they've got quality youngsters coming through the club."
When asked if there were areas in which he'd like to see improvements in his own side, Sterrey replied.
"We're looking to improve as a side because we're a new side. We're trying to play a different style of football to what the team played last year. We'll have a spring in our step but Central Coast are going to be a very tough assignment."
Meanwhile, a fortnight ago Central Coast celebrated their first win of the season against Northern Tigers and a delighted Mariners coach Ben Cahn was looking for consecutive wins when his young side last week took on St George at Pluim Park.
But St George rose to the occasion and proved too strong the Mariners, condemning them to their fourth loss in five games.
So what happened?
"It's the unpredictable nature of playing with a youth team," Mariners coach Ben Cahn told Football NSW.
"And trying to perfect a certain style of play along the way we're going to be vulnerable to making certain mistakes. St George were good and I think they'll push for finals. But we played into their hands, we were quite predictable. It's trying to find that balance of learning while picking up results in PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men’s competition."
Cahn added that while he knew Mounties were in a transitional period, he believed they were a decent team with some good individuals.
"But, having said that, like any team in this league, if we get it right we know we can beat them but we need to avoid the individual errors, the naivety that we've shown at times and we need to put in another resilient, mature performance like we did against Tigers."
On the injury front, the Mariners have a clean bill of health and a full squad to select from.
North Shore Mariners v Blacktown Spartans, Northbridge Oval, 3pm, Sunday 9 April
North Shore Mariners pulled off the upset of the season with a comprehensive 4-0 drubbing of competition favourites Marconi Stallions at Blacktown Football Park last Saturday night.
But now the club from Sydney's lower north shore needs to prepare just as diligently for their next assignment against league leaders Blacktown Spartans.
When asked how his side did the unthinkable, Mariners coach Joe Haywood replied.
"We just took our chances to be honest, that was the main thing. We've been creating chances all season but not taking them. We didn't necessarily control the game but whatever chances we got we took them.
"We've been working on our style since preseason and finally it all clicked (against Marconi) and we got what we deserved.
"This was a team performance, we had four different goalscorers on the night and everybody played their part, including the boys who came off the bench. They played their part and they played it well."
Haywood said the boys pulled up in high spirits after the Marconi game and were looking forward to their return to Northbridge Oval.
"We're looking forward to our first proper home game at Northbridge Oval," Haywood told Football NSW.
"It's a ground a lot of teams don't like coming to and we're looking forward to hosting Blacktown Spartans there. We're at full strength and ready to play."
Blacktown Spartans may have taken the fight to Western Sydney Wanderers in their 2-0 defeat last weekend, but they'd better be on their game when they face the giant killing Mariners this Sunday.
Any complacency will be punished and the Mariners have the additional advantage of returning to Northbridge Oval for the first time this season, a milestone the club is hoping to celebrate with a first grade win over the Spartans.
Spartans coach Luis Contigiani said that while he was disappointed to lose to Western Sydney, he wasn't disappointed with the way his team of brave young men lost.
"It was a great game," Contigiani told Football NSW.
"We knew they'd have a lot of possession, keeping the ball. We held our defensive shape and hit them on the counter, and to be quite honest we had some golden opportunities and even hit the post.
"I'm very proud of my boys, they put up a tremendous fight against a very good team. I give Western Sydney credit but in saying that I thought we offered them good resistance and we attacked them well when we knew we had to. But unfortunately, at the end, one lapse in concentration was all it took for them to punish us."
When asked what he expected of the North Shore Mariners, Contigiani replied.
"I expect a team similar to us. They fight very hard for everything, they're a solid unit that fights for each other and they're very dangerous at set-pieces, at free kicks and corners. They go in fully committed. We're going to have to be careful. You can play well for the majority of the game and then fall asleep at a set piece or a corner and pay the price."
So how did the Spartans pull up after the Wanderers game?
"The boys were a little bit sore, they worked really hard in that game but we're ready for this weekend. Mentally we were disappointed that we lost because we put so much into the game but the fact that the performance was good, and we also had opportunities to win that game, has given us more belief and more hope that we can get back on our winning ways."
St George v Macarthur Rams, St George Stadium, 5pm, Sunday 9 April
St George host struggling Macarthur Rams at Seymour Shaw on Sunday afternoon and they'll be brimming with confidence after overcoming Central Coast Mariners last weekend.
Although impressive in patches, Saints have had an inconsistent start to the season and one thing coach Terry Palapanis would like more than anything is to address that inconsistency.
"We were very good last week," Palapanis told Football NSW.
"But I'd like to see some consistency from the boys. Not win one week and lose the next, which is what we've been doing. The games against Northern Tigers and Spartans were quite poor."
Palapanis mentioned that for some reason, St Geogre have always struggled with Macarthur, a scenario he hopes to address this weekend.
"I think Macarthur will come out with their backs to the wall and we'll have to be very careful that we're not the ones they beat first. We've got to be very wary of them. But we'll be ready."
Meanwhile, Macarthur coach Eddie Briscoe again rued the fact that his young side couldn't compete for the full 90 minutes after collapsing in a heap against Northern Tigers last weekend.
"We were the better team in the first half to be fair," Briscoe told Football NSW. "We both had chances but we had the better chances. But again, like previous weeks, we couldn't capitalise."
The young Rams switched off in the second half and could only watch on in dismay as the Tigers smashed three goals into the back of the net to score a 3-0 victory.
"Our heads went down and our confidence dropped," Briscoe said. "Theirs went up and then they caught us on the break and suddenly we were 2-0 down and before long, it was 3-0."
Macarthur will need to address their concentration issues against St George but with such an inexperienced team, it's going to be a tough assignment.
"It's difficult because the players can see what we're trying to do and what we're trying to achieve but when you haven't got that experience in the team and that leadership, it really affects the team and you can see that. They just need some guidance and someone to look up to and that's where we're lacking. I can't fault the boys effort and desire."
Briscoe told Football NSW that his side was desperately in need of a win, just to get some points on the board and to boost the side's confidence.
"I think a win is the ultimate and to get some points on the board so we can believe in ourselves," Briscoe said.
"That's the ultimate. Besides last week and getting beat 3-0, we've been pretty close in our other games, we've hung in there. We need a big boost and nothing less than a win will do that. We need to win and we need to start putting some points on the board, and that's not just first grade but the whole club."
Briscoe added that he was looking forward to Wednesday's Westfield FFA Cup game against Bulli and saw the fixture as an opportunity to get a win to boost his side's confidence before taking on St George at the weekend.
"If we get a win in the Westfield FFA Cup game against Bulli, that will give us a massive boost for the St George game," Briscoe said.
On the injury front, Briscoe is expecting the return of Mason Versey and Frank Martey, but defender James Rolston will be missing after suffering a quad injury.
-By Derek Royal, Football NSW Reporter