The Premiers have been declared, as have the Club Champions, with both titles heading Marconi’s way, but that doesn’t mean that the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues NSW 2 competition is all over.
Far from it, as the battle for the top six continues apace.
As many as eight clubs are still in contention for the remaining four spots, St George having secured one other, so the final two rounds are full of interest.
This weekend, Football NSW cameras head to Marconi Stadium to see one of those challengers, Northern Tigers take on the recently crowned Premiers.
Marconi v Northern Tigers Sunday 3pm Marconi Stadium Bossley Park
After a two year exile in NPL2, Marconi can look forward to a return to the top tier next season, no doubt relishing the very thought. With the Club Championship confirmed last Saturday, the possibility that this week’s clash against closest promotion rivals Northern Tigers may have proven crucial to their hopes has evaporated. Instead, the Stallions can enjoy their final two rounds with the pressure off, and with the Premiership having been won with a month of the season still to run, this week’s fixture, for Marconi at least, should be a time for celebration. There can be no doubt that this season’s accolades go to Marconi, an eighteen point gap at the top of the table a clear sign that they were a class above this year. They may not have been unbeatable, and a few results did surprise, but the manner of their title win, and the distance from second, shows that they fully deserve all that they have achieved.
For Northern Tigers, they would surely have loved to have been going into this week’s round of matches with the Club Championship still up for grabs. After the Stallions, they have remained the club most likely, even if the gap throughout the year may have seemed insurmountable. But they have been as consistent as ever, something the Tigers are renowned for across the grades, so while the Club Championship may now be beyond them this season, they will surely like to make a statement on Sunday all the same, no doubt with one eye on next year’s challenge.
Like Marconi, the Tigers should also have the finals series to look forward too, but their loss to Spirit FC last week has complicated matters. With the closeness of the chasing pack, any loss here may well see the northern suburbs team put their Championship challenge in some danger.
Spirit FC v St George Saturday 7pm Valentine Sports Park No 2, Glenwood
There will be plenty up for grabs when Spirit FC and St George meet at FNSW headquarters. Spirit’s season was really on the line before last week’s clash against the Tigers but an excellent result keeps their semis challenge open. It will be a close run thing, and Spirit are the least advantaged of the clubs still retaining finals hopes, but a victory away at Tigers gives every indication that Spirit will give it every shot. Nothing less than a win will do it.
It has been a fairly tough old time for St George over the past month with three straight losses putting the all-important second position in some doubt. Injuries, absences and some hefty suspensions have caused a regular rejig of their starting eleven, but despite those changes, their football has continued to impress without managing to hit the back of the net. Just one goal in three games didn’t reflect their dominant play at times, but the return of top scorer Juan Carlos Romero against Bankstown City, scoring a goal to boot in his first action for a month, will give plenty of confidence at just the right time. The Saints will look for victory here, keen to keep their four point buffer before facing Marconi on the final day, so with both teams needing a win, this should be an enjoyable attacking game.
Mounties Wanderers v Western Sydney Wanderers Sunday 1pm Valentine Sports Park No 2 Glenwood
Mounties had a tremendous boost to their hopes with an emphatic 5-1 victory last week to really put themselves in with a chance, the sharp improvement to their goal difference, now in positive territory, also helping no end. Up against the Wanderers, also challenging hard, will be a test but like all other challengers, they will know that there is no room for error. The points were shared last time they met, but this time around, nothing but a win will suffice.
Western Sydney Wanderers are likely finals contestants but will need points here to ensure that there is no late hiccup to those plans. A late equaliser against the Berries helped, and depending on how the Wanderers go against the Mariners on Thursday, will go a long way to determining their end of season position. While the remit for the Wanderers coaching staff, now led by Arthur Diles, may not necessarily be to win at all costs, last season’s Grand Finalists will still want to be there when it matters.
Bankstown City v Central Coast Mariners Sunday 3pm Jensen Park Sefton
It has been nothing but a disaster for Bankstown City this year, changes of coach and almost their entire personnel from last year moving on, has seen the Lions remain rooted at the bottom of the ladder since round one. Even more galling has been the distance which they have lagged behind the rest in the Club Championship, last spot confirmed with a full three rounds still to play. Nothing has gone right for the club from Jensen Park, and an end to the season of torment can’t come soon enough.
They still showed enough on the weekend past to show that they won’t be a walkover though. Players such as Aaron D’Mello, Hussein Akil, now back in a more familiar attacking role, and keeper Dion Shaw, who kept the Lions in the game against St George longer than they may otherwise have been, are quality players who will make Central Coast work for any points.
If the Lions have nothing to play for, the same can’t be said for the Mariners. They remain a strong challenger for the Championship series, and should they win in a rescheduled fixture against Western Sydney Wanderers this Thursday afternoon, they will rise to third on the ladder. After the premiers Marconi, the Mariners are the league’s leading scorers, and should Duncan Stewart and Brenton Fox be in top form, they may prove too much to handle for a Lions defence which has conceded more goals than any other, by some measure.
North Shore Mariners v Bankstown Berries Sunday 3pm Northbridge Oval Northbridge
North Shore Mariners remain in strong contention for the semis but will face tough opposition against a Bankstown Berries side also fighting for one of the spots still available. North Shore did exceedingly well in coming from behind twice against Macarthur Rams to take all three points last Saturday, a result which puts them right in the mix for the final fortnight. It is a nice position to be in for North Shore, who this time last year were in a desperate battle at the wrong end of the table. Now in their second season in NPL2, they have found their feet as it were, and a top six spot will show great progression over the past twelve months.
There has been something of a resurgence for Bankstown Berries over the second half of the season. At the half way point, the Berries were fourth from bottom with four victories to their name, but in the intervening period since, they have risen to edge of the six, challenging for the semis and qualified for the last 16 of the Westfield FFA Cup, with a plum fixture against Sydney FC to look forward to. A fine achievement indeed, and one they hope to continue when they travel to Northbridge Oval. It was North Shore who dealt the Berries their heaviest defeat of the season back in May, a 0-5 thrashing at The Crest surely a result that they will want to avenge.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers v Macarthur Rams Sunday 3pm Popondetta Park Emerton
Some excellent results over the past few weeks, seeing off fellow semis aspirants Northern Tigers and St George amongst them, has seen Mount Druitt Town Rangers claim a spot within the top six with just a fortnight to go. A narrow, and late, loss to Central Coast Mariners last weekend may have put the brakes on their upward trajectory a little but they remain well placed for a Championship tilt and a home victory against a lowly Macarthur will certainly be expected by coach Aidan Desmond. Rangers fell just one game short of the Grand Final last season, losing against an all-conquering Sydney FC, and further Championship expectations this year will surely be the minimum target. And if keeper Carlos Saliadarre can maintain his current fine form, anything can happen.
It has been a disappointing year for the Rams. While an unbeaten run of six games saw Macarthur reach fourth position after round eleven, an inconsistent second half of the season has seen the Rams linger largely towards the bottom of the ladder. Now second last, Macarthur will only have pride to play for, but there is plenty of that down Lynwood Park way, and the club who were Champions just a few short years ago, won’t give up the points without a fight.
Blacktown Spartans v Hills Brumbies Sunday 3pm Blacktown Football Park Doonside
Near neighbours Blacktown Spartans and Hills Brumbies do battle in a match which appears not to have a lot riding on it. Neither team are destined to continue past August and their intentions will be to see out the season with as positive a finish as possible. It was fresh visit to the NPL2 for both teams at the start of the season, both having been away for a few years, so perhaps neither are too dissatisfied with how things have panned out. Both the Brumbies and Spartans started the season well but any hopes they each had diminished somewhat during the second half of the year. Spartans rebuilt after relegation, always a dangerous proposition, while a young Hills came up from NPL3 with much enthusiasm. Two games to go, some pride to display, and a solid foundation for next season should be the aim for the Spartans and Brumbies.
Source FNSW Website -By Peter Rowney