The regular season of the PlayStation4 National Premier Leagues' 2 NSW Men's season came to an exciting end on the weekend, with the top six finalised and a festival of semi-finals football due to start this Sunday.
Joining Premier's Marconi Stallions in the finals series will be St George, Mt Druitt Town Rangers, Central Coast Mariners, North Shore Mariners and Northern Tigers. Indeed, Central Coast, North Shore and the Tigers each finished with 40 points, demonstrating just how super-competitive the 2017 campaign has been.
In the Match of the Round, North Shore Mariners secured their place in the six with a stunning 6-1 annihilation of Western Sydney Wanderers at Northbridge Oval on Sunday. For their efforts, Joe Haywood's tenacious outfit will journey to Pluim Park to face Central Coast Mariners in an elimination semi-final this Sunday.
In other results, St George held onto second place with a 3-2 victory over Marconi, a win that ended the Stallions' unbeaten streak at 11 matches; Mt Druitt Town Rangers beat a brave Bankstown Berries 3-2 to finish in third place; Hills United ended Mounties' finals aspirations with a 3-2 win at Lilys Football Centre; Central Coast did enough to beat Spirit FC 1-0; Northern Tigers beat Blacktown Spartans 2-1; while Macarthur ended their season on a high with a 5-2 win over Bankstown City.
MATCH OF THE ROUND
North Shore Mariners 6 Western Sydney Wanderers 1
North Shore Mariners secured their place in the semi-finals of the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men's competition with a stunning 6-1 annihilation of Western Sydney Wanderers at Northbridge Oval on Sunday.
Mariners' Marquin Smith and Ricky Woodward scored two goals apiece, while Braden Cheng and Scott Tonkin grabbed one each. Kosta Grozos scored what turned out to be a consolation goal for the Wanderers.
The Mariners' win ruined the Wanderers' hopes of playing finals football and condemned the A-League academy side to a long offseason to reflect on what might have been.
The Mariners were virtually unstoppable, pressing high, outmuscling their opponents and making the most of their opportunities. They were however, helped by a poor Western Sydney performance, one that was arguably their worst of the season. With places in the top six on the line, the Wanderers started A-Leaguers Abraham Majok and Keanu Baccus, but the side's' indecision on the ball and error-strewn passing, not to mention the Mariners' desire and ability to finish their chances, proved to be their undoing.
In the eighth minute a poor clearance saw the home side take a 1-0 lead. Mariners striker Mitch Smith broke down the right flank and sent in a cross. The Wanderers' attempted clearance only went as far as Mariners' midfielder Braden Cheng, who calmly placed a perfect shot into the top corner of the net.
The Mariners continued the onslaught, and in the 15th minute extended their lead to 2-0 through Marquin Smith, who turned brilliantly before unleashing a blistering shot past Wanderers keeper Nick Suman.
The momentum was building.
Five minutes later Mariners skipper Ricky Woodward blasted a long range drive straight at Suman, but the keeper was unable to hold onto the ball and the home side were suddenly 3-0 up. For a goalkeeper of his calibre, Suman should have done better but such was the Mariners' dominance that everythng they touched turned to gold.
Western Sydney's woes continued. They lost possession. They passed without accuracy. And they lost the physical battle against a side that played with spirit and athleticism.
But somehow the Wanderers scored against the run of play just on the half hour mark to bridge the gap to 3-1, with Kosta Grozos striking home a perfect free kick from the edge of the penalty box.
The two sides went to the break with North Shore leading 3-1 and while Western Sydney may have some momentum after scoring late in the first half, it was the home side that came out firing from the restart.
Cheng proved to be a constant menace to the Wanderers' defence and a fine solo dash down the left and subsequent pass saw Suman save brilliantly from close range. Cheng wasn't the only one who caused heartache for the Wanderers, with Mitch and Marquin Smith, Brian Jamba and Ricky Woodward doing their bit in what was a sterling team performance.
In the 56th minute Western Sydney again lost possession, an error that ultimately allowed Woodward to blast home his side's fourth goal, and his second of the day, from long range.
Marquin Smith and sub Scott Tonkin added the final two goals for a comprehensive 6-1 victory, one that not only ensured the Mariners of a place in the six, but also condemned one of the competition favourites to the 2017 scrapheap.
As expected, Mariners coach Joe Haywood was delighted with the win.
"It was one of those games where we thought if we come out and press early on - and that's what we did in the first round and got ourselves two goals up (at halftime) - today we got ourselves 3-1 up, so the boys followed that plan really well," Haywood told Football NSW.
When asked what impresed him the most about his team's performance, Haywood replied: "Overall I think it was the team's overall performance, the structure; the detail that we put into the week's preparation and planning.
"Overall throughout the season we've beeen creating good chances and today, we just took all those chances."
Wanderers assistant coach Arthur Diles was absolutely gutted that his side had copped such a thrashing in their final match of the season.
"It was disappointing to lose like that," Diles told Football NSW. "On that performance we certainly don't deserve to be playing semi-finals football. We prepared well. We were confident going into the game but we were beaten by a team that did everything right. They created chances and they took them. They were more physical and more determined than us. They were desperate to win."
North Shore Mariners 6 (Braden Cheng, Marquin Smith 2, Ricky Woodward 2, Scott Tonkin) Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (Kosta Grozos)
Sunday 27 August 2017
North Shore Mariners: 1. Dominic Maunder (GK), 8. Mitch Arcosa, 10. Braden Cheng (27. Robert Kerr), 21. Aaron Davis, 35. Brian Jamba, 3. Chris Lindsay, 4. James Scott 13. Marquin Smith (9. Scott Tonkin), 18. Mitch Smith (20. Joshua Mbakwe), 28. Michael Stojanovski, 6. Ricky Woodward
Unused Subs: 41. Ryan Wood, 12. Sean Toth
Yellow Cards: 28. Michael Stojanovski, 10. Braden Cheng 41', 4. James Scott 47'
Coach: Joe Haywood
Western Sydney Wanderers: 40. Nick Suman (GK), 42. Keanu Baccus, 9. Kyle Cimenti, 5. Mathieu Cordier, 11. Kosta Grozos, 25. Jordan Hall, 22. Matthew Lecce (10. Emmanuel Gonzalez), 50. Tariq Maia, 49. Abraham Majok, 12. Noah Pagden, 24. Tate Russell (28. Lochlan Constable),
Unused Subs: 26. Thomas Aquilina, 3. Abdel Kuku, 30. Syron Mackenzie
Assistant Coach: Arthur Diles
By Derek Royal, Football NSW Reporter
Bankstown Berries 2 Mount Druitt Town Rangers 3, Popondetta Park
A three goal burst inside ten minutes, either side of half time, ensured that Mount Druitt Town Rangers confirmed their finals participation, coming over the top of Bankstown Berries with a narrow 3-2 victory in the weekend’s only Saturday fixture.
With the match ostensibly a Berries home game, switched to Popondetta Park, third-placed Rangers could have felt that they held the upper hand heading into this game, knowing that a win would place plenty of pressure on St George and Western Sydney Wanderers the following day, second spot still up for grabs. At the same time, there was no room for error as a loss for Mount Druitt Town could still see the club miss the finals entirely.
So when the Berries took the lead midway through the first half, Mitchell Farmer netting, any confident thoughts may have taken a knock, with a sense of nervousness taking over.
But just when it looked as though Rangers may head into the sheds a goal down, with plenty to think about, two penalties in the dying moments of the half turned the tables in double quick fashion.
The first came after Luke Grima was brought down in the box, Brian Griffin-Colls stepping up to draw Rangers level. Just three minutes later, Rangers earned a second spotkick when Lachlan Roberts was fouled, this time the responsibility given to Daniel Rezo to convert.
When, eight minutes after half time, Rezo scored a second, a direct freekick from outside the box finding the top corner, and putting Rangers 3-1 to the good, it must have seemed that the job was done.
But the Berries, who certainly weren’t there just to make up the numbers, brought it back to 3-2 on the hour when Jake Bradshaw scored, to keep this game competitive to the end.
Rangers held out though, and now look forward to an NPL 2 finals campaign for the second successive season.
For Rangers coach Aidan Desmond, the night ended with the right result, but it was by no means a formality.
“We were a bit lucky in the first half, though we definitely controlled the second," said Desmond. "We had a few players on some cards, two on four yellows, and one on seven, so we were always a bit wary going into this one. So maybe we let a few challenges go which normally we would have made.
“And the Berries certainly didn’t come and lay down. They were up for the game, and wanted to make a statement before their (FFA) Cup game (against Sydney FC). It got a bit willing during the last five minutes, but in the end, we got the result”.
It has been a fine season for Mount Druitt Town Rangers, who, following Sunday’s results, finished in third place on the ladder, their highest ever finish in their 47 year history.
Bankstown Berries now turn their attention to Tuesday’s blockbuster against Sydney FC in the Westfield FFA Cup.
Bankstown Berries 2 (Mitchell Farmer 22’, Jake Bradshaw 61’) v Mount Druitt Town Rangers 3 (Brian Griffin-Colls 44’ pen, Daniel Rezo 45+2’ pen, 53’)
St George 3 Marconi 2
St George snared the all important second position on the ladder with a hard fought and desperate 3-2 victory over the recently crowned Premiers Marconi, but there would be little argument that St George deserved the points.
Needing at least one point to leapfrog Mount Druitt Town Rangers back into second, it didn’t start well for the Saints when Marconi took an early lead through Judah Cleur, after just six minutes.
But an equaliser to Stevan Ilic, in his first start for nine games, brought the Saints back to level pegging, at least for a quarter of an hour or so. That was until Cleur scored his second, finishing off a neat team goal with the greatest of ease.
Four minutes before half time though, St George equalised once more, following an incisive run by Bruno Pivato straight down the middle of the park, before releasing Juan Carlos Romero, who slotted away with aplomb.
Sean Rooney moments later brought a diving save from Andrew Depta, who tipped a goal bound strike around the post
Four goals by half time, in an entertaining match, set the scene of an intriguing second half, Marconi keen to extend their run of consecutive wins, while the Saints still needed that point.
Some desperate defending by St George kept Marconi at bay in the second period, bodies at times littering the penalty area. All that work paid dividends when Pivato, linking brilliantly with Romero once more, smashed a left foot volley first time into the roof of the net, with eleven minutes to go.
St George 3 (Stevan Ilic 9’, Juan Carlos Heras Romero 41’, Bruno Pivato 79’) v Marconi 2 (Judah Cleur 6’, 25’)
St George: 1. Andrew Depta 3. Ali Nasreddine 5. Jayden McLeod 6. Bruno Pivato 7. Robbie Deasy 8. Tarik Ercan (c) 9. Stevan Ilic (4. Johnathan Kontalis 62’) 11. Jacob Sullivan 14. Jacob Bandur 20. Juan Carlos Heras Romero 34. Daniel Mitwali.
Marconi: 1. Nenad Vekic 4. Troy Danaskos 5. Michael Beauchamp (2. Stefan Dubocanin 87’) 7. Mirjan Pavlovic 8. Sean Rooney 10. Marko Jesic 12. Judah Cleur 14. Peter Pelekanos 18. Peter Triantis (19. Eros Bergamin 55’) 22. Brandon Vella (24. Richard Darko 73’) 23. Christopher Nunes (c).
Central Coast Mariners 1 Spirit FC 0
A lone goal from Brenton Fox, fifteen minutes in, was sufficient for the Mariners to see off the threat of Spirit FC in one of the weekend’s winner take all fixtures.
Pending other results, a victory for Spirit could have still seen them sneak into the finals but, by late Sunday afternoon, it was clear it would have all been in vain. Three points would still have seen Spirit fall short.
But for Central Coast, their season continues, and a home semi awaits following their fourth placed finish.
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Brenton Fox 15’) v Spirit FC 0
Central Coast Mariners: 1. Christopher Marques 2. Shelford Dais 3. Michael Glassock 6. James Enticknap 8. Thomas Lyons 9. Brenton Fox 10. Duncan Stewart (7. Lachlan Wales) 11. Peter Kekeris (4. Joshua Nisbet) 12. Jack Kuipers 16. Gianni Stensness (15. Yerasimakis Petratos) 18. Daniel McFarlane.
Spirit FC: 80. Jack Greenwood 2. Daniel Cunningham 4. Michael Streeter 5. Andrew Robertson 7. Jacob Harris (10. Chris Gomez) 8. Grant Cornwell 9. Chris Godoy Boscur (22. Andre Schroeder) 12. Louis Bozanic 14. Andre Carle 17. Ryan Johnstone 21. Zoran Kolundzic (18. Brad Gibson).
Hills United 3 Mounties Wanderers 2
Holding sixth spot leading into the weekend, Mounties would have fancied their chances against twelfth placed Hills United, but instead they left Lily Homes Stadium licking their wounds, a 2-3 loss consigning Mounties to eighth spot, and season’s end.
A Wade Giovenali goal inside five minutes put Mounties behind the eight ball, but that strike was cancelled out by player coach Neftali Gonzalez midway through the first half.
But it turned sour once more for Mounties when Michael Toscano put Hills ahead for the second time, one minute before the break but again Mounties drew level, not going down without a fight, with Todd Halloran bringing it back to 2-2 midway through the second period.
Still needing a third goal to get the win they needed, Mounties succumbed once more, substitute Divan Laubscher scoring the winner for Hills with fifteen minutes left.
Hills United 3 (Wade Giovenali 5’, Michael Toscano 44’, Divan Laubscher 75’) v Mounties Wanderers 2 (Neftali Gonzalez 24’, Todd Halloran 68’)
Hills United: 69. Alistair Bruce 5. Marcus Zarantonello 7. Wade Giovenali 9. Sean Mitchell 10. Jordan Parfait (22. Divan Laubscher) 11. Daine Merrin 12. Matthew Viera 13. Michael Toscano (35. Michael Glenfield) 15. Matias Toro Suazo 17. Brendan Hoyer 28. Keiran Pace (31. Frank Sorbello).
Mounties Wanderers: 1. Simon Jaeger 2. Tomislav Mijic 4. Todd Halloran 6. Anthony Schmidt 7. Neftali Gonzalez 9. Tai Smith 11. Mitchell Davidson (28. Hiroto Tokuichi) 12. Nathan Sansom (18. Michael Cklamovski) 13. Pasqualino Cappuccio (14. Noah Chianese) 20. Reid Taylor 29. Jake Ingle.
Northern Tigers 2 Blacktown Spartans 1
Northern Tigers claimed the sixth and final spot after a 2-1 win over Blacktown Spartans, the win lifting them above Mounties Wanderers and Western Sydney Wanderers alike.
Down 0-1 at the break, it looked bleak for Northern Tigers, perennial finalists, but two second half goals ensured that they would fight on for another day.
Macarthur Rams 5 Bankstown City 2
A hat-trick to Argentinian striker Marcelo Turdera finished off Macarthur Rams’ season in some style, the three goals contributing to a final tally of five, as the Rams put the final nail in Bankstown City’s season.
Goals to Ben Cornish and Danny Lazarevski completed the scoring for Macarthur who could even afford a red card to Cooper Hanagan, albeit in the final minutes.
Macarthur Rams 5 (Marcelo Turdera 3, Ben Cornish, Danny Lazarevski) v Bankstown City 2
Source FNSW Website -By Peter Rowney