At the end of the season, every coach and fan looks back at one round that changed it all – for better or for worse. They look back at that one fixture where, from then on, everything was different.
This could be that round.
With battles at both the top and bottom of the table, there is everything to gain and everything to lose in Round 7 of the NPL 2 NSW Men’s competition.
Match of the Round:
Hills United vs St George FC – Saturday 14th April – 7pm – Lily Homes Stadium
Hills United are making a serious case to be counted amongst the leading contenders this season.
Their fantastic form in recent weeks has made many of the competition’s big boys sit up and take notice.
Chief of the pack, looking alarmingly over their shoulder, is St George FC.
The Saints were crowned by many as likely champions of the NPL 2 in season 2018 – before a ball was even kicked.
Although serious assaults on their crown have come from the likes of Mt Druitt Rangers and the Central Coast Mariners, but now, Hills United are ready to siege the Saints’ castle and lay claim to their crown.
However, this castle is defended by two of Spain’s most fearsome guards.
Juan Carlos Heras Romero and Raul Beneit Romero – and these two won’t relinquish the crown easily.
This match sure promises to be one to remember as Hills United’s premiership credentials are put to the sternest test against a highly fancied St George FC side.
Blacktown Spartans vs Canterbury Bankstown – Saturday 14th April – 7pm – Blacktown Football Park
Not since Leonidas and his legion of 300 men faced the ruthlessness of the Persian army in 480 BC have the Spartans faced this level of peril.
The statistics don’t make pleasant reading.
The fewest goals scored of any team in the league. 360 minutes since their last goal. Without a goal since the opening round. Lost three games out of their last four.
Like I said, these are dark days for the men in orange and black.
Furthermore, after Canterbury Bankstown secured their first victory in emphatic fashion against Mounties last round, I’m sure the Berries seem every bit as formidable as the might of Xerxes’s army.
Branko Culina’s assessment of the Berries when he took over was simple:
“This is a team lacking confidence”.
So the root of all Berries’ problems was an absence of confidence. Not ability.
With the Berries securing their confidence back, how far can they go?
With both teams desperate for a victory on Saturday night to escape the clutches of a relegation battle, this match promises to be a battle for the history books of the NPL 2 NSW Men’s.
Macarthur Rams vs GHFA Spirit FC – Saturday 14th April – 7pm – Lynwood Park
I wonder if you know how it really feels to be left outside alone?
There’s a party going on in the NPL 2 NSW Men’s at the moment and it seems everyone’s been given an invitation, except for the Rams.
Macarthur sit bottom of the league, on their own, with just one point to their name after six rounds.
It’s the loneliest place to be, especially when the teams around you – Canterbury Bankstown and Parramatta FC – are running off into the horizon without you.
Macarthur will be buoyed by the fact their opponents in this match, Spirit FC, come into this game in similarly poor form.
After a promising start to the season, Spirit FC have lost their last two games, against Northern Tigers and a heavy defeat to Central Coast Mariners.
The defeat against the Mariners stung particularly hard as the debut match at Christie Park turned into a cremation rather than a christening.
Although David Perkovic is an astute coach, his discipleship of Pep Guardiola, has crafted him into a savvy tactician of the game.
Perkovic can only hope the Macarthur Rams head coach doesn’t channel his inner Jurgen Klopp, otherwise Spirit FC could be in for a difficult night at Lynwood Park on Saturday.
Northern Tigers FC vs Western Sydney Wanderers – Saturday 14th April – 7pm – North Turramurra Recreation Area
Were the Wanderers so confident in their own ability that they decided to give the other teams in the competition a head start this season?
After three defeats in the opening three rounds, this seemed like the only explanation to justify a bemusingly poor start.
Since those opening three defeats, the Wanderers have begun to look more like themselves, collecting maximum points in their next three games – thanks largely to the form of Lachlan Scott and Abraham Majok.
These two football stars of tomorrow (what a show that was) have been responsible for 11 of their side’s 15 goals this season.
Although it hasn’t just been goals these two are responsible for.
The Wanderers look a more confident side when these two are on the pitch. The other players on the pitch look expectantly at the deadly duo, hoping, believing, that they will get the Wanderers out of trouble.
Undoubtedly, the pair will be salivating at the chance to attack a Northern Tigers defence that have conceded more goals than any other side in the top nine. Thirteen goals conceded in just six games, at a rate of more than two per game, is a worrying statistic for Jason Eagar’s men.
The Tigers will need to rectify the defensive problems that have plagued them in the early rounds of this season if they are to stand any chance of overcoming a Wanderers side playing with renewed spirit and confidence.
Mounties Wanderers vs Mt Druitt Town Rangers – Sunday 15th April – 1pm – Sydney United Sports Centre
On paper, Mounties Wanderers have one of the most lethal attacks, and teams, in the league; but, as the old saying goes, football isn’t played on paper.
As Mounties are finding out, talent on a team sheet does not necessarily translate to results on the field.
Last week’s defeat to Canterbury Bankstown was another example of the diabolical depths Mounties can, and have plunged to this season.
At their best, Mounties can beat anyone in the league. Just ask Spirit FC and Parramatta FC.
At their worst, Mounties can be beaten by anyone in the league.
Their inconsistency is proving a hurdle that the Wanderers continue to trip over this season.
They sit 9th in the league, with the teams above them rapidly slipping out of reach.
One team who are almost out of reach, not just of the Wanderers but of many others in the competition, is Mt Druitt.
The Rangers have raced to 16 points this season, winning 5 of their opening 6 games.
Aidan Desmond’s team look to have struck a balance between attacking prowess and defensive solidarity – Hiten Satoh and Alexander Vlismas up front, with Carlos Saliadarre in goals.
Two teams that love to attack is a recipe for one sumptuous cake that will be served up for football fans on Sunday afternoon at Sydney United Sports Centre.
North Shore Mariners vs Rydalmere Lions FC – Sunday 15th April – 7pm – Valentine Sports Park No. 2
Loss, win, loss, win, loss.
It doesn’t take a genius to see a pattern there, or to know what should come next.
The pattern above is Rydalmere’s form over the past 5 games and if they are to keep to script, their defeat last round should be followed up with a win this week.
If Rydalmere are going to continue with their loss/win formula, then they need Zak Elrich to continue his scintillating form.
The elusive playmaker has danced around defenders for fun this season, contributing two goals in the opening five games.
However the burden of Rydalmere’s season is far too heavy for Elrich to shoulder on his own and Lions’ fans will be hoping Amaury Gauthier and Michael Konestabo come to join the Elrich party.
There have been no parties at North Shore Mariners’ headquarters in recent weeks. Two defeats on the bounce have seen the Mariners slip back down into the cluster of teams in mid-table obscurity.
Another defeat here would make it three in a row for the Mariners’ side and create on steep hill for the North Shore boys to climb for the rest of the season.
Central Coast Mariners vs Parramatta FC – Monday 16th April – 7:15 – Pluim Park No. 1
Monday night football is coming to the NPL 2 NSW Men’s – for this week.
A shift in kick-off times and field availability has meant the re-schedule of this clash to the Monday night, giving fans a long weekend of football to feast on.
The Central Coast Mariners are shaping as a genuine Premiership contender this season, alongside St George and Mt Druitt.
Whilst Mt Druitt and St George blow teams away with a glut of goals, the Mariners are building their success off a foundation of defensive resoluteness.
Having only conceded three goals in five, the Mariners have the best defence in the league and are one of only two teams who remain undefeated.
Consider they’ve played one less game than the teams around them and the Mariners could potentially be in second, just two points behind leaders Mt Druitt.
Cast your eyes further down the table and it feels like a long time before you see the name ‘Parramatta FC’ appear.
The Eagles finally got a rather heavy monkey off their back last round, winning their first league game at Melita Stadium since the 11th March 2017!
Eagles’ fans will be hoping it’s not quite as long before they see their team win again this season, but expecting three points against a magnificent Mariners side could be a wish no magician could grant.
Source FNSW website - By Ryan Latty