Football has a way of writing scripts we could hardly invent.
In Round 9 of the National Premier League 2 NSW Men’s, football fans were treated to one of the most intriguing scripts of the season – as a former coach sought revenge and the relegation battle really started to heat up.
Match of the Round:
Mounties Wanderers vs St George FC
Terry Palapanis made his way over to the Football NSW cameras for his post-match interview on Saturday night.
He flung his jacket to the ground and stood in position.
“Wait just a minute”, Palapanis said.
He glanced down at his black polo and saw the unfamiliar crest of the Mounties Wanderers staring back at him.
A slight chuckle to himself, before a look of extreme satisfaction stretched across his face.
Revenge, as the old saying goes, is a dish best served cold.
On a chilly Saturday night at Cook Park, revenge was served.
After 8 Rounds of ‘will he stay or will he go’, Terry Palapanis finally parted ways with St George FC this month.
He wasted no time however, snapping up the vacant Mounties Wanderers managing role and, as the football script writers would have it, his second game in charge was against his old team.
Palapanis’s motivation to get one over his former team seemed to rub off on his new team, as the Wanderers took the lead after just four minutes.
Matthew West stood menacingly over a free-kick on the left-edge of the box. His whipped shot got a cruel deflection off the wall and bounced into the net – leaving Costa in goals stranded.
Two minutes later, West was at it again; the experienced striker getting on the end of a long ball, and thumping a half volley into the roof of the net from an acute angle.
The man with the number 99 on his back may have 99 problems but scoring goals ain’t one as he tucked away his 8th of the campaign.
St George, just as they were last week against Rydalmere, were stunned.
Their typically slick passing was nowhere to be seen as Saints’ midfielders struggled to link up with Juan Carlos Romero who carved a lonely figure up top
However as the half wore on, St George began to wrestle back possession.
Raul Beneit Romero looked threatening, dropping into little pockets of space between the Mounties’ midfield and defence.
Although on 34 minutes, it was Raul who looked to drag his side back into the contest.
His Spanish partner in crime, Juan Carlos Romero fired in a powerful free-kick that looked destined for the top corner of the net. The ball however had other plans, thundering off the underside of the cross bar and falling invitingly into the path of Raul who tapped home from close range.
St George grew in confidence after the goal and they pressed hard for an equaliser.
Although it was Mounties who should have scored the next goal.
West, looking to complete his hat-trick, drifted into the box anticipating a cross. To his surprise, he found himself in acres of space but his header bounce inches wide of the goal.
Despite the concession of goals and chances, St George went to the break having enjoyed the majority of the ball and many in the crowd felt it would only be a matter of time before they equalised in the second half.
If St George were going to find an equaliser, it would surely come from Juan Carlos Romero, and the Saints’ star man almost delivered on 67 minutes but his header soared over the bar.
An interesting battle was developing on the right flank between St George’s Christopher Arditti and Mounties’ Michael Cklamovski
Arditti fought hard to get beyond the tireless Cklamovski in left back, but the Mounties defender looked up to the task.
However with sublime touch and nimble feet, Arditti is a tricky customer to contain, and he managed to wriggle free of Cklamovski’s clutches one a couple of occasions in the second period and deliver dangerous crosses into the box.
Sadly for St George, no one could get on the end of them.
Despite the weight of possession, St George struggled to create any clear cut chances in the second half.
This was largely due to the commanding defensive performance of Mounties’ skipper, Tomislav Mijic.
Aleksander Lekoski came on late for St George in the second period and provided much needed energy for a side growing in frustration.
However his energy didn’t translate into goals for new coach Wally Savor.
With St George throwing players forward in search of a late equaliser, Mounties’ attackers benefited from the vacated space left at the back.
Wanderers substitute R Taylor almost sealed all three points late on but his shot was well smothered by Costa in goals.
Timed ticked away with painful lethargy for Mounties but seemed to race for St George in the closing stages with neither side able to conjure up one final chance.
At full-time, the Mounties players cheered proudly in celebration of a much needed three points that sees them maintain pace with the top 6.
St George looked deflated after yet another disappointing result.
“When you lose two games in a row a little bit of doubt can seep in,” said Savor.
“But I have a fantastic group of players here and we have confidence that we can get things back on track quickly”.
Palapanis raised intrigue when he suggested a couple of new signings could be making their way to Cook Park in search of a finals’ place.
“I’m definitely looking at bringing some fresh faces in. I think we’re one or two players short of having a real quality team and if we can bring in the right personnel – to go with the current crop – I’m sure we can make the finals”, stated Palapanis.
A fascinating night at Cook Park where the two biggest winners were Palapanis and Mt Druitt Town Rangers.
Saturday 28th April 2018
Cook Park, Mt Pritchard
Mounties Wanderers 2 (M. West x2)
St George FC 1 (R. Romero)
Mounties Wanderers: 1. D. Shaw, 2. T. Mijic, 4. T. Halloran, 6. A. Schmidt, 7. N. Gonzalez, 9. T. Smith, 11. M. Davidson, 13. P. Cappuccio, 18. M. Cklamovski, 20. R. Taylor, 23. A. Schroeder, 29. J. Ingle, 35. J. Viera, 99. West.
St George FC: 2. D. Loe, 3. A. Nasreddine, 4. H. Akil, 5. J. Bandur, 7. J. Heras Romero, 8. T. Ercan, 12. A. Morabito, 15. C. Arditti, 16. J. Morfitis, 17. A. Lekoski, 20. R. Beneit Romero, 21. A. Costa, 23. Brischetto.
Macarthur Rams 4 vs Parramatta FC 1
It seems fitting that the week football fans receive confirmation that Sunderland have suffered consecutive relegations and will be playing in the third tier of English football next season, Parramatta FC, after their relegation from the NPL 1, suffer a devastating 4-1 loss to rivals Macarthur, seemingly confining the Eagles to another relegation battle in 2018.
But whilst Sunderland’s fate has been sealed, there is still time for the Eagles to make a recovery.
After numerous appeals to consider how unlucky Parramatta have been so far this season, the Eagles went into this clash against the Rams with the chance to prove to all that they really were “better than their results suggest”.
However, what actually took place was far worse than what any Eagles fan could have predicted.
A 4-1 thrashing at the hands of relegation rivals Macarthur.
The game will be remembered as another exhibition of Mark Symington’s class, as he scored his 6th goal in 9 games, almost half of his team’s tally for the season.
However it will also be remembered as a lesson in taking chances.
Both teams had their chances throughout the game but Lecce’s effort was the only strike the Eagles had to show for their night’s work.
An important win for the Rams who get off the bottom of the table for the first time since Round 5.
It’s another concerning result for a once proud Parramatta and their fans will be hoping their team can turn their fortunes around next week against the Western Sydney Wanderers.
Rydalmere Lions 0 vs Hills United 6
“You’re in then you’re out, you’re up then you’re down”.
They’re the lyrics to Katy Perry’s song Hot & Cold but you would be forgiven for thinking they were the theme song to Rydalmere’s season.
Only Rydalmere could beat St George 4-0 and then the very next week lose 6-0 to Hills, getting two players sent off in the process.
Hills got the scoring underway after just twenty minutes when Bradley Robertson rose above the pack to head home from close range.
Moments later, Hills doubled their lead, this time Eoin Montford made his way up from left back, collecting a neat pass before cooly slotting past the keeper.
Although on the stroke of half-time, Hills effectively killed off the game, scoring their third of the match.
This time a free-kick wasn’t dealt with by the Rydalmere defence and the ball fell graciously into the lap of Fogarty who made no mistake from close range.
Hills could sense a Rydalmere collapse on the cards and pushed hard for more goals in the second half.
On 59 minutes, Wade Giovenali got in on the action, picking up the ball on the edge of the box before finessing a shot past the despairing keeper.
Trailing 4-0, Rydalmere’s night got even worse when Edward Stewart saw read for a last man challenge.
To compound matters, Bradley Robertson scored from the resulting free-kick, striking the ball through the wall from 18 yards.
The incredible scoring was complete in injury time as Fogarty cut in from the left and fired a fierce drive across the 6 yard box, only for a hapless Rydalmere defence to turn the ball into their own goal.
A bitterly disappointing night for Rydalmere whose bipolar form and tendency to mentally crumble in matches, has Lions fans worrying about their prospects in the league this season.
Hills, incredibly, find themselves in second position. It seems as everyone’s eyes have been focussed on the drama between St George and Mt Druitt, United have snuck under the radar to firmly place themselves in the finals’ reckoning.
Can they continue this form next week against a resurgent Mounties?
Northern Tigers 2 vs Mt Druitt Town Rangers 2
“It’s a game we should have won”, lamented Mt Druitt coach, Aidan Desmond.
However, thanks to some Tigerish resilience, it’s a game the league leaders could only draw.
In-form striker Emmanuel Gonzalez opened the scoring for the Rangers after just 22 minutes.
A trademark high-press from Mt Druitt forced an error from the Tigers defence, gifting the ball to Hiten Satoh who in turn played a delicious pass into the path of Gonzalez who lifted the ball over the onrushing keeper and into the net.
Many times this season, Mt Druitt have taken the lead and never looked back.
Although a mistake from Saliadarre in goals resulted in the referee awarding a penalty to the Tigers and Mr. Reliable Rolston stepped up and buried the spot-kick.
With scores level and news of the many other results around the grounds on the NPL 2’s Super Saturday filtering through, both sides came out with renewed vigour in the second period.
9 minutes after the resumption of play, Mt Druitt took the lead.
After noticing how high the Tigers’ keeper played off his line, Rangers’ coach Aidan Desmond encouraged his players to try their luck from long range.
One man who certainly has a long range strike in his locker stepped up and duly followed his manager’s instructions.
Gonzalez picked up the ball and from 35 yards lobbed the keeper with an incredible shot that soared into the net.
Rangers’ players’ celebrations were cut short however when the Tigers equalised again, this time through Ally Brown after great work down the left wing from Ollie Wiggin.
A typically resilient performance from the Tigers as they become only the second team in the league to take points off Mt Druitt this season.
GHFA Spirit FC 1 vs Western Sydney Wanderers 2
The Wanderers continue their climb up the table with a last-gasp victory over a brave Spirit FC.
The game began in explosive fashion, Spirit FC testing how alert Axford was in the opening minutes, forcing him into two sharp saves.
Moments later a goal-line block from Valenti prevented Spirit FC from taking a lead they arguably deserved.
After a flurry of opening chances, the game settled into a genuine arm wrestle with neither side willing to back down.
Although shortly after half-time, the deadlock was broken by a genuine goal of the season contender.
Kosta Grozos glanced up and saw the keeper off his line, overtaken by a mixture of audacity and ambition, Grozos sent a shot sailing through the air, over the keeper’s head and into the net – from 50 yards out.
Whatever Emmanuel Gonzalez can do for Mt Druitt, Kosta Grozos wanted to show he could do it better.
Buoyed by the confidence of scoring a 50-yard strike, Grozos charged forward and almost scored his second moments later, but couldn’t direct his effort on target.
Although just as it looked Western Sydney would double their lead, Spirit FC equalised through Bright Appiah.
However with just seconds left on the clock, the game changed.
Tomi Romic was sent off for handling the ball outside the box and then from the ensuing free-kick, Grozos stepped up and blasted the ball into the back of the net.
A dramatic winner from the Wanderers wizard in a game that will be remembered as ‘The Kosta Grozos Show’.
After a sluggish start to the season, the Wanderers are shaping up as genuine finals’ contenders, whereas the top six looks a land too far away for Spirit FC to arrive at.
Central Coast Mariners 1 vs Canterbury Bankstown 1
The undefeated run continues for the Mariners but with only three wins to their name after nine games, it seems greater problems lurk beneath the surface.
The Mariners have been winning many plaudits this season for their fluent football.
Although for all their youthful brilliance, the Mariners are struggling to turn impressive performances into impressive results.
This draw at home to the Berries is their fourth in a row and sees them drop down the table to 4th place.
The Mariners started the better of the two teams in this fixture and deservedly took the lead on the stroke of half-time.
A swift passing move carved a path through the middle of the Berries’ defence and allowed Emmanuel Peters to break through on goal and fire into the back of the net.
After the break, the Berries looked a different team.
Branko Culina, proving the enduring class of his tactical nous, shifted the formation of his team to prevent the Mariners playing out from the back.
However the change worked wonders as it was the Berries who gained the upper hand in the second period.
The Berries received reward for their dominance on 70 minutes as Andricopoulos was brought down in the box and Domenic Tripodi kept his cool to level the scores.
Both sides pushed hard for a winner but none was forthcoming as both coaches had to settle for a point.
Blacktown Spartans 2 vs North Shore Mariners 2
In the race for survival – every point counts.
With Macarthur Rams defeating Parramatta FC and the Berries picking up a point, the Spartans’ point against North Shore isn’t enough to keep them off the bottom of the ladder.
The Spartans opened the scoring after 27 minutes when Alex Boyadjian saw his shot deflect and fly into the net.
Although it wasn’t a lead the Spartans would hold for long as North Shore equalised just three minutes later.
However North Shore took the lead shortly after half-time, much to the frustration of the home crowd.
A large part of the Spartans’ problems this season has been their lack of ability to score goals, but one man who frequently stands up in times of need is Peter Crevani.
63 minutes, Crevani stood tall once more, converting a penalty to level scores once more.
New manager Nick Porreca brought on Jack Press with 20 minutes remaining and it almost proved to be a stroke of genius as Press latched onto a through ball before unleashing a strike that beat the keeper but smacked into the post.
North Shore, fresh off their last minute heroics against Mounties last week, pushed hard for a winner but despite a late onslaught of corners, couldn’t nab a winner.
A frustrating draw for the Mariners who sit on the edge of the top 6.
An important point for the Spartans but there is an increasing anxiety at Blacktown Football Park that can only be appeased by wins.
Finally, Football NSW and the whole NPL community would like to wish Spartans’ former coach Luis Contigiani all the best in his bid to return to full health.
As the journalist for the NPL 2 competition, Luis has always been a true gentleman in all my interactions with him and I’m hopeful we will see him return to a coaching role in the near future.
Source FNSW website - By Ryan Latty
Next Week’s Fixtures:
St George FC vs Blacktown Spartans
Hills United vs Mounties Wanderers
Canterbury Bankstown vs GHFA Spirit FC
Rydalmere Lions vs Macarthur Rams
Mt Druitt Town Rangers vs Central Coast Mariners
Western Sydney Wanderers vs Parramatta FC
North Shore Mariners vs Northern Tigers