It’s the league you have to see to believe.
So let us be your eyes and ears and take you through another enthralling round of football in the National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s.
Match of the Round: North Shore Mariners vs St George FC
The scene was set.
A capacity crowd crammed together on the stoney ridge above Northbridge Oval, the pitch lowered beneath their collective gaze – a Colosseum awaiting its gladiators for another epic battle.
Although sadly, before a quarter of the contest had even transpired, one of the most prized fighters was forced to bow out.
St George captain Tarik Ercan hobbled off the field after just 21 minutes, unable to recover from the injury sustained in a tackle moments after kick-off.
Without their general, organising and leading his men, it came as little coincidence when the North Shore Mariners opened the scoring three minutes after Ercan limped off.
Mitchell Smith latched onto a hopeful long pass, before cutting inside on his right foot and curling a shot-turned-cross towards the back post. Joshua Mbakwe zipped in behind the covering defender, and with an out-stretched leg, poked the ball across the keeper and into the side netting.
The home fans cheered wildly inside the Northbridge colosseum.
However their cheers turned to tears just seconds later as Hussein Akil pounced on a long ball and scooped a shot over the onrushing keeper and into the back of the net.
The local chiropractors in the Northbridge area will be getting worked overtime this week as the fans huddled on the stoney hill craned their necks back and forth, trying to keep up with the incessant long balls being played by both teams.
And with neither side offering more than a game of force-em-back, the referee blew his whistle for half-time with the scores locked at 1-1.
When the players emerged from the interval, the twilight sky had morphed into a blanket of purple and black as the feeble floodlights tried earnestly to light up the ground.
Thankfully cricket rules don’t apply and the game wasn’t abandoned due to poor light.
Perhaps North Shore’s Chris Deblaere was blaming the poor light when, 5 minutes after the break, he lost the ball coming out of trouble, allowing Nicholas Paras to collect possession and lift the ball over the top to find his unmarked teammate, Patrick O’Shea.
Showing immense patience, O’Shea waited for the ball to drop into his lap before firing a fierce strike into the bottom corner of the goals.
Mariners cach, Joe Haywood, responded immediately, thrusting Marquin Smith and Lee Jones into the action.
And the substitutes combined almost immediately to draw the Mariners level.
‘Quinny’ Smith, adored by the Northbridge faithful, caressed a ball over the St George defenders’ heads, before a collision of bodies left the referee pointing to the spot.
Lee Jones stepped up confidently and powered his shot into the bottom left corner of the goal.
The goal instilled tangible belief and confidence in the Mariners who began a 10 minute onslaught on the Saints’ goal.
The North Shore side peppered the St George back line with long balls, looking to get in behind, or win the knock-down from which they could attack.
St George looked rattled, and with arguably the only man who could sail them through such rocky seas sitting injured on the bench, Wally Savor looked on anxiously.
The brutal onslaught from the Mariners showed no signs of stopping until they had got their winning goal and it finally came through Frederick Ankumah-Sey.
Again, Mitchell Smith raced through the hapless St George defence, before delivering an inch-perfect cross for the affectionately named, ‘Fred’ to finish from close-range.
The waves of Mariners attacks mercifully eased after the third goal, but the firm grip Haywood’s men had on the match never looked like loosening as the clock ticked towards full-time.
In the end, a 10 minute spell of ‘blitzkrieg’ pressure was enough for the Mariners to run out deserved winners and firmly entrench themselves in the competition’s top four teams.
St George coach, Wally Savor will be sweating on the fitness of Ercan, whose absence left a three-point shaped hole in the Saints’ defence.
Match Stats: Northbridge Oval – Sunday July 1, 2018
North Shore Mariners 3 (J. Mbakwe, L. Jones, F. Ankumah-Sey)
St George FC 2 (H. Akil, P. O’Shea)
North Shore Mariners: D. Maunder, C. Lindsay, J. Scott, R. Woodward, B. Jamba, M. Smith, F. Ankumah-Sey, J. Mbakwe, C. Deblaere, M. Smith, A. Davis, M. Arcosa, L. Jones.
St George FC: B. Kubkecka, D. Loe, A. Nasreddine, H. Akil, P. O’Shea, M. Da Silva Santos, T. Ercan, J. Romero, N. Paras, A. Morabito, C. Jeong, A. Lekoski, T. Norval, A. Costa, L. Tweneboa, A. Kyriacou.
Macarthur Rams 0 vs Central Coast Mariners 3
They say the sign of a true champion is being able to win when you’re not at your best.
If that saying is true, we may well be looking at a potential champion here.
The Central Coast Mariners weren’t at their brilliant best on Saturday night but three goals was enough to secure another three points and take Ken Schembri’s men to within two points of the top of the table.
Matthias Paz scored his first goal since the 11th April when he lost his marker inside the box and smashed the ball home from point blank range.
It was the ideal start for the Mariners who haven’t lost a game in which they’ve scored first in all season.
Knowing they’d have to overturn this ominous statistic, and knowing they’d have to breach the best defence in the league, the Rams looked bereft of confidence as the half drew to a close.
Conversely, the Central Coast boys oozed composure as they emerged for the second half, and it was little surprise when they doubled their lead on 50 minutes.
Matthias Paz, who had waited 810 minutes for his 5th goal of the season, only had to wait 25 minutes for his 6th of the campaign, when he latched onto a Michael Glassock cross and drove the ball into the back of the net.
Trailing by two, Macarthur threw men forward in search of a way back into the game, but as they committed numbers to attack, they forsook their defensive responsibilities, ultimately affording Amer Abdullah space to run in behind, dance around the keeper and roll the ball into an unguarded net.
Groans from the home fans met the sound of the referee’s whistle at full-time as the Rams’ board look to make room in the trophy cabinet for the dreaded wooden spoon that seems destined to make its way to Lynwood Park for 2018.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers 2 vs Hills United 1
Aidan Desmond set out his Rangers players with one simple plan on Saturday night:
Stop Daniel Fogarty and you stop Hills.
As simplistic as that plan might sound, it proved to be an effective one as Desmond’s Druitt looked as though they had cruise control switched on as they coasted to a much needed victory.
Nicholas Trimble opened the scoring as he rose through a cloud of fog to glance a header home from a well-worked corner move.
Moments before half-time Emmanuel Gonzalez doubled the home side’s lead, after a mazy run in the box saw Gonzalez drop his right shoulder, sending the keeper to the floor, before strolling past him and flicking the ball into the back of the net.
There was time for Hills to snatch a late goal through Pete Cejka as Mt Druitt lost concentration for a brief moment, but that momentary blip was only a small blemish on a thoroughly impressive performance by the home side who fend off the advances of the Central Coast Mariners for another week.
Canterbury Bankstown 1 vs Rydalmere Lions 0
So often in football, strikers get all the plaudits.
The ones who score the goals are typically the ones whose names end up in lights.
However football is a team game, and sometimes, the man between the sticks can be as important as the one who puts the ball in the back of the net.
This was one of those games.
Chad Taylor defied age and physics on multiple occasions to deny Rydalmere, pulling off some stunning saves en-route to a man of the match performance that certainly pleased Branko Culina.
Taylor’s heroics were complimented by tireless performances across the park for Canterbury Bankstown; indeed it was the dogged determination of Richie Darko that secured the game’s only, decisive goal.
Darko pounced on a loose back pass from a Rydalmere defender, before converting past a deserted keeper.
Rydalmere coach, Tony Basha reflected on the game as, ‘one of those nights’, where you huff and you puff but simply can’t blow the opposition’s house down.
Luckily for the Lions, teams around them on the table dropped points meaning they maintain their place in the top six – but for how long?
GHFA Spirit FC 1 vs Northern Tigers 4
After not scoring for three games, the Northern Tigers put four past a resurgent Spirit FC to prove to the rest of the competition two important facts:
They do know where the back of the net is.
Their chances of making the top six are still alive.
With both Spirit FC and the Northern Tigers hovering just outside the finals’ places, this match shaped as a fantastic opportunity for one team to extinguish the hopes of a genuine top six rival, whilst also re-igniting the flame of their own final’s chances.
Lucas Dawson doesn’t often get his name on the scoresheet but he showed great persistence on 26 minutes, following up his first effort that proved too hot for Tomi Romic, to thump the ball home.
The defence that had earned Spirit FC two clean sheets in a row seemed to have abandoned them in this match as the Northern Tigers struck again moments before the interval, this time through Will Foristal, after a slick passing move.
David Perkovic’s message at half-time highlighted the importance of his team being the next to score, if they were to get anything from this match.
Although just 8 minutes into the second half, the Northern Tigers looked to have sealed all three points.
After seeing an example of how to finish from Foristal and Dawson, Mcconaghy leapt through the air to meet a cross and guide an exquisite header past Romic in goals.
Jason Eagar is blessed with two distinctly different strikers.
Mcconaghy, the experienced aerial threat, with bullishly hold up play, he brings teammates into the game with astute touches and movement.
Rory Spiers, his blistering pace and determined running is a nightmare for opposition defences and Eagar has often used Spiers late to test the weary legs of tiring defenders.
And it proved another masterstroke as Spiers burst in behind, and finished cooly past Romic once more.
The home fans at Christie park did have something to cheer when captain Grant Cornwell scored a late consolation, but the muted celebrations from Perkovic’s players told you all you needed to know as a disappointing performance dealt a significant blow to Spirit FC’s finals’ chances
Parramatta FC 1 vs Blacktown Spartans 0
A week is a long time in football.
Just 7 days ago, Jack Musgrave rolled the ball across the centre of the park, only for it to be intercepted by Juan Carlos Romero, who raced through on goal and scored one of the simplest goals of his career.
Fast forward to today and Jack Musgrave is rising
One moment you’re making a horrible error in front of goal, allowing the opposition to score a crucial goal and ultimately win the game.
The next you’re scoring an incredible goal in the final 10 minutes of a match to seal a priceless three points for your team.
This win sees Parramatta leapfrog the Spartans into 12th, but more importantly, it gives the Eagles much needed points on the Club Championship table.
The great escape may yet be on for the Eagles and their faithful fans, but Leo Carle’s men will need another potent performance when they travel to the Northern Tigers next weekend.
Blacktown were brave but ultimately fell short at Melita Stadium.
Although for Nick Porreca, the objective is nothing loftier than to simply stay in the division.
The Spartans will quickly switch their attention to their clash with the woeful Wanderers next weekend.
Western Sydney Wanderers 0 vs Mounties Wanderers 2
Games are decided by moments, and in the moments that mattered, it was Juan Carlos Romero who stepped up to seal all three points for Terry Palapanis and his Mounties’ side.
The Sydney United Sports Centre has been kind to the Mounties in recent weeks as the black and gold boys have secured back-to-back victories on the hallowed astro turf to shoot right back into finals’ contention.
And a key figure in their finals’ chances is superstar striker, Juan Carlos Romero.
After a difficult early spell at Mounties, Romero has now scored four goals in two games as he begins to emulate the dazzling form he displayed earlier in the season at St George.
In a tight match against their fellow ‘Wandering’ rivals, Romero truly was the difference as the Western Sydney side saw numerous efforts roll inches wide or even rebound off the post, whilst the Mounties’ clinical edge secured them a precious three points that all but ends Western Sydney’s chances of playing finals’ football, and breathes new life into Mounties’ own top six ambitions.
Source FNSW website By Ryan Latty