That’s a wrap! The National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s 2018 regular season has come to a close with a weekend of highly entertaining football.
There were cheers and celebrations, but not all winners were granted their wish.
Who claimed the wooden spoon and which of the mix made the Finals cut?
Match of the Round: St. George FC v GHFA Spirit FC
This week’s match of the round served up the goods as both St George and Spirit clashed head on in what would result as a fantastic contest to wrap up the regular season.
Spirit were playing in a must win game and boy did their intent to win show from the outset.
The visitors immediately went on the attack in the opening stanza and were rewarded after less than 10 minutes when they regathered possession and raced towards the goal with Bozanic capping off the move.
Spirit kept up the pressure and St George were finding it difficult to gain any rhythm with only a handful of moments finding themselves deep in enemy territory.
It was no surprise when Spirit doubled their advantage mid-way through the first half. Capitalising on a cheap turnover, West was in on goal and made no mistake, firing home.
If recent form is something to go by, then you knew the Saints were not dead yet. They began to pull the pieces together and make a mark in the match.
That mark came in the shape of Romero who weaved his magic on the edge of the box to beat some defenders then whipped a left footed shot into the net. A goal back and game on.
End to end the action would run and both sides were playing at full tilt.
Eventually it would be Spirit who would maintain the advantage heading into the half. Just minutes before the break Bozanic got in behind and netted his second for the afternoon. Despite cries for offside, the referee overruled, and the goal stood.
As the players returned to the field, the end to end action kept up.
St George will be ruing that they didn’t take their chances as they seemed to be the most likely to get the breakthrough early in the second half. Numerous occasions the home side put themselves in goal scoring situations but uncharacteristically they did not finish.
The intense contest affair began to reach boiling point as frustrations came to the surface with cards brandished for both sides.
Yet, Spirit, desperate to claim a finals spot kept on pushing and were rewarded with just over 10 minutes to play. On the end of a set-piece was Bozanic again who completed his hat-trick and sealed the match.
St George did themselves little favours if there was any hope to manage some form of a comeback when they were reduced to 10 men. However, as the game fizzled out the Saints grabbed a consolation goal through Lekoski,
A very well-deserved win for an elated Spirit, unfortunately they were on the receiving end of bad news upon full time. Results around the grounds meant that despite the big win, they miss out on finals by the finest of goal difference margins.
Sunday 26th August, Ilinden Sports Centre
St George 2 (Romero, Lekoski)
GHFA Spirit FC 4 (Bozanic x3, West)
St George: H. Akil, J. Bandur, M. Da Silva Santos, C. Jeong, B. Kubecka, A. Kyriacou, A. Lekoski, D. Loe, A. Morabito, J. Morfitis, A. Nasreddine, T. Norval, P. O’Shea, N. Paras, J. Romero, A. Costa
GHFA Spirit FC: L. Bozanic, P. Cappuccio, A. Carle, D. Colosimo, G. Cornwell, J. Forster, M. Ireland, R. Johnstone, T. Lovell, E. Manos, A. Robertson, A. Sweedan, M. West, D. Whitlock, L. Zacharopoulos, T. Romic
Hills United FC 2 vs. Central Coast Mariners 0
The clash was just as important for both sides albeit for very different reasons.
Hills still had hope of making a finals berth and needed a win first then results to go their way. Whilst Central Coast desperately needed to find some rhythm to their game and get the confidence levels back up to peak for the finals.
It would be the hosts who came out with the clearer intent as they grabbed the lead within the first minute of the match.
Beginning with an excellent move across the park, Fogarty unleashed a shot which was only parried into the path of Rayner who pounced and nodded home to fire up the home-side.
Not only did Hills fire up, but also the Mariners who began to find the rhythm they had been lacking and the match began to play out end to end.
An exciting display for the spectators as chances came flowing for each side and both keepers to their credit made excellent saves to keep the game alive.
Midway through the first half Hills would find the mark again, when Robertson drilled home a free kick.
Back out from the sheds for the second half the Mariners came out to play and were given a break when they got in behind and an attempted lob over the keeper saw him handle the ball outside the box and Hills reduced to 10 men.
From there the Mariners dominated the possession but as it has been of recent times, they were unable to capitalise and convert their chances.
Hills would hold on for victory, but on the day and despite the win, they did not have enough points in the bank to creep into a Finals spot this time around.
North Shore Mariners 2 vs. Parramatta FC 2
Returning home for the final fixture of the regular season, North Shore wanted to fortify their home record by knocking off the Eagles.
It was no surprises who got their noses ahead first in this one.
Scoring twice in quick succession midway through the first half, North Shore perhaps would have thought the game was done and dusted.
However, in their last match of the NPL 2, the Eagles had something to prove and swooped in.
Despite losing a man with 30 minutes to play, Parramatta found the spirit of the once mighty club lurking in their boots and rallied.
10 minutes to go it was 2-1 then with injury time looming the Eagles netted another.
On the day though it would end in evens and there would be no final win to send off the Eagles.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers 2 vs. Western Sydney Wanderers 1
Rangers having already booked themselves a rest next week, took it to the Wanderers instead of slacking off.
Out of the sheds and straight into attack mode, O’Leary netted within 10 minutes and from there it would be all Rangers.
When you are in cruise control such as the Rangers were, chances seem to flow and in football it often doesn’t always go your way. Fortunately for the hosts, Grima bagged the second just before half time to give a comfortable advantage.
Yet, there was some fight back from the Wanderers just after halftime when Monahan-Vaiika scored but that sole goal would be the only real threat the Rangers would allow.
After 26 Rounds the Green and Yellow has begun their clean sweep of season 2018. Having already collected the Minor Premiership and now Club Championship, their eyes are firmly set on the treble by ascending the finals heap and lifting the Championship.
Mounties Wanderers 4 vs. Blacktown Spartans FC 1
Each side needed a win.
One could grant a finals berth, the other a chance to scrape away from the wooden spoon.
It was surprising then to see the score read 0-0 at the break. Neither side was able to convert their chances and break down the defensive lines.
Come the second half it was an entirely different tale.
Mounties again came out of the sheds firing, perhaps a bit of magic from the words of coach Palapanis.
Schroeder banged home early in the second half then Chianese nodded one in a couple of minutes later and it seemed to be all but over for Spartans.
Yet they were not prepared to give in just yet and as the midpoint of the second half passed they netted one back to make it interesting heading into the final 20 odd minutes of play.
Despite their defensive resolve for much of the match, Spartans would be breached twice more by Davidson late in the game to seal the result for Mounties.
They will now go marching into the finals whilst the wooden spoon will be painted in the orange hue of the Spartans.
Canterbury Bankstown FC 0 vs. Macarthur Rams FC 2
When there is little much to play for in the last game of the season, it is often difficult to find the right mindset and perform as you would in an earlier round.
Berries were met by a Rams side that did not want to claim the wooden spoon and all its glory.
To that end, Macarthur perhaps pulled the greatest magic trick of the 2018 season.
Bagging a goal early in the match then another before halftime was enough for the Rams to secure the win meaning they jumped into safety well above the wooden spoon. Their recent turnaround and display on the afternoon complimented their own rendition of the great escape.
Rydalmere Lions FC 0 vs. Northern Tigers FC 1
It was yet another fixture where both sides had the potential to make the last 2 finals spots on the ladder.
When such a fixture arrives it often brings the tension out onto the field and the game for the most part certainly played out that way.
Rydalmere feeling confident that a win would grant them a finals berth pressed the Tigers from the outset and it was some desperate defending that kept the visitors in it by the skin of their teeth.
Each side played with an uplifted intensity and as tense matches often run, chances would arise and just slip away.
Finally, the game found its winner with only minutes to go.
Late in the game McConaghy headed home sending the Tigers into 5th and the finals, whilst the Lions can be proud of their season, as it now comes to a close.
Source FNSW website By Marcus Flottmann