A clash between first and second headlines this weekend’s set of games, but that game is far from the only highlight, with six other compelling contests for fans to feast on.
What will happen this week in the National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s competition?
Match of the Round: North Shore Mariners v Hills United, 3:30pm Sunday 23 June, Northbridge Oval
There could only be one choice for Match of the Round this week: the top of the table blockbuster between North Shore Mariners and Hills United. Both teams are coming off narrow victories, with Hills scraping past Northern Tigers, and North Shore needing second half stoppage time to turn a 1-0 deficit against Macarthur Rams into a 2-1 victory.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of Mitchell Smith to North Shore. It was his injury time double that rescued the three points last weekend, and he has scored exactly 40% of his team’s goals this season (14 out of 35). Smith could well be the fox in the box again on Sunday, but North Shore have other weapons, such as the speedy Joshua Mbakwe.
Hills, who managed to bounce back on Saturday after a disappointing Round 15 defeat to Bonnyrigg, also have a pacey frontline with the likes of Daniel Fogarty and Adolph Koudakpo. Patrick Zwaanswijk’s side offer more than just quick breaks though, and they’ll look to Daine Merrin and Jacob Basden for buildup through the midfield.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles v St George FC, 6:30pm Saturday 22 June, Bonnyrigg Sports Club
The teams go into this fixture experiencing vastly different emotions from the weekend. Bonnyrigg prevailed against Mounties following a battle at Cook Park, while the Saints let their lead over Canterbury slip in the final 15 minutes.
Bonnyrigg have only lost once at Bonnyrigg Sports Club all season. Still a point outside the top six, the White Eagles need to make home advantage count on Saturday, as they have six away games in the final nine rounds. Repeat performances from Asmir Kadric and Aaron Peterson will boost their chances of victory – the pair were a real handful against Mounties while Goran Subara took care of Mark Bridge in the club’s victory over the Mounties Wanderers last weekend.
Meanwhile, St George FC always threaten in attack, especially after the addition of in-form Juan Carlos Romero (three goals in four games) to a talented front third. If the Saints defence can match the forwards, they have every chance of victory, and this is where Jacob Bandur and Musashi Kokubo could be crucial.
Blacktown Spartans v Mounties Wanderers, 7:00pm Saturday 22 June, Blacktown Football Park
It’s sixth versus fifth in Rooty Hill, and both sides will be looking to put some ground between them and the teams chasing a finals spot.
The Spartans now have three wins in a row, and they are in a much stronger position following some difficult periods earlier in the campaign. Connor Eldridge continues to impress, grabbing another goal on the weekend and combining well with new signing Finley Hayhurst, while Shun Tokuno is an excellent supply line.
Mounties had their four game winning streak ended on Saturday, however there were positives. The unmistakable Bruno Pivato scored a goal as good as his hair against Bonnyrigg, and Mark Bridge played the full 90 minutes – he appears to be settling in to his new surroundings.
Northern Tigers v GHFA Spirit FC, 7:00pm Saturday 22 June, North Turramurra Recreation Area
These teams will be extremely keen to grab the three points, albeit for contrasting reasons: the Tigers need a victory to keep a finals place in their sights, and Spirit FC know that a win moves them up to at least second place.
Northern Tigers can mix it with anyone in this league on their day, however too many draws (six, the most in the competition), have left them needing to catch up over the second half of the season. They’ll be glad to be back on their home (artificial) turf after a run of four consecutive away games, especially as Shervin Adeli has scored in each of his last three outings at North Turramurra Recreation Area.
Spirit have been operating well at both ends of the field in recent weeks. Duncan Stewart and Travis Cooper scored again on the weekend, and the defence (led by skipper Grant Cornwell) has been equally impressive, keeping three consecutive clean sheets. Credit must also go to goalkeeper Tomi Romic, who made a huge penalty save at a crucial time in Saturday’s game against Rydalmere.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Macarthur Rams, 7:00pm Saturday 22 June, Sydney United Sports Centre
This Saturday night clash at Sydney United Sports Centre sees two teams looking for an upturn in form. The Wanderers are still in a reasonably good position, only five points off the top, but have not won in over a month. Meanwhile, Macarthur need points quickly in their quest to avoid relegation.
The Red & Black’s most recent win (back in Round 11) was also the last time Arthur Diles’s side kept a clean sheet, so keeping it tight at the back will be a priority. On the plus side, Mohamed Adam found the net again to take his tally to a league-high 15 goals – the young forward has scored in 13 out of his 16 appearances this season.
For the Rams, Philip Hasiuk deserved his goal in last week’s match against North Shore, and he was assisted by good performances from Mitchell Arcosa and Yusuke Maruyama. Although they didn’t get a result, Macarthur should gain confidence from pushing a title contender all the way.
Canterbury Bankstown FC v St George City FA, 7:00pm Saturday 22 June, The Crest Athletic Centre
Two teams who came from behind to win on the weekend will meet at The Crest. Canterbury left it late, but were able to secure a vital victory over St George FC, while St George City FA overcame a slow start to defeat Central Coast.
Canterbury have generally struggled to find goals this year, so a three goal performance against the Saints is exactly what they need to catch up to the rest. Plenty of new faces means they need to gel quickly, but the ability is there. Zak Elrich has started life as a Canterbury player well, with four goals in four games, and there is defensive experience in the form of Mathew Clowes and Patrick Gatt.
Another victory for St George City FA would see them continue an unlikely push for finals football. They also have some new signings, the most recent being Japanese midfield maestro Hiten Satoh, who scored what would prove to be the deciding goal on Sunday. City can also call upon the Kumsuz brothers (Tacettin and Kerim), and if those three fire then the top six may yet be within reach alongside promising youngster Reuben Awaritefe.
Rydalmere Lions v Central Coast Mariners, 7:00pm Saturday 22 June, Valentine Sports Park No. 2
Valentine Sports Park is the venue for this clash between two teams aiming to kick start their season. Rydalmere have now lost five in a row, and Central Coast are winless over the last four rounds.
The Lions had many good spells against Spirit last weekend, however an inability to take chances cost them dearly. Rydalmere are another side with some new signings that need to blend in, so the leadership of senior players such as Christopher Nunes will be even more important than usual.
After making the finals in each of the last two seasons, this campaign is starting to slip away for the Mariners. Only one clean sheet all season means Nick Montgomery has some work to do at the back, but further forward there is potential with the likes of Kyle Johnson and Michael Katsoulis.
By Eric Subijano
Twitter – @eric_subijano
Source FNSW Website