Round 20 Preview – NPL 2 NSW Men’s

Round 20 of the National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s competition has big games at both ends of the table. Some teams are aiming for a top two finish, others are looking to sneak into the finals, and the relegation battle is also heating up.

Match of the Round: Central Coast Mariners v Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 3:00pm Sunday 14 July, Pluim Park No. 1

This weekend’s featured game takes us up the coast to Pluim Park for a Sunday afternoon clash between Central Coast Mariners and Bonnyrigg White Eagles. Both sides are well in the mix for finals football, with the Mariners sitting in eighth and Bonnyrigg currently in sixth.

Central Coast displayed a variety of attacking threats in Saturday’s win over Canterbury. Matthew Hatch has been an unlikely scoring hero in recent home fixtures, and the left back has two goals in the last three matches at Pluim Park. Nick Montgomery will be pleased that his subs were able to get on the scoresheet last time out – Joshua Nisbet came on at halftime and netted twice, while Mark Moric made an immediate impact after joning the club from Rijeka.

However, the White Eagles are unbeaten in over a month, and have defeated three top six teams in that time (Hills United, Mounties and Spirit FC). This period has also seen Asmir Kadric find form in front of goal, and the pacey striker has netted five times in five weeks, including a match-winning double on the weekend. A continuation of that form may help Bonnyrigg coach Wayne O’Sullivan record a victory against his former club.

Blacktown Spartans v GHFA Spirit FC, 7:00pm Saturday 13 July, Blacktown Football Park No. 1

In-form Blacktown Spartans host Spirit FC on Saturday night, and this game could play a big part in deciding who makes the finals.

The Spartans begin the weekend sitting just outside the top six on goal difference. They showed good character last time out, grabbing a huge win after trailing twice on Saturday. That victory made it five wins in six rounds, and Paul Hubbard’s men will be hoping that Connor Eldridge finds the net again – the Spartans are undefeated this season when he scores (six wins and two draws).

Spirit FC are in 3rd, but with only four points separating them from their seventh placed opponents, a win would be massive as they look to break away from the teams just below them on the ladder. Recent history favours David Perkovic’s men, who haven’t lost to the Spartans since April 2017. However, Spirit will need to avoid a repeat of the mistakes that cost them against Bonnyrigg.

St George FC v Macarthur Rams, 7:00pm Saturday 13 July, Ilinden Sports Centre

A massive game in the context of the relegation battle, and these sides need the points to climb up the Club Championship standings. The head-to-head record suggests it could go either way, with the clubs recording four wins each (and a draw) going back to 2015.

St George FC have now lost five in a row. There are positives though: on Saturday they matched North Shore for long spells, and this time Wally Savor’s men won’t have the distraction of a midweek cup tie, so the squad should be fresh. The return of Matias da Silva Santos to action could be a good omen – he scored the last time these two teams met.

Macarthur are winless since May, but they will have gained confidence after two consecutive draws against top six sides. Anthony Haddad and Sam Onana Awono combined well on the weekend, and if those two put in a another good performance then the Rams might replicate the result from their most recent trip to Ilinden Sports Centre, a 4-3 victory in Round 19 of last season.

Northern Tigers v Rydalmere Lions, 7:00pm Saturday 13 July, North Turramurra Recreation Area No. 1

North Turramurra Recreation Area will see two teams on the prowl for points, as the Tigers square off against the Lions.

Northern Tigers couldn’t quite hang on in their game versus St George City FA last weekend. On the plus side, William Foristal showed his versatility by moving from central defence to the forward line following an early injury, and he was even able to get on the scoresheet. The Tigers will be glad to be back on home (synthetic) turf after a run of six away fixtures in seven weeks. However, a finals push would require them to end a sequence of draws at North Turramurra which currently stands at five matches.

Rydalmere have ended their losing run with draws against Bonnyrigg and Western Sydney Wanderers – now it’s time to go for a win. The Lions’ front three of Malcolm Omar Dixon, Garang Awac and Kuot Maliet was a real handful for the Wanderers defence on Saturday, and Chris Camilleri needs the trio to fire again if the Lions are to beat a side that has only one loss in 12 rounds.

Mounties Wanderers v Hills United, 7:00pm Saturday 13 July, Sydney United Sports Centre

Mounties could pull to within one point of their opponents on Saturday night when they take on second placed Hills United.

With only one loss in eight rounds, it looks like Mounties are hitting form as we head into the business end of the campaign. However, the last time they were kept scoreless was against Hills in Round 7, so this is not the time for complacency. Speedy winger Tai Smith found the net on the weekend, but Brian Brown’s men know that defence is also part of the job, so Jacob Poscoliero’s experience is important.

Hills United’s record in the last six weeks is: win-loss-win-loss-win-loss. Patrick Zwaanswijk will be looking for his team to establish more consistency heading into the postseason. On a more positive note, Hills are unbeaten against Mounties since they were promoted back to NPL 2 in 2017 (four wins and a draw). United skipper Daine Merrin has chipped in with five goals this year, a handy tally for a defensive midfielder, while Kento Sakurai and Jacob Basden will also play an important role in the centre of the park.

Canterbury Bankstown FC v Western Sydney Wanderers, 7:00pm Saturday 13 July, The Crest Athletic Centre

The only NPL 2 side yet to keep a clean sheet in 2019 will host a team who has scored in every round.

However, there is hope for Canterbury. This is the start of four consecutive games at The Crest, a venue where the Wanderers have never won. They also have the better of the head to head record, with three wins, three draws and only one loss going back to 2016. Canterbury have the ability to test opposition defences, and tricky attacker Zac Elrich continues to find the net – his strike on Saturday made it six goals in seven weeks.

Speaking of players who keep scoring, Wanderers forward Mohamed Adam became the first player to hit the 20 goal mark this season after his successful penalty against Rydalmere. Adam has plenty of support in an attacking sense – the likes of Jarrod Carluccio, Jacob Vasiliou and new signing Evan Tsakos are all available for selection. Only three points separate the Red & Black from seventh placed Blacktown Spartans, so they will know a win is vital if the club is to make the finals for the first time since 2016.

St George City FA v North Shore Mariners, 3:00pm Sunday 14 July, Jubilee Oval

The other Sunday afternoon fixture sees the league leaders travel to Kogarah for a clash against St George City FA.

On the weekend, City did well to get a result after playing the majority of the game a man short. Nicholas Sullivan came on in the second half and his well taken strike rescued a point – more performances like that could have him pushing for a place in the starting lineup. Out wide, Steve Kuzmanovski will ask questions of any backline with his trickery and willingness to shoot from distance.

Can North Shore keep this run going? It’s now one loss in 15 rounds for Joe Haywood’s side. Wins in U18s, U20s & 1st Grade against St George FC saw them take the lead in the Club Championship, so now the Mariners will be looking for another big day to help the club’s promotion push. Not for the first time, the Smiths (Mitchell & Marquin) led them to victory on Saturday, and the North Shore attack is firing on all cylinders – they’ve scored at least two goals in eight of their last nine matches.

By Eric Subijano

Twitter – @eric_subijano

Source FNSW Website