Round 23 Preview – NPL 2 NSW Men’s

We’re into the final month of the National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s home-and-away season. Cool conditions are forecast for this weekend, but there should be plenty of action to keep us warm.

Match of the Round: Northern Tigers v North Shore Mariners, 7:00pm Saturday 3 August, North Turramurra Recreation Area No. 1

Our featured match takes us to North Turramurra Recreation Area for a Northern Suburbs derby with huge stakes for both sides.

For Northern Tigers, their season might have been over after a heavy defeat to Bonnyrigg two weeks ago. However, a gritty 1-0 win last time out against Blacktown Spartans put them right back in the mix for finals football. That clean sheet was the ideal reaction from the Tigers backline, who face another stern test on Saturday in the form of North Shore sharpshooter Mitchell Smith. Tigers defenders Jordan Ferrier and Nicholas Kalogerou will be up for the challenge, while Tonu Liiband saved a penalty when these two met in Round 10.

North Shore’s task on Saturday is something they haven’t had to do often in 2019 – bounce back from a loss. Games between these two are usually tight (four draws in the last five meetings), and set pieces can often make the difference in close contests, so watch for Chris Lindsay at any dead ball situations. A victory on Saturday over their local rivals could set the Mariners up to secure the Premiership as early as the following weekend.

St George FC v Spirit FC, 7:00pm Saturday 3 August, Ilinden Sports Centre

St George FC will be hoping for a positive end to a busy week when they host Spirit FC at Ilinden Sports Centre.

The Saints didn’t get the win in the St George Derby on Sunday, however things are still looking up – they are now unbeaten in three rounds. This form has helped them close the gap to fellow relegation battlers Rydalmere, and they are now only three points behind the Lions in the Club Championship. Juan Carlos Romero has scored in each of the previous three matches, but the Saints will be backing up after their FFA Cup game against Sydney United, so Wally Savor may need to rotate his squad.

Spirit FC ended a run of three straight losses by defeating Western Sydney Wanderers on the weekend, with Duncan Stewart grabbing another two goals. It’s usually a good sign if he finds the net: from the eleven games in which Stewart has scored this season, Spirit have eight victories, two draws and only one loss. History also favours Spirit, who have won their last four meetings with the Saints, and have only lost once to them in 11 matches going back to 2013.

Hills United v St George City FA, 7:00pm Saturday 3 August, Lily Homes Stadium

Both Hills United and St George City FA had a win in their sights on Sunday, but settled for a draw in the end, so neither team should be short of motivation.

The Hills attack looks nearly unstoppable. Patrick Zwaanswijk’s side have scored 18 goals in five matches, and Daniel Fogarty hit the net again on the weekend to take his season total to 16. A repeat of their victory over City back in May would be welcome for two reasons: it allows them to take advantage of any North Shore slip ups, and also because a top two finish isn’t guaranteed yet.

A trip outside of familiar surroundings may be just what St George City FA need after five consecutive weeks at home. City have won their last three away fixtures, but in order to make it four, skipper Bill Tsanidis and Luke Burke need to have big games at the back. Meanwhile, Hiten Satoh caught the eye in the Derby with an excellent midfield performance and a goal – he definitely has the ability to unlock the Hills defence.

Macarthur Rams v Rydalmere Lions, 7:00pm Saturday 3 August, Lynwood Park No. 1

At Lynwood Park, two clubs coming off disappointing losses will try to get back on track. Neither team has won since Round 11, so both Macarthur and Rydalmere are keen to finally grab a victory, to say the least.

The Rams haven’t won against the Lions in three previous attempts (two draws, one loss). There is some hope for Macarthur though, as draws in their last three Lynwood Park fixtures mean they are more difficult to beat at home. A big defensive show is needed to stop the pacey Lions attack, so Danny Lazarevski and Lorenzo Fatica have important roles to play on Saturday.

Rydalmere need results to keep St George FC at bay in the relegation battle. Like their opponents, the Lions have had a few draws recently (three in the last five weeks), so now it’s just a matter of converting decent performances into victories. They’ll need to get the job done at both ends though – look to the physical presence of Samuel Messam in the final third, and the acrobatic shotstopping of Harrick Sinpraseuth.

Canterbury Bankstown FC v Blacktown Spartans, 7:00pm Saturday 3 August, The Crest Athletic Centre

The league’s bottom side hosts a finals contender, however it’s Canterbury who might be more confident heading into this one. They recorded a solid 2-0 victory on Saturday against Macarthur Rams, while the Spartans had a good run of form ended by Northern Tigers.

Canterbury kept their first clean sheet of the season on the weekend. More solid performances from the defensive trio of Mathew Clowes, Gino Cerasoli and Josh Gersbach would be a large step towards a repeat performance. At the other end of the field, Canterbury are much improved after a midseason scoring slump, and Zac Elrich keeps hitting the back of the net.

Blacktown Spartans can almost feel Western Sydney Wanderers and Northern Tigers breathing down their necks. A good result is vital if they are to stay in the top six, so Evan Patramanis and Lewis Fraser will look to help them control the midfield. The Crest is a tough place to play, but the Spartans should be up for the challenge – they have two wins and a draw in their last three away games.

Central Coast Mariners v Mounties Wanderers, 3:00pm Sunday 4 August, Pluim Park  

Two sides in contrasting form meet at Pluim Park. Central Coast are winless in three rounds, and Mounties have lost only once in six matches.

The Mariners did show good character on the weekend, rescuing a point against Hills despite being 3-1 down with 20 minutes left and 4-3 down in stoppage time. Matthew Hatch furthered his reputation as a Pluim Park scoring specialist, netting twice to make it four goals in five home fixtures. Matthew Cahill also bagged a double on Sunday, opening his account in 1st Grade after 18 goals in 20 appearances for the Central Coast U20s.

Coincidentally, Mounties also have a player who has 18 goals in 20 games for their U20 team. Speedy winger Michael Jeffrey is beginning to make his mark in 1st Grade, and he opened the scoring against Rydalmere on Saturday. Jeffrey is another weapon in an attack that is firing on all cylinders, with nine goals and seven different scorers in the last three weeks.

Since 2016, meetings between these two sides have followed a particular pattern: Central Coast win the first match, and Mounties get the three points in the return fixture. After a 3-2 victory for the Mariners back in Round 10, Brian Brown will be hoping history repeats on Sunday afternoon.

Western Sydney Wanderers v Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 8:00pm Tuesday 6 August, Valentine Sports Park No. 2

Five Wanderers players were called up to this week’s Young Socceroos training camp in Canberra, so their game against Bonnyrigg has been rescheduled for next Tuesday night.

This is the start of three matches in nine days for the Wanderers, a period that should determine whether or not they make the finals. Skipper Andrea Agamemnonos will be key in holding the midfield together, especially with Lochlan Constable’s suspension and Fabian Monge’s probable selection for the upcoming AFF Under-18 Championship. Right back Bailey Rule has also caught the eye since becoming a 1st Grade regular, and he even found the net on the weekend.

Bonnyrigg did what many teams couldn’t do on Sunday: stop Mitchell Smith from scoring. Can the best defence in the division do the same to Mohamed Adam and company? You’d have to say they’ve got a good chance, the White Eagles have kept three clean sheets in a row and only conceded four times in eight games. Credit must go to James Chronopoulos, Goran Subara and Nikola Zonjic for creating a rock solid foundation, and their performances are a big reason for Bonnyrigg’s record of seven wins and a draw in the last eight rounds.

By Eric Subijano

Twitter – @eric_subijano

Source FNSW website