After an entertaining round of matches last weekend including a couple of teams getting off the mark, Chris Webb takes a look at what is in store ahead of us for round three of the 2018 competition.
By Chris Webb
O’Connor Knights v White Eagles | Saturday, 3pm @ Kaleen Enclosed
Only three weeks in but the league’s biggest clash is already upon us, with bitter rivals O’Connor and White Eagles set to meet at Kaleen enclosed. White Eagles have been in impressive form to start the season and deservedly sit equal top of the league, after an impressive win over title favourites ANU. Fan favourite Milan Santrac grabbed an early goal which turned out to be the decider, yet that wasn’t enough to take the player of the match points, according to Eagle TV’s impressive high-tech data metric that honour instead was shared by about half of the remaining starting team. The mighty Eagles have made the impressive signing of ‘Lil’ Niki Noveski who most recently played NPL for Tigers FC and Woden-Weston, and will definitely be a handful for opposition defenders.
Their hosts however will be desperate to shake off the remnants of their shock loss to Narrabundah in what was a disappointing performance for the Knights, and perhaps they should rethink their strategy of drinking everyone’s wine. What will be of most concern to Miro Trninic was his team’s inability to find the back of the net. This will also be weighing on the shoulders of striker Danny Krajacic who is yet to get off the mark in the league this season. This clash sees two very evenly matched teams, both with extremely physical defenses, creative midfields and dangerous frontlines, meet in a game that is always full of spice and the clear pick of the round for the neutral observer.
Weston Molonglo v Monaro | Saturday, 3pm @ Melrose Synthetic
The Magpies are once again at home and hoping to get back in the winner’s circle after their somewhat surprising, but unquestionably thrilling, four-three loss to Canberra Olympic. After taking an early lead, Weston then twice fought back to regain parity only to concede at the death. Flying winger Jack Rutherford was a standout for the black and whites, with an assist and a goal, and he will be a handful for the visiting Monaro fullbacks. Weston captain Ben Greig meanwhile will be hoping to get his head in this week’s game, but just not quite as literally this time. Mase Tate has an injury concern as French superstar Max Baux limped off on the weekend, while Graeme Plath has a similar concern with defensive lynchpin John Stone also limping off with an ankle injury.
Both coaches will be praying to their designated deities for quick recoveries of both players. Monaro especially can ill afford to lose someone of the calibre of Stone as they already show signs of ‘player availability’ concerns. Their technical director Adam Firych started the match on the weekend filling in from Monaro’s Masters team, and accompanying him was Panthers icon Alex Tine who played off the bench. It hasn’t been a great start for Plath’s men, with two straight losses, and yet to find the ole’ onion bag, however this is essentially a squad which made the finals last term, so they are sure to bounce back and this might just be the week.
Narrabundah FC v Queanbeyan City | Saturday, 3pm @ Narrabundah 201
‘The Quack-Attack is Back Jack!’ as fan favourite Nathan ‘Quack-Attack’ Duck announced his return from sabbatical with an all-important winner over a quality Knights outfit. The win sees Narrabundah quickly go from ‘burros’ to ‘bulls’, shrugging off a three-nil defeat in round one with that impressive victory. Importantly for Narrabundah, they kept the extremely dangerous Knights frontline quiet, as they have shown just how solid a defensive unit they are. Queanbeyan City are also coming off the back of a one-nil win, after also suffering a round one loss, so this one looks like is a well balanced matchup.
Queanbeyan’s round two victory was all the more impressive due to the fact they played over sixty minutes with ten men after the early send-off of star forward Alex Lazarov, for two quick fire yellow cards. The down-side obviously is that they will be missing the important creative outlet for this clash. City welcomed back key defender Matt Ryan, who slots into what looks like a very solid and experienced back-line. By talking up the collective defensive proficiency of both teams, there is no doubt this game will inevitably end up as a nine-goal thriller.
Brindabella Blues v ANU FC | Saturday, 5:45pm @ Calwell 204
The kick-off of this clash has been pushed back to 5:45pm, to facilitate a media event around the installation of new LED lighting at Calwell which will allow night matches to be played there.
After the bitter disappointment of their unexpected loss to Southern Tablelands, it gets exponentially harder for the Brindi’ Boys as they welcome reigning Premiers and Champions ANU, who beat their victors by a staggering ten goal margin. The only solace for Jeremy Butler and his side is the fact that ANU are also coming off the back of two straight losses. While the students made it look like there were more holes in Southern Tableland’s defence than Chase Dean’s compression pants, they were unable to find a way past White Eagles’ solid set-up. Shutting out ANU is a rare occurrence, especially when the likes of Deans, Max Mottl and Andrew Manley are involved. The absence of star midfield duo Sam Carters and John Scott was clearly felt, which leaves Jim Dawson with some selection questions for this weekend. While ANU lost again midweek in the cup, it will go down as one of the top performances from a Capital League side for some years. ANU’s gusty display saw them taking the much-fancied Canberra FC (many people’s favourites for NPL silverware this year) to within three minutes of a penalty shoot-out after an entertaining 2-2 draw.
For the Blues, the experienced Danny Babic has shown he is in good form, bagging himself a pair of goals in the defeat in Goulburn, and will be the man most likely to cause concern for ANU’s defence. A wounded ANU may seem like a blessing for Brindabella, however it could very much turn out to be a curse as they will be looking at getting their title defence back on course, though a gruelling 120 minutes played midweek may take its toll.
Canberra Olympic v Southern Tablelands United | Sunday, 3pm @ O’Connor
All aboard! It’s time for the Goulburn football fans to get on-board as the Steamers roll into Canberra on cloud nine after picking up their first three points for the season. While it was a tough one goal victory from a similar newcomer to the league, the fact they turned around the horrific result of the opening round is simply massive and no doubt a massive relief for all involved around the club. The team has shown they are a threat going forward, as despite the goals conceded, they have already scored five goals in the first two games, more than six other teams in the competition. Aaron Swanson and Ben Hartin are both quality players with a plethora of experience and have all five goals between the two of them. One team that has however scored more goals so far, five more goals in fact, is their hosts this weekend.
Olympic continued their impressive start knocking off another of the pre-season favourites to now sit at the top of the heap. They showed true determination and grit to win a seven goal shoot out in trying conditions and look like a group that won’t roll over to anyone. They also showed their potency from set pieces, amazingly scoring three second half goals from free-kicks from around the box, the pick of the bunch a peach of a strike from Josh Argenti that David Beckham would have been proud of. Tom Crossley showed that his valuable talking can at times be a curse, falling foul of the temporary dismissal rule and spending ten in the bin. This had an immaterial effect on the outcome of the game as bizarrely both teams scored during that period.