The National Premier League will make a return to action in the week commencing 11th July as the much-delayed Round 1 fixture between West Canberra Wanderers and O’Connor Knights takes place at Melrose Synthetic.
The Monday Night Football clash marks the beginning of an important week for both these teams who have designs on the points to kick-start what could be a crucial seven days for both in their push to drive up the table.
If the previous meetings between the clubs are any indication of what we can expect, then goals are surely the order of the day. The league clash at O’Connor produced seven, following hotly on the heels of the six-goal thriller in the Australia Cup Semi-Final.
If we get half as much action in this one, then we should be in for a footballing treat to start what should be a superb week of football.
The Knights will be back in action in the showcase match od Round 13 when they meet Canberra Croatia in Part 2 of the ‘Cevapi Derby’. The inaugural NPL meeting at Deakin Stadium produced heartbreak for the Knights as they were pipped in stoppage time by a late goal from Matej Busek.
The trajectory of both has been slightly different since then as Croatia have climbed to the top of the pile, and remained there, despite a setback against Gungahlin United in Round 11. The 4-0 success over Belconnen United consolidate that position, but it’s a close-run thing at the top of the NPL.
The Knights went into the week in fourth place, knowing that a decent return of points might give them breathing space in the race for the top four. A narrow loss to Gungahlin once more showed the Knights are more than competitive at this level and we can expect them to take Croatia to the edge again.
Gungahlin United have the tricky assignment of heading to Melrose Synthetic to meet West Canberra Wanderers in the early Saturday afternoon kick-off and the Gunners are aware of how tough it can be tackling the Wanderers on their own turf, let alone when they are scrapping for points.
The fixture back in Round 7 proved to be a tough learning curve for the Wanderers as they were forced to reflect on numerous missed opportunities in the opening forty-five minutes and a double-whammy inflicted on them, just before the half-time interval meant that the Gunners could ease to the points after the break.
Gungahlin have quietly pushed themselves into contention at the top of the pile, their narrow win over Croatia and a gutsy success at home to the knights, meaning they trail the leaders by just one point. Both teams need the points, and neither can afford a slip-up, so expect this to be a cracker!
Two teams in desperate need of three points themselves meet at McKellar Park as Belconnen United welcome Tigers FC for what is always an entertaining showdown packed with incident.
Only one point separates the pair on the ladder and, whilst both are well within touching distance of a place in the top four and potential finals football, they are equally aware of the imminent threat of West Canberra Wanderers below them and being dragged into a relegation dogfight.
The Blue Devils opening forty-five minutes against Canberra Croatia was perhaps their worst of the season to date, left chasing shadows as Croatia took them apart with ease. Yet, there was improvement after the interval, and they will hope to be able to get their front-line firing against the Tigers.
The addition of Kofi Danning into the Tigers FC front-line added extra purpose to their attacking threat in the goal-less draw with Canberra Olympic on a difficult surface at O’Connor and the visitors might be looking at Danning to provide the goals to win this one.
Speaking of Canberra Olympic, they round out the action with the Saturday evening visit to title-chasing Monaro Panthers. The region’s representative in the Australia Cup Round of 32 were stymied by West Canberra Wanderers at Melrose Synthetic in Round 12, unable to make the critical breakthrough.
These two met in an epic Cup Semi-Final showdown earlier in the season, the game at the Riverside ending 3-3, but the Panthers had a better time of it in the league match at O’Connor running out winners by four goals to one including a brace from substitute Andre Carle.
Olympic welcomed back old boys Nathen Megic and Nik Popovich to the cause in the 0-0 stalemate with Tigers last time out but they were unable to help their team to the maximum return. Three points would be the aim for Olympic but with the Panthers also out for the victory we should see a tight encounter.
Monday 11 July
West Canberra Wanderers v O’Connor Knights (Melrose Synthetic, 18:30)
Saturday 16 July
West Canberra Wanderers v Gungahlin United (Melrose Synthetic, 14:15)
Belconnen United v Tigers FC (McKellar Park, 15:00)
O’Connor Knights v Canberra Croatia (O’Connor Enclosed, 15:00)
Monaro Panthers v Canberra Olympic (Riverside Stadium, 17:45)
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