Standing out as one of the biggest games of the National Premier League season in Canberra, and a match that will have huge ramifications on the result, the bottom two meet at Melrose Synthetic as West Canberra Wanderers welcome Belconnen United in a match that has the potential to be decisive in the battle to avoid the drop.
Currently two points separate the protagonists, the Blue Devils holding the numerical advantage on the league table, and yet the Wanderers are eight goals better off on goal difference, which may prove to be important come the conclusion of the competition in six rounds.
The six points that Belconnen has taken off the Wanderers so far in 2022, a pair of 2-1 wins for the Blue Devils, are looming large as huge moments in the campaign but the Wanderers will be confident that they can reverse the trend and back up their 1-0 defeat of O’Connor Knights with a second win in a row to leapfrog their opposition.
Belconnen showed their grit in coming from 0-2 down to earn a points against Monaro Panthers at the Riverside in Round 15 and will be calling on that same level of character to come through unscathed. Whilst the result won’t determine who is relegated, it may go someway towards pointing the way.
Nervously looking over their shoulder, and only three points off the relegation place heading into this Round of fixtures are Canberra Olympic and the O’Connor derby, aka ‘The BBQ Derby’ against O’Connor Knights will be another test for the side who were hammered at home by Canberra Croatia last time out.
The dismissal of Head Coach Robbie Cattanach didn’t have the bounce-effect that Olympic were perhaps aiming for as they were outclassed by the league leaders, and the Knights will prove to be another test for interim Head Coach Steve Ujdur.
The home side in this stoush, the Knights in this instance, went down to Wanderers last weekend, but they have ben plagued by injuries with the unavailability of playmakers Michael Adams and Phakedi Manda, plus leading scorer Patrick O’Rourke carrying a knock, amongst others, hurt them at Melrose.
The reintroduction of these players can’t come soon enough for Miro Trninic and his squad who currently sit fourth on twenty points, four points ahead of fifth, but aware of the Tigers breathing down their necks.
The resurgent Tigers FC, who have welcomed back a raft of injured players themselves in recent weeks, have the chance to reconfirm their emergence as top-four contenders as they travel to Deakin Stadium, the home of the league leaders Canberra Croatia, for what is always a feisty match-up.
With a six-point lead at the top, Croatia have room for manoeuvre and can afford a slip-up, yet that is not how the perennial Champions work. Since losing to Gungahlin at home, they’ve bagged seventeen goals in just four matches and have been in lethal form in front of goal.
Daniel Barac scored his second hat-trick of the season against Canberra Olympic, the only man in the competition to score a treble in 2022 with his first trio of goals also coming against Olympic. And with Stephen Domenici, Jason Ugrinic and Nik Taneski also amongst the goals, its looking ominous for the rest of the competition.
Tigers haven’t been as free-flowing as they have been in recent years but seem to be rediscovering some form at the right time as they make a late charge for a place in the finals. They have the potential to cause problems for Croatia who won’t be taking their visit lightly.
Rounding out an intriguing round of action will be the clash between second and third at the Australian Institute of Sport as Gungahlin United meet Monaro Panthers with the pair in close chase of Canberra Croatia at the top of the table.
Neither side were able to make inroads at the top in Round 15, the Gunners slumping to a loss to Tigers FC, going down by the odd goal in three at the AIS, whilst the Panthers blew a two-goal lead at home to Belconnen United, forced to settle for a share of the spoils after the Blue Devils fought back for a draw.
Any Monaro win would see them move into second ahead of the Gunners, but any other result will see the Gunners maintain their spot. A Gungahlin win would, of course, increase the gap between the teams to six points and make it extremely hard for the Panthers to close that gap before the end of the year.
Both clubs like to play attractive football and, if the 2-2 draw earlier this season at the Riverside is any indication, we should be in for an entertaining afternoon.
Saturday 6 August
West Canberra Wanderers v Belconnen United (Melrose Synthetic, 14:15)
O’Connor Knights v Canberra Olympic (O’Connor Enclosed, 15:00)
Canberra Croatia v Tigers FC (Deakin Stadium, 17:00)
Sunday 7 August
Gungahlin United v Monaro Panthers (AIS Grass, 15:00)
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