League leading Canberra Olympic will be seeking to maintain their advantage at the top of the table when they welcome the Monaro Panthers to O’Connor Enclosed in what promises to be another sensational round of action as the National Premier League reached the Round 6 stage.
Olympic moved to the summit of the table with a 3-1 defeat of Tigers FC at the Australian Institute of Sport last weekend as Nik Popovich continued his remarkable scoring spree in the NPL, the forward having now scored half-a-dozen times in his last trio of league outings.
A flourishing partnership with Thomas James is burgeoning by the week for Olympic as the free-flowing front-runners are racking up the goals and looking sharp, creating opportunities by the bagful. Against a stubborn Panthers though they will need to be at their creative best to succeed.
The Panthers held Canberra Croatia scoreless last weekend, the first time that has occurred since Round 20 last season and found a vital winner deep into stoppage time as Roko Strika struck. His deployment as front-runner, leading the line, appeared to have relinquished the shackles and, if Panthers can forge an understanding between him and Micheal John, they could well break their win-loss sequence.
For Canberra Croatia defeated for the second time in the league with their late concession to the Panthers, a second game within the space of four days against Gungahlin United will no doubt test the mental, as well as physical strength of both teams.
Croatia’s setback at the Riverside, the first time they have lost away to the Panthers in the NPL, meant back-to-back defeats for the League Champions for the first time since they lost three in a row at the tail-end of the curtailed 2021 campaign.
They simply have too much quality to be languishing in sixth place for too long however and matches with the Gunners always seem to bring out their best. Encounters over the past two seasons have become increasingly fractious as two teams with a desperate will to win lock horns.
Gungahlin came from behind to secure a draw at O’Connor Enclosed last weekend, Jack Green’s immaculate chip earning them a point, his goal adding to a double from the in-form Maxx Green. The visitors will need the Green’s to be at their best at both ends to see off the champions on their own patch.
O’Connor Knights will be confident they can maintain their position in the top four of the league table when they make the trip to Wanderers Park to take on the team currently sitting last on the table, West Canberra Wanderers.
The Knights look to have finally found their mojo in the front third again, scoring ten goals in their last three home matches, showing the pace, precision, and finishing quality that we have come to except from Miro Trninic’s outfit.
The return of Patrick O’Rourke to goalscoring ways is a bonus, and the Knights have plenty of strength in depth, something they perhaps didn’t have upon their return to the top echelon last term. They will be clear favourites on their first foray away from their O’Connor Enclosed venue in 2023.
For Wanderers the need is real. A home loss to fellow strugglers Tuggeranong United in Round 5 means that West Canberra are three points adrift, albeit with a game in hand, although that clash is the thankless task of heading to Deakin Stadium, the home of the Champions to play Canberra Croatia.
Tuggeranong United recorded their first win of the season, jumping off the bottom of the table with their 2-1 win over the Wanderers on the Melrose Synthetic, but face a different test entirely in Round 6 as Tigers FC make the journey to Kambah 2.
Young substitute Clancy Hislop was the goalscoring hero, coming off the bench to net the match-winner at Wanderers in the Southside derby, and United created several presentable openings through the guile of Sam Walker and the magnificent delivery of Luke Stevens. Mitch Stevens will need both these players to be on the top of their game.
Tigers were turned over by Canberra Olympic at the AIS last weekend, losing top spot on the ladder in the process, but will look back at the encounter and rue some basic errors that coughed up cheap possession and saw them switch off at vital moments, Olympic punishing them to the full.
The visitors have won the last two matches played away to Tuggeranong, and six of their last eight, meaning they will be favourites. United though can be belligerent on their own turf and will make life uncomfortable for a side seeking to maintain a title pace.
Saturday 13 May
West Canberra Wanderers v O’Connor Knights (Melrose Synthetic, 14:00)
Canberra Olympic v Monaro Panthers (O’Connor Enclosed, 15:00)
Sunday 14 May
Tuggeranong United v Tigers FC (Kambah 2, 15:00)
Gungahlin United v Canberra Croatia (Gungahlin Enclosed, 17:15)
|7||West Canberra Wanderers||4||0||0||4||2||16||-14||0|
5 Luca FLOREZ (Canberra Olympic), Maxx GREEN (Gungahlin United), Josh GULEVSKI (Tigers FC), Nik POPOVICH (Canberra Olympic)
3 Stephen DOMENICI (Canberra Croatia), Phakedi MANDA (O’Connor Knights), Connor MYNOTT-SMITH (Monaro Panthers), Own GOALS
2 Micheal ADAMS (O’Connor Knights), Daniel BARAC (Canberra Croatia), Jack GREEN (Gungahlin United), Clancy HISLOP (Tuggeranong United), Thomas JAMES (Canberra Olympic), Micheal JOHN (Monaro Panthers), Amilio KISTA (Tigers FC), Roko STRIKA (Monaro Panthers), Nik TANESKI (Tigers FC), Jason UGRINIC (Canberra Croatia), Sam WALKER (Tuggeranong United)
1 Riley ANGELOSANTE (O’Connor Knights), Connor BILL (O’Connor Knights), Jake BISHOP (Tigers FC), Riley BROWN (West Canberra Wanderers), Elie DARWICH (Canberra Olympic), James DRISCOLL (O’Connor Knights), Josh GASPARI (Gungahlin United), Dom GIAMPAOLO (Gungahlin United), Sam HABTEMARIAM (Gungahlin United), Ed MCCARTHY (Tigers FC), Nathen MEGIC (Canberra Olympic), Marko MILUTINOVIC (Tigers FC), Lasse OLRIK (Canberra Olympic), Patrick O’ROURKE (O’Connor Knights), Jackson PAESLER (Gungahlin United), Kaz PATAFTA (Canberra Croatia), Euan PETERKIN (Tuggeranong United), Nicholas ROUFOGALIS (West Canberra Wanderers), Kyle SENIOR (Tigers FC), Hristjan TANOSKI (Tigers FC), Antoni TIMOTHEOU (Gungahlin United)