There’s a massive tussle scheduled for Melrose Synthetic on Saturday afternoon as West Canberra Wanderers face fellow strugglers Tuggeranong United, the bottom two locking horns in Round 5 of the National Premier League.
A game which could have massive ramifications on the make-up of the league table, even at this early stage of the campaign, is likely to offer a tense and enthralling contest, with both teams desperate to get off the mark and get the advantage of their opponents, as they seek to bridge the gap to those above.
Keeping clean sheets has been an issue for both squads in the nascent stages of the 2023 NPL season, they have conceded a combined total of 32 goals in the seven matches completed between them, whilst managing only four in return at the other end, United outscoring Wanderers three to one.
Whilst the spectre of relegation is still a long-way over the horizon, the crux of the matter is that both Tuggeranong and West Canberra need to start picking up points, and soon, if for nothing more than easing the psychological burden that accompanies being rooted to the foot of the table.
Further up the league ladder, two teams with eyes on the ultimate prize clash at the Riverside Stadium as Monaro Panthers and Canberra Croatia meet in what promises to be an entertaining fixture on Saturday evening.
It was only a couple of weeks ago that Croatia ended the Panthers interest in the Australia Cup Qualifying competition, wresting Panthers hands off a trophy that they won last term with a 2-1 midweek victory at this very venue. The League Champions will be aiming for a repeat of that performance.
Both teams have bene inconsistent in part so far in 2023, the Panthers more than their opponents, the Queanbeyan-based club having won two and lost two in sequence, culminating with a narrow defeat to O’Connor Knights at O’Connor Enclosed in wet conditions in Round 4.
Croatia saw their scheduled home fixture with West Canberra Wanderers postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, meaning they have a game in hand on those above as they seek to close the five point gap to early pace-setters Tigers FC. A win here would be a large step towards accomplishing that goal.
Speaking of the league leaders, Tigers FC host Canberra Olympic on Saturday afternoon at the Australian Institute of Sport, a clash between the top two teams in the competition set to explode in what will surely be a high-octane, fast-paced thriller.
Tigers were without a game in Round 4, their home match with Gungahlin United called off, but the team that were knocked out of the Australia Cup Qualifying early on by Canberra Croatia have recovered fully and remain unbeaten, having won all three of their NPL matches to date.
Olympic meanwhile have moved onto nine points themselves, albeit having played one game more than their immediate opponents, their latest win being a convincing 3-0 success over Tuggeranong United at Melrose Synthetic, a feat achieved in the absence of top-scorer Luca Florez who was sent ff early in the second half.
These two have netted twenty-five goals between them in seven games in 2023 and are chock-full of attacking talent. This could well be a top-class match and is definitely worth a watch.
Meanwhile, the teams who occupy spots three and four in the table meet at O’Connor Enclosed, as O’Connor Knights and Gungahlin United faceoff with the winner likely to be in a very good position indeed come the end of the round with the top-two playing each other and fifth meeting sixth.
The Knights showed great resolve to come from behind and defeat Monaro Panthers at home in their last outing, backing up the defeat of Tuggeranong United with a second successive victory. By quirk of fate, they play at O’Connor again, and must make the most of home advantage.
Gunners saw their game against Tigers FC cancelled, meaning they were unable to build on the momentum created by their last-gasp success over Canberra Olympic in Round 3. Which Gungahlin team turns up will be crucial. Will it be the one that saw a lead dissolve against Panthers, or the one that turned the tables on Olympic?
Saturday 6 May
West Canberra Wanderers v Tuggeranong United (Melrose Synthetic, 14:00)
O’Connor Knights v Gungahlin United (O’Connor Enclosed, 15:00)
Tigers FC v Canberra Olympic (AIS Grass, 15:00)
Monaro Panthers v Canberra Croatia (Riverside Stadium, 17:45)
|7||West Canberra Wanderers||3||0||0||3||1||14||-13||0|
5 Luca FLOREZ (Canberra Olympic), Josh GULEVSKI (Tigers FC)
3 Stephen DOMENICI (Canberra Croatia), Maxx GREEN (Gungahlin United), Phakedi MANDA (O’Connor Knights), Connor MYNOTT-SMITH (Monaro Panthers)
2 Daniel BARAC (Canberra Croatia), Thomas JAMES (Canberra Olympic), Micheal JOHN (Monaro Panthers), Nik POPOVICH (Canberra Olympic), Nik TANESKI (Tigers FC), Jason UGRINIC (Canberra Croatia), Own GOALS
1 Micheal ADAMS (O’Connor Knights), Riley ANGELOSANTE (O’Connor Knights), Connor BILL (O’Connor Knights), Jake BISHOP (Tigers FC), Riley BROWN (West Canberra Wanderers), Elie DARWICH (Canberra Olympic), Josh GASPARI (Gungahlin United), Jack GREEN (Gungahlin United), Dom GIAMPAOLO (Gungahlin United), Sam HABTEMARIAM (Gungahlin United), Clancy HISLOP (Tuggeranong United), Amilio KISTA (Tigers FC), 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), Kyle SENIOR (Tigers FC), Roko STRIKA (Monaro Panthers), Hristjan TANOSKI (Tigers FC), Antoni TIMOTHEOU (Gungahlin United), Sam WALKER (Tuggeranong United)