For the second week in succession League leaders Canberra Croatia will face the nearest challengers to their top spot as, after seeing off Monaro Panthers at the Riverside last time out, Croatia welcome Gungahlin United to Deakin Stadium seeking to extend their advantage at the top of the table.
Croatia’s narrow win over the Panthers showcased just why the Deakin club are regarded as the championship favourites. Exhilarating for the opening quarter in which they scored the game’s only goal, they dug in when necessary and toughed it out against a resurgent ten-man Panthers after the break.
Whilst it wasn’t Croatia at their free-flowing best, it was the type of fixture that you need to win to claim titles and win silverware and the opportunity to put another title rival to the sword in Round 11 should be motivation enough for Dean Ugrinic and his team ahead of what is always a spicy affair.
Gunners meanwhile come into the clash fresh off a 3-0 defeat of Belconnen United at the AIS. Gungahlin were in excellent form for most of the match, looking in good form going forward and creating chances for their young front three to cause problems for the Blue Devils.
Perhaps Marcial Munoz will be slightly concerned by the way in which Belconnen opened his team up defensively on a few occasions, opportunities that they can ill afford to offer to the usually clinical Canberra Croatia frontline. Tightening in those areas will present them with a glorious chance of closing the gap on the frontrunners. Expect fireworks in this one!
Monaro Panthers will be casting one eye on activities at Deakin Stadium, hoping to pull themselves back into contention for the title following the disappointment of losing at home to Croatia. They make the trip to O’Connor on Saturday afternoon to tackle the O’Connor Knights in what promises to be an enthralling clash.
The Knights have endured a yo-yo campaign to date, and that was epitomised by their 3-2 win over Tigers FC in Round 10. A consummate display saw the Knights leading the defending title holders 3-0 with stoppage time looming only for the visitors to net twice and make a routine win a nerve-wracking experience.
It wouldn’t be a Knights match without a swag full of goals though and this match is likely to have a few. In Patrick O’Rourke the Knights possess the league’s leading scorer, his seven goals seeing him top the pile. Panthers will be without Andre Carle (broken wrist) and Amilio Kista (suspended) so will need some creative reshuffling in the ranks.
The previous meeting between the clubs ended in a 1-1 draw at the same venue earlier in the season, suggesting that there may not be much to choose between them. A win would be crucial for either side so expect both teams to come out firing and looking for the maximum points haul.
Tigers FC season has been an annus-horribilis to date, as the champions find themselves marooned on ten points from six matches and hanging onto a potential top place by their fingernails, needing a big upturn in fortunes to get back into form and push for the top four.
That could start with three points against bottom-of-the-table West Canberra Wanderers, although the 1-1 draw in Round 4 at Melrose Synthetic gives pause for thought that the Tigers should be favourites to win this one.
There is little doubt that there is quality in the Tigers FC ranks, but a plethora of injuries to key personnel has left them a dishevelled sight in recent weeks. They can turn it around and go on a run that can see them push for the top four however, much like their opponent, they need an upturn in form sooner rather than later.
The Wanderers, without sounding like a record repeating itself, were competitive again in their 2-2 draw with Canberra Olympic. They led twice and had more chances to kill off the opposition and claim the points, yet were forced to settle for a single point, only their second of 2022.
Relegation is the dreaded word at Melrose Synthetic and with eleven games to play there are enough points left to enable them to dig themselves out of the hole they find themselves in. A reversal of fortune would be welcomed by West Canberra, but the Tigers will be keen to make sure it doesn’t start with them.
Two teams with an eye on the top four meet at McKellar Park on Saturday afternoon as Belconnen United host Canberra Olympic seeking revenge for the defeat that Olympic inflicted on the Blue Devils at McKellar Park in Round 4.
Olympic currently sit fifth, leading the Blue Devils by two points and trailing fourth placed O’Connor Knights by three points meaning that a win here, plus the Panthers doing them a favour at O’Connor, could see Robbie Cattanach’s team move level on points with the Knights ahead of Round 12.
The closeness of the competition in 2022 is epitomised by the fact that Belconnen, sitting seventh are potentially only a couple of wins off being in the finals places themselves. Again, as has been the case in most of their games in 2022, Belconnen were good into the final third last week against Gungahlin but had no luck in front of goal.
Olympic twice came from behind in their encounter with West Canberra Wanderers and were thankful for Sebastian Usai being in good form between the posts in earning them a point with a series of excellent saves. Cattanach will be hoping for a more solid defensive display here.
Saturday 25 June
Belconnen United v Canberra Olympic (McKellar Park, 15:00)
Tigers FC v West Canberra Wanderers (AIS Grass, 15:00)
O’Connor Knights v Monaro Panthers (O’Connor Enclosed, 15:00)
Sunday 26 June
Canberra Croatia v Gungahlin United (Deakin Stadium, 15:00)
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