The PlayStation 4® National Premier Leagues: Capital Football competition gets its first taste of Friday night lights this week with the Southside derby match between Woden-Weston FC and Tuggeranong United.
With the fixture being played under the floodlights at the newly redeveloped Woden Park we are anticipating a full-blooded encounter between two teams who have not enjoyed the best of starts to the 2015 campaign.
Woden-Weston succumbed to a last minute defeat in their only match of the NPL season to date, away to Tigers FC in Round 1, falling foul of a controversial penalty award that gave the League Champions a narrow 2-1 win. Tuggeranong meanwhile fell to a second successive home defeat when some sloppy errors and the inability to defend set-pieces cost them dear against the FFA COE.
It’s that route to goal that may pay dividends for Woden-Weston FC who possess a strong aerial threat from dead-ball situations. Miro Trninic has worked wonders in a limited timeframe to forge a competitive unit and they will be extra keen to start their new venture at their refurbished home with a win. For Tuggeranong, even at this early stage of the season, coming away with at least a point will be vital if they are not to lose sight of the top four and a semi-finals place already.
A pair of top class fixtures await on Saturday afternoon as attention switches to the Australian Institute of Sport and a first home game of the season for the FFA COE when they welcome Gungahlin United to their lush playing surface. The Centre of Excellence team looked to be in top form last week as they started their season with a 3-0 win over Tuggeranong United at Kambah 2, a tricky and testing assignment to commence the NPL 2015 campaign.
For this group of FFA COE players, who are into their second year in the program, they should be well aware of the expectations surrounding the NPL in this region. But with Gungahlin United new to the competition there is still the stigma of the unknown facing Tony Vidmar and his group. The Gunners earned their first point of the season in Round 2 with a 1-1 draw at Canberra Olympic and will be aiming for a maiden victory.
Successive matches against Belconnen United and Olympic, both genuine title contenders, has tested the mettle of the squad gathered by Claudio Canosa, but the signs are there that this Gungahlin team will be a competitive outfit in the local competition and will test the FFA COE to the full. Both teams like to play football on the ground, passing and moving to create openings, so this should provide fascinating viewing for the football purist.
Two other teams who like to play the game the right way meet in the Saturday evening kick-off when Belconnen United play host to Canberra Olympic at McKellar Park. The last 5:30pm kick-off held at the venue, the season opener against Gungahlin, attracted a large turn out and the Blue Devils administrative staff are hoping for similar things this weekend. Olympic, who enjoy a decent amount of travelling support, should make for ideal opponents in what is likely to be a great atmosphere.
The Blue Devils will be without suspended midfielder David Arranz, the combative central player will sit out a week for his dismissal for a brace of yellow cards received against Canberra FC in Round 2, but may be able to call on Captain Taylor Beaton depending on his rate of recovery from a knock sustained in pre-season. With young striker Aisosa Ihegie having netted in both matches this season from the bench, Belconnen Head Coach Dean Ugrinic may be tempted to give the teenager his head and let him loose in attack.
Olympic meanwhile enters the fixture in third place with a pleasing four points from a possible six gained with a thumping win at Tuggeranong United and a draw with Gungahlin United. Once again the combination between Robbie Cattanach and Philippe Bernabo-Madrid paid dividends at Gungahlin with the latter scoring his fourth goal of the season in two outings. The more these two play together the better the understanding will become.
With goal aplenty in both teams, both have averaged three a game or more in 2015, we should be in for dramatic action at both ends of the park and a night to remember under the lights at McKellar.
Round 3 is completed on Sunday afternoon when the top two meet at Nijong Oval. Both Tigers FC and Canberra FC have won both matches this season, averaging four goals a game, but something will have to give at the home of the defending League Champions. With the weather having taken a turn for the worse in Canberra this week, strong winds buffeting the region, a frigid day may welcome the sides to Cooma.
There are a number of sub-plots within the main narrative this weekend with former FC goal-hero Alex Oloriegbe playing against his former club and initiating a decent partnership with Argentinean hit-man Lucas Montana. Both have scored three goals this season in the Tigers two wins [2-1 over Woden-Weston FC and 6-1 at Monaro Panthers] and will need to be watched closely by the FC defence.
For the red machine there could be a debut for Thomas James with the English striker having returned from the United Kingdom and confirming his transfer from Monaro Panthers. FC are waiting on an ITC for the exciting James who could provide the bullets for an FC team who has relied upon its midfield for goals so far this term. Young wingers Niko Kresic and Thomas Milicevic have performed admirably in the pair of wins that FC have recorded and with Daniel Bennett and Josip Jadric back from injury Head Coach Zoran Glavinic has lots of attacking variations up his sleeve.
Click here to view the ladder and the leading scorers heading into this weekend's matches.
Friday 24th April
Woden-Weston FC v Tuggeranong United (Woden Park), 7:20pm
Saturday 25th April
FFA COE v Gungahlin United (AIS)
Belconnen United v Canberra Olympic (McKellar Park), 5:30pm
Sunday 26th April
Tigers FC v Canberra FC (Nijong Oval)