Even at this early stage of the PlayStation 4® National Premier Leagues: Capital Football competition the match between Tuggeranong United and Monaro Panthers on Sunday afternoon looms large as a ‘must-win’ for both teams.
With neither yet to taste success in 2015, three points are vital if there is to be any hopes of a push for a top four spot and ultimate finals glory this term.
Of both squads, perhaps the need for a victory is bigger for the home side, Tuggeranong, who have slipped to a trio of losses in their first matches of the campaign. A salutary 6-1 hammering at home to Canberra Olympic has been followed by a 0-3 loss to the FFA COE and last Friday Night’s disappointing 0-4 capitulation to Woden-Weston FC in the Southside derby. In fairness, Tuggeranong played well in that latter match but need to address their problem area of defensive frailty which saw cheap turnovers turned into goals on an alarming basis.
The Panthers haven’t been much better in terms of their defensive showings to date having been beaten 5-1 by Canberra FC and 6-1 at home to Tigers FC in their last outing in Round 2. The dismissal of Daniel Linstead in the latter match meant he missed the midweek Westfield FFA Cup Qualifier and Michael Mensah, on debut, scored a brace in his stead. Head Coach Graeme Plath may choose to partner the pair in this game.
The sub-plots involve a number of former Tuggeranong United players making their return to Kambah for the clash. Midfielders Tim Stewart and Matt Menser, plus defender Chris Ruiz, played a pivotal part in United’s Westfield FFA Cup journey last season. They decamped to the Riverside in the off-season and should get a tasty reception from the notorious United faithful. Ace striker Mark Shields is also back at his former hunting ground after a spell with Canberra Olympic.
The Round kicks-off twenty-four hours earlier as Tigers FC welcome Belconnen United to Nijong Oval. Both teams are in the mix at the right end of the table but enter the fixture in contrasting form. The Blue Devils were exceptional in seeing off Canberra Olympic 3-2 at McKellar Park last weekend playing a brand of football that mixed silk with steel and proved too much for their visitors. The decision to partner Aisosa Ihegie with Danai Gapare was a masterstroke by Dean Ugrinic with Ihegie creating both goals for the former Canberra FC striker.
Defensively the team put in a solid effort with Adam Perakovic in goal making a couple of good saves as his confidence grows. The addition of the experienced Matt Valeri to the squad this term has helped the younger generation settle into the team and, at the time of writing, the Blue Devils look a good outfit and could well cause the Tigers problems in the final third.
The Tigers come into the match off the back of that crazy twelve-goal fixture with Canberra FC. Psychologically, the Tigers were struck a mammoth blow as they let slip a commanding 5-2 half-time lead to succumb to a nineteen minute spell of destruction as Canberra FC netted five times to score a 7-5 victory. Going forward Gaby Wilk’s team were irresistible. They played at pace and with movement and angles of running, led by ten-goal striker partnership Alex Oloriegbe (six) and Lucas Montana (four), to which FC had no answer. However, it was ta the back where the Champions looked shaky with Canberra FC exposing a number of areas of weakness on which the Tigers will have to work.
The hugely impressive FFA COE make the trip to O’Connor Enclosed on Sunday afternoon as they meet a Canberra Olympic team aiming to get back into the winner’s circle after suffering the disappointment of a first defeat of the season last weekend. Olympic went into the match with Belconnen United at McKellar Park unbeaten and on four points but they were physically out-matched by a strong Blue Devils team and conceded three times to fall to a narrow defeat.
With striker Philippe Bernabo-Madrid having found the net five times in three matchers already, Olympic know that they have the fire-power to trouble the Centre of Excellence boys. However Tony Vidmar’s team, have looked in sparkling form in their opening two matches of the season, scoring wins over Tuggeranong United and Gungahlin United and scoring six goals in the process. Their pace of ball movement and speed in transition has been a highlight of their play so far and Olympic will have their hands full against a side brimming with confidence.
Frank Cachia has a large and talented squad at his disposal but finding the right formula from all his aces will be the task set before him over the course of the next fortnight. A couple of decent performances, whilst containing to collect points, could make for a valuable contribution when the season is tallied in August. Whichever way you look at it, there should be goals in the match.
Gungahlin United are still searching for a first win of the season and will hope to register it when Woden-Weston FC provide the opposition at Gungahlin Enclosed on Sunday. The Gunners looked good for large parts of the 1-3 loss to the FFA COE at the Australian Institute of Sport in Round 3 but must kick the habit of conceding a goal shortly after scoring one. After Daniel Barac had levelled matters against the FFA COE, the concession of a second to the home team only moments later killed any momentum in its tracks.
There is little doubt that going forward Gungahlin has some outstanding talents. Stephen Domenici is beginning to shake off the effects of an injury sustained in pre-season and looked almost back to his best against the FFA COE. If the Gunners do have a perceived weakness it’s when they have been exposed to speedy attackers at the back. This is hardly surprising when you consider the back four have only played a handful of games together and they can definitely progress in this area.
It’s been a decent start to the year for Woden-Weston FC. Miro Trninic has pulled together a diverse group of players who are greater than the sum of their parts and showed ample fortitude and no little ability in sweeping aside Southside rivals Tuggeranong United at Woden Park under the floodlights in Round 2. Pepe Varga scored twice in that match and with three goals in two matches appears to be keen to make his mark this season. With a plethora of decent distributors, excellent ball-winners and pace out wide, the self-proclaimed Wanderers could be in the mood for what would be an upset win.
Saturday 2nd May
Tigers FC v Belconnen United (Nijong Oval)
Sunday 3rd May
Tuggeranong United v Monaro Panthers (Kambah 2)
Canberra Olympic v FFA COE (O’Connor Enclosed)
Gungahlin United v Woden-Weston FC (Gungahlin Enclosed)