A top-four blockbuster and two teams searching for their first win stand out as Round 8 of PlayStation 4 NPL Capital Football kicks off on Saturday.
FFA Centre of Excellence v Canberra FC
The FFA Centre of Excellence will look to topple ladder-leaders Canberra FC this weekend as they come in off a weekend break. The COE’s match last round was postponed due to Riverina’s appearance in the FFA Cup, but they will undoubtedly be fresh for this blockbuster matchup. The young side have proven to be one of the form sides in the league so far, losing only once, and sit six points off top with two games in hand.
For Canberra FC, a clinical win at home last weekend over Tigers kept them up the top of the table, and Marko Vrkic’s side are playing simple, disciplined football. Thomas James did not feature on the scoresheet last weekend in the 3-0 win which gives an indication of the number of scoring threats the visitors here possess. Dangerous on the break, they may look to sit back against the more forward-thinking Centre of Excellence and look to hit the hosts on the counter.
Monaro Panthers v Woden-Weston FC
Monaro and Woden-Weston will both continue the search for their first wins of the season this weekend as they clash at Duncan Fields. The Panthers were humbled at McKellar Park last weekend by Belconnen United, who they knocked out of the Westfield FFA Cup, and that 7 – 0 defeat may be tough to bounce back from this weekend.
Monaro have struggled against the higher team so far but have only had narrow losses elsewhere, and as the first cycle of matchups comes to a close next weekend, this match presents one of their best chances for a victory.
For Woden-Weston, a strong performance last weekend was not enough as they fell to Tuggeranong narrowly thanks to a screamer from Nick Faust, and they will look to rebound here against the only side below them on the ladder. Tony Olivera’s side is beginning to struggle for numbers though, and the potential absence of flying winger Olaide Yinka-Kehinde through injury is a worry.
Daniel Crkovski continues to impress up front though, adding another goal last week, and he will be a danger for a Monaro defence that has been the leakiest in the league through seven rounds.
Gungahlin United v Riverina Rhinos
Riverina Rhinos will look to build off last weekend’s FFA Cup win over Weston-Molonglo as they travel to face Gungahlin United at Kaleen on Saturday in the Match of the Round. The Rhinos have struggled in the NPL but will be boosted by their cup success, with Joe Preece and Darren Bailey’s goals capping off a strong home performance. The Rhinos success in Canberra has been limited however, picking up just two points on their travels thus far.
Against a Gungahlin United side that suffered something of a collapse in the final 20 minutes last week, it is imperative that the Rhinos remain in the game for the entire 90 minutes. A fast start would also help them, however if the travel time is the issue for the visitors here, then getting through the sluggish early stages may be key.
United started strongly at O’Connor last weekend and even carried a lead into the break against reigning Premiers Canberra Olympic, but a stunning final 20 minutes rendered them helpless. If the hosts can dominate for 70 minutes here as they did in that clash, then it is hard to see them suffering defeat.
The concession of five goals hurt their previously excellent defensive record, but the point still stands that they are strong at the back. Going forward Misko Naumoski and Jason O’Dwyer will cause the Rhinos problems, particularly the former given his current patch of scoring and facing the equal second-worst defence in the league. While United should have too much strength here, the Rhinos are still shaping as something of a smokey at times and this is sure to be an entertaining clash.
Tuggeranong United v Canberra Olympic
Canberra Olympic will be looking to extend their winning streak to five league matchesas they take on Tuggeranong United on Sunday. A blistering final 20 minutes from the reigning Premiers saw them come from behind against Gungahlin last weekend, and their strong attack will prove a challenge for the hosts here.
With this match moved away from Kambah, the surface will not be so much of an issue and Olympic will be able to play to their strengths. Up front Stephen Domenici’s blazing start has continued and with 16 goals in seven matches, opposition teams almost need to expect him to score.
Neutralising that threat will be the first item on Tuggeranong’s agenda, and the hosts for this match have the best defense outside of Canberra FC and Belconnen United. However, Olympic’s talent hardly stops there, and Tuggies will need to make sure they do not put all their eggs in one basket. But they have also struggled to find goals of their own, scoring only eight goals in seven matches, meaning a win here will likely have to come by way of a low-scoring affair.
Tigers FC v Belconnen United
Two teams headed in different directions will clash on Sunday in Cooma as Tigers FC look to jump back on the winners list and Belconnen United aim to grab their fourth win in a row.
Tigers were defeated 3-0 by Canberra FC at Deakin last week to hand them their fourth defeat in seven games so far, and leaves them three points behind the fourth placed Centre of Excellence, who have two games in hand on them. Tigers have struggled both ways this season, with the second lowest-scoring attack of all sides in the top six, and the leakiest defence of any side not in the bottom three. That is something that will be tested when they face a Belconnen attack not exactly short on firepower.
For the visitors, their current winning streak stands as one of the best in the league, and after avenging their FFA Cup loss with a thumping of Panthers last Saturday, the most proficient attack in the league will be hungry for more goals. With Canberra Olympic and Canberra FC both having tough matchups in this round, a win here gives Belconnen a strong chance to close the gap to the top two.
A third-strongest defence combined with the aforementioned attack is a dangerous combination for any side, and unless Tigers defensive woes are fixed overnight, a fourth straight win beckons for the visitors here.