Two weeks ago Blacktown City FC probably did not picture itself in a PlayStation 4 NPL NSW Men’s 1 Preliminary Final battling for a spot in the Grand Final.
In fact, even 63 minutes into last weekend’s Major Semi Final against Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC, Mark Crittenden and his side would not have expected to be playing this weekend.
But that’s exactly where the City boys are after seeing their 2-0 lead slip in a matter of minutes last week.
The night went from bad to worse and ended in a 4-2 defeat at extra-time, setting up Sunday’s do-or-die clash against APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC.
The Tigers rode their luck on occasion against Sydney Olympic FC in last week’s Minor Semi Final at Lambert Park but had some absolutely outstanding defending from Adam D’Apuzzo to thank for grinding out the 1-0 result.
Nicholas Olsen was the hero at the other end, with his deflected volley looping over Paul Henderson in the Olympic goal towards the end of the first-half, proving enough to see the Tigers progress.
It will not be any easier against Blacktown on Sunday, but momentum can count for a lot in finals football, and it would be fair to say the atmosphere was flat in the City dressing rooms after the final whistle last week.
Despite the result, Crittenden has plenty to be positive about.
Speaking after last Sunday’s game, Crittenden said that if his team re-focussed and got back to playing the sort of football that won it the Premiership, a favourable result would come.
“I think when we get the ball down and play, we’re as good as any other team in this competition,” Crittenden said.
“For 15 or 20 minutes (against Bonnyrigg) we went away from that and started trying these long balls and when we do that, it’s not our game.
“We’ll get the boys back up for the APIA game knowing that they are going to be just as tough. At the end of the day it comes down to the 90 minutes, maybe a bit more, and performing better on the day.”
With a brilliant spine of players featuring the likes of Zach Cairncross and Matt Lewis in defence, Sasa Macura and Patrick Antelmi in midfield and Joey Gibbs, Danny Choi and Travis Major – who is in doubt after only lasting 45 minutes last week following a series of knocks – there can be no doubting City’s potential.
But APIA – while undoubtedly less consistent than City this season – has proven time and time again its quality.
The Tigers will undoubtedly need to have a lot more polish in the final third than they did last week, having seen the likes of Franco Parisi and Corey Bizco miss very good opportunities in the win against Olympic, but if D’Apuzzo can continue to inspire at the back they’ll give City a run for its money.
In two previous meetings this season, Blacktown has not lost to the Tigers, winning 3-1 in round five at Lilys before drawing the away fixture 1-1.
TALE OF THE TAPE:
Round Five: Blacktown City 3 defeated APIA Leichhardt Tigers 1
Round 16: APIA Leichhardt Tigers 1 drew with Blacktown City 1