A performance review of the PlayStation 4 NPL South Australia teams at the midway point of the season.
Adelaide Blue Eagles
Sitting second at the halfway point, Gianluca Lagati will be pleased with how his team has travelled. Adelaide Blue Eagles was defeated in Round 1 of Westfield FFA Cup Qualifying, but has lost just once in the PlayStation 4 National Premier League South Australia.
Just two points from top spot, Blue Eagles have been aided by the goals of its deadly trio – Kym Harris, Alemayo Kebede and Yvan Boyokino – and a settled line-up. Able to sign Lucas Andreucci in place of injured goalkeeper Michael Catford, Lagati has a strong squad at his disposal – and the League’s best defence – which can set its sights on finals football.
The first half of Adelaide City’s season can be split into two parts. In the opening eight rounds the Black and Whites struggled for consistency and languished in mid-table, recording just two wins.
The team was transformed after a defeat against Modbury and has lost just once in five matches. Damian Mori’s men have scored 22 goals in the process to sit on the cusp of a top-six position. Having also progressed to the Semi-finals of Cup Qualifying, City is starting to look the team which did so well in the Westfield FFA Cup last season. It will again be targeting a finals appearance.
The surprise team of last season when it stormed into the finals, Adelaide Comets has so far proved the run of 2014 was no fluke. Jim Karatzas’ side is holding down sixth position after inflicting a first defeat on leaders West Adelaide.
Comets started the season slowly, but have since won four of the past five games – a crushing defeat against Adelaide City the only blemish. It means Comets are in a good position to equal the achievement of last season and make another finals appearance. Leading the way has been six-goal man John Karatzas.
The aim this season for Joe Mullen’s Campbelltown City was to put aside a disappointing championship defence in 2014. It has done so in the opening 13 matches, winning seven times to sit fourth. The Red Devils remain in touch of the leaders, just five points behind West Adelaide.
Campbelltown boasts one of the League’s tightest defences, keeping six clean sheets this campaign. The side has struggled for goalscorers aside from 10-goal man Michael Matricciani, but a comeback success on the weekend against South Adelaide will have boosted confidence. Campbelltown remains on course for a return to top six action.
The reigning champions are in touching distance of a position inside the top six, but it has perhaps not been the start Croydon envisioned. Coach Mark Brazzale has had to deal with a number of injuries and the team has lacked consistency in its results.
After a big loss to Adelaide City, the Kings have tasted defeat in just one of the next four matches to hold eighth spot. Also through to the last four of FFA Cup Qualifying, the second half of the season could hold promise for Croydon. The target will be to climb into the six.
It took some time for MetroStars to get going, but following three wins in the past four matches the Klemzig-based club has a place in the top six and will not want to relinquish.
With Michael Pirone taking over from Ivan Karlovic after a highly successful 2014, the team started slowly in winning just once in the opening five rounds. MetroStars have since won a further five times as they climb up the ladder. Not the free-scoring unit of last term, MetroStars have proven tough to break-down – conceding just three goals in the last six. That could be the catalyst for success.
One point from the opening six games wasn’t exactly the start Jason Trimboli and his Modbury side was hoping for on the club’s return to the Premier League. Yet the Jets have responded to the pressure to now sit 11th, clear of the relegation zone.
There have been hiccups since – notably a heavy defeat against West Adelaide – but the Jets have performed admirably in recent weeks to give themselves a shot at avoiding a quick return to the State League. They’ll need to add goals. With only 15 scored, Modbury’s total is the second lowest in the top flight.
It has been a disappointing campaign for Para Hills. The Knights are propping up the table at the halfway point and are already some way from safety. They will need a big turnaround in the second half of the season. The poor start saw coach Simon Catanzaro leave, with Duane Gray entrusted to steer Para Hills from the drop zone.
The first order of business will be to improve defensively. The Knights hold the League’s worst defensive record – 38 goals conceded – and being without a win in nine games need to quickly return to the winners list to start the comeback.
Port Adelaide Pirates
A free-scoring and attacking unit in the State League, Derek Hall’s Port Adelaide Pirates have not betrayed what brought them to the dance. The Pirates, into the last four of Cup Qualifying and sitting ninth, are clear of the relegation zone and will feel they have shown enough to suggest avoiding dropping back to the second tier.
The Pirates have kept a solitary clean sheet, indicating their preference for attack over defence. The method has its rewards – Pirates inflicting just one of three losses on West Torrens Birkalla – but does mean they leak goals, conceding 17 in the last five games.
A club of Raiders stature goes into each season aiming for a top six position. In that regard, 2015 has so far been frustrating for Carl Maynard’s men. They are currently 10th, nine points outside the top six.
After a slow start Raiders appeared to have picked up steam with a run of 10 points claimed from a possible 12. However, the momentum has slowed in recent matches and they are without a win since late March. Finals action is not out of the question, but Raiders will have to show greater consistency in the final 13 matches.
Having avoided relegation in its first season of Premier League football, South Adelaide hoped to push on and challenge for a finals position this term. That has not been the case so far, with the Panthers occupying a place in the relegation zone.
South had seemingly put a slow start behind them with a run of four games without defeat last month, but losses against both Comets and Campbelltown from winning positions has halted their progression. With only five home matches remaining, Danny Graystone’s side will need to show something more to avoid relegation. It will be crucial to find defensive solidity.
West Adelaide impressed last season, but instability in the coaching ranks did not help its cause. With Paul Pezos now in charge the Blue and Whites are two points clear at the top of the table. West only suffered its first defeat this past weekend.
Sitting top of the pile means West has a target on its back, but Pezos’ team has shown its capabilities in meeting those challenges head on. And in Tom Briscoe West has one of South Australia’s deadliest strikers. The aim now will be to finish in first place and improve on last season’s Preliminary Final appearance.
West Torrens Birkalla
If Adelaide Comets proved the surprise of last season, that accolade falls to West Torrens Birkalla in 2015. The team led by Steve De Giovanniello is substantially changed from last term. Birkalla have stormed to third, having also been second for a brief period.
The weekend loss to White City was the first time Birkalla had failed to score. While it has conceded in each game to date, with Jordan Watson and Ryan Kitto – nine goals apiece – plus Paul Radice – eight – they have firepower in attack. Birkalla will be aiming to secure a finals place, where it could well spring a surprise.
It has been a season of contrast for White City, with more wins in FFA Cup Qualifying – three – than the Premier League – two. Sergio Melta’s team is languishing in 12th. Yet the Warriors weekend win over West Torrens Birkalla will have boosted confidence ahead of the return fixtures.
If the season aim was to challenge for the top six, progression in the Cup and League consolidation will be the targets now. The win over Birkalla shows the Warriors can produce the goods, but they must do so on a more consistent basis. Goals – their total is the lowest at 14 – are paramount.