NPL1 Round 2 Preview
Belconnen United v Riverina Rhinos | Saturday, 13th April – 3pm @ McKellar Park
Belconnen United and the Riverina Rhinos will both be hoping to bounce back from round one defeats when they meet at McKellar Park on Saturday afternoon. United were beaten 2-0 by Woden-Weston at Melrose in a game they maybe should’ve got something out of and Steve Forshaw will be keen to get his team on the points board early. A loss at this stage is not the end of the world but falling six points behind other top four aspirants would certainly sting, so expect United to come out firing in this match. Forshaw’s side are unlikely to be wasteful with chances like they were in round one, particularly against a Rhinos side who were far from solid at the back in round one.
Gabriel Abdala’s visiting team will be without Ally Macleod after his straight red card in round one, and they will have a big task ahead of them to get a result from this match. At McKellar Park last season, the Rhinos pushed Belconnen all the way until tiring legs brought them undone, and they will need to bring that same fire to this occasion. Last week’s loss as well as the shock defeat to ANU FC in the FFA Cup has left the Rhinos in a less than ideal position this early in the season, but this weekend gives them a good chance to bounce back against a stumbling top four aspirant.
Tuggeranong United v Canberra FC | Sunday, 14th April – 3pm @ Greenway Enclosed
Reigning treble winners Canberra FC were beaten soundly at home in the first game of the season by arch rivals Canberra Olympic and have a lot of work to do if they are to retain the treble from last season. Luka Ujdur will be without Marko Vrkic for his late tackle on Jay Kelly but he can find comfort in the fact their opponents this weekend will be coming in off the back of a heavy loss too. Too often Canberra FC were second to the loose ball and physically beaten by Canberra Olympic, and that will need to change this weekend if Ujdur is to see a swing in results. His side were able to get back in their groove a bit during the week with a thumping cup win over Brindabella but they need to prove themselves against fellow NPL1 opposition here.
Tuggeranong were outclassed at Nijong Oval by Tigers and will also be looking to bounce back to winning ways. United have a harsh opening to the season with this match followed by clashes against Gungahlin and Canberra Olympic, so three points here is vital for Mitch Stevens and his men to set them off on the right track. Adding to that tough stretch is an FFA Cup clash with Woden-Weston for a spot in the semi-finals, although the Easter break next weekend provides some relief. Carrying momentum into the break will be a bonus so expect Tuggeranong to come out of the blocks fast at Greenway.
Tigers FC v Monaro Panthers | Sunday, 14th April – 3pm @ Nijong Oval
Two of the week one winners meet at Nijong on Sunday as Jimmy Kanaridis and the new look Panthers aim to keep their party rolling. A big week one win in Griffith was the perfect beginning to Kanaridis’ first season in charge and with three different goal scorers it was a prolific outing too. One only needs to go back a year to when Monaro famously saw off Canberra Olympic in their first outing of the season before struggling in the following weeks, but this feels like a different Monaro group this season. Tigers away will be a challenging outing regardless, and Kanaridis needs to ensure his side are on top of their game. Sam Smith proved again last weekend he can be counted on to produce in front of goal as his quick brace helped tear the game away from the Rhinos, but he will be up against a far sturdier backline in this outing.
Tigers could not have asked for a much better beginning to their season as they dealt with Tuggeranong by three goals at Nijong just a week after seeing off Monaro to move into the quarter-finals of the FFA Cup Preliminary Rounds. Nic Abot found the scoresheet first before Laurence Redmond and Roko Strika joined him, and Gaby Wilk has a wealth of attacking riches at his disposal to throw at Monaro this weekend. They must avoid complacency here though against the Panthers, knowing a strong showing will reinforce their credentials as one of the main challengers for the title.
Canberra Olympic v Gungahlin United | Sunday 14th April – 3pm @ O’Connor Enclosed
Canberra Olympic could hardly have dreamt of a better start than their 3-0 win against Canberra FC last week, and with Jay Kelly and Tim Bobolas cleared of any injury worries Frank Cachia will have a full-strength squad to pick from again here. Olympic looked capable of beating anyone as they ran their rivals off Deakin, but will again face a test as they take on Gungahlin. Cachia and his team will be keen to start off their home record with a win before they take a two week break with Easter and the bye, albeit with the potential of a monster FFA Cup clash with Canberra FC to be scheduled in their somewhere. A win here would put them in perfect stead ahead of that break before games against Tuggeranong & Monaro when they return.
Gungahlin have had a less than perfect start to the season without even playing a game, but they will use that to fire them up as they clash with a side now nine points ahead of them. Their predicament almost demands a victory here but Marcial Munoz will not put his side in a position to get run over in search of three points, and United will likely play it smart after seeing Olympic’s performance in round one. Munoz has assembled a strong squad and several ex-Olympic players will face their old club for the first time. They will be no strangers to playing at O’Connor and will be keen to get one up over their former teammates.