Perth face test against old mates
Get set for some fireworks at Dorrien Gardens on Saturday when high-flying hosts Perth take on the "born again" Inglewood United in what could be a key sixth round of the National Premier Leagues WA.
It will be a return to his old stamping ground for Inglewood coach Graham Normanton, who led Perth to a string of league titles and cup triumphs before leaving the club a few years ago.
And it will also be like old-home week for several Inglewood players who once used to tread Dorrien Gardens with pride when they wore Perth strips.
"We anticipate they'll be fired up and out to show something against their old club," said Perth coach Taki Nicolaidis, who is in his first full season with the club and has already guided them to second place on the ladder.
"We're happy with where we are at — but it's not Round 22 yet. There's still a long way to go."
Perth dominated for much of the contest when beating Balcatta 2-1 last week, a victory which was adorned with a peach of a free-kick goal from Mark Pritchard.
"It was a real gem," said Nicolaidis. "Mark hadn't trained all week and he only came on for a brief run - but he'll be in from the start this week."
Normanton insists both he and his players will not be focusing on making a point against their former club...he just wants to concentrate on getting the three points that are the reward for success.
He said: "I always look forward to playing against Perth, not just because they are my old club, but because they are probably the most professional club in the State."
Inglewood thumped Armadale 6-1 last week for their first league victory of the season to climb off the bottom of the ladder.
"We scored four goals in the Cool Ridge Cup the previous week, so 10 goals in two games has been great for our confidence," added Normanton. "We know we are capable of beating Perth and we need the three points to keep moving in the right direction. My driving force is to get Inglewood to the top."
Saturday's other major contest sees league leaders Bayswater City face what could be their toughest test so far when they travel to Macedonia Park to take on the improving Stirling Lions, who are fourth on the ladder but seven points adrift.
The Lions showed great resolve last weekend to come from two down to draw 2-2 with Sorrento — and coach Gary Williams will be calling on his players to show similar spirit against the unbeaten Bayswater.
"We showed tremendous character to get up for that draw," said Williams. "We'll obviously need to be at our best against Bayswater, but I'm excited at the challenge for it will give us a barometer on where we're at as a team.
"I've told the players that if we lose we'll be 10 points behind — which will be a lot after only six games — but if we win we close the gap to four points. So there is plenty of incentive there."
City coach Chris Coyne, who signed hot striker David Heagney from Floreat two weeks ago, has further boosted his squad by capturing young winger Sam Mitchinson from A-League side Melbourne Heart.
"Sam was in Glory's A-League squad a few seasons ago but didn't get a look-in," said Coyne. "We're delighted to bring him back to WA. He's a left-sided player with great potential. He'll get a run at some stage against the Lions."
Cockburn City are the NPL's only other unbeaten team. They have five points from three games and will go into Saturday's home clash with Floreat Athena still feeling a bit of a buzz after coming from behind last weekend to draw 5-5 with Perth Glory.
Cockburn coach Marc Anthony said: "What was heartening was that a lot of young players dug in and did really well. We don't have a recognised striker in the team at the moment, so to get five was amazing. Let's hope we can keep it going."
Perth Glory coach Scott Miller is hoping for more thrills when his side take on Armadale at Intiga Stadium.
"Last week was a great learning curve for our young players, and I think the Armadale game will be another test. I'm a great admirer of their coach, Lee Bamber, and I know he will provide us with plenty of problems."
ECU Joondalup coach Dale McCulloch will be hoping his side bounce back against Balcatta at Joondalup Football Stadium after losing 2-0 to Bayswater last week.
"It's another tough one and we'll be without our captain Jon Higgins, who is unavailable, and Tommy Amphlett, who is getting married," said McCulloch. "But we've got a lot of good young players coming through so it will be a big opportunity for some of them."
Sorrento have signed Scotsman Chris Reid from Bayswater and he's likely to make his debut against Subiaco at the WA Athletic Stadium.
All NPL sides will be in action again in the second round of the Cool Ridge Cup on Easter Monday, with holders Bayswater at home to Armadale. But the stand-out tie is likely to be Cockburn's home test against Perth.
National Premier Leagues WA Saturday 3pm – Cockburn City v Floreat Athena, Dalmatinac Park; Perth v Inglewood United, Dorrien Gardens; ECU Joondalup v Balcatta, ECU Joondalup Football Stadium; Perth Glory v Armadale, Intiga Stadium; Stirling Lions v Bayswater City, Macedonia Park; Subiaco v Sorrento, WA Athletics Stadium.
Cool Ridge Cup Monday 2.30pm – Cockburn City v Perth, Dalmatinac Park; Floreat Athena v Sorrento, E&D Litis Stadium; ECU Joondalup v Shamrock Rovers Perth, ECU Joondalup Football Stadium; Bayswater City v Armadale, Frank Drago Reserve; Balcatta v Joondalup United, Grindleford Reserve; Inglewood United v Fremantle United, Intiga Stadium; Rockingham City v Stirling Lions, Lark Hill Sportsplex; Subiaco v Curtin University, WA Athletics Stadium.