Men’s Premier League Mid-Season Review

Men’s Premier League Mid-Season Review

Paul Orgad takes a look at all the competitors after nine rounds of the 2018 Men’s Premier League.

Chatswood Rangers

Points: 7

Ladder Position: 9th

Goal Difference: -10

Highlight: Opening day victory against rivals Willoughby Dalleys and the performances of Alex Drake.

There must be significant disappointment in the Rangers camp right now, having not won since Round 4 and picking up just a solitary point since, against Lindfield FC in Round 6 (after leading 2-0 at half time). These poor results highlight a distinct lack of confidence amongst the squad. However, the annual June long weekend derby against Willoughby Dalleys is here and it has been fruitful for Rangers in recent times, taking home the Jim McBreen Cup on the past two occasions (not contested in 2016). It may just be the occasion Chatswood need to get things right for the second half of the season. Another positive note is that Rangers have scored in every match so far; however, with the worst defence in the league this is a key area of improvement if they are to reverse their form. Previously Rangers were known for being stout and resilient in defence but this attribute has gone missing in 2018. On a brighter note, new attacking recruit Alex Drake has been in a league of his own, scoring five goals and impressing with his direct style of play, giving defenders across the league something to think about in every match. Should their poor results continue over the coming weeks, they would need to keep one eye on the Division 2 standings, which currently sit in favour of the team who finish 9th in the Premier League – (reference to NSFA regulation of maximum of one squad per club in PL with North Sydney United leading Division 2).

Kissing Point FC

Points: 19

Ladder Position: 2nd

Goal Difference: 2

Highlight: Winning their last 3 games in a row, following 2 consecutive losses at an aggregate of 9 nil.

Kissing Point would be fairly happy with where they sit at the present moment. Three points behind league leaders and fierce rivals West Pymble, with games against opponents whom they beat earlier this season in the next three weeks. Despite only scoring 15 goals (equal 4th lowest) they have been able to keep a clean sheet on four occasions – a statistic which has helped them achieve their lofty ladder position. Talisman Peter Blakeley has been doing the damage in front of goal with six to his name, putting him second behind Seb Bendall (of West Pymble) in the race for the Golden boot. The team were in a similar position at this point last year so it will be interesting to see whether they have learnt from the past and make the most of their decent start. As usual, their home form has been strong with one loss against West Pymble and a draw against Dalleys the only blemishes. They face a resurgent Lane Cove side this weekend who were unlucky not to beat North Sydney and Lindfield in recent games, leading by 2 goals at one point in both matches. ‘Kisso’ will need to perform well in June in order for their Round 15 fixture against West Pymble to become a potential title-deciding clash. The focus for ‘Kisso’ needs to be consistency, as dropping further points against sides in the top four could come back to haunt them at seasons end.

Knox United

Points: 13

Ladder Position: 5th

Goal Difference: -3

Highlight: Winning 3 of the last 4 matches, including the Old Boys derby against Barker.

It is hard to know what to make of Knox’s 2018 season (the first half anyway). Sitting middle of the pack, 8 points ahead of last place and 9 points away from the summit. They have already accrued more points away from home than the entire 2017 season (7 points vs 5 points) and have managed to win some important games against the teams nearest to them on the ladder. However, their defence has been too hot and cold for the team to show any real consistency. Conceding 4 goals in three separate matches yet also keeping two teams scoreless is evidence of that. Their next fixture is against Lindfield FC at Charles Bean. Should they be able to replicate their opening day victory against the same opponent, at the same venue, this may give them confidence going into huge matches against the current top three. To their advantage, Knox are LFC’s bogey team, having won three and drawn one of the past five meetings between the sides. Some usual suspects have been strong performers once again, with David Guthrie, Tom Radcliff and Harry Kaye continuing to show their class. The team has unfortunately lost its top scorer in Paul Turrin, choosing to return to NPL football. It will be interesting to see whether Knox can live up to its own pre-season hype for the latter part of 2018.

Lane Cove

Points: 5

Ladder Position: 10th

Goal Difference: -10

Highlight: Their round 5 victory against Barker by 3 goals to nil.

It has been a more than difficult campaign for Lane Cove FC, losing six of their nine matches and picking up just 5 points. There have been signs of improvement in the past few games as the newly formed squad start to find their combinations. They led 3-1 against North Sydney, only to lose 4-3 and conceded two late goals against Lindfield when leading 2-0. Should they manage to hold onto a lead in future games they can expect to gain a few more competition points. Perhaps one advantage is that all nine remaining games will be played on synthetic grass, clearly suiting the Blackman Park based side. Whilst their defence has improved on previous years (37 against this time last year vs 21 in 2018), their attackers have failed to trouble opposition defences on numerous occasions. Only one player has scored more than 1 goal (Said Soleimanpour with 5) which must be a worrying statistic no doubt. Things don’t get any easier for LCFC, with their next three games against the current top three. Lucky to escape relegation in 2017, there will need to be quick improvement shown to avoid facing the drop this year.

Lindfield FC

Points: 15

Ladder Position: 4th  

Goal Difference: 4

Highlight: Back to back victories against Northbridge and West Pymble (Round 4 and 5 respectively).

Lindfield’s slow start to the season can be put down to a number of things. A new coach, a disrupted pre-season, key absentees and mass changes to the playing squad. However, including the victory against Northbridge in Round four, they are now unbeaten in six games and find themselves in 4th spot on goal difference. A respectable turnaround to say the least. Each LFC game has been incredibly tight, often decided by one goal, with three games ending in a draw. Scoring has not come as easily this season without the Ciabatti brothers, however, Matt Ventura has taken on the role of leading the line to great effect with 5 goals. Three players have found the back of the net more than once, being Ed Ferguson, Nathan Murray and Daniel Stern. Robbie Szafranek has caught the eye of opposing teams in the first 9 Rounds, whilst Stern has been the key performer for his side since arriving in the off-season. Lindfield have a tricky test against Knox this weekend, having only beaten them once in the past five meetings. They have an exceptional record at Charles Bean this year and should LFC be serious about a top 4 finish, they will need to get something out of this match. Unfortunately, the pattern of winning a Premiership Title every 5 years (previously in ’08 and ’13) does not look like continuing. Certainly a rebuilding year for the club which they have achieved so far.

North Sydney United

Points: 12

Ladder Position: 6th

Goal Difference: -4

Highlight: Winning four of five matches between Round 3 and 7.

We’re not used to seeing North Sydney United outside the top four and with the number 25 in the GA column. However, after conceding 13 goals in their opening two games they have managed to regroup and find themselves within touching distance of Lindfield and Northbridge. Whilst they are a much younger outfit than previous years, they have shown character and resilience to recover from their opening two losses. Alex Moth has carried his strong form from 2017 into this year, scoring 6 goals. An injury against Lindfield in Round 8 caused him to miss last week’s game but NSU desperately need him back on the park if they are any chance of upsetting Northbridge and Pymble over the next fortnight. Edwin Bowers and Ben Peacock have contributed to the teams attacking prowess, scoring 4 and 3 goals respectively. The younger members of the squad will need to learn quickly from the first 9 Rounds if North Sydney are to be a threat this year and finish in the coveted top 4. This starts with the return matches against West Pymble and Northbridge who gave them a footballing lesson earlier this year.

Northbridge FC

Points: 15

Ladder Position: 3rd  

Goal Difference: 9

Highlight: Their ladder position in their return to the Premier League competition.

Much was made of the star-studded squad Northbridge assembled in the off-season. Whilst a few of their major signings are yet to find their groove, Matt Lee and Luke Tyson have impressed in the opening part of the season. Tyson is their current top goal scorer with 5, followed by former NSFA Golden Boot winner Robbie Kerr and the classy Michael Cole on 4 each. Starting the season with a resounding victory against neighbours North Sydney (5-2), everyone certainly took notice. However, this excellent result was followed by two draws and a loss, all against teams currently outside the top 3. In that same period, current league leaders West Pymble went four from four and created a 7 point gap which they have maintained to this point. As predicted scoring goals has not been a problem for Tom Sweeney’s side, scoring at just under 3 goals per game. The issue has been ‘keeping them out’ with only one clean sheet so far and conceding 3 goals or more on three occasions. Not quite the statistics of a title winning side. With that said, they face a North Sydney side down on confidence this weekend and if we can expect anything from this match it will be goals, as both sides have shown an inability to keep the opposition scoreless. If NFC are to make a charge for the title they will need to pull a run of wins together and hope West Pymble (and Kissing Point) slip up in the coming weeks, before facing each of these teams in a huge month of July for the club.

Old Barker

Points: 10

Ladder Position: 7th  

Goal Difference: -5

Highlight: Winning three games in a row between Round 2 and 4.

After Round 4 of this seasons competition, Old Barker sat on 9 points, with three wins from four matches. They now sit on just 10 points. Unfortunately, they have lost much of the momentum and confidence gained from those early victories, although taking a point against a strong Northbridge FC last week may give them a much-needed boost. Club stalwart Matt Vickers has once again led the way but younger members of the squad such as Sam Malone (3 goals), Sam Gunning and Gohto Saikawa have also shown their worth. In a similar fashion to other mid table teams, they struggle to find consistency and the back of the net, with just 13 goals scored. They do have a couple of fixtures to play at Rosewood (on Barker College grounds), but these are a few weeks away. Critical games against Rangers and Dalleys in Round 11 and 12 respectively could be decisive in determining where they finish on the competition ladder. With a small squad – injuries, suspensions and absentees could be critical to their chances, as will the solid performances of the above-mentioned players.

West Pymble

Points: 22

Ladder Position: 1st  

Goal Difference: 20

Highlight: Their victory against fierce rivals Kissing Point by 6 goals to nil, following a string of poor results against them in the past few seasons.

West Pymble find themselves in a similar position heading into the second half of the season – on top and looking down at the chasing pack, saying “come and get us”. Well, they probably haven’t said the last part. Their consistency is admirable, as is their ability to reinvigorate themselves year after year. Adopting a different formation this season has had a positive effect on their performances and Coach Greg Fuchs would be particularly happy with their back-to-back victories over Kissing Point and Northbridge in Rounds 6 and 7 respectively. Ultimately, this is what has them above these two teams and staring at their fourth league title in a row. Despite the mid-season travels of Captain Joel Carter, the squad have been able to cover absent players better than most. One player who has matured and shown consistency this year is Daniel Hepworth, whilst Seb Bendall has been clinical in front of goal, leading the charts with 7. Ray Lee has shown his attacking ability, scoring 4 from right-back, although a couple of those have been from the penalty spot. Should they repeat their first round efforts of winning 4 games on the bounce it could be curtains by mid July should the chasing pack continue to stumble. However, if the gap remains at 3 points then the Round 15 Comenarra Derby against ‘Kisso’ could be massive for both sides.

Willoughby Dalleys

Points: 9

Ladder Position: 8th

Goal Difference: -3

Highlight: Their 7 points from the last 3 games taking them above the bottom 2 teams.

Dalleys have taken some time to click into gear this season, with just 2 points gained from their first 6 games. However, the team have some experienced players to guide them through the tough times, including new signing Adrian Porcu, the returning Jason Lal and the ever-reliable Chad Cowley. The latter has been in inspired form this season and will be doing his best to ensure the good results in the last three matches continue. After struggling to find avenues to goal in the opening rounds, Dalleys have scored 6 in their past three games. Tom Louw has been the danger man in the front third and has 5 goals to his name. Their next three games are critical, starting with the Willoughby Derby at Chatswood Oval this weekend. Should Dalleys be victorious in this match they will have a 5 point gap on Rangers and potentially a 7 point gab on bottom placed Lane Cove (should they lose to ‘Kisso’). An interesting week ahead.

Current Ladder

  1. West Pymble – 22 points  (+20 goal difference)
  2. Kissing Point – 19 (+2)
  3. Northbridge – 15 (+9)
  4. Lindfield – 15 (+4)
  5. Knox United – 13 (-3)
  6. North Sydney – 12 (-4)
  7. Old Barker – 10 (-5)
  8. Willoughby Dalleys – 9 (-3)
  9. Chatswood Rangers – 7 (-10)
  10. Lane Cove – 5 points (-10)

Golden Boot Standings

7 goals – Seb Bendall (West Pymble)

6 goals – Alex Moth (North Sydney), Peter Blakeley (Kissing Point)

5 goals – Alex Drake (Chatswood Rangers), Luke Tyson (Northbridge), Matt Ventura (Lindfield), Said Soleimanpour (Lane Cove), Tom Louw (Willoughby Dalleys)

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