After securing promotion last week, it’s now getting right to the business end of the season for our senior NPL squad.
John Maisano’s men will face Preston Lions at Frank Holohan Soccer Complex this Friday night, in a fixture which looks set to go a long way to deciding who’s crowned Champions.
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City couldn’t be more full of confidence coming into this fixture, winning 4-2 away to Whittlesea Ranges last time out to clinch its place in NPL2 for next season.
Knowing what was on the line should it walk away with the three points, City got off to a fast start as Max Caputo opened scoring in the 15th minute. He’d be joined on the scoresheet by Matthew Grimaldi and Lucas Byrns prior to the break.
While Whittlesea did manage to pull one back early in the second half, Luke Oresti put the game to bed with a fantastic left foot strike, before the hosts found the back of the net once more with a consolation goal at the death.
It was the perfect lead in to this Friday night’s 1v2 clash, a game that is set to be season-defining for both teams.
City currently sits two points clear at the top of the table with a +10 goal difference, meaning a win would likely see it require just one point from its final two games. On the other hand, a Preston win would see it jump City on the table and move into the box seat in the Championship race.
You can expect to see two well set-up teams, with Friday night’s match featuring the two best defensive outfits in the league. For context, five teams across the competition have conceded more than the combined total (29 goals) that City and Preston has conceded.
City’s back four – recently comprised of Dom Folino, Kerrin Stokes, Jordan Dellidis and skipper Harry Politidis – has been impressive week in week out, while goalkeeper James Nieuwenhuizen has had a great season in his own right.
Further building on the confidence gained from what has been a strong season so far where defeat has been suffered just twice, majority of City’s usual NPL starting XI saw minutes with the Club’s senior team in Tuesday night’s friendly against NPL1 opposition Dandenong Thunder.
The second half – where most players featured – saw City hold its own with no players looking out of place in an eventually scoreless 45 minutes.
One player who featured that night who fans in particular will be hoping to see again on Friday is Arion Sulemani. Currently the equal Golden Boot leader (despite playing three less games than Preston’s Connor Bell), Sulemani has played just half an hour of NPL action in the last month after suffering a hamstring twinge.
Given he was able to get through 45 minutes of action on Tuesday night with no problems, Maisano may be ready to re-introduce the dynamic young striker into the starting line-up come Friday.
NPL3 Victoria: Round 20
Melbourne City FC v Preston Lions FC
Friday 29 July, 8:00pm kick-off (Gates open 7pm)
Frank Holohan Soccer Complex