Melbourne City will undergo what is likely to be their toughest test of the season so far on Saturday when they travel to face PS4 NPL2 Western Conference leaders Northcote City.
City come into the game having taken 5 points from an available 15 in their last five – with one win, two draws and three losses coming from a stretch that included four straight games at home.
Last week saw City end that home stand with a two goals to one loss to Sunshine George Cross SC. Goals to Sunshine’s Yōsuke Saitō and David Younan were enough to cancel out Austin Wong’s goal for the hosts and spoil the return of Leo Athanasiou to the senior NPL side.
With seven games remaining in their campaign, City are still sitting on third position on the NPL2 Eastern Conference table.
However, the gap between themselves and the Dandenong Thunder – who currently sit in the promotion playoff spot in second place on the table – is rapidly becoming more insurmountable with every dropped point.
The Thunder are currently 11 points clear of City – with the boys from George Andrews Reserve also possessing a game in hand – meaning City cannot afford to drop many of the 21 points on offer over their remaining seven games if they are to be any chance of overhauling the points deficit.
City can also nary afford to drop points if they themselves are to remain in third position on the table – with a surging Goulburn Valley Suns sitting only three points behind them in fourth.
Fresh off overhauling their regional rivals Murray United, the Shepparton based side will now be setting their sights on leapfrogging City – a task that may be made or broken by their Round 24 trip to the City Football Academy.
Before City can look forward to that game however – and their round 27 clash with the Thunder – they must first deal with Western Conference foes Northcote City.
Northcote, relegated from the NPL in 2016; have not experienced the same hangover that has struck fellow relegation victims Richmond SC this season.
With only two losses on the campaign thus far the team from John Cain Memorial Park have barely put a foot wrong all season and sit five points clear atop the Western Conference table and are firm favourites to return to the NPL after only a one year absence.
Led by the dangerous strike pairing of Joshua Knight and Adam Wright – who signed in the mid-season transfer window from Brunswick City – Northcote are overseen by former Port Melbourne Assistant Zeljko Kuzman and are undefeated at home this season.
Their most recent run of form however, may give City hope of pulling what would no doubt be an upset win.
Last week saw the Western Conference leaders having to come back from a deficit twice to draw two all with the Goulburn Valley Suns and the week before that saw them suffer a five goals to three defeat at the hands of Brunswick City FC.
City will be looking to heavily feature Athanasiou and Zachary Bates – who returned to the senior NPL side two weeks ago – against Northcote with coach Lachlan Armstrong saying after last weeks game:
“Those guys have worked incredibly hard to get back to where they are today. So they deserve a run in the team over the next seven games.”
The clash between the two sides will kick off at 3:00pm at Northcote’s home ground of John Cain Memorial Park in Thornbury – with the two sides U20 teams meeting in a curtain raiser beforehand at 12:30.
NPL Victoria – Round 22
Northcote City FC vs Melbourne City
Saturday 8 July, 2017
John Cain Memorial Park (Pitch One) – Thornbury
Seniors: 3pm Under 20’s: 12.30pm
Entry at Gate Prices