NPL Report: City 0-0 Nunawading

City dropped points in the NPL3 competition for the first time in over a month on Saturday afternoon, held to a scoreless draw against Nunawading City in tough conditions at Parade College.

The result now sees the team’s lead over Preston Lions cut to just two points at the top of the table, setting up what could well be a Premiership deciding showdown in a couple of weeks’ time.

Starting XI

As he has throughout the season, Head Coach John Maisano stuck with a very similar starting line-up. Luke Oresti returned in place of Moonib Adus in what was the only change from last week’s XI.

Staring XI: 40. James NIEUWENHUIZEN (GK), 4. Dom FOLINO, 3. Kerrin STOKES, 13. Jordan DELLIDIS, 12. Harry POLITIDIS (C), 21. Emin DURAKOVIC, 26. Justin PAOLILLI, 6. Jordi VALADON, 18. Matthew GRIMALDI, 8. Luke ORESTI, 9. Max CAPUTO.

Substitutes: 41. Luke SAUNDERS (GK), 7. Lucas BYRNS, 11. Arion SULEMANI, 23. Harrison SHILLINGTON, 27. Sebastian ESPOSITO, 28. Dante SICCITA.

What happened?

City got on the front foot early, winning a corner just moments into the contest – but in a sign of things to come – the cross was taken away by the wind with little resulting from the early opportunity.

Despite the tricky conditions, Emin Durakovic continued the strong form which has seen him win a Scholarship contract with City’s senior squad.

The young midfielder was found by Jordi Valadon and then was able to drive forward and unleash a powerful shot on goal that was well saved in what was the first real opportunity of the game.

A combination of City’s usual suffocating press and the blustery conditions made it extremely tough for Nunawading to play out from the back, meaning majority of the first 45 minutes was spent with City doing the attacking.

When it was forced to defend, City’s back four was rock solid and offered very little to Nunawading’s attack, leaving James Nieuwenhuizen to have a relatively stress-free day in goal.

Matthew Grimaldi the man to get a sight at goal in the 32nd, played through by right-back Dom Folino, but the eventual effort from a tight angle cannoned into the post, with no further opportunities to come before the break.

The windy conditions didn’t improve in the second half, continuing to make it tough for the players out on the pitch.

After missing City’s last few fixtures due to a hamstring niggle, Golden Boot leader Arion Sulemani made his return to action in the 59th minute, subbed on to replace Max Caputo.

While neither side could fashion many opportunities early in the second stanza, a string of half chances presented themselves in the final 15 minutes.

Folino was able to force a good save from Nunawading goalkeeper Dennys Martin with a powerful header following a corner, before Jordi Valadon’s curling free-kick again called the shot-stopper into action again just moments later.

Up the other end of the pitch, Niewenhuizen was forced into his first meaningful save in the 83rd minute, reacting quickly to get down to his left and keep out a low driven shot from outside the box.

Despite these late chances, neither side was able to find the back of the net as the points were ultimately shared.

What’s next?

With just four fixtures remaining this season, City will be hoping to return to the winners’ list this Saturday when it takes on 12th placed Whittlesea Ranges at Epping Stadium.