NPL SA 2023: The winners and losers from Round 14
Throughout the 2023 NPL SA season, Front Page Football looks at each week's big winners and losers from the action-packed South Australian top flight. Below are our picks from round fourteen.
Łukasz Klimek celebrates his goal as Croydon FC secured their third win of the season. (Adam Butler/80kms)
LoBasso makes an impact higher up the pitch
Early in his career, Jayden LoBasso could be found in midfield. But after moving to the Adelaide Comets, the quality in the side's engine room saw him become an accomplished fullback and a crucial part of multiple successful seasons. With season 2023 being a rollercoaster for Comets, George Tsonis started LoBasso - who wore the captain's armband on the night - in a role that saw him float around the midfield and forward line in round fourteen.
That change spelled trouble early on for an unsettled FK Beograd backline on Friday, who could not handle LoBasso's mobility and Allan Welsh's height. LoBasso opened the scoring 11 minutes into the matchup, taking advantage of a loose ball in the box to curl the ball past Jamie Signorello.
The two sides traded goals before LoBasso popped up in the box again in the dying embers of the first half, converting Anthony Mavrolambados' cross to put Comets two goals ahead going into halftime. They ran out 5-1 winners, with LoBasso unlucky not to have scored a hat-trick. The born-again midfielder seems to be relishing a return to a familiar role in his first season after recovering from Guillain-Barré syndrome.
LoBasso grabbed the headlines, but the efforts of Tom Giannakopoulos, who played in an unfamiliar defensive midfield role, must be recognised. The midfielder's tireless performance helped set the foundations for an impressive win.
Croydon's king scores in another win
Łukasz Klimek's name has been synonymous with Croydon for years, so it was only fitting that the fullback scored their first NPL goal at Polonia's new home in Regency Park back in round two. Croydon may have secured a win that day, but 2023 has not gone to plan for Travis Dodd's side, who entered the competition's fourteenth round with a meagre two victories to show for their efforts.
It did not look like Croydon would add to their winning tally after conceding only four minutes into their clash against Modbury. Seb Goode pulled the home side level only a minute later, but Croydon fell behind again, this time to a Hamish McCabe goal.
Croydon admirably fought back again, with Patrick Caraccia levelling the match from the penalty spot. With the scores even, the points were there for the taking in the second half. Despite being a fixture in Croydon's defence, Klimek popped up higher up the pitch during a Croydon attack and spectacularly placed the ball in Ryan Neild's top corner to give his side the lead for the first time on the day, and eventually, a much needed three points.
Irabona breaks his goal drought to fire City back into the top six
Season 2023 has been a challenging one for back-to-back champions Adelaide City. The Black and Whites were expected to compete for a treble, but their inconsistent form has seen Paul Pezos' side drop to the point of being out of the top six in recent weeks.
Coming up against an undermanned but still dangerous Adelaide United Youth side in round fourteen, City needed to win. Both sides had their chances in the first half. But Aladin Irabona, a champion with Adelaide City and former Adelaide United Youth player, opened the scoring for his side.
City's cause was further boosted when Musa Toure was sent off in the second half. Irabona took full advantage of the extra space afforded to him by placing a stunning effort into Steven Hall's top corner. The forward, who had not scored since mid-April, tapped in for his hat-trick in the 82nd minute to confirm the victory, and Adelaide City's return to the top six. They now prepare for the season's second Grand Final rematch against the Adelaide Comets.
Campbelltown's MetroStars hoodoo continues at a bad time
Campbelltown City entered their top-of-the-table clash against MetroStars without a win against their North Eastern neighbours in their past four encounters. To leapfrog Danny Graystone's side at the league's summit, the Red Devils had to do something they had not done since May 21, 2021, and beat the MetroStars.
An exciting first half saw both sides create chances. But Metro opened the scoring early after the restart. Scott Nagel assisted the evergreen Fabian Barbiero, who continued his goal-scoring form in season 2023 by finishing past Alex Woodlands. Michael Matricciani's men thought they had found an equaliser late in the game. But Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio was adjudged to have fouled Jackson Walls on the goalline before he tumbled the ball in, so the goal was ruled out.
A hectic five-minute injury time could have seen both sides find the back of the net. But the MetroStars prevailed again, confirming a fifth straight win against Campbelltown. The Red Devils will be competing against Metro for silverware in 2023. They will have to find a way to break this hoodoo should they have a successful season.
The top six contenders who keep leaking goals
Entering season 2023, FK Beograd and the Modbury Jets aimed to break from the pack and appear in the Finals Series. Both sides have occupied spots inside the top six at times in 2023. But neither would be pleased with their defensive output, which sees both placed in a precarious position.
The Adelaide Comets have had their issues with finding the back of the net this campaign but seamlessly scored five away from home against FK Beograd. This loss saw Beograd left in seventh with 29 goals conceded in just 14 games, a record that must be addressed should Josh Smith's side be involved at the season's pointy end.
Meanwhile, Modbury took the lead twice against Croydon. But their inability to hold onto it resulted in Maurice Natale's side coming away from the game empty-handed. Croydon equalised twice and then snatched the three points after taking the lead for the first time in the second half, leaving Modbury in sixth but with a huge 35 goals conceded in 14 games. The unsustainable record will catch up with the Jets if they are not cautious.
Where will Sturt's wins come from?
Season 2023 has been nothing short of a nightmare for the Sturt Lions, with the club alone at the foot of the table. Even in such a negative year, the Lions had a bright spot: a win against West Adelaide back in round three. Lino Fusco's men hoped to replicate it in round fourteen to start a survival effort.
With the O'Donnell brothers set to miss an extended period, the side West Adelaide fielded was arguably weaker than the one Sturt previously defeated. After a positive first half, the Lions opened the scoring through Alex Sortini after halftime. Sturt has not had many leads to defend in 2023, and this one was shortlived, with Dimitri Toumazos equalising for West Adelaide minutes later.
Neither side could add to their goal tally, with West Adelaide dropping to tenth after Croydon's win and Sturt still three points adrift from second-bottom South Adelaide. The Lions' inability to defeat a weakened West Adelaide side, the only team they have claimed a win against in 2023, forecasts a troubling second half of the season for a side that needs all the help they can get to survive.
Click here to read our NPL SA winners and losers from Round 13!