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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

NPL SA 2023: The winners and losers from Round 15

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 fifteen.

Campbelltown City players celebrate a goal during their side's round fifteen victory over FK Beograd. (Ken Carter)

The Winners

Adelaide Olympic's goalscoring midfielders

It is no secret Adelaide Olympic's season did not start the way anyone at the club was hoping. They struggled to find the back of the net, changed coach, and found themselves in the relegation zone. Olympic needed some personnel to start stepping up on the attacking end, which happened in the past month.

Cooper Mullins and Joe Wright scored Olympic's two goals in their draw against Adelaide United Youth in round fifteen. Both midfielders' involvement in the final third is a big reason why the club has climbed up the NPL SA rankings. Mullins scored after only a minute against the Young Reds, recording his fifth goal in four games and confirming his status as one of the most in-form players in the competition.

Meanwhile, Wright's goal from near the halfway line was his second in four weeks, with the midfielder assisting multiple times in the same period. In a month, Adelaide Olympic has gone from fighting for survival to being an outside chance at a top-six spot, and this dynamic midfield combination is a big reason why.

The Jets get on the right side of an early goal line clearance gone wrong

Round eleven of season 2023 brings unhappy memories to anyone attached to the Modbury Jets. Liam McCabe was sent off for a handball on the goal line minutes into that match, with the MetroStars thrashing his side. In round fifteen, the Jets found themselves on the other side of that scenario when West Adelaide defender Martins Abesida was given his marching orders from an identical situation.

Just like Metro's Hamish Gow did against Modbury a month earlier, Hamish McCabe gave the Jets the lead from the penalty spot. Tim Henderson added to the scoreline in the second half before Hellas pulled a goal back through Joe Gatting.

Similarly to Modbury a month earlier, West Adelaide's early red card meant they ran out of legs. Hamish McCabe, and ironically Liam McCabe, sent off in the match mentioned above, put the finishing touches on a comprehensive victory. Maurice Natale and his men would be feeling some satisfaction at gaining three points, and that fate ensured they earned them the same way they lost them not too long ago.

Young Reds shake off a nightmare start

For a talented young squad like the one Adelaide United possesses in the NPL SA, the mental side of the game is as crucial as the physical side. That fact becomes even more relevant when a young squad gets even more youthful, with many of the Young Reds tied up with international duty in round fifteen.

When they went behind by two goals within the first 10 minutes against Adelaide Olympic, with multiple players having only a handful of senior appearances to their name, no one would have been surprised to see them suffer a heavy defeat come full-time. Despite a nightmarish start, the Young Reds found an avenue back into the game minutes later when Jake Porter placed a bouncing ball in Callum Nissen's top corner.

One of the more experienced Young Reds, Giuseppe Bovalina, did what he does so often by popping up in the attacking third to earn his side a hard-fought point away from home. On paper, the result may seem disappointing for Adelaide United Youth. But in the context of the season, with his available names, Airton Andrioli would be overjoyed with his young side's response on Saturday night.

The Losers

Fortunately for FK Beograd, there's no place like home

Frank Mitchell Park has historically been a fortress for FK Beograd, with many great sides struggling to replicate their trademark performances in Woodville. Even this season, Beograd have claimed the scalp of back-to-back champions Adelaide City. But in recent weeks, this home form has not held up.

When FK Beograd fans saw their side was scheduled to play four consecutive home games, they would have felt this period was one where their side would come together to secure their place in the Finals Series. But it did not go to plan. Coming into round fifteen's clash against Campbelltown City, FK Beograd had lost all three of their consecutive home games, conceding 13 goals.

The negative streak continued when Campbelltown went two goals up, which the hosts could not match, condemning them to an unprecedented fourth consecutive home loss in as many weeks. Finding themselves out of the top six, Beograd's trip to Croydon may prove a blessing in disguise, with Josh Smith and his men looking for a way to revitalise their inconsistent season.

Grand Finalists stumble to a draw

In the past couple of seasons, the Adelaide Comets and Adelaide City have looked almost untouchable, clearly the two best sides in the competition and fighting for the championship at the season's showpiece event. The two sides have not looked like their previous selves in 2023, though, and two uncharacteristic errors proved that point when they played out a draw in round fifteen.

Six minutes after City opened the scoring, experienced duo Charlie Devereux and Matthew Halliday struggled to communicate when attempting to deal with a loose bouncing ball. It led to neither man attacking the ball and Comets midfielder Arbi Mollas strolling through on goal to slot an equaliser past a visibly frustrated Dakota Ochsenham.

Meanwhile, the Comets could not protect their lead when they needed to after Jayden LoBasso earned it for his side for a second consecutive week. This time, experienced centre-back Adam Le Cornu tripped over teammate Stelios Zacharakis in the box, allowing Katsuyoshi Kimishima time and space to cross the ball and pick out a free Daniel Bressan, who comfortably headed home to ensure the reigning Grand Finalists went home frustrated.

Relegation battle stalemate

In a relegation battle, every win is crucial. But none more so than the ones against sides competing against you to stay up. Sturt Lions and South Adelaide, two teams currently in the NPL SA drop zone, had a chance to boost their survival bids while ensuring their opponents were left with one foot in State League One in round fifteen.

South Adelaide, as they have been for most of the year, started as the better side and opened the scoring through Chol Wel early on, then managed to make it two early in the second half through a superb individual effort by Alex Rideout.

Before the Panthers could start celebrating, Alex Sortini and Gonzalo Rodgriguez combined, with the latter clawing back a goal for his side. A casual handball in the box by substitute Mason Cahill saw Sturt's Tyreece Conway equalise from the spot, ensuring a fun match for the neutrals but an opportunity missed for both clubs. They both entered desperate to be the clear winners with three points. Yet, they left without making any substantial ground on their relegation rivals.

Click here to read our NPL SA winners and losers from Round 14!


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