NPL SA 2023: The winners and losers from Round 19
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 19.
Matthew Woithe has impressed in the Croydon goal since getting his opportunity. (Ken Carter)
A young goalkeeper grows into his gloves
To say Matthew Woithe was thrown into the deep end is an understatement. The young goalkeeper was recently thrust into the starting role for his side's Federation Cup Semi-Final against Campbelltown after first-team regular Gianni Tramontin broke his nose.
Woithe has performed admirably since, and Croydon's turn of fortune has seen him retain his spot despite Tramontin being available. The goalkeeper was vital in Round 19 against West Adelaide, as his side earned all three points.
Croydon was 1-0 up thanks to a Patrick Caraccia goal before captain Adam Martinello was penalised for a handball in the box. Despite coming up against the experienced Dimitri Toumazos from twelve yards, Woithe guessed the right way and saved his penalty. Dion Kirk then made it two for Croydon before halftime. Despite conceding early in the second half, the penalty save ultimately ensured Polonia kept their advantage, which Andre Carle extended late in the game to elevate his side into the top six with only three matches to go.
Sindahalaye's rising stocks boost Olympic's Finals hopes
Issa Sindahalaye has been a revelation throughout the second half of the season 2023 for Jason Trimboli's Adelaide Olympic. The young winger has added end product to his game recently, seeing Olympic rise from relegation fodder to only being outside a Finals Series place on goal difference.
Sindahalaye opened his senior scoring account in his side's Round 18 victory against the Sturt Lions, and he did not let a return to the bench against Modbury dampen his spirits. The winger was introduced in place of Oliver Julian in the 61st minute, and just over five minutes later, he latched onto a Rastko Ljujic pass to extend Olympic's lead before producing his signature acrobatic celebration.
A little over 10 minutes later, the winger's industry saw him fouled by Matt Mullen in the Modbury box to allow his captain Christos Pounendis to convert a penalty that put the result beyond doubt. With Olympic one of many teams in a logjam for the final few top six spots, Sindahalaye can be a difference maker.
Mullen and Campbelltown run riot down South
Alex Mullen was awarded the Sergio Melta Medal in 2022, being judged as the best player last season. His performance against South Adelaide in Round 19 was a gentle reminder that he will again be in contention. Minutes into his side's clash against the Panthers, the midfielder poked home the opener from a Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio pass, giving his side an early lead.
With Mullen in midfield, Campbelltown played with all the confidence in the world, highlighted in the interplay between Yohei Matsumoto and Marc Marino, who combined for the latter to score the Red Devils' second. Marino and Mullen then toyed with South Adelaide to end the half, as the duo exchanged a string of passes straight through the heart of the pitch, with the latter scoring his brace to send Campbelltown into halftime with an unassailable lead.
Minutes after the restart, Mullen put the cherry on top of a commanding victory, with a shot from the edge of the box proving too hot to handle for Lewis Moss in the South Adelaide goal. Campbelltown remains hot on the heels of the MetroStars. With the team on song and Alex Mullen in blistering form, the Red Devils will be a nightmare matchup for any opponent when the Finals Series rolls around.
Andrioli losing players as the Young Reds keep sliding
Airton Andrioli knew his team was in for a challenging month when many of his players were recently selected to represent Australia across various age groups during the NPL SA season. A winless run for Adelaide United Youth followed. But a learning experience for the next crop of Young Reds and the promise of the calvary returning was a hopeful point.
But in the week leading up to his side's clash against FK Beograd, Andrioli's squad was further depleted. Kane Vidmar signed for Western United, and Nathan Amanatidis was also absent, reportedly in conversations to sign for Sydney FC. Meanwhile, other NPL regulars have started pre-season training with the A-League Men squad, meaning the Young Reds were light on numbers and quality for another week. Disaster struck early for Adelaide United when Sotiri Phillis, attempting to clear Peter Akot's effort, turned the ball into his net.
After earning an early lead, Beograd was relatively comfortable against the depleted young side and piled on late goals through Akot, again, and Doni Pollock, sealing an important victory. Andrioli will hope for more available players for his side's Round 20 clash against Campbelltown. But no one will be more relieved about the upcoming break in the NPL due to the FIFA Women's World Cup than the Adelaide United coach.
Adelaide City's series of unfortunate events lead to a humbling defeat
The tone of Adelaide City's performance was set early in Round 19 when only thirty seconds in, an Isaac Carmody miskick opened the door for Aladin Irabona to finish into an empty net. Instead of taking advantage, the forward's shot went wide. Within 10 minutes, Cam Woodfin had opened the scoring for the MetroStars.
Metro was gifted their second goal through another costly error. Tom Brown, a usually reliable defender, astonishingly turned the ball into the City net in an attempted clearance gone wrong, sending the league leaders two goals up at halftime. Paul Pezos' men entered the second half renewed in their search for goals. But Brown's challenge on James Temelkovski in the box allowed the striker to get on the scoresheet from twelve yards and make it three for his side.
The encounter was ultimately one-sided through City's lack of clinical edge, glaring errors, and the MetroStars' efficiency in the final third. Temelkovski recorded his brace in the game's dying embers, catching Adelaide City on the counterattack and walking the ball into the net to put an exclamation mark on an impressive victory.
Comets go from Finals Series contenders to ninth
The Adelaide Comets have spent most of 2023 in the top six, which was expected heading into the campaign. But a winless June and a loss to Croydon in Round 18 meant George Tsonis' side had recently dropped out of the Finals Series spots. In Round 19, they faced a resurgent Sturt, freshly out of the relegation zone—the match shaped as crucial for a talented but underperforming Comets side.
The Comets could not capitalise on a strong start, which allowed Gonzalo Rodriguez - a key player in Sturt's survival bid - the opportunity to volley home the opening goal from close range heading into halftime. Despite another positive start by the Comets after the restart, Sturt again sent a warning shot to their opponents, scoring a goal that was ruled out for offside.
The visitors could not overcome Sturt's desperation for a win, which was confirmed by Dylan D'Agostino's penalty, converted after a clumsy Adam Le'Cornu challenge in the box. This loss means the Comets slide to ninth on the ladder, the lowest of any non-relegation-threatened sides, and a concerning reality for a side that, on paper, should comfortably be participating in the Finals Series.
Click here to read our NPL SA winners and losers from Round 18!