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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

NPL SA 2024: The winners and losers from Round 9

Throughout the 2024 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 9.

Front Page Football: Joel Allwright Campbelltown City Adelaide Croatia Raiders NPL SA 2024

Campbelltown's Joel Allwright celebrates his goal against the Adelaide Croatia Raiders. (Image: Ken Carter)


Campbelltown return to winning ways

Campbelltown City rarely go winless for a fortnight, but that was precisely the situation Michael Matricciani's men entered Round 9 in. A shocking dismantling at the hands of the Adelaide Comets was followed by FK Beograd rescuing a late point against the Red Devils on ANZAC Day in the lead-up to Adelaide Croatia's visit to Newton last Friday night.

A tight first half saw both sides have opportunities to open the scoring but they eventually entered the break level. The crowd in attendance did not have to wait long for the opener after half-time. From the first attack of the second half, the ball was cut back to Campbelltown's Marc Marino at the top of the box, and the forward beat Vincent Barbaro at his near post. Finding himself in a more advanced role in his 401st game, Joel Allwright found a rare goal just 10 minutes later from a tight angle to double the lead.

The usually high-scoring Raiders were kept scoreless for only the second time this season, with Campbelltown City able to find goals despite the absence of marksman Josh Mori, who they will regain this weekend.

Comets battle with A-League stacked Reds

Adelaide United's A-League Men season disappointingly ended before the Finals Series. Despite the disappointment, the club's NPL side benefited, with many of the senior side's young players becoming available for the next four matchdays, until the end of the A-Leagues calendar.

A side with the likes of Ethan Cox, Jay Barnett, Jonny Yull, Luka Jovanovic, Panashe Madanha, and Austin Ayoubi opened the scoring against the high-flying Adelaide Comets through a nicely worked goal by Jovanovic. Despite going behind, George Tsonis' side found an equaliser after the break when Aladin Irabona expertly controlled and dispatched a Nathan Dimou long ball.

Just like their last game against Modbury, the longer the game wore on, the more likely the Comets looked to find a winner. Cox made a vital save in injury time to ensure the points were split between the two sides.

Despite being disappointed with a solitary point for a second consecutive week, the Comets showed they are one of the competition's premier teams in 2024.

Late Modbury show downs Beograd

In Round 8, the Modbury Jets ascended to the summit of the NPL SA, but the league leader's position comes with its strains. In 2023, the Jets were playing with the freedom of a newly promoted side; in 2024, after a Grand Final appearance and a strong start to the season, Maurice Natale's side transitioned from the hunters to the hunted.

Their opponents, FK Beograd, came into the game with a reputation for making life hard for more fancied opponents in early 2024, and were up for the challenge at Smith Partners Stadium. The two teams did their best to counter each other's firepower throughout the match. The breakthrough came when a Massimo Falco foul on Hamish McCabe in the 86th minute allowed Modbury captain Jesse Francesca to open the scoring from the penalty spot.

Two minutes into injury time, Francesca set Joshua Hernandez the task of retrieving a lofted ball over the Beograd backline, and his striker did not let him down, eventually smashing home his side's second goal. The hosts momentarily switched off in the 96th minute, allowing Yudai Koike to pull one back for Adrian D'Aloia's side, but it was not enough as the Jets took all three points to retain their spot at the competition's summit.




City misery continues to pile on

Adelaide City's struggles in the early days of the 2024 season have been well-documented. Paul Pezos' side took on Croydon FC in Round 9 in a battle between two teams who could not consistently play at their best. On a positive note for the visitors, captain Nicholas Bucco and Yared Abetew started the game after serving their two-game suspensions.

Despite the additions, City again found themselves on the back foot when Andre Carle beat the offside trap before rounding Dakota Ochsenham to open the scoring. City's fortune finally turned positive when Croydon goalkeeper Matthew Woithe was sent off for fouling Juan Gutierrez as the last man. The hosts ended the half ahead with one less player, while Santana Bartkowski was sacrificed so young goalkeeper Tumbika Kalua could be introduced.

The 16-year-old goalkeeper made a fantastic save in the first half, but Adelaide City's biggest indictment is that they failed to seriously work the young shot-stopper after half-time.

City midfielder Daniel Bressan hit the crossbar from a desperate late effort after Roger Djuma's 82nd-minute red card for time-wasting, and the points remained with the hosts, as the Black and White were condemned to another week in the relegation zone.

Panthers fail to find their bite

The MetroStars entered their game against South Adelaide keen to return to winning ways after a disappointing loss to Adelaide Olympic. The Panthers are always a dangerous opponent due to their attacking prowess.

A promising attack by South at the half-hour mark required a decisive intervention by Metro goalkeeper Cody Oestreich to deny Doni Pollock. MetroStars rediscovered their confidence minutes later and took the lead through Cameron Woodfin heading into the break.

The goal saw Metro return to the side we have gotten to know well over the past year. Danny Graystone's side limited South Adelaide's opportunities early in the second half. Ren Nagamatsu eventually set up Michael Cittadini, who placed a shot in Lewis Moss' bottom corner to record his side's second goal of the day.

South Adelaide's fatal flaw is that they cannot consistently score their way out of the difficult situations they find themselves in. Meanwhile, the MetroStars have had their stumbles so far in 2024, but they have been able to follow up disappointment with resounding wins on each occasion.

Knights and Olympic cancel each other out

Across the first eight rounds of the NPL SA season, the Para Hills Knights and Adelaide Olympic each conceded 20 goals. Allowing an average of two and a half goals a game makes it hard to pick up points, and with both sides finding themselves near the bottom part of the table, shoring up their respective backlines remains an ever-present priority.

Both sides were clearly mindful of that fact when they met in Round 9. Only one shot from Adelaide Olympic was on target across the first 45 minutes. The two sides showed an increased attacking impetus as the game went on, but on the day, the two defences came out on top in a 0-0 draw.

Strong defensive performances are obvious positives for these two sides. However, not maximising the opportunity to claim three points against a team in a similar region on the ladder may prove costly as the season wears on, and the difficulty of their fixture lists increases.


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