NPL Preview: City v Ballarat City FC

Melbourne City’s NPL side will look to get back to their winning ways this weekend as they welcome regional side Ballarat City to the Veneto Club in round 24 of the NPL Victoria NPL2 season.

Looking to shrink the gap on the Eastern Conference table between themselves and the Goulburn Valley Suns to just three points last week, City eventually came up just short; falling 5-3 to the Suns in Shepparton.

Heading into the clash undefeated in five games, City was put on the backfoot early at John McEwan Reserve after the host's Fraser Gosstray and Alou Kuol struck in the 4th and 18th minutes to give their side an early lead.

City, though, was able to rally and tie things back up after strikes from Young Socceroo representative Gianluca Iannucci and midfielder Luke Oresti in the 20th and 25th minutes. Kuol, however, made sure that that parity wasn’t to last when he found the back of the net just a minute after Oresti to make it 3-2 to the hosts.

Winger Vani Shamoon then pressed home the Suns' first-half advantage when he fired home in the 33rd minute to make it 4-2.

Despite that halftime deficit, City’s young side – who were missing five regular starters in Moudi Najjar, Mark Karlic, Connor Metcalfe, Ramy Najjarine and captain Mitch Graham – rallied back to play the better football of the second half; monopolising possession and forcing the Suns to rely on the long ball to an even greater degree than they had in the first half.

Highlighted by a goal to Stefan Colakovski in the 52nd minute, the confident football displayed by Head Coach Petr Kratky’s side seemingly harboured the potential for an unlikely comeback but City, try as they might, couldn’t find the back of the net once again.

With time ticking away, Jordan Montagner then got his head onto a long corner for the Suns in the 80th minute and directed an effort past goalkeeper Ahmad Taleb to seal the result for the hosts.

The result means that, with a game in hand on their rivals, City sit nine points adrift of sixth-placed Manningham United Blues and a spot in the second tier of Victorian football next season.

Set to face the Blues in round 26, City will need to win their game in hand against Springvale White Eagles, defeat the Blues and hope that their sixth-placed rivals drop points elsewhere in their quest to finish inside the top-six.

Another piece in that puzzle will be defeating Western Conference side Ballarat City this weekend.

Ballarat is currently nailed to the bottom of the NPL2 Western Conference after 23 rounds; 13 points adrift of ninth-placed Melbourne Victory.

Losers of three of their last five, the side from the Goldfields has only won twice and drawn twice in 2019, with 19 losses also to their name. Last week, the artist formally known as Ballarat Red Devils suffered a 5-0 defeat against NPL2 Western Conference leaders St Albans Saints in a biblically themed matchup at Churchill Reserve.

City and Ballarat last met in Round 19 of the 2018 NPL Victoria NPL2 season at Ballarat’s home ground of Morshead Park. On that chilly evening, goals to Iannucci, Yusuf Ahmed, Najjar (x2) and Luke Duzel sealed the points for City; allowing them to run out 5-2 winners.

Prior to the senior contest on Saturday evening, City’s league-leading U20s side – who shot back to the top of the NPL2 U20 Eastern Conference table with a 4-0 win over Goulburn Valley last week – will meet the 20s of Ballarat in the traditional curtain-raiser slot. Kick-off in that game is set for 4:00 pm.

Match Details:

NPL Victoria - NPL2 Round 23
Saturday, 20 July 2019
Melbourne City FC v Ballarat City FC
Venue: David Barro Stadium, Veneto Club, Bulleen, Melbourne, Victoria
Kick-off: U20s – 4:00 pm | Seniors - 6:00 pm