NPL Preview: City v Eastern Lions SC

Melbourne City’s senior NPL side will be looking to arrest a six-game losing run on Saturday, finishing a three-game homestand with a visit from Eastern Conference foes Eastern Lions.

Goals to Anthony Ramzy and Tobias Haegele in the final five minutes of the first half did the damage for Whittlesea Ranges in City’s senior NPL fixture last week, although there were clear signs of growth from Joe Palatsides’ young group in the affair.

Guilty of fading away badly in the previous games of their losing run, City instead got stronger as the game went on against Ranges; even having several clear chances on goal in the dying stages of the contest.

Close only counts in horseshoes (and hand grenades) however, and after last weeks defeat City now find themselves sliding down the NPL2 Eastern Conference table – their stellar early season form not enough to hold back the pursuing pack any longer. Entering round 18 City sits in the sixth position on the Eastern Conference table: having fallen behind Goulburn Valley Suns, Springvale White Eagles and Langwarrin SC in recent weeks.

City will this week welcome the side that now sits one place below them on the table in seventh, as the Eastern Lions making the trip to La Trobe University.

The Lions will enter this Saturday’s contest with only one win from their past five contests, recording three losses and a draw in the same time period. The Lions last Saturday fell 2-0 at home against Western Conference foes St Albans Saints, Luis Covarrubias and Anthony Katiforis netting for the visitors.

City and the Lions last met in the second round of the 2018 NPL Victorian season, the Lions recording a 1-0 at Gardiners Creek Reserve thanks to a 75th-minute goal from Shaun Kenny. City lost goalkeeper Liam Kennedy to two quickfire yellow cards in that fixture, forced to turn to backup Daniel Smith in the 34th minute after referee Aleksandar Liber dismissed Kennedy for pushing over Christopher Droutsas after he had only moments ago received a yellow for rough conduct.

While tidings for City’s seniors may be grim right now, the same cannot be said for Peter Kratky’s U20 side, who will enter their fixture with the 20s of Eastern Lions undefeated in their past four hit-outs.

Down 1-0 with five minutes left to play in their fixture against the 20s of Whittlesea last week, City were able to win a penalty in the 86th minute, which led to their equaliser after Sam Morrison followed up the initially saved effort with a poacher’s strike.

The draw means that the third-placed City has kept pace with the two NPL2 U20 Eastern Conference league leaders, this week’s opponents Eastern Lions and Springvale White Eagles.

The Lions’ 20s have only lost once so far this season, a 4-0 loss to Springvale White Eagles in round seven of the season at White Eagles Stadium.

In their previous meeting with City the Lions ran out 3-1 victors, goals to Dakota Mcallan-D'Brass, Lachlan Ryan and Daniel Milborrow cancelling out a strike from City’s Josh Varga.

In other academy action, City’s U15 and U18 sides will return home on Sunday, meeting the junior sides of NPL Victoria side Northcote City at Parade College.

Simon Zappia’s U15s take the field first for a nice and early 9 am kick-off, with Davey van ‘t Schip’s U18s then set to follow at 11 am.

Match Details

National Premier Leagues Victoria – NPL2 - Round 17
Melbourne City FC v Eastern Lions SC
Saturday, 23 June 2018
Venue: La Trobe University (Pitch 1), Bundoora, Melbourne
Kick-off: U20s – 12.30pm, Seniors – 3.00pm

Photo: Dion Fountas Photograph