Hot on the heels of a commanding win over Ballarat City, Melbourne City’s NPL side will once again travel to regional Victoria this week; heading northward to tackle Murray United in Albury-Wodonga.
Gianluca Iannucci, Yusuf Ahmed, Luke Duzel and Moudi Najjar (2) all got on the scoresheet as City defeated Ballarat 5-2 last week, snapping a seven-game losing run. Najjar took his season tally to 13 in the victory, which is good for the second-best tally in the NPL2 East.
It was a welcome return to form for City, who had shown signs of turning themselves around in previous weeks but had been able to sustain their good play for 90 minutes.
As well as producing a first half that one staff member described as their best of the season, the continued rehabilitation of scholarship player Ramy Najjarine – who is working his way back from a shoulder reconstruction – was another positive for the boys in blue.
Despite only playing 35 minutes in a second-half cameo, Najjarine showed his typical poise and dynamism on the ball when introduced into the contest; boding well for his chances of forcing his way into A-League contention with Warren Joyce’s side starting preseason training on Thursday.
City’s win, which turns around a seven-game losing run for Joe Palatsides’ team, means that City have arrested their slide down the NPL2 table and now leapfrog Langwarrin SC and Eastern Lions back into the fifth position on the table.
Only a point behind the third-placed Springvale White Eagles and fourth-placed Goulburn Valley Suns, another win for City on Saturday could see them return to the third position they occupied prior to their slide in form; their goal difference of +8 superior to all the rivals within their vicinity on the table.
This week’s opponents have some work to do before they could be within City’s vicinity on the table, however. Winless in their last nine fixtures, Murray United currently sit in the ninth position on the ten-team NPL2 Eastern Conference table.
There have been some positive defensive signs for the regional side in recent weeks, though, as despite not having found the net in their past three games Murray has also been able to hold NPL2 West leaders Altona Magic and second placed in the NPL2 East Moreland City to goalless draws.
The last meeting between City and Murray took place in round four of the season, with a brace by Zac Walker and a goal from Tom Morrison lifting Murray to a 3-0 win on the road.
City’s U20 side, who suffered a 4-3 defeat at the hands of Ballarat last week to snap a run of five games unbeaten, will play in the curtain raiser to the senior’s clash; taking on a Murray U20 side that, like their senior side, sits in the ninth position on the table.
City’s U20 side currently sit in the third position on the U20 NPL2 Eastern table, although their defeat against Ballarat means that the points gap between Peter Kratky’s side and the league-leading Eastern Lions and Springvale White Eagles has grown.
National Premier Leagues Victoria – NPL2 - Round 19
Murray United v Melbourne City
July, 7 June 2018
Venue: La Trobe University (Albury-Wodonga) - Pitch 1 – Wodonga, Victoria
Kick-off: U20s – 12.30pm, Seniors – 3.00pm